These Walls

Life is…

Hard. Difficult. Painful. Isolating. Lonely. Beautiful. Full of light. Loving. Precious. Inspiring.

If you have ever felt any of those emotions, one thing is certain. You are alive. We tend to build walls to protect ourselves from the painful parts of life. Constantly we build those barriers, brick by brick as life wears us down.

Those barriers can also keep out the light, hide the beauty and awe of your life. If walls you must build, be sure to leave some space between the stones, maybe even a window or a door. And remember this:

We are all connected.

So don’t create your own prison. Reaching out to others in kindness is still the most powerful medicine to heal your broken heart and hurting soul.

We can’t do this alone. Reach out to someone. Connect. For you. For them.

Don’t let these walls keep you from love and joy.

Get up. Get out. Go spread kindness and beak down the walls.

“I’ve been here many times before
Don’t know which road I must go
My mind is full of so many thoughts
My heart beats on and on
All my love, all my love, oh

Have you been here many times before?
Do you cut your wings so that you’ll fall?
Can you break on through to the other side?
Do you tell yourself things that ain’t so kind?
Can you feel the worms wiggle in my mind?

And these walls, they won’t crumble
And they won’t let me get out of here
And these walls stand so tall
The flowers they’ll all disappear
And the voices surround me
Again and again, creep behind me
Bringing me down
Bringing me down

And these walls, they won’t crumble
And they won’t let me get out of here
And these walls twist and turn
The devil inside me returns
As he smiles towards me
Again and again, holds me, chokes me
Burning me down
Burning me down

Burning me down
Down”

Be love. Be kind. We are all comnected. Life is better with a soundtrack.


#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#AllMyEmptySpaces
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

The Checklist

#drivingawaydepression

Sully!!

What an awesome pilot whose actions saved the lives of everyone on US Airways flight 1549 when they struck multiple geese and had to land in the Hudson river. It has since been called the Miracle on the Hudson.

Miracle? Maybe. Or just incredibly well trained and experienced pilots. A pilot is trained to know the systems of his/her aircraft. A pilot uses checklists and procedures for every operation and action.

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger used those procedures and the checklist, along with all that training and experience to save the lives of all 155 souls, passenger and crew, onboard.

Checklists are incredibly important. Early in their training, pilots learn the acronym RTFM, or RTFC, which stands for Read The F#&!’n Manual or Checklist. Those who choose not to use the checklist(s) eventually auger in.

Recently, I have drifted away from my checklists and forgotten many of the tools in my mental toolbox. I have been spiraling out of control. But a recent reminder has given me a clear path back. I had given myself a reminder through an app on my phone. I set an alarm. When it went off, I realized I needed to start regaining control again through the use of a tried and true method.

So, I firmly believe a good checklist is an invaluable tool to navigate the challenges of life. In particular, using a checklist is a powerful way to deal with the effects of depression.

Here is a simple checklist I use to help myself avoid the pitfalls of depression. Try making your own. Keep it where you can find it; the fridge, nightstand, or right here on your phone.

1. Get up and get outside.
2. How do you feel?
3. If you are tired or down, did you actually get enough sleep? Depression will attack your energy level and your ability to simply get out of bed.
4. Eat healthy.
5. Pray
6. What are you thankful for?
7. Communicate with someone positive in your life. Anyone! Reaching out the first time is the toughest, but it gets the day going in the right direction.
8. Be kind. Giving hope, peace, love, and joy to others will bring the same to your heart.
9. Read. Use a positive source. No fiction.
10. On second thought, maybe fiction is better.
11. Open your heart and soul to God.
12. Breathe. Just breathe. Slow, calm, cleansing breath.  In that breath remind yourself, you are loved, you have purpose, and you are not alone.

What does your checklist look like?

I love using aviation analogies. With all the demons that have chased me in my lifelong struggle with clinical depression, flying was the one time and place I could escape it all, find peace without looking over my shoulder.

Nothing compares to floating above the clouds or watching the the incredible horizon slowly changing colors as the sun begins to rise. Ask any pilot where they want to be the most. If you can’t become a pilot or prefer to keep your feet on the ground, that’s ok. But using a checklist still works for anyone trying to keep their demons at bay and their life in order.

So,

GET UP, GET OUT, & GO SPREAD KINDNESS!

We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

Here are a couple of songs I love that always remind me of flying and to use my checklist!

Tom Petty rocks! I miss him dearly.

Now some say life
Will beat you down
Yeah, break your heart
Steal your crown

So I started out
For God knows where
I guess I’ll know
When I get there

I’m learning to fly
Around the clouds
But what goes up
Must come down

I’m learning to fly
(I’m learning to fly)
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

I’m learning to fly
(I’m learning to fly)
Around the clouds
But what goes up
(I’m learning to fly)
Must come down

“Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a wind swept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladened, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

Friction lock, set
Mixtures, rich
Propellers, fully forward
Flaps, set – 10 degrees
Engine gauges and suction, check

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer
My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can’t keep my mind from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I”

I miss the unique smell of the cockpit, with all the electronic, leather, vinyl, metal, etc. Except maybe when my copilot had Whataburger for lunch. Not so great at 12,000 feet.
Christopher Carlson writes about inspiring stories from his Uber and Lyft driving days. He drove almost 3 years and completed over 6,200 trips. Christopher also writes about his own journey through depression,  recovery, and the constant unexpected turns on life’s path. We are all connected!

#kindness #purposefulkindness #whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #streetlights #thekindnessclub #grace #drivingawaydepression #weareallconnected #findingjoy #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #streetlightsonasaturdaynight

3

#TBT July 7, 2022: Lean On Me

We are all connected. We are all human. We are all imperfect. We all need love. We all need purpose. And, regardless what one might think, we all need each other. That is who we are. That is what God intended when he/she made us.

Here we are in 2022. Doesn’t it seem like we are more disconnected than ever? We are certainly more divided, angry, and sad.

It is time the pendulum began swinging back toward togetherness. It is time we begin to push back against the hate, the diminishing of our civil rights, and the false narratives that echoe across our country. It is time for love and kindness to be the headline.

But that means action. So, Kindness Warriors, it is time for us to fight even harder against the forces of hate and division.

Get up! Get out! Go spread kindness everywhere. Go change lives and change minds. Be there for each other!

This song turns 50 this year and hit #1 on the Billboard hot 100 on this day in 1972. What a great song to start a revolution of love and kindness! Plus, Bill Withers is awesome! Btw, he was born on July 4th. So I would say this is definitely his month.

Be love. Be Kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack!

“Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow

But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…

For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”

“Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill
Those of your needs that you won’t let show

You just call on me brother when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…

For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

You just call on me brother
When you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry

I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me”


#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#AllMyEmptySpaces
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Sisyphus

“We like to think we are rational beings who occasionally have an emotion and flick it away,” and carry on being rational. But rather, she says:
“We are emotional, feeling beings; who, on rare occasions, think.”
Brené Brown

Let me start with a small introduction on Sisyphus.

“Sisyphus was a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large rock up on a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly till eternity. Honestly, when I read about his story, I didn’t quite understand what was so special about it that it is referred by so many people until I read some excerpts from Albert Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’

Camus imagined Sisyphus smiling while pushing the rock and embracing his situation without thinking of the past or the future. His take on Sisyphus’ situation was unique and somehow the whole view of Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill changed for me.

Sisyphus was unstoppable, he pushed the rock unabated every time it rolled down. He refused to surrender to gravity.

Pushing the rock was Sisyphus’ purpose, and no matter how evil he was, he is still remembered for his labor towards his purpose. Without the rock, or the effort, he wouldn’t ’t have been a topic of anyone’s discussion.”


