Category Archives: Music

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 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!

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

StreetLights: Sunday Night Edition

Good evening, Kindness Warriors. I hope you all had a good weekend. As I have been taking inventory of my life these last few days, I am reminded of finding the right perspective and appreciating so much when I once thought I had so little. It occurs to me that, while I use many tools and checklists to control my chronic depression and anxiety, those same tools are helpful to anyone, not just headcases like me.😜

We are still in difficult times. Many of us have struggled, dealt with loss or tragedy. It seems overwhelming and we can find ourselves out in the wilderness alone. Many of us feel “lost in the woods.”

Here are some items to remember as you start your week:

Your checklist for the week.

  1. Life is better with a soundtrack.
  2. We are all connected.
  3. Life is love. Everything else is a waste of time.
  4. The world is a better place because you are in it.
  5. Keep kind on your mind.
  6. Everything is gonna be alright.
  7. In case you didn’t know it, I love you.
  8. The Light Of The World is within each of us. Let it out. Let it shine for others to see, as they too need help out of the darkness.

One last reminder for those feeling lost in the woods…

Trees.

“Getting lost in the woods” is a phrase often associated with dark or troubled times in life.

If you are lost in the woods, take a moment. Take a deep long breath. Then look around you. The trees that surround you are not your enemy or your obstacle.

Look close and you will see, God has put those trees around you. They are there to protect you, to give you sustenance. They help form and define your path. Those trees are life giving and life saving. They offer you love and joy. Those trees are your friends and family, and safe spaces.

If you ever feel lost in the woods, take a breath, look around and know, you are not alone! Trust me, I’m an Oak…

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

#TBT Blowin’ In The Wind

#TBT

Blowin’ In The Wind has been one of the best known protest songs which asks the questions of a society struggling to understand and better itself. It was released in 1962. 58 years later and we are still struggling to find our way and answer those questions, when the answers are still, blowin’ in the wind.

In 1962, “the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over. Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that brought the U.S. to the brink of war with the U.S.S.R. Civil rights activists won hard-earned victories against segregationists in the American South, and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Meanwhile, the U.S. slowly escalated its involvement in Vietnam.”

The time was filled with change, innovation, growing fears and a society that seemed incredibly polarized.

Sound familiar?

The answers to our continual questions may be blowing in the wind, but they all start and end with love and kindness.

What question are you struggling with tonight? How can you diffuse the tension? How can we create hope instead of hate?

We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.

Be love. Be kind.

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

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10217928967391704&id=1109962609&sfnsn=mo

#TBT

#TBT The Rose
I want tell you that I love you. I want to tell you, you matter. You have value and purpose. I know you are sad. I know you are lonely. I see you. I know where you are. I have been there many times myself. I even carved my initials on the cold dark walls that surround you. There are others. They too left their mark. And like bread crumbs we hope you will see our scratched cries for help. If you look closely, you will see cracks in that wall. Through the cracks you will see a very dim light. You can get out of there. I am going to keep shining that light.

Driving Away Depression
I know you hurt. I know your heart breaks. And in the dark cold winter of your soul, there is a seemingly unbearable weight holding you down.
“Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”
That seed is love and joy. You WILL feel the spring. You will feel the warmth of the sun on your face.
You are not alone. Your journey isn’t over. If that seems improbable or hopeless, reach out to me. Reach to God. Reach to the light. I know how that feels.
Turn to the light. Getting up is the hardest step. If I can, so can you.
We are all in this together. You will feel love and happiness again. You will feel hope.
“Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed
It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose”
Bette Midler recorded The Rose in 1979. It still stirs every emotion in me when I listen to it.
This may be the toughest year many have ever faced. Keep kind on your mind. The world needs more, many more kindness warriors like each of you. One small (or big) act of kindness could be life-changing for someone. Kindness can be the nutrient that seed needs to grow and bloom.

Be love. Be kind
#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #weareallconnected

I Am Still Just A Rat In A Cage

Despite all my rage…
I was discharged from the hospital today. Including today, 9 days is a long time stuck in a 10 by 12 room where your only connection to, well, anyone is the call button. It changes your perspective on life. All of the sudden a cheap plastic remote becomes this mighty conduit.


I had 6 separate hospital stays last year. None were as challenging as this one. But, nevertheless, where there is darkness, fear, pain, and anger, there is also hope. I found a few meaningful elements to my journey in those little lonely moments, in the dark cold isolation of my hospital room; in the still.

I am still processing and look forward to sharing more about that. But for now, I am letting the anger and frustration out. And, there is plenty of frustration with facing what seems to be neverending health challenges that force me back into a 10 by 12 cage.

