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.
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!
I was recently reminded that “attitude is everything.”
I don’t know about everything, but it is definitely an important element in all things.
You are more likely to accomplish your goals and overcome your obstacles if you tell yourself that you can. My mom, Gretchen and one of my closest friends, Michelle are firm believers in the power of positive affirmations. With all that we are facing in the world right now, many of us fall into lonely and dark holes of depression and anxiety. When we aren’t feeling anger, we are overwhelmed with sadness.
For those who may be feeling lost, broken, or in a fog all alone, I see you. I know that space you are in. I have been there many times. Reach out to me. My hand is right here. You are not alone. I know your pain.
Finding the right attitude can be so very difficult when all you want to do is escape all the negativity and go back to bed.
Well, it is time to take inventory and open up your tool box. If you are suffering or overwhelmed, or depressed, grab a pen and some paper(or whatever your equivalent is). Find a safe, clutter free space. By safe I mean a place that doesn’t create more stress or distraction. The dining room table is one of mine. So is the garage now that I have had time to organize it. #Covid19silverlining Bed is NOT a safe space.
Get to that space, take a few calming deep breaths and start making an inventory list of positive things and people in your life. Nothing negative. List your peeps. This could include your pastor, your mom or even the cashier who always greets you with a smile down at Racetrac or 7-eleven. No matter how insignificant little details might be, if they are positive, put it in your inventory.
Some of my list includes my wife, Mindy, my kids, my mom, dad, weekly breakfast with my friend John, all my friends and also trees, cloudy skies, cool breezes, flying, driving, walking, church, etc. Your positive inventory should include people, places, things, but also actions.
Once you have a decent list (20-30 items), read it back to yourself, aloud. If you do this enough, and sometimes it takes two or three readings, one of those items will create a spark, a small glimmer in your dark hole.
Then the really hard part, get up and get out! Put that list in your mental toolbox. Positive affirmations are also tools. So is therapy, medication, exercise, friendship, and one incredibly powerful tool called kindness. Being kind (as I know all your kindness Warriors are) is a way to recharge your batteries. Kindness creates a flame to light your way out. I find it wonderfully ironic that God made us to help heal ourselves by helping others.
Attitude will definitely help get you going. It will keep you in the game. It will create hope. Remember this, change all of your “have to’s” in your life like paying bill’s, going to work, mowing the yard, etc. to “get to’s.” I get to go to work. I get to make the car payment. I even get to clean up dog poop. I get to do these things because I have a house, a dog, a car. Many have nothing. Attitude – positive – can do – thankful – kind.
I missed #TBT yesterday so here is a little song about attitude from one of my favorite musicians, Eric Clapton.
It’s In The Way You Use It.
This weekend I hope you find the right attitude to spread some kindness and positive vibes! You will make others happy and you will find joy in it too.
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, white America is finally listening and learning just how many black lives died through police brutality and how very different our worlds are traveling down the same street. 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 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 we open our hearts and our eyes to see it, to feel it, to witness it we 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 too. 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?
This post is from June 9th, 2018. So, my friends, it fails to account for the crazy shit we are dealing with today. Now more than ever, we must be kinder to each other. We must make kindness a conscious effort with every interaction. We are all connected…
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. These are just two of the most recent names, two people, two extraordinary people who made contributions to our society, our world. In the last 3 days almost 400 more people in this country have taken their own lives.
According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, afsp.org, about 45,000 Americans die from suicide a year (2016 data). Far too many other people continue on a path of self-destruction from depression because their disease remains undiagnosed, untreated. They are lost at sea in their own body and mind. This is not a character flaw. This is a REAL DISEASE.
The reality is far more than just mental health contributes to suicide. In a nation as wealthy as ours, too many still don’t have access to affordable and proper healthcare. There are too many poor who are struggling. Economic crisis is a major contributor to depression.
But we also still have a stigma with depression. I have been suicidal two times in my life. I can say for my own experience, even though I had many people who loved me and cared for me even though I loved and cared for others, I was alone. I was confused. I was sad. I was filled with guilt and shame. I felt defective. And, I couldn’t see a clear path back to “normal.” Whatever that is…
Through the grace of God, I had angels who entered my life, I had circumstances that kept me from dying at those two critical moments in my life. But I still went on dealing with depression without truly understanding what was happening to me. More on me another time.
There are going to be about 123 suicides today according to statistics for 2016. Not to be pessimistic but given the current state of our country, I think that number is higher.
My love goes out to all who struggle with this disease.