As Mindy drove me home from another neck procedure the other day, I realized a powerful truth. The universe is out of balance and can only be corrected with a cheeseburger and fries…

Those who know me well won’t be surprised by what I tell you next. When I feel lost and can’t find the answers any other way, I often turn to film for inspiration or clues to help me find a path forward. I don’t always strike gold with this process. But who can deny that a great movie can stir our emotions, give us hope, make us angry, or make us laugh. Sometimes moving to couch potato mode and turning on one of my favorite movies simply serves as a distraction from all the battles raging in my head, or the ones causing so much physical pain. Getting out of my head for 2 hours can occasionally be just what I needed to find the light switch.

While attempting to regain universal balance with my burger and fries, I began rewatching the HBO miniseries, Chernobyl.  It is scary how close we came to virtually destroying the whole planet.

This time around, I zeroed in on a couple of quotes from Valery Lagasov that became a partial theme to where I believe our universe has begun to unravel. Testifying in court during the final episode, Legasov says,

“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.”

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.”

It occurs to me, that cost is being paid by all of us. That quote has been proundly banging around in my head all week.

When my brother and I were kids we fought all the time. One day, we were both in our room with Lego spread all over the green playroom carpet. Usually, playing with Lego was an activity that brought peace and collaboration for Kelly and I. He liked to build the Lego City and Town sets, including a gas station, “Main Street,” police station, hospital, and my brother’s personal favorite, the fire station. I preferred all the Lego Space sets.

So, we spent time together, helped each other find pieces from our giant tubs of mixed sets, and got along quite well. We had enough base plates to cover the whole floor in our bedroom. I usually even had enough to make a deep space outpost on our top bunk bed. At the end of the build day, we would take a few leftover road base plates and officially connect his earthly community with my galactic expanse. Too bad you can’t just hop on I-20 to get to the moon, or Tatooine!

But that day, not even Lego could keep the peace. After listening to us yelling at each other and hearing things being thrown across the room our mom burst into the room and instructed us to immediately get dressed and get in the car. She was unusually much more fierce and direct. Kelly and I both felt like we had finally pushed mom over the edge. She didn’t speak in the car. She wouldn’t even tell us where we were going. We began to wonder if we were ever going home again or if she was gonna just drop us off at an orphanage.

As we both looked out the car windows, wondering our fate. We didn’t speak either. But we did both realize we might be stuck together, come what may. So we had already called a truce by the time we arrived at our demise.

Our mother calmly got us out of the car, walked us into the theater, and sat us down to watch E.T.

Kelly and I didn’t fight the rest of the weekend. More importantly, we were shown an alternative to the endless arguing. We were all inspired by that movie. Kelly and I spent a considerable amount of time riding our bikes together trying to fly after that. We also managed to keep the peace on Lego build days after that. One more thing, even though Kelly and I had plenty more fights, I believe that day gave us one more lesson and gift. We began to respect each other just a little bit more. We started seeing each other as brothers and not just two kids stuck with each other. It gave us a small but important brick in the foundation of our relationship, in our moral development, and in how to treat other people, even brothers.

Thanks, Mom.

On another day, many years after that, I was unknowingly suffering from one of the darkest depressions of my life. I turned to a movie for an escape. I sat in the apartment I shared with my best friend, Rusty, and watched An Officer And A Gentleman. I joined the Navy the next morning.

That is another story altogether. And, it was not a well thought out decision that was highly influenced by my undiagnosed depression, not so much the movie. But my point is I have continually found solace and hope in film, and music.

These days, as I turn inward for answers, I am immediately hit with pain, chronic and debilitating pain. I believed there would be an end to it. But the slow and steady revealing of the truth tells me it is going to be there for the rest of my life. All I can do is manage it, medicate it, and pray it doesn’t blind me to everything good in my life. But, it’s my pain. It’s my giant ball to keep pushing up that mountain every day. I own it. As strange as it sounds, I take comfort in knowing that.

In my dream I was drowning sorrows
When my sorrows, they learned to swim-U2

So I turn outward, looking for hope. Lately, it seems easier to deal with my personal struggle with pain than it is to deal with the pain of a broken and divided society. We are all connected. That is how God created us. Yet, many of us seem hell bent on denying that. Too many who claim themselves as believers of a loving and just God have chosen to oppose or even deny their brothers and sisters the very thing that, at least in my core beliefs, proves God exists, love.  There are wolves among us.

That brings me to a question, or maybe more of a paradox. So riddle me this…

If God is love, then are christians who villainize a christian for providing another christian christ-like love and support, actually christian?

My dark place and the demons who dwell there…

I have witnessed so called christians, leaders of our former church, completely betray and abandon my own family because one of us chose to extend love and support to a youth member who desperately needed love and support. People who I thought of as friends, even family at that church lied, made horrible accusations and ultimately forced us out because they didn’t like the optics. Why? Because the mother of the youth involved made a completely false allegation. And why did she do that? Because she found out her daughter was seeking help elsewhere for her depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies.

Lives shattered without anyone asking about the truth or looking for some context to the allegation that clearly refutes it. Moreover it proves that a member of my family was helping, providing love and support, being a trusted and dependable friend to a troubled teenager in need. That youth was absolutely not getting any support from her own family, especially her mother.

Apparently, if you extend and express love, as God would have us do, it must be done with very specific language and be accompanied by several disclaimers in the event anyone who should happen to read those words, does so with ZERO context or understanding. And then they decide to make horrible and disgusting assumptions that the select few words they read were just the opposite of their meaning and intent. Where do these fucking people get off?

What gives anyone the right to decide the intent of someone else’s love and kindness is inappropriate and not geniune? Why is it so easy for a faithful servant of God to be crushed for trying to do the right thing? I have never been more heartbroken, betrayed, or angered by anyone in my life.

We have received love and support from those true friends who know all the details, including the ones church leadership has chosen to ignore because they would have to then acknowledge they were wrong, so very wrong. What a bunch of hypocrites who speak of togetherness, honesty, love, and justice, but don’t practice it. Again, why? Because those people care more about optics than the truth.

When we joined Broadway Baptist Church in 2016, my wife and I thought we had finally found a place to call home. And for six years, that is exactly what we did. We raised our children there. We built our lives around our church.

We are no longer members there. We fought this horrible accusation and resulting church action as best we could. But we couldn’t control the narrative. People will believe the sky is red if that makes them more comfortable. I guess it is easier to keep calling it red, even when everyone knows its blue. That way you can never be wrong.

Having our dearest friends and allies within the church support us just wasn’t enough. So, now we are gone, like we were never even there.

Nothing changed and everyone went back to business as usual. Proving that no matter how much you might believe in God, no matter how righteous your actions, YOUR WORDS, and your sacrifices to do “God’s work,” every church is ultimately only as truly committed to the tenets of Christianity as the people in it, especially the leadership. And how could the mother of this desperate girl behave so selfishly and cruelly? Yet, no one has asked for any accountability from her or the folks who lied and judged. I reached out to so many people for help at that place, including the deacons.

By the way, if ANYONE has a problem with what I am saying, then reach out to me. Defend the actions and assumptions of the Sr. Pastor, Family and Youth Minister, Church Business Administrator, and the mother if you think they deserve it. Explain to me why I am wrong if you think so. Tell me! What am I missing here? I really want to know how anyone can justify what they did because so far, not a single person has even tried. Cowards.



I am at the crossroads. My core belief system has been turned upside-down by the betrayal of people I thought were honest, loving, and kind. I would rather be focusing on the larger societal issues we have right now, but I am still trying to get past the failures of those I once called friends.

As I said, we have been given love and support from many people. But besides expressing their own frustrations to the leadership with how this was handled, nothing else came of it.

Yes, I am still very angry and yes this hurts. Not because I care about what people might think of my attitude or my increasing usage of profanity. 🤬 It hurts every day because of the pain it caused and continues to cause my wife and kids.