Makes me want to smash something. More to come, more peaceful thoughts.
But for now…

My rage isn’t any less real. My fighting resolve is intact, still.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Holly From Green Mountain

Next Saturday, August 22 will be one year to the day since I met a woman who changed my outlook on life. Her name was Holly, from Colorado. Her name came up earlier today in a conversation with my mother-in-law about some of the most interesting stories from my experiences driving Uber/Lyft.

Driving over the last 3 and a half years has given me so much inspiration and purpose. For those new to StreetLights, my name is Christopher Carlson. I have clinical/chronic depression. This is something I have dealt with all or most of my life but didn’t realize or understand it until a very dark rock bottom moment in December of 2017 that almost took my life. God intervened.

Since that moment of clarity I have chosen to share my experiences and my story because I know it helps others who suffer this lonely internal battle. My decision to be open and share my struggle has been validated more times than I can remember in the last few years. As a part of my own therapy but also as a sort of safe space for others, I have interacted with many incredible people through my 6,000 plus Uber/Lyft rides given. The other objective behind this blog and the stories I share is to promote kindness.

I haven’t driven Uber/Lyft since March 17th, due to Covid19. I am in the high risk pool and just can’t risk that much exposure. I have begun working full time in a position at Lowe’s which limits my exposure to the public and I really enjoy my work. But I truly miss driving and hope to someday feel safe enough to resume that inspiring activity, part-time.

As for now, like many of you, I have been anxious and angry. There are dark forces working in this world and the voices of fear and hate are very loud. Driving would often help me when I felt like I often do because it always helped restore my faith in humanity. Just a few riders is all it would take; sometimes just 1.

I don’t have that connection right now, so I thought I would look back to get some comfort and perspective. Holly’s story is a reminder that we can’t let the anger and fear of today overwhelm us and dictate our lives. I needed to regain that perspective. Holly has a simple life mantra. “Life is love. Anything else is a waste of time.” Here is her story…

StreetLights On a Saturday Night

People Profiles, Driving Away Depression

Holly From Green Mountain

I got the request in Grand Prairie. Uber XL. Thinking it would be a group of people and at 245am, most likely drunk and rowdy, I prepared myself for the worst. Shortly after I started working my way to the pickup address, I received a text from”H,” my rider. “Please come to the front office. I am in a wheelchair.” I was relieved it wasn’t a group of late night drinkers.

When I arrived at the semi-circle drive in front of the retirement home, two women were waving at me, smiling. Holly was my rider. She was in the wheelchair. Her 92 year old mother was standing with a walker. Holly had several bags and a small dog. I began to load the car as she said goodbye to her mother. There was some laughter mixed in with some emotion as I helped Holly into the front seat and loaded her wheel chair.
As they made their final goodbyes I began to realize this was more than just, until the next time. Once the door was shut, Holly began fumbling for the window button. I hit mine as we slowly started to move. She waved to her mother again calling out to her. I stopped. But Holly said no, let’s go, and she burst into tears.

Holly regained her composure and apologized saying “It’s just tough. I am saying goodbye to my mother for the last time. She has congestive heart failure. In the morning she will be moved into a full care facility.”

Holly comes from a big family. She has 13 brothers. Not one of them have visited their mother in these final days. Here was Holly, with serious health issues herself, bound to a wheelchair, traveled from Colorado to see her mom.

Holly returned to what seemed to be her normal disposition, cheerful and positive. She was warm and friendly, even when she spoke of tough, even tragic experiences in her life. When you look into her eyes you can see this almost childlike joy.

Holly’s mother was given something called DES when she was pregnant with Holly.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy, incuding nausea. It was determined to cause cancer in the mother, the child and could even reach as far as a grandchild genetically. Holly is known as a DES daughter because she, like many women born from exposure, developed cancer or other significant health issues.

Holly fought cancer twice. The first time she was only 9. And then again, in her late 20s. She beat it both times. But the genetic abnormality remained.

Holly and Bill married young. Bill is a disabled Vietnam War Veteran. They had a baby boy. He had a rocky start and passed away at 15 months old.

Eventually they tried again and she gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter was healthy. She grew up, got married and began having kids of her own. That’s when the cancer finally showed up. Holly’s daughter had inoperable, terminal brain cancer. Holly said after the news, her daughter freaked out, dropped everything and left. She left her 3 children and her husband. Holly never heard from her again.

Now another predicament. By this time, Holly and Bill had significant health issues and couldn’t take on the kids. Her daughter’s husband was in a car accident and suffered traumatic brain damage. So he couldn’t be a father anymore. They were forced to turn to the state. All 3 children were put into different foster homes.

In 1985 Holly and Bill, along with their daughter were living in Houston. There was a severe storm one day that had Holly concerned about the lightning. She called Bill on the phone and while expressing her concerns to him lightning struck the tree just outside the kitchen window. The strike went into the ground, splitting the tree, and found its way up the ground cable for the phone. And then, as Holly described it, the lights went out. She was cooked!