I ask each of you to REALLY consider depression and think about the people in your life. Do any of them show signs of depression? Do you feel you might be dealing with depression?
This is a treatable, controllable disease or illness. And in truth there is some hope. The more we learn about genetic depression, the more medical researchers hypothesize that the same gene that causes depression also inspires creativity. When you think about it, for a great many of our artists, musicians, designers, actors who have fallen by their own hand, this is a rational argument. So, this means we can become better at treating depression.
In the mean time, be kind my friends. Slow down! Be kind to yourself. We are all in this together!
Shine your light brightly so people like Kate and Anthony might find their way out of the darkness and sorrow before its too late.
Under the clouds it looks like 830pm. Gray. Storm’s rollin’ in. Behind the wheel again. Feels good. Haven’t driven since before the stent went in. Just a short trip. Just down the road. It’s nice to be on the move again.
I can’t recall precisely when the word entropy entered my brain, but being back in the hospital had me thinking about it more. I am feeling extremely mortal, worn. I have been thinking about its meaning for several days now.
Entropy is a scientific term. There are a few ways to use the word in a scientific context, but one way to define entropy in layman’s terms is this: It is the tendency for energy to spread out. It is the idea that everything in the universe decays as energy is used or transferred. We are part of that process. We enter this world and grow into adults and then old age; all part of a process that offers less and less ordered energy until we die and become dust. All the while, entropy increasing until all in the universe is nothing. Oh yeah, so one of the scientific laws of energy, of entropy is that it is irreversible. Meaning, entropy is ever increasing.
For example, an egg is boiled. That energy is converted and gone through heat. But we can’t unboil the egg. The theory is that everything in the universe eventually transfers its energy to the great collective until there is no difference in energy anywhere and therefore nothing. For the record, that’s a long way off. So don’t worry about the planet disintegrating while you are on the morning commute.
The term was invented by a German physicist named Rudolf Clausius in 1850 to describe the amount of heat that must be put into a closed system (an engine) to bring it to a given state. This was during the industrial age. Our internal engines aren’t any different. Over a period of time, they decay, become less efficient. I don’t want to die. But I know I am mortal. And so far as I can tell, no one has figured out how to stop it.
We waste so much of our limited time as ordered energy (human beings) thinking about the past or the future. We waste so much time lamenting the insignificant. From the moment we arrive we are slowly using up our life energy and slowly unravelling. Disease may take us down. Like Clausius and his engine, we occasionally get a replacement part or we just add some hardware, like a stent, or dentures. These modifications may improve our ability to function, but entropy never stops. We continue to transfer our life energy back to the collective, bit by bit, until we are dust.
But this mortality becomes precious. If we were immortal, would we find joy? Knowing we have a limited time makes each moment count. Or at least it should.
Because we believe in more than just scientific theory. Because life is beautiful. Because our essence is to live. This time, this tiny portion of infinite time is important. We, our bodies, our engines, begin to decline from the moment we are born.
This year brings us a number of reminders that nothing on this earth lasts forever. We watched in sorrow as an iconic and beautiful cathedral fell, consumed by fire. But, if you bothered to notice, no one has expressed a loss of faith in God. Entropy, decay, death are all things we can’t escape. Neither can a beautiful structure, even if made with loving hands of a faithful people.
As we get older and closer to that moment when our life energy is scattered back into the collective universe, we often begin to feel less useful, without purpose. We often ask why, when we see a friend or colleague reduced to confusion and unable to care for himself because that well-ordered energy is scattering and the commands of the mind no longer hold sway over the action of the body. Entropy. I can tell you from personal experience that health issues which come earlier than one would expect in life do cause some anguish, anxiety, and depression.
On the other hand, much of what I feel I have to offer in service of God and humanity comes from the struggle, not the easy parts of life. When we teach our children, do we not use all of our personal experiences, both good and bad as a guide to help them grow and live to find hope, peace, love, and joy?
Scientifically, we understand entropy in a measurable dynamic. Philosophically, this becomes more intangible. I am a firm believer that science and God are not exclusive or contradictory to one another. But this slow unraveling, this entropy, is absolutely designed by God. It gives us time. Not eternity, but time. It allows us to struggle so that we may know the beauty of life. Entropy, thus gives us consequential action and thought, free will.
“Another interesting aspect of entropy is that it makes the process of becoming, gradual and rather controlled. If entropy had different nature, the universe might be too unbalanced or violent to sustain life: without the energy transmutating gradually into heat, life and death would become abruptly polar events.”