Healing is a slow process and I doubt any of us will ever want to join another church again. We don’t need to show up on Sundays and listen to a disingenuous man tell us to come together and be love, always be love, with his fingers crossed under his robe or an asterisk and footnote in the worship guide. I just wish I knew how empty his words were when compared to his actions before we put so much faith and trust in him as well as the other leaders who have betrayed God in this way. Ugh, I feel the bitterness oozing out of my pores. Yet, I can’t seem to be done with it. Everyone else is though.

Organized Religion Anonymous. Hi, my name is Christopher and I am a recovering Baptist.

I struggle now with every relationship I have. I love the dear friends we made from Broadway who remain close. But I struggle with accepting that anyone who would continue to go there, tolerate what has been done with absolutely no accountability. They go there and listen to those hypocrites lead Sunday worship, knowing full well what they have done to my family.

I struggle with my conscience because I know it isn’t that simple. I hurt and become consumed with guilt for even thinking like that. I love them, all of them. This happened to us, not them. They have their own lives, their own very important reasons for not pushing harder to force the leadership into accountability, or show them the door. How can that be fair of me? How can I possibly be frustrated with anyone except those few who did this to us? Because it hurts.

In moments of clarity, I blame and feel angry toward the appropriate people. I am forever thankful for our loving friends who continue to help us get through this. But my mind is anything but clear these days. This boulder keeps rolling me down. I simply cannot accept and live with this. I cannot let this go.

Lord, I am trying. Lord, perhaps I am failing you? Oh Lord, I need your guidance. It is too dark and I am too tired. Let the wind carry us. Let the wind carry this pain away. Let the wind prevail.

The Wind Will Carry Us

I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but our society, our country, our world is falling apart and receiving injections of hate everyday. I suppose I have succumbed to it as well. I have been unable to maintain focus on kindness. I feel like God has tested me and I have failed.

I look to myself to fight the demons of my depression and the physical health issues that have gone on for years now, but only gotten worse, not better. I have been unable to work since February and finally was forced to file for Social Security Disability a few weeks ago. I am praying that is approved and the process doesn’t take years to complete. Still, I am alive. I hurt all the time and feel like puking mutiple times a day but I am still here.

Love and Hate

I look outward for inspiration and find myself angry with the world, especially the folks who hurt my family. The heartbreak of living among humans is still by far more difficult than my health issues. I can’t even be happy among my friends anymore. I love them. I appreciate them, especially with all the love and support we have received in the last year.  But the pain is just so overwhelming. I am losing the ability to keep it all separated and I hate myself for that.

Every post, every story I write is an opportunity to express a simple truth.

We are all connected.

Yet, I have never been so conflicted with this mantra as I am right now. The meaning is lost at the moment. Have I been wrong all this time? Maybe the sky truly is red. Maybe blue is my own lifelong delusion.

Red

Still…

There is a silver lining. There always is, but only when the light is trapped behind the dark clouds. I suppose that is also the grace God gives us each and every day. Not alot. Not too little. Just enough to see us make it til’ dawn.

Throughout this exhausting and horrible experience, we, our family, have remained together and our love has only been strengthened. So that is where I put my faith these days.

Back to it now. Back to pushing that giant boulder up the mountain. I know it will come crashing down again if and when I get close to the peak.

The little hope that is left in me would say this:

None of us can push that thing all the way to the top on our own. We all seem to be pushing our own boulders. Until we finally realize that we ARE all connected and that is how God made us, we are all doomed to the same fate as Sisyphus.

So I will say it, even if I don’t fully believe it right now…

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

I have been watching movies and listening to all kinds of music lately, looking for that hope and redemption. I am still looking for answers to heal my broken heart and ripped soul.  Plus, I’m all out of duct tape.

I haven’t been able to write in months but last weekend I found some of that inspiration in, well, a movie about music. I finally found just enough light to see a path forward, like driving under streetlights on a Saturday night to find clarity and peace. I should have known Elvis could get the job done. TCB. We went to see the film as a family and what do ya know…
I am finally writing again.

Now I must find a way to believe what I write. It used to be automatic. Maybe that has been the reason for not writing in these last few months. How can I write about love and kindness when I can’t believe my own words? Oh wait. Is that fiction? Am I now a fiction writer?

Love and kindness rocks! But, they are also both very big and heavy rocks!

“We must learn to embrace our purpose(the rock) in life. And once we accept it as the objective of our being, we should give it everything it takes to achieve it. Sisyphus teaches us to never give in to circumstantial disappointments or try to escape from the failures, rather accept failures the same way we accept our achievements.

And most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down till we fulfill our potential.”

I promise to keep trying. I promise to keep looking for the grace. But friends, I just don’t know it to be true anymore. Regardless, I am not gonna shutup because what I have to say might make some of you uncomfortable. That isn’t who I am. If you made it this far in the story, you already know that.

We need to try harder. We need to come together. We need to take our hands off the 3rd rail and reach out to each other instead. I think Elvis might agree. I know God does.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Aren’t we?

Life is better with a soundtrack.

If I Can Dream

The following playlist includes the music that helped inspire the words of this post.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

StreetLights People Profiles: Mary

StreetLights original post August 9, 2018

I like to repost this one for Memorial day.

#Peopleprofiles

Mary

Yesterday, I had the honor of providing a ride to an incredible woman named Mary. Mary is 92 years old and by her own words “feels great!” She only has a flip phone so she utilizes a service called Go Go Grandparent to order her Lyft rides. I have attached a link in the comments. The service provides her all the info about her ride including the name of the driver, type and color of the vehicle, plate number, how far away, and the cost. The service will also send a text to Mary’s daughter to let her know Mary is on a Lyft ride. Pretty cool service. I didn’t know it existed until yesterday.

Mary and I only had about 15 minutes together but I can tell you that was the best 15 minutes of my day! Mary told me she moved here from South Carolina not long after her husband passed away to be closer to her family. She has 5 children, grandkids, and I believe at least 1 great grandchild. She lives with family in Fort Worth. Now, I must apologize because as I tell the next part of the story, I was unable to get some basic info. Mary actually told me her husband’s name but because we were limited in time and I didn’t want her to be late for her dentist appointment, I didn’t confirm his name and failed to write it down. I can tell you if Mary ever reads this, I hope she will reach out to me. I would love the opportunity to speak with her again. I believe her life story is one worth sharing.

Mary’s husband graduated from Harvard. He then moved on to the Naval Academy and became a Naval Aviator. This man flew jets off carriers! He flew combat missions in Korea and even took flak, forcing his plane down. Meanwhile, Mary would look to the skies, wondering if her husband was alright. She didn’t want to see Naval Officers dressed in formal whites approach her door. As she spoke of her husband, it was easy to see how much she loved him, and that they must have had an extraordinary bond. She would wrench her hands in anxiety every time she got any news.
While her husband was streaking the sky, Mary was doing the hard work of raising their 5 children, basically on her own. She wasn’t complaining about this. She was proud of her husband and I believe she was happy with the job she did raising her family too.

Mary had such a delightful positive disposition. When we first greeted one another, her response was, “Christopher, I am above ground and breathing air, so I am happy to be here.” Mary seemed so appreciative for her family and just for being alive. I asked her if she was religious because I believe God brought us together. She laughed and said, “Well, I suppose you could call me a failed Episcopalian.” But Mary had a deep spiritual connection to God, clearly. She told me once, when she felt extremely depressed and desperate, she went into the church and prayed to God for help. And, He did. Just praying for help gave her enough peace and strength to carry on. When she was talking about feeling pretty good for her age, she told me how medicine and health is all about the acronyms now. She had a friend who was diagnosed with IBD. When her friend told this to Mary, Mary responded saying, “I also have an acronym health issue, AGE. It causes all kinds of issues including a loss of hearing, sight, and stability. And, my teeth no longer fit right either.”