It took her over a year to learn to speak and walk again. That strike left her with a damaged nervous system, constant headaches, epileptic seizures, and a bone disorder that prevents calcium from being absorbed, making her bones weak and brittle. Calcium builds up on the outside of the bone. Apparently she has numerous surgeries to go in and essentially scrape it off. Holly jokes about a few other side effects, including a slightly tighter right side of her face that makes her look a bit like a pirate smiling. She said she can scratch her left shouldet and feel it in her right leg.

She underwent leg surgery not long ago where they used a cadaver bone for her right leg. It didn’t work, which is why she is curently in the wheelchair. Upon returning to Colorado, they will remove her leg below the knee. She joked about being mad at the doctors because she wanted to keep the leg, only to bury it. But they said no. I told her she should then at least ask for a core charge refund.

Holly’s little Terrier is named Christine. She is actually a service dog and lets Holly know when she is about to have a seizure.

Holly continued with her story. ” I am so grateful for little Christine, here. But I haven’t had a seizure in almost 2 years since we moved to Lakewood, Colorado and my doctor started me on CBD. My overall pain is lower. Apparently they fixed my voice too well, according to Bill because I won’t stop talking now.”

She had this childlike, innocent joy about her. All that pain. And her eyes are lit with joy and appreciation for life. She paused in her story long enough for me to ask how she copes. She smiled and said there are good days and bad days but everyday I am alive is a blessing.”

She commented on my music choice. Louis Armstrong and Elle Fitzgerald were singing a duet on my Spotify. What are some of your favorite music artists? I asked. She said she really liked John Denver.

Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?

She laughed a little and said ‘Well I like that song but it isn’t my favorite.”

What is?

“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.

Her three grandchildren were found separate permanent homes. All three were adopted by wonderful families. Holly gets to communicate with all of them and occasionally gets to see them. They are all in Utah.

We got to Love field at 330 am. Nobody was there. But she insisted she would be fine to be dropped off. So, I unloaded her stuff onto a cart, got her situated in the wheel chair and we made our way into the terminal.

Holly you seem like such a happy person, I said. You have had a tough life.

Holly replied, “I have had a blessed life. I have been happily married for 39 years, traveled. I Live in a beautiful place by Green Mountain. Life has been good to me.”

I told her how much I appreciated her telling me her life journey. I told her I really admired her strength and resilience.

“You should visit Green Mountain. You should visit Colorado. You seem tired. It will rejuvenate you.” Holly said.

I told her now everytime I think of Colorado I will think of her….

With that pirate smile, hoppin’ around Green Mountain on one leg…

We both burst out laughing.

We hugged and said goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was a strange moment as I walked away, while she sat with Christine and her luggage next to the check-in kiosk, smiling and waving me bye. She was happy. She was returning home to her steadfast companion of 39 years.

Oh Holly. You smile for me. I cry for you.

I played that song on the way home. I cried the whole way. I cried for Holly’s loss. I cried for the desperation I have felt. And, I cried for joy, because Holly reminded me that I am alive, still. She told me something else I am sure to never forget.

Life is love.

That’s it. Everything else is a waste of time.

Once again, God has given it. He sent a most interesting woman to deliver it. And, I have received it.

Grace.

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

For Holly and Bill. And, for the love of my life, who continues to lift me up, Mindy.

StreetLights: From The Garage Friday June 26, 2020

From the garage…

Perfect weather as the sun sets here in Arlington, TX. Enjoying a relaxing evening. I do miss the road and the interesting stories from my riders. In the meantime, I have a few people to write about soon and there is this:

As I continue to sort through meaningful songs I always have a habit of going back to certain artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

Neil Young wrote Helpless in 1969. This is one of those songs that really makes me delve deep into its meaning, or at least my interpretation of the song. I began to think of the helpless feeling one might have in isolation due to Covid19. In the song, Young refers to a town in North Ontario. It is pretty isolated up there. As one writer put it, when expressing his interpretation, “when you live in a town like that, you often feel helpless because you are. But there is beauty there like nowhere else. So when you are back to “civilization” you miss it.”

Perhaps it can be used as a feeling of despair that you cannot help, but there is still this image,

“Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,”

Isolation is tough. I got to see some familiar faces tonight that I have seen in months. It was brief but meaningful nonetheless. This song has always been a favorite of mine. I would play it when I felt alone, sitting in my little apartment.

Melancholia.

But here is the thing, the silver lining if you will.

Even in times of sadness, despair, helplessness, there is beauty and grace.

Check in on someone this weekend. Reach out. There are many forms of isolation and many who feel helpless don’t know how to reach out.

Anyway, it is Friday. Have a great weekend everyone!