Now this last little part is a quote from an anonymous nihilist who is also quoted above, mixed with my own core belief in God. So I am not using quotation marks. But a portion of it is not my own. I just swapped out a few words here and there for my personal cosmos cooking.
This life may be burdened with death and suffering in struggle, but without it there wouldn’t be anything to live or dream for. As Nietzsche put it, “it is only up to us to overcome this, what we call the tragedy of mortal life, and re-write our roles in the cosmic play. While the invisible strings of statistics will always be pulling our actions in the large scale, it can never put the lines in our mouths. That we must do ourselves.”
God doesn’t take away people we love. God doesn’t make bad things happen to good people. And, I might add, there are always people worse off than us. God gives us free will and a limited amount of time to use that will. Let us not waste that time. Let us instead, since we are all in this life together, use our will, our strengths, and even our weaknesses for the betterment of humanity. That is the way to life everlasting. That is God’s will. And, that is the only true antithesis to entropy.
See? Science and religion fusion. Boom.
“Life is the noble process which turns suffering into excellence.”
We cannot forsake grief. Instead we must embrace it and allow it to remind us we are alive.
“You should know compared to people on a global scale our kind has had it relatively easy. And here with you there’s always something to look forward to. Our angry heart beats relatively easy.” Jason Isbell
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.
Slightly updated this memory from 2018 for relevance to our current conditions.
April 13, 2020
The pandemic which has changed our world is not nearly done. As we brace for what is next, many of us do so alone. Depression must also be a condition/symptom/consequence of Covid-19. For my own experience, driving Uber and Lyft, meeting people and listening to the many incredible life stories has always been my therapy for counteracting my depression. At least, it has been a big part of my anti-depressant toolbox.
I have found a silver lining to this virus. I have been home with my family, at least most of my family. My days have been spent connecting with my wife and kids, reaching out to friends and family, and lots of yardwork. And I have been loving every single minute of it. I thought being taken off the road would be a challenge for my chronic depression, but I was wrong. I have found more joy and less stress during the last month than I ever remember.
But, the fact that so many people out there are dealing with loneliness and isolation, that fact is not lost on me. So I say to each of you, especially to my depressive brothers and sisters, I love you. You are not alone.
For folks who do not understand depression, please hear me! When depression sets in, it is like a fog. It is cold and confusing. It isn’t enough to say, call me. Depression often takes away the ability for someone to reach out for help. So we must be proactive. We must all be light. We must be kindness warriors and spread love in the time of Covid-19.
I see this in action. I see heroes rising. I see angels in email. I hear the beauty and love shared in song, on Facebook, ZOOM, WebEx, drive-by celebrations.
Love and kindness from 6 feet or through a camera lens will defeat this pandemic. So, keep checking up on each other. Keep the conversation going. A simple call or letter, or email, text, etc. might just save a life. Don’t be afraid. God is with us, always.
April 13, 2018
For the journey…
I get behind the wheel, engine start, all systems check. Flip on the app, and away I go. I am now far away. Halfway to Mars.
“I miss the earth so much I miss my wife It’s lonely out in space On such a timeless flight And I think it’s gonna be a long long time ‘Till touch down brings me round again to find I’m not the man they think I am at home Oh no no no I’m a rocket man Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone”
Its always been my favorite Elton John song. I think I understand why, now. It’s day 129 since I hit rock bottom with depression. The climb is still wrought with danger, emotion, and self deception, self destruction. It’s lonely out in space.
But, I’m a Rocket Man.
Make it count. We are all connected. Let your loved ones know you love them. Spend as much time with them as you can. In this time of Covid-19, be purposefully kind. Be extraordinary! Be love.
We have all become familiar with some new terms like shelter-in-place and social distancing. More than that, we are all adjusting to a very different world. There have been moments that feel as if each of us are on our own little space station floating around the earth. My station has artificial gravity, a fridge full of food, comfy bed, and a ton of movies, so it isn’t too bad. I also get to share this space station with my wife and three out of my four kids. I wish the 4th was here too but he is on his own space station. Every once in a while, we venture out in our trusty spacecraft to a large star base to resupply. My mother’s little space station where she is on her own is close by and since she is practicing the same isolation protocols as we are, we can still travel to and from her place.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, there is much suffering and much danger. But there is also something good. There is much love. Love is strong. Love is powerful. And, love is everywhere in this time of Covid-19. As we first began to hear news of this virus and when the first cases were reported here in the United States, my initial reaction was anger. That anger consumed me. I am a news junkie anyway, but with this virus, I opened up the information valve all the way. This just intensified my outrage. And, for good reason. However, as I observe others, as I see posts online, and as I feel it here in my home, my little space station, I have become overwhelmed with love. I see the love we share with others in a time such as this. I see selfless acts of love from every doctor, nurse, EMT, grocery store worker, restaurant employee, and so many other people who continue to work hard making sure we still function as a society and we still take care of people in need. It is times like this when heroes shall rise. And they have!