When Mary’s husband retired from the Navy, He went back to school and became a therapist. He treated patients for several years in South Carolina. It must have been a nice time for him and Mary, and for their family. He was no longer away. One day he came home and told Mary that he couldn’t remember previous sessions with his patients. Even when he checked his notes, he was having a hard time remembering. That was the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

From diagnosis to death was 12 years. Mary told me she took care of him as his disease slowly took more and more of him. As he became less self-sufficient, Mary fed him, dressed him, and bathed him. She didn’t complain. Mary told me she was so happy she was able to do that for him. Her speech trembled a bit when she spoke about him so lovingly. Mary and I talked a little about depression. She has battled it, still does. But she is a warrior.
Her husband served this nation heroically and then went on to help many more lives through therapy. If you ask me, Mary is also a hero that should be celebrated. She raised 5 children virtually alone. Her dedication and love for her husband is truly heroic as well. Now, here she is in Texas, near her family, and “feeling great!”

Mary, it was a true pleasure and honor to meet you. By the way, you should write a book too. Your story is amazing and I thank you for sharing a little bit of it with me yesterday.

As I thought about Mary and her husband, about how tough it must have been for both of them, while he was away flying dangerous missions and she at home raising their kids, this song came to mind.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#AllMyEmptySpaces
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

Heart Of Gold

#tbt

Originally published on June 14, 2020

The sun came up today, as it did yesterday and will again tomorrow. We have faith in that. It is a reliable constant that has never failed us. It’s Sunday in DFW. It is getting hot. As I sit here in my car, I notice the life around me. Lots of cars on the road. A nearly full city bus just drove by. There are several cars in the drive thru at Jack in the Box and Panda Express. Bees are circling the trash can in the parking lot where I am waiting. I am enjoying the bright sun, the blue sky and the scattered clouds, always a beautiful palette. There is something captivating about the sky and clouds. I bet I have taken a thousand pictures or more of the sky. The sky is both a constant and ever changing at the same time.

With the exception of a select few talented and dare I say lucky space travelers, we can always count on the sky over us, along with the sun and moon and the stars.

As I sit here appreciating the clouds and the bees and all these other little details around me that seem normal, peaceful, and ordinary, I see a man on the bridge that crosses the highway. He seems ancient, just skin and bone. His skin is darkened by all the sun his face has seen. His back is bowed and he moves ever so slowly but seemingly so deliberate, as if he had a mission that has taken his whole life and he was nearing the end. This man, the man on the bridge, the bridge man is wearing a paper surgical mask and holding a sign that says Peace and God Bless You on a torn piece of cardboard.

I wonder what Bridge Man sees when he looks around. I wonder if he appreciates the sky and the bees and the seemingly normal things around both of us. I wonder how different his perspective is from my own about the same surroundings. I wonder what he thinks about the troubled times we live in. He obviously knows about the pandemic. Does he know about the civil unrest? Does he care? He appears homeless and destitute. I think if I was in his shoes the world wouldn’t matter so much as what I would do for my next meal and where I might sleep tonight.

Does Bridge Man have any family or friends? How did he get here? Does he have a mental health issue? Is he struggling with alcohol or drug abuse? I watched as bridge man slowly disappeared beyond the apex of the bridge.

The man I was waiting for finally made it out to the car. His name is John. I met John recently at a new job and got to know him a bit. It turns out, John is a two-time felon who has only been out of his 2nd prison term for a few months. He lives in a sort of halfway house for men. I have been there and it is really quite nice. It is a two-story house with lots of shade and a pool in the back. So, John has a place to stay as he tries to get his life together. But he doesn’t have a car and he has a limited education. John is taking courses to become a HVAC technician. A few weeks after I met him, the new company I work for let him go because he didn’t clear the background check. He is now working at Jack in the Box. John is a little rough around the edges. He has had a hard life. He has even been shot twice in the face so he has a few mangled teeth. I give John a ride to class on Mondays and occasionally a ride home from work. It seemed like the least I could do. Once you are down, it’s very hard to get back up. John is trying.

With all the protests, I was reminded of an interaction with one of my riders last fall. I think it was shortly after Atatiana Jefferson was killed. It was raining, late on a Saturday night and I was picking up someone named Henry. All of the sudden the back door of my car opened and in flew someone from the rain with his hoody tightly pulled around his head. The second he got the door closed he ripped the hoody back, threw his hands up, and with a big disarming smile said “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” There was nothing remarkable enough about the trip for me to write about Henry at the time. At least I didn’t think so then. But I remembered him because of the way he made his entrance to the car and we did have a short conversation about race, white privilege, and both wondered if it would ever get better. I remember asking him that question. His answer was, “Only if we keep the conversation going and not the bullets.”

I miss those little interactions with my passengers. No matter how terrible the world seemed on the news, I could always get in my car, flip on the Uber/Lyft apps and meet new people who never failed to restore my faith in humanity.

What do these stories say about our society? How many homeless before we change the way we provide for our citizenry? How can someone truly get a second chance in a society that is already almost impossible for poor people who haven’t committed any crimes? How many black lives must be lost before we truly address police brutality and systemic racism? Could we finally be ALL in to address the racial injustices of our beloved America

I certainly don’t have the answers. In my life journey, I have learned this much:

There is Grace in everything.

Each of those men reminded me about what matters in life and how I wish to live it. We are all connected in this world. Many of us fall through the cracks of society, become invisible. But those lost to the shadows have needs, feel love and sorrow.

We turn away from them daily, often without even thinking about it. Those of us who make mistakes and pay for those mistakes according to our justice system never stop paying for them in our society.

Maybe now, with this perfect storm of a pandemic, a racist and corrupt president exacerbating societal fault lines, and finally knowing just how many black lives needed to end through police brutality, maybe now we can truly change. Maybe now is the time we have all been waiting for. I am not foolish enough to think we will achieve world peace and equality tomorrow but maybe we can finally move our country toward a more perfect union.

As dark and frightening as the world may seem, it is easy to lose sight of God’s loving hands. We see less clearly with so much darkness in the world. I see way too many fellow Christians supporting and defending, vehemently defending rhetoric and actions that are anything but Christlike. When in truth, we should be setting a higher example and lighting the path to peace and justice and belonging; like Streetlights on a Saturday night guiding us home. This battle for what many are calling the soul of our nation often pushes my anger in the direction of hate. Thinking of those 3 stories of men, how could I be so vain and self-righteous?

And that is what reminded me once again, that there is grace in everything, everywhere. And through God’s grace we shall prevail.


Grace is all around us. It becomes harder to see and feel, to witness, when we carry hate and anger and fear in our hearts. But, nevertheless, it is there, Grace. When you open your heart and your eyes to see it, to feel it, to witness it you will know God’s love.

This is a daily gift from God. Imagine a set of rose colored eye glasses that have a unique power to see beautiful surroundings that are otherwise invisible. The surroundings are always there but without those glasses you cannot see how incredibly beautiful your surroundings truly are. Faith, love, and kindness are the filters through which we can truly see, feel, and witness the beauty of God’s Grace.

I see it all the time now. Although, it took me more than forty years to find my rose-colored glasses and I still misplace them from time to time. Lately, I seem to forget them more often. We are in challenging times that can leave us all in a state of anger, hopelessness, fear, and despair. Lately I seem to get sidetracked and off message.

There are definitely things to be angry about. There is nothing wrong with anger. There are many wrongs that need to be righted. With all that this nation and the world is dealing with, it is easy to become the very thing we are fighting against, hate.

I have been listening to songs from the sixties and early seventies. I have been listening to the lyrics of songs like Blowin’ In The Wind, For What It’s Worth, and Change Is Gonna Come; songs written 50 and 60 years ago but seem like they could have been written yesterday. One of my favorite songwriters is Neil Young. I have always loved his song Heart Of Gold. I read the lyrics again, like one might read the Bible, searching for a deeper meaning, a lesson. I found one. It is this,

On this often difficult and sometimes painful journey of life, we all find ourselves searching for a heart of gold. I think what those lyrics mean for me is an internal quest. Perhaps that is what Young meant. Of my attempts and my own failings, I am constantly looking for that heart of gold within me. Life continues to challenge that quest. Life can make me cynical and angry, sad and hopeless. But If I keep searching for goodness and purpose within my own heart, God will take care of the rest.