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

This version of Neil Young’s Helpless by Buffy Sainte-Marie is pow wow werful!

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

A Horse With No Name

A Horse With No Name.

On the first part of the journey…

We have been sheltering in place, with a few store runs here and there, since March 18th. Like many of you, I was anxious. How would we pay the bills? What will happen with the kids and school? Just how bad will it get? And, for me, I wondered how will this affect my mental health? I am someone who has battled clinical depression all my life. Most of that time, I was not fully aware of my disease. In December of 2017, that changed. Since then, I have been on a journey to reclaim my life and to share my struggle so that it might be a light for others who are lost in the dark fog.

It hasn’t been an easy path. I have learned to control (mostly) my depression and anxiety. I have also learned that even knowing isn’t always a solution, but it certainly is better than being forever lost at sea.  I often refer to my toolbox when talking about depression. By that, I mean the number of ways I control and counter it.  Medicine, therapy, walking, meditating, writing, nature, routines, etc. are all tools in the toolbox. Checklists are also very useful.

So, there we were, on the first day of our shelter-in-place journey. To my surprise, I transitioned quite well. I became less anxious and my mood was generally positive all day long. Time spent with family has been wonderful. We played games, watched some movies together. We have worked in the yard together. The kids lost interest in that activity after day 1, but it was great while it lasted. I think if I push, I can get them back out there. I have also been organizing my garage. Clutter is always bad. Finding a place for everything and creating a few clear surfaces is therapy in and of itself. It is great to get rid of things you don’t need. So long, extra set of washing machine hoses. Good riddance, box of old cables and wires. I found one bag that was filled with more bags. I am pretty sure it has been tucked away in a drawer since 1997.

The first few weeks of shelter-in-place was like stepping from a surreal environment that went by so fast, most of it was blurry, to a much more real, vivid life of color and beauty, I was off the hamster wheel and free to look around; free to enjoy the simpler things in life.

I was looking at all the life

There were plants and birds and rocks and things

I was all of the sudden on a whole new path. I was on a respite from the grind and I was noticing all the wonder around me.  The grass became greener. The sun and sky felt like battery chargers for my soul. I was now traveling along a path devoid of stress and anxiety; a path with far less distractions. I got away from all the chaos and the noise. But I had no idea where this path would lead me. As the song says,

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

New routines began to form. Some good, some bad. But I wasn’t really paying attention. I was living in the moment and happy. So, I was complacent and unaware. Last week, I began to slide. Unknowingly, my demons were catching up to me. Life started getting foggy. I have been so tired and achy these last few days. I have started losing interest in all of the wonderful elements of life. This morning I woke up feeling like I needed to go right back to bed. I scrolled Facebook for a few moments with no real interest. I looked outside and didn’t see my new little realm, but instead, I saw heat and discomfort and unbearable brightness. I didn’t have much to say to anyone and after forcing myself to take care of a couple of “to do’s,” I found my way back to bed. It seems depression had found me again.

After two days in the desert sun

My skin began to turn red

After three days in the desert fun

I was looking at a river bed

And the story it told of a river that flowed

Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

The difference between now and two years ago is, I caught it. Something actually triggered in me yesterday when I was in the car with Mindy and the girls. This song came on and got me reflecting a bit. It took me until late today to really catch it, but catch it I did! There are many times when I am “melancholy” but aware. This is now one of those times. I can’t really change the way I feel, but now I can utilize those tools I was talking about to keep this low from turning into something more powerful and destructive. Until my brain stops forcing me to sorrow, I will ride it out. I will stay the course and slowly my path will become clear again. The fog will lift and I will sense the wonder of life again.

We still don’t know what is next with this Covid 19 business. I still don’t know where this new path is taking me, still no name for this horse. But I do know everything will be alright.

After nine days I let the horse run free

‘Cause the desert had turned to sea

There were plants and birds and rocks and things

there was sand and hills and rings

The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground

And a perfect disguise above

Under the cities lies a heart made of ground

But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

Where are you on your journey? Are you in the desert or in the rain? Mental health is tricky. Depression and anxiety are insidious. Covid19 has shaken the rhythm of all our lives. Here are a few tools to give yourself a mental checkup and boost.

Take a moment and rate your emotional state. Think about how you feel and how you have felt recently. Make yourself aware. If you are feeling low or foggy, change your routine, use a daily checklist, and find a way to talk about it. The buddy system works! Anyone who might struggle with depression should have someone, friend, family member, therapist, doctor to communicate with every week. Taking inventory and talking about how you feel on a regular basis helps empower you to become aware of and control the destructive forces of depression.

3 most powerful anti-depressant activities:

GET UP!

GET OUT!

GO SPREAD KINDNESS!

Be safe, my friends. Be love. Be kind.