I haven’t driven in almost three weeks. It just became too dangerous. I miss the personal connections I make with passengers. Driving Uber and Lyft has always been a method of restoring my withered faith in humanity. I am finding new ways to appreciate and renew that faith. In a world of darkness, I see a million points of light. I see people helping people. I see the incredible love and kindness that IS humanity at its finest. And, that give me hope.
We recently lost a bright light, Bill Withers. But really, his light will keep shining for all of us in his music.
Excerpt from New York Times:
“At 17, eager to avoid a coal-mine career himself, Mr. Withers joined the Navy. “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward,” he told Rolling Stone. “So, I went to aircraft-mechanic school.” He spent nine years in the service, some of it stationed in Guam. He quit the Navy in 1965, while stationed in California, and eventually got a job at an airplane parts factory. A visit to a nightclub to see Lou Rawls perform was a catalyst for changing his life. “I was making $3 an hour, looking for friendly women, but nobody found me interesting,” he said. “Then Rawls walked in, and all these women are talking to him.”
He bought a cheap guitar at a pawnshop, started learning to play it and writing songs, and eventually recorded a demo. Clarence Avant, a music executive who had just founded an independent label, Sussex, took note and set him up with the keyboardist Booker T. Jones, of Booker T. & the MG’s, to produce an album.
“Bill came right from the factory and showed up in his old brogans and his old clunk of a car with a notebook full of songs,” Mr. Jones told Rolling Stone. “When he saw everyone in the studio, he asked to speak to me privately and said, ‘Booker, who is going to sing these songs?’ I said, ‘You are, Bill.’ He was expecting some other vocalist to show up.”
Mr. Withers was laid off from his factory job a few months before “Just as I Am” came out. After the album’s release, he recalled, he received two letters on the same day. One was from his workplace asking him to return to work. The other was from “The Tonight Show,” where he appeared in November 1971.” NYT April 3, 2020.
What an amazing story! Bill Withers, with no music background, bought a guitar and started writing and playing music in his 30s. “It was just something I decided to do,” he said. He was inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.
For the record, “Ain’t No Sunshine” which garnered Withers his first Grammy was the B-side to “Harlem.”
We are going to get through this time of Covid-19. We are going to keep the fire bright. We are all connected!
So, for this edition of StreetLights On A Saturday Night, I leave you with a little love from Bill Withers. I truly hope it has been a lovely day, friends.
James was scheduled to leave Denver late. It was Saturday. He had been away from home and his wife Emily, and their two daughters for almost two weeks. First was Phoenix, training. That was held over a day because it was determined they needed to make changes to the syllabus he had spent the better part of a month preparing. Then, on to Denver, where his company is headquartered. It seemed like nothing went right this trip. And, he felt like there were some precious memories he was missing at home in Frisco. Both his daughters had music recitals and sports activities, none of which James could obviously attend.
The Denver leg came with its own calamities. The first night, his room at the Fairfield had some environmental issues. The thermostat didn’t seem to be working so the heat was on or off. James was able to move to a different Marriott property altogether closer to his company’s address day two but that was the least of day two’s obstacles. His rental car had some kind of electrical failure. He had to use Lyft to get to HQ, late of course. Finally, he was given a nice Lincoln to drive for the remainder of his stay.
He had a late flight Saturday because he had expected to be in meetings most of the morning. When the meetings were cancelled, James decided to try for an earlier flight with American to get home to his family.
James went to fuel up the Lincoln before turning in. While fueling the vehicle he called his boss. Just as his boss said hello, James heard something splashing on the ground and turned to see fuel going everywhere because the nozzle didn’t auto-shutoff. He didn’t see an emergency shutoff button so he wrestled with the nozzle until it shut off while spewing gas everywhere. He had to call his boss back. It didn’t stop there. Once he got the Lincoln, which was drenched on the side with fuel, back to the drop off, he began removing his stuff. He placed his trusty Starbucks coffee mug on the trunk of the car and then moved to the other side to pull out his bags. The attendant had already begun checking mileage and other items in the car without really acknowledging James’ presence. James once again called his boss to update him. The attendant popped the button on the trunk, sending James’ coffee mug flying through the air straight toward him. Instant reflex kicked in and he caught it but down went the phone with his boss still on the other end. The attendant didn’t notice anything and hustled away. James had a nice new cracked screen. But, he at least was able to finish the call with his boss.