I wonder if Bridge Man, John, and Henry are looking for their heart of gold. How about you?

If you can’t change the world, change yourself.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #weareallconnected #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack

Christopher Carlson writes about inspiring stories from his Uber and Lyft driving days. He drove almost 3 years and completed over 6,200 trips. Christopher also writes about his own journey through depression,  recovery, and the constant unexpected turns on life’s path. We are all connected!

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Longest Trip Part 2 of 2.

March 4, 2019

StreetLights on a Saturday Night

The Longest Trip part 2 of 2.

As I made my way back up I35 from Waco, I received a request in Midlothian. The pickup location was 30 minutes from my current position, just north of Czech Stop. I accepted the trip. If not, I wasn’t going to overcome the urge to turn around and head back to Czech Stop for some of their delicious kolaches or jalapeno bread.

Jake and Josh.

I headed for Midlothian. GPS put me on some dark country roads. Somehow I managed to avoid a small army of rabbits crossing the road. No gas station anywhere along my route, and I was running low on gas by the time I reached Jake’s house. Then we headed to Cedar Hill to pickup his friend Josh.

They hadn’t seen each other in 5 years. They grew up in the same neighborhood. So this little reunion of sorts was now on the way to Dallas, with one more stop for me to get gas and for Jake and Josh to get some energy drinks. Jake hopped out and immediately paid at the pump, instructing me to fill it up. Jake used his credit card to pay for my gas! When he got back to the car we took off for Dallas. Before we got to our destination, Jake had a plan. He paid me to stay near the club so I could give them a ride back home. Wow. That was great!

During the ride to Dallas, they talked about their youth, about some of their childhood adventures. It reminded me of my own younger days, playing streetball from dawn to dusk. Mrs. White’s mail box was the goal line for our football games. The streetlight by my house was the north goal line. We used tennis balls for baseball to cut down on the broken windows. Or, that was our theory, anyway. My friend Tony (we called him that) ripped one once, so hard that even being a tennis ball still punched a hole right through my next door neighbor’s window.

Tony’s actual name is Xavier. So he was called by several nicknames including Tony, T, Xavier, and X. He was standing over the manhole cover we used for home plate when he blasted that ball. We all turned to watch it go right through the window if my next door neighbor’s house. I looked back at X and all I saw was the bat on the ground still rolling across home plate. X was gone! A few minutes later he came out of his house with a surprised look on his face, asking us what happened because he heard what sounded like glass breaking.

Yep, he was a funny guy. Xavier passed away in 2014 from a heart attack. He is dearly missed. Baseball with my neighborhood pals is one of my favorite memories growing up on those long hot summer days in Texas. X has been on my mind lately. I guess it’s because of my little heart scare.

Both rides/conversations, first with Steve and Susan, and then with Jake and Josh took me on a journey down memory lane, revisiting my youth. Both trips were with very kind people.

Hey I think this kindness thing might be catching on!

I kept thinking about the past. I have also been struggling in the present. So, the past seemed like a good place to dwell for awhile. It is way too easy to get caught up in the daily stress and anxiety of life. Sometimes it takes a look back to realize how far you have come and to appreciate the journey.

Slowly, I have been moving forward. But still without a certain feeling. I was still looking for a sign, looking for a reason for my struggles and my family’s struggles. I have prayed, I have my faith. I am not feeling optimistic. Just tired. Just low.

And then…

The lights came on!

It took me awhile to focus and find it, but God’s grace has been there the whole time. Helping me. Guiding me.

I have been watching a movie on Netflix called An Interview With God. I will watch a few minutes here and there when I am waiting for a request at the airport or maybe on a lunch break. I finally finished it. It had a profound impact on me in my current funk.

In part of the film, Paul, the protagonist, is narrating, and says “Having faith isn’t worth much if you don’t truly believe. I kept praying, sure. But I stopped looking or even listening. So yeah. I see it now. Definitely a sign!” Referring to God’s presence in his life.

I realized I had not been paying attention. God took me down memory lane. He was trying to connect to me. Flying was a time when I really felt close to God without any background noise or distractions.

He brought me back to my neighborhood to remind me to live in the present. Make the most of each day, like in my youth, playing baseball in the street. Focus on the joy, not what has gone wrong.

He showed me that even when bad things happen, like the death of a friend, God is with us and good things are happening too. People come together. A friend brings you a meal. You share stories and celebrate life. I don’t know about you, but while I am sad and hurt when I lose a friend, I am also reminded that I am still alive and kicking. So kick!

More importantly, I am reminded that my life has continually been blessed. I am reminded of friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I am reminded of the joy in life. I am also reminded that flying a Beechcraft Bonanza is seriously kick ass!

My focus and balance have returned. I feel connected again. I feel God’s grace. I see the many many miracles that occur every day. Yeah, I am still tired, but incredibly thankful to be alive.

Bad things still happen. Life is still about running against the wind. But it is joyous.

Again, from the film,

“God hears our prayers. If you wonder where he is, his response is to start by looking to each other. And, that’s where he will be.”

kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #Earth #drivingawaydepression

My longest trip is the 46 year journey to find, myself. And wouldn’t you know it, I found God there too.

Christopher Carlson writes about inspiring stories from his Uber and Lyft driving days. He drove almost 3 years and completed over 6,200 trips. Christopher also writes about his own journey through depression, recovery, and the constant unexpected turns on life’s path. We are all connected!

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Longest Trip Part 1 of 2

I wrote this post below on March 4, 2019, not long after I had a heart attack and received 2 stents. I got a third a few months later. Now, as I write this update to the story, my father is in the hospital in Carson City. He and his wife live in Reno, but they chose the Carson hospital because they thought they would receive greater care for his heart issue. My dad is currently in his procedure now; Angiogram to see what is happening. I found it remarkable when Debby (my father’s wife) told me the Doc who is performing the procedure used to actually play backup guitar for Bob Seger. Well, there you have it. God’s grace through healing hands and, well, Rock-n-Roll! This will make more sense toward the end.

My father, Lloyd and my son, Jacob during a family trip in 2011.

I am praying for good news. In the mean time, I am sharing this post again for Pop. He too, is tired and worn, but still running against the wind...

The Longest Trip.

Lord, I’m tired. I wonder, Lord, if you might give me shelter from the storm. The wind is blowing and I’m getting older. The wind is blowing and I am still running against it, as I have always done. But I’m tired and worn. I need some help. I need some hope. I just can’t shake this and I have lost a step or two…

Lately, I have been struggling. I have been questioning. I have been confused. There are days, more lately, where I find myself trying to reconcile God’s will with my own. I feel like I can’t find that balance. There is this nagging fear that I am failing, going nowhere, no matter how hard I try. There have been too many days where I forgot what it feels like, to feel good. Sometimes it feels like pushing on the ocean. Buts its just running against the wind, and I am not failing. And, I am not forsaken.

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t found my voice again. At least until now. But this has taken me weeks to write. I have been in a bit of a fog, feeling weak, feeling like I have been knocked down and I am still coming to my senses. I feel incredibly mortal, fragile. And, that will pass. But nothing comes easy. There is a cost to everything.

We all struggle. If you look around and think about it, every person you know has struggles. That’s life. We all get knocked down. We all deal with difficult times. We are all still running against the wind. At least now that we’re older, we know we are stronger together. And, we are stronger through God’s grace.

Still, I am struggling.

Sunday, March 4th, 2019

Last night I picked up Steve and Susan from DFW airport. We hit it off before we got out of the terminal area. I am very glad too, because it was a 2 hour trip down just southwest of Waco. They live in McGregor, TX.
I actually took them to the municipal airport where they have a hangar that keeps their 1961 Beechcraft Bonanza. Their car happened to be there as well.

Steve and I swapped flying stories. I have a little flight time in the same make and model as his Bonzana. Stock photo below.

1961 Beechcraft Bonanza

They haven’t lived in Texas very long; less than a year. I asked Steve what brought him to Texas and he answered, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Seriously? I asked. Apparently, they watched the show Fixer Upper and decided Waco seemed like a nice place to live. It definitely has a lower cost of living than their previous home of 30 years, in Seattle.

Originally, they planned a retirement in the Caribbean, spending all their time on a catamaran. But their son was diagnosed with cancer. He is good now. But they say the next 5 years are the greatest risk of it returning. Steve and Susan decided to stay landside in case their son needed help. He lives in Houston.

So they came down and met the Gaineses. Joanna helped them find a house in McGregor. Their house in a Seattle suburb sold for $450 per square foot. Their new home in Texas cost $97 per sq. foot. They doubled the size for less money. Susan said they love being here and wish they had come to Texas 20 years ago.

As we continued to talk about aviation we started getting into the history of both our families. It turns out, Steve’s dad flew F4U-4 Corsairs in WWII. He was based in Guadalcanal, Henderson Field for a bit as well as the carriers, Lexington and Enterprise. While it was a completely different ship and in the 1970’s my father was an air traffic controller on the nuclear version of the Enterprise, CVN65.
Besides the F4U-4 Corsair, Steve’s father also flew Wildcats and Bearcats off the deck of a carrier. My favorite aircraft of all time is the F4U corsair and it just happens to be Steve’s dad’s favorite as well. Especially since he flew them in combat, dogfighting Japanese Zeroes.

F4-U Corsair

Dropping Steve and Susan off at McGregor airport was a real treat. It has been a while since I have been on an airfield. I enjoyed following the taxi lane to his hanger. It definitely brought back some memories.

Dropping them off completed the longest trip thus far in my 2 and a 1/2 years of driving Uber and Lyft. I think it was 123 miles. We had such a great time talking along the way, they offered to take me to dinner in Waco at their favorite burger place called Freddy’s. I had to gracefully decline and get back up to DFW. But it sure was a nice gesture. Steve and Susan, you guys are true kindness Warriors. Correction, Kindness Aviators!

Talking about our experience flying brought back so many memories. Thinking back on those days, I was so confident, so ambitious. I didn’t play by anyone elses rules. I thought I could do anything. But I was always running. I was running to or from something. Heartache, depression, loneliness, who knows exactly. But when I flew, I was at peace. Up there with the deep blue sky and the lofty clouds, I had no fears. My demons were left on the ground below. Up there it was just me and God.

Now, here I am, ragged and worn, still trying to re-engage. Still trying to find that place of grace that seems lost. I am running on fumes with no end in sight. But, I am still running.

Bob Seger was in town Saturday at the Ford Center in Frisco. I think his song, Against the Wind represents it best.

I know I am not alone. We are all struggling. We all keep running against the wind. It’s what we do. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #TheKindnessClub #StreetLights #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles

Christopher Carlson writes about inspiring stories from his Uber and Lyft driving days. He drove almost 3 years and completed over 6,200 trips. Christopher also writes about his own journey through depression, recovery, and the constant unexpected turns on life’s path. We are all connected!

All My Empty Spaces Part 5: Love

December 23rd, 2021

Lately, there have been many sleepless nights. My family has endured some very difficult times over the last two years. As we try to process the heartache and sadness we have endured, it has left us anxious, angry, and at times, totally confused as to which is up and which is down. The streetlights have all gone out and our path is dark, full of terror.

I am right back where I started when I began this series, All My Empty Spaces. I am completely lost. And now, I will try to find what goes in the biggest empty space I have. No, not my brain. I can feel several of you making that sarcastic quip as you read this. Lovingly, of course. And I do appreciate it, more than any of you will ever know.

Nevertheless, it is love that has left me empty now; love that has crushed my spirit. It is love that has created the vacuum and the void which sucks in all this despair and pain. It is love of life that I have lost. It is love for each other that is all used up. So many other things, negative shit, have begun to fill that space. It becomes difficult to keep the demons from asserting control.

Love and Hate.

Stress is major contributor to heart attacks. It can increase your blood pressure and damage your arterial  walls. Love lost or betrayed is stressful. So, the absence of that one ingredient, the most important ingredient of life, is deadly.  A shortage of love can harm us all because we are all connected. I still don’t think everyone gets that.

Love

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13

“Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. 
-Richard Rhor

January 15th, 2022

As I observe our society, I do see love. I see the goodness in people. But that has become less and less dominant. We have traded empathy for risk mitigation and policy. But we can’t even get that right. This world has become heartbreaking. Mostly because humans suck. The love is gone and we are comfortably numb.

We have made the message far more more important than the meaning, money more important than wealth of health or spirit. We try to impress people with loving words, meaningful words, like “love thy neighbor,” “reconcilliation,” and “be love.”  But many of those who preach love are often nowhere to be found when love is actually needed. I am talking about the love that exists when we are uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or lied to. I am referring to the kind of love you give when it hasn’t been given to you. Love ain’t easy. It sure isn’t simple. But love is worth it, everytime.

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war
For a leading role in a cage?

We are all connected!! We were designed to help each other. We have intelligence and empathy. We were given a great and powerful abililty to think, rationalize, invent, innovate, and…

Love.

January 29th, 2022

The razor’s edge.

It happened again today. I was driving to the store and it came upon me suddenly. It hasn’t occurred in some time. But when it does, it always seems to be when I am driving, alone, with the music cranked up.

I stood on the razor’s edge and was one with the world. The experience always starts the same. My emotions begin to stir. The hair on my arms and neck begin to stand up. Goose bumps ensue. I start to see flashes of memories, good and bad, but almost always thoughts that I could never tap into otherwise. It all begins to coalesce into what I can only describe as energy streaming through me.

Its the million little memories, experiences, smells, sounds, and visual snapshots of places I have been that come crashing through me with little or no control of what or how fast. I see all the people who have been in my life. I see everyone and everything. It’s  like tapping into a water main or touching an electric cable. In silence, it becomes painful and self destructive. Play the right song and it feels more like a superpower. After the intial impact of the everything energy stream, I can even hone in on certain events or people, or places I want to remember.

The first time I remember having one of these overwhelming rush experiences, I happened to be listening to Clair de Lune, by Debussy. I suppose it feels similar to a drug. But I have never taken a drug as powerful as the adrenaline and endorphin kick, maybe with a dopamine chaser for the memory access, that just seems to come from my own body. In that moment I can feel all the beauty and all the despair in the world, simultaneously.

My doctor seems to think it is an anxiety attack. I suppose that might be true. It does tend to happen when I am in a deeper state of depression but coming up. It has also occured a few times going down. Either way, I have come to embrace it because it really does open my memories in deep deep storage. It never lasts more than about 5 minutes. The intensity can often leave me exhausted and in tears immediately after the occurrence. Then, all the deep memories, save two or three, leave my consciousness  and return to their memory archives.

Illustration credit Sam Falconer

I find it truly amazing how the brain works. There are some people who can tap into deep or long-term memories on command. Not me. My access comes at random times and not focused, in the sense that the experience is more like an avalanche, whatever the way or reason for these events. I love it. I love it because it is a powerful life affirming experience. It’s like my brain is trying to counter the effects of my depression. But instead of a modest gain you might get from an anti-depressant medication, you get an effect similar to when an old oil rig would strike oil and it comes spewing out. Yep, this is how you rationalize a chemical imbalance which causes a mental disease or disorder. You call it a superpower.

This little superpower of mine clears the fog and darkness. It brings in the light and shows me the beauty of life. It shows me exactly what connects us all. It reveals to me the essential building blocks of any life, of all life.

Love.

And that’s how you find joy in depression.

Monday February 14, 2022. Just before midnight. Another near death experience.