James was starting to wonder, what next? Well…
There were two earlier flights on American to DFW and both were overbooked. American was looking to get 17 people on the first flight alone to volunteer to take another flight. James heard from another passenger, American offered one traveler $1,000 to give up his seat. Okay, so no going home early. Now James would just have to settle in and wait until his 5pm flight. So his plane would arrive around 345 or so and then he would board after they fuel it and load bags, etc. A few minutes after the plane landed and most of the passengers had departed, there was an announcement that the flight would be delayed due to a technical problem. Exhausted and eager to get home, James asked the gate agent what was going on. Apparently, a departing passenger somehow triggered an emergency inflatable device (wasn’t clear exactly what this was, but assuming a raft?) inside the aircraft and now maintenance was trying to figure out what to do and whether or not the plane would be returned to service.
Now James was a seasoned business traveler so he knows there will always be issues from time to time but on this particular trip he was feeling cursed. It was finally determined the aircraft would not be airworthy in time to fly James and his fellow travelers back to DFW, so American announced they would be flying another aircraft in for their flight but it would take another 3 hours or so. And get this, it was coming from DFW!
The plane did arrive and the passengers were loaded and swiftly air born, bound for Dallas! James began to feel some momentum. Could he be leaving the curse behind in Denver? Nope! There was a 25 minutes delay with the baggage system. Ha! Now James was feeling completely beat down and defeated as he dragged his bag out the door of Terminal C, praying to God, “Please Lord, I just want to go home.”
James opened up his Lyft app and requested a car. The nearest one was 17 minutes away. Standing outside the terminal, well after midnight, James tried Lyft one more time. This time the nearest driver was 11 minutes away. James made the request and stood there aching and tired and wishing he could be home with his wife and his girls, wishing he could finally sleep in his own bed. He checked the app and sure enough, here came the vehicle he requested, he could see the Lyft light in the dash matching the color on his phone so he knew that one was for him. One more leg of this trip and he was home. “Please let this ride be smooth and without any issues…”
It was late Saturday night, after midnight. Okay, early Sunday morning!
I am exhausted. My whole week went sideways. It seems to do that often. I haven’t slept well in days. My restless legs have kept me up. It’s a nice bonus every time I get one of those steroid injections in my neck for a collapsed disc. My goals for the week were on the horizon but now have completely vanished. A few more rides like the last one and I am just done.
It is day 110 of recovery from depression rock bottom back in early December. I have managed to keep clear of the fog, for the most part. That nasty shadow has been chasing me, but hasn’t been able to catch me. I have been keeping it under control.
I am so tired. No way to hit that bonus. I think it may be time to head home. I will start again in the morning. Means, I miss church again but, need to work.
I was on highway 114 coming back from the west and looking to make the highway 121 exchange to head home.
The Lyft app began chirping with a request. Wow, its 17 minutes away. I accepted it. It turns out it was coming from the airport. I guess there is a real shortage of drivers in the queue at the airport. It isn’t common to get an airport pickup 17 minutes away. So, I headed in. I didn’t get far before the rider cancelled. I guess he didn’t like the wait time.
Well, I am headed toward the airport anyway. I will take just one more rider. I will make this one count and then head home to try again tomorrow. Just one more trip. Just then, the app started chirping again, 11 minutes away this time. I accepted it. Wow, another airport request. Bet they cancel. But I am going that way.
This request wasn’t canceled. It was a pickup at DFW Airport Terminal A. Really late for activity there. I was exhausted and feeling beat down. I could feel that shadow starting to move around me. I was feeling sorry for myself and I was feeling like a failure, my mind was getting dark. But I am going to get this one last rider home. As I approached the Terminal I saw my passenger, looking at me. Man, this guy looked worse than I feel. You could tell he was running on empty just by watching him move as I pulled up.
Just this last ride. Just one more ride and I will head home. I feel like I haven’t seen or spent time with my family in weeks. I have missed church and my friends there. Now I am going to miss everyone again. I will GET UP and keep fighting again tomorrow, I guess. Starting to wonder what the point is. I am so tired. Just one more ride tonight. Just one more Saturday night drive. Ok, time to put on a smile and get this guy home. Clearly he needs to get there. Got to keep movin’. Got to keep fighting. Else, who am I?
Hello James. Welcome back to DFW. Let’s see where we are headed…