I woke up because my tonsils were swollen and began blocking my airway. I was congested, so nose breathing was difficult too. I woke my wife, Mindy, and she drove me to the hospital. I felt  like any second I would lose the ability to breathe and die. I couldn’t speak.

I found myself in that little ER space, an open ended 8′ by 8′ triage area with barely enough room for the bed and the monitor. I sat, focusing almost all my efforts on just trying to breath and not choke on my tonsils. One cough would blow them out and over my tongue completely closing off my airway. At one point in the chaos, I looked around and counted 10 people. 10 people in scrubs or doctor’s coats, all in or very close to that tiny little space where I sat, just trying to breathe. I began to disassociate with reality. The whole situation became surreal.

The ER Doc who was quarterbacking this event was pointing to various people and confirming things. At one point he completed his prelaunch check around the room, Go Flight! He then announced “I have the Propofol in my pocket!” He then turned to the intubation team and asked if they were ready with the ketamine. They had already hit me twice with epinephrine injections. No help. The anesthesiologist standing immediately to my right, really more like directly over me, looked at me and said “everything is gonna be alright.” But, she told me that I will be sedated for awhile as they try to get the swelling down and determine the cause.  I could think of nothing but this Bob Marley song until the lights went out.

I had already been briefed on possible outcomes, including a tracheotomy. I was thinking in that moment, as the ER Doctor explained how that would work, about my oldest son, Jacob. He went through that after a rodeo event that caused facial injuries. He had to be trached for the surgical repair. I remember watching as he woke up and seeing this fear and panic start to set in as he became aware of his new temporary condition. He was so brave. He fought through the fear and discomfort to immediately begin learning how to breath from a tube in his throat.

As I thought about how scared I was, watching my son wake to this, I suddenly found peace. My son’s love brought it to me. I watched the 10 people around me, standing by to execute their mission and intubate me. In that moment, I found a calm place knowing, everything’s gonna be alright. There was a packed room of people ready to make sure of it and I am eternally thankful.

Love

My next memory was waking up (a day and a half later) and being updated on my situation. Thanks for going first and shining the light, Jake. Your courage saved me in that moment.

Friday morning, February 18th, 2022

I sat outside on the porch, just in the shadow of the eave but close enough to feel the warmth of the sun on my toes. I didn’t have enough energy to move or do anything. Even the slightest position change spiked the already overwhelming pain and nausea.
My body was trying to die. I felt like it was on strike and ready to burn down the house; ready to permanently foreclose on my soul. My head was hot and hurting everywhere. I had this unrelenting tremor that was playing prestissimo to my heart’s presto fortè.

I was weary. I was ready to let it all just go if that was about to happen. Too tired. Too many of these traumatic experiences. I can’t go any further. I gave it my best shot. Or maybe it wasn’t even near my best. Maybe I have been coming up short all my life and it was time I realized that will always be the case, so long as I keep taking up oxygen.

Ego, a scoop of self-pity, another scoop of self-loathing, all with a bit of loveless whip cream topped with an angry little cherry. I quit. I will just sit here and have my little loser sadness sunday and wait for my ticket to be punched. Come get me God. I am ready to go. Please bring napkins.

Ruts are difficult to get your wagon out of on a good day. The longer you travel in that rut, the deeper it gets. Add dark and stormy weather, and that is it. Yer done!

I have come to greatly dislike the phrase “God never gives you more than you can  handle.” What a complete load of bullshit! I have had more than I can handle for awhile now. If this is God only giving me what I can handle, perhaps God needs an anger management class or maybe some angels doing an intervention.

Love

God walks with us. God is love. But God doesn’t give us bad stuff to deal with. God doesn’t control our every move. People are quite often stupid and sinful. God doesn’t direct or inspire us to be stupid and sinful. That’s totally on us. So when bad things happen, it isn’t because God is allowing it to happen. It isnt because God will limit the amount of pain and destruction that might fall upon us to “what we can handle.” God also gave us a brain, a soul and a heart of love. One other thing, he gives us his amazing grace, everyday, every minute. No, grace doesn’t mean God will save you from disease or violence. What it does mean is God gives us love. Love that sparks life within each of us and for all of us. Love inspires us. Love compels us to live, to get up. Love is how we are all connected. Love is why, when our wagon is stuck in a rut, in a rainstorm, at night, we help each other get out of that rut.

Sitting on my porch in misery, In that tiny little moment, I found myself, again, in a surreal state. I became dissociated  with my body. I began to notice the different birds. I saw a cardinal in the tree farthest from me. Eight turkey vultures flew high overhead circling and looking for their next meal. Two sparrows would land in a high branch and then jet off. This happened several times while I silently sat in my chair. They were clearly building a nest.

I could hear the distinct sound of a Big Wheel, the next street over, being ridden by a child while his grandmother and father conversed. The grandmother would occasionally warn the new racer to be careful and slow down. A couple of squirrels debated which neighboring roof was better to bask in the sun. I could hear a radio filtering music between the houses and over my fence, perhaps from an open garage.

There was an occasional motorcycle or sport car zooming down through traffic on 303 just south of my subdivision. I saw planes overhead. There was a Cessna 172 and much higher, a Boeing 777 turning final into DFW Airport. We must be in north flow, I thought. As miserable as I was, that brought me peace. It gave me a brief moment to appreciate the simplest blessing there is, to be alive.

Love

It’s a wonderful life.

So long as we can be loving to each other and ourselves, it’s a wonderful life. Being present and focused on the now is so very important for all of us. Too often, we get wrapped up in the past, or what is to come, and we fail to be present.
Pause for a moment. Hey, take an hour. It doesn’t matter so long as you pause and notice the life and love all around you. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, so share that love while you can.

This has always been one of my favorite songs and a reminder to truly live, not just exist.

You can only control so much. What do you do with the empty space where you would otherwise assert control? The common phrase is leave it in God’s hands. Or leave it up to the universe. Or, for some of you, just say to heck with it. Whatever happens, happens.

Having gone through the experience of standing at the precipice more than a few times now, I can firmly say this,

There is always potential, as in electricity. It can be in life altering moments, death, love, joy, pain, or it can simply be deciding what to watch on Netflix. There is always, always that potential for your will to meet God’s will. When the connection is made, well, that’s grace. It is always there. We just need to open our hearts to it. It will always be given. Not almost or too much. Just enough. Don’t overthink it. You will blow a gasket.

Just know, if you want or need God’s grace, it is always there. Just allow it. Just close the circuit. That doesn’t mean God will take away your disease, or end the violence, or bring justice. But it does mean he is with you no matter what. So keep living. Keep getting up. And if one day, your ticket is punched, God will be right there with you offering the comfort of his grace. And, if needed, napkins. Same goes for  L.O.V.E. because that is what we are made of.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.

O.k. What’s next?

Here is a link to the Spotify playlist created for this final post in my series, All My Empty Spaces. Peace be with you.


#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#AllMyEmptySpaces
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

Feature image credit, Fariedesign

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Importance Of Now

Hi welcome to Chic-fil-A. Can I have a name for the order?

The sun is setting here in Arlington, TX. A sunny but chilly day has melted away most of the ice and snow from our biggest winter event of the season. That’s just another weekday for northerners. Our landscape has lost the bright white in favor of our usual pale yellows, greys and dull January landscapes. Texas weather changes so much, many of the live oaks only lose about half their leaves trying to figure out if its winter or summer. The Pin Oaks seem to know what time of year it is. But the Live Oaks each have their own fall schedule, it seems.

Welcome to Taco Bueno, one moment please.

Not much light left now. Just the yellow and orange Western horizon. There is a feeling of peace and, perhaps a little introspective melancholia in the car as the three of us listen to the music and wait for food orders in the drive thru. Katie is at a retreat. Ben home. Mindy, Leia, and I are collecting the food. It’s Saturday night. Everyone gets what they want.

What is it about Saturday night that always brings out the 80s?

Our trip to Taco Bueno was for Ben, my son. He always orders the same thing, a cheese quesadilla and a bean burrito, with plenty of hot sauce. We recognized the voice of the man who took our order because he never gets our order right. Seriously, never. Tonight was no different. I guess you could say it worked out. This time we ended up with 2 extra tacos. Bonus for me.

My wife, Mindy, and I have been feeling an enormous amount of stress and mental fatigue lately. Neither of us have slept well. We have both been anxious all day. Somehow, taking a little drive with our daughter, Leia, to get food helped us. Just being together in the car, going to a few familiar places and listening to music as the sun went down helped take some of the stress away. Nothing grand. But simple and peaceful, together.

After the food run, we settled in to watch the latest Ghostbusters movie. It was wonderful. There were some brilliant lines and nods to the original from the 80s. The music, effects, and general feel of the movie were like the original as well. I felt transported away from 2022. We laughed, alot. We shared a few hours together. It was good.

The upside of dealing with a shitty world is it makes you truly appreciate some of the most basic but definitely blessed parts of life.  It reminds me how very important it is to really be in the now. It reminds me that no matter how much people can be hurtful and cruel, there are always others who are kind and loving.  Spend less time with the former and more time with the latter.

There are many battles ahead. There are people who continue to do harm. And we will fight those battles. But tonight, tonight we have let it all go, even if just for a little while. That little drive took us to a better place. It allowed us to travel on a safer, kinder, more peaceful path. There was a light, several really, that shined down on us to say, we are together and so much better for it.

Don’t let the darkness take over. Remember you are not alone. Open your heart to the grace we receive each day and the loving reminders all along your path that life is beautiful. Keep going, even when you are weary, and you will find little bits of hope and joy along your journey. Just as, one by one, you pass under streetlights on a Saturday night.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack. And, Saturday night that soundtrack is all about the 80s!.

Thinking about those important little moments, I am reminded of a woman I met from my Uber experiences that showed me the importance of now. Here is a #peopleprofiles edition of StreetLights On A Saturday Night from August 26th, 2019.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night

#Peopleprofiles

Janet


And, with her permission…

Janet was 22 when she met Chris. She was a senior at UCLA; While Chris was a first year law student at Loyola. Janet described it as love at first site. She said Chris swept her off her feet. They moved in together just 3 months after they met. They were officially engaged a month later. The engagement last a couple of years because they wanted to wait until Chris was finished with law school. Janet is a California native who grew up in San Diego. Chris is from the Houston, Texas area. They both felt like they were in one of those happily ever after stories, Janet described with a smile. “He was this tall Texan, quick witted, and very charming.” She said.

Chris was welcomed into Janet’s family immediately and he found an attorney position in San Diego. Janet had been working as a waitress while in school back in L.A. But by the time they moved to San Diego, She was pregnant with their first of two daughters, Hannah.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of their other daughter. There is only so much I can learn about someone in a 30 minute car ride!

Janet elected not to work but to spend as much time as she could as a full time mom. Chris was making a good salary, and they were fortunate because Chris’s parents paid off his student loans (contingent upon his finishing law school ). “We were living perfect lives.” Janet stated in a melancholy tone. Chris began working long hours. He also began to drink alcohol more frequently and spent many nights out with some of his colleagues. Things really started to change when Chris got a DUI. His attitude and temperament began to change.  He was under more stress at work and became distant to Janet. When she tried to address it with him, he became defensive and hostile, insisting he was working very hard to support their family, so he was entitled to blow off steam. Things get really bad when Janet discovered Chris had also been using cocaine. Ultimately, she had reached her limit and upon confronting Chris, He again became angry. This time with abuse language directed at Janet, and the kids. Janet described the scene as heartbreaking and horrific. Both the girls were crying and Janet was overwhelmed.
She immediately told Chris to leave that night, to move out. And, so he did. He first moved to a hotel, then to a friend’s from work, and finally into a small apartment. Chris continued to spiral down. His work declined and he was unable to reliably do anything. Janet made the decision to file for divorce six months after he left.  He had only spent a limited time with the girls during that period; and when he showed up one day to pick them up, Janet could easily tell he had been drinking and refused to let them go.

Janet was heartbroken and confused. She just couldn’t understand how he would be willing to throw it all away, their marriage, their children, a great career. Janet made a phone call to Chris’s mother in Houston telling them she was concerned Chris might end up dead. She said she made one more call that night, to Chris. She had to leave a voicemail saying she was begging him to go back to Texas, go back to his parents, and get help.
In the meantime, Janet had to start working. Fortunately, Janet had the support of her family. “My family saved us.” She said graciously. Chris was able to somehow avoid being fired and managed to take an unpaid leave of absence on the condition that he seek help with his addictions and get clean. He did as Janet asked and moved back in with his parents in Texas.

Janet continued to move forward with the divorce but she would occasionally call Chris to check on him. If nothing else, He was still the father of her two daughters and she hoped he would eventually take a more active role in their lives once he got clean. Chris did get the help he needed. He slowly began to face his demons. At some point, Janet was talking with him and began to hear a familiar voice, the voice of the man she fell in love with. This changed nothing. She was still firm on divorce. One day, few months ago, Chris called her. This call was an apology. This call was Chris realizing their relationship was over and he knows it was his fault. Janet said he accepted her request and would be staying in Houston for awhile longer. He then, according to Janet, began joking around on the phone, making fun of himself. He ended the call with talking to both of his daughters. He told them he would be back in San Diego to visit them but would be living Houston near Mammaw and Papaw (guessing on the spelling)

Janet said that phone called put a crack, “a very small crack” in her current expectations of what the future looked like for she and her daughters. So, she started talking with Chris more on the phone. She had not discussed with him the anger and disappointment she had. She did not ask him why he did what he did. But, she began feeling the smallest amount of hope. She began to think that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance this could have a happy ending. Still, when she started thinking of all the painful things he said, his behavior, his addictions, she knew if there ever was a chance they would get back together, it would take a long time. Last month, Chris was killed in a car accident. He was sober. The girl who crashed into him was not.

When I picked Janet up from Terminal C at the airport, she was standing alone and at the end of the curb. She had texted me through the Uber app to let me know she was in a blue coat. When I pulled up and got out to greet her; to put her bag in the back of my car, she had this melancholy look about her. Janet has long flowing dark red hair and very fair skin. She is about the same height as me, 5 foot 8”. I mention this only because she did not appear to want a picture for this story and I didn’t ask. As I introduced myself, she said Christopher is her husband’s name too. I told her he must be an awesome guy to have a name like that. She just gave me a tiny smile with surprising sadness. Once I confirmed our destination, we began talking as if we knew each other; as if we were longtime friends. 

Upon hearing this heartbreaking story, I was surprised to hear Janet speak of hope. Well, maybe not that surprised. She spoke of being at peace. She spoke of letting go. She spoke of the incredible resilience both of her daughters have expressed. She was meeting her sister-in-law in Dallas to drive down to Houston together for the final service for Chris. The girls were already down there at their grandparent’s house. She told me that she believed in God and she believed he has plans for her, and her daughters, but He had called Chris home.

We sat for a few moments outside her sister-in-law’s house as we finished our conversation. When I told her I write about some of the people I meet in my travels as an Uber/Lyft driver, and that I would like to share her story, she seemed surprised.  “I don’t know. This doesn’t seem like a happy story. I think your readers will be disappointed.” She quipped. I told her that her story offers hope. It offers a small bit of light in a very dark place. She told me she would let me write about her, with one condition; she wanted to pass along some wisdom.


“Live for today. Make each day count. We are not promised there is a tomorrow.”

Very wise words, indeed.

Be kind to all you know. Be kind to all you see. Be loving. Be accepting. Be joyful. Be hopeful. Be at peace, my friends.

Thank you Janet

This next song, while not from the 80s, was the selection for the original post.

For Janet and Chris

Here is more 80s on the StreetLights On A Saturday Night Spotify playlist.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight