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StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Sisyphus

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

Let me start with a small introduction on Sisyphus.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dark place and the demons who dwell there…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wind Will Carry Us

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

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

Love and Hate

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

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

We are all connected.

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

Red

Still…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is better with a soundtrack.

If I Can Dream

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

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

StreetLights People Profiles: Mary

StreetLights original post August 9, 2018

I like to repost this one for Memorial day.

#Peopleprofiles

Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2019

StreetLights on a Saturday Night

The Longest Trip part 2 of 2.

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

Jake and Josh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey I think this kindness thing might be catching on!

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

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

And then…

The lights came on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, from the film,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Longest Trip.

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

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

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

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

Still, I am struggling.

Sunday, March 4th, 2019

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

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

1961 Beechcraft Bonanza

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

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

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

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

F4-U Corsair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All My Empty Spaces Part 5: Love

December 23rd, 2021

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

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

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

Love and Hate.

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

Love

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

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

January 15th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Love.

January 29th, 2022

The razor’s edge.

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration credit Sam Falconer

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

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

Love.

And that’s how you find joy in depression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love

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

Friday morning, February 18th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Love

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

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

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

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

Love

It’s a wonderful life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O.k. What’s next?

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


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

Feature image credit, Fariedesign

All My Empty Spaces Part 3: Peace

Personal peace.

It was just after midnight when Ricardo brought the snacks consisting graham crackers, peanut butter, diet shasta, and a plastic sealed turkey and cheese on white (made by Goodyear). It was remarkably delicious, given it was the first thing I had to eat since breakfast; which comprised of powedered eggs, 1 slice of bread with butter and oatmeal (made by Elmer’s). Ricardo also brought pain meds, dilaudid to be specific. Before he arrived, I had spent 4 hours lying in my bed, helpless and hurting.

This was night 3 of what would end up as 7 nights, 9 days at the luxurious Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth. I think I managed to count every hole in the ceiling tiles and memorized every scratch in the floor. Your mind really starts to conspire against you when you are stuck in a 120 sq. ft. bare grey cold dark room with only the small light from beneath the door and muffled sounds of people passing by in the hallway outside to connect you to anyone or anything. I might as well have been in space, stuck in a capsule all by myself,  but with HBO.

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”

During the worst of it, I would count down the minutes and seconds until I could hit that button and request more pain meds.

Dexamethasone, cipro, levaquin, vancomicin, Zofran, robaxin, lovenox, dilaudid, and norco were among the littany of drugs that passed through my veins during that horrific experience. I should own stock in pharmaceuticals. When you have become as familiar with hospitals as I have, you have to laugh at some of the operational policies or obstacles. For instance, Harris Methodist ER is dilaudid free. Upstairs in the hospital they are fentanyl free. I am allergic to morphine. It was a fun time educating the doctors on chronic pain management, especially when coupled with other serious health conditions that only exacerbate the pain while in hell (any hospital visit after the first 30 seconds).

If you want to know what moderate to severe chronic pain feels like, I always tell people to take their left hand and using your thumb and pointer finger, gently squeeze your neck just below the base of your skull. Good, now put just enough pressure on that grip so that your neck is depressed about 3/4 of an inch. Ok, next take your other hand and using the same fingers put roughly the same pressure on the front of your neck just below your jaw. Don’t squeeze so hard you choke yourself, stupid. Great! Now hold that position and amount of pressure for 6 years. During that time, you will need to once a day poke yourself in random places all over your body with a thumb tack. After the 3rd year, please increase that poke to at least 3 times a day with each episode lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Remember, you must maintain the pressure on your neck. Yes, I know. Now your arms are burning and your hands are cramped and swollen. You begin developing trigger finger in every finger on both hands; surprisingly, not your thumbs. But now, both hands become unable to fully close or fully open. Sometimes you have to use one hand to pop open the fingers of your other hand because it is too painful to simply open your hand on its own.

Sometimes I wonder which came first, the depressed chicken or the chronically painful egg.

My body and mind have waged war against me for decades now. But in that darkest moment of isolation and pain, in that tiny cold and dark space, confined to my brick hospital bed, I began to think the only peace would be simply opening the IVs in my hands. I had one in each hand so I began considering which side would be more effective.

Ricardo may have saved my life that night. It wasn’t the pain meds or the rubber turkey sandwich. It was simply when he opened the door and let the light of the hallway into the room. It was simply Ricardo greeting me. I was nowhere near reality in that moment, just a surreal flight of agony, feeling the darkness overtaking the smallest little pixel of hope, of life. Hell, I wasn’t even the room.

It was the winter solstice of my soul and it was the moment I went numb. Then the door opened and a kind man came in to check on me, to help me. The following nights got progressively easier. They became more bearable. The overwhelming pain finally began to subside like a retreating tide. We weren’t meant to be alone. Isolation is the biggest threat to peace of body and soul. Take care of yourselves. Make your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being the absolute priority. If you don’t, you won’t be of much help to others. Peace in any form starts from within.

People peace.

Peace is surprisingly difficult and dangerous to achieve. Perhaps that is why we have all developed a tolerance to the lack of it. That word, peace, means something unique for each of us. What does peace look like for you? How can you find it in your own life?

Portions of this post were written a year ago. Other portions, like this paragraph were/are being written tonight, Christmas eve, while I am sitting in the front balcony row of Broadway Baptist Church letting the music and the soothing energy wash away all the conflict within me. Right here, right now, I am at peace. I wasn’t looking forward to service. Too much anxiety and frustration dominated my mind. But this moment of peace is just enough to keep my emotional fits from hitting the proverbial shan. It wasn’t the Christmas miracle I have been waiting for, been hoping for. But, it was just enough grace to get me through the night. Not too much, not to little.

Its all connected. Love, hope, joy, peace, faith. Just like the little trains made of wooden letter blocks. It all goes together. I write these words often. I say them often. It’s a little practice in the power of positive affirmation. And, it works. Take a ride on the peace train and find all the warm and fuzzies as you gaze out at the changing scenery of life from your train window. Choo choo!

Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it’s going to come’Cause I’m on the edge of darkness
There ride the Peace Train
Oh, Peace Train take this country
Come take me home again

I have a confession. I cry less than I used to. I have started filling the open spaces in me with anger, resentment, and even vengence. Crying has always been for sorrow or joy. I have had little room for either in an anger driven state of mind. I am trying so hard to change that. I am desperate to change that. It may be working. I am crying right now. For sorrow and for joy. I have tears today for peace. Peace for you. Peace for me. Peace for us. Peace for eternity.

As I sit here in the darkened sanctuary on this Christmas eve, I am finally talking to God. I am finally listening to God again. I am finally seeing his amazing grace again.

Light Of The World

I am a pllot. Or at least I once was. I took my first flight lesson when I was 16. I had my commerical pilot’s license by the time I was 18. That experience gave me a few skills that have been very useful in all aspects of my life, including and especially managing my depression.

Aviation is loaded with acronyms. One of the most familiar to pilots is RTFM, which stands for read the fuckin’ manual. In other words, know your airplane and know the procedures.

Flying taught me how to proceduralize and troubleshoot my life. Needless to say, I have lots of lists. Flying taught me to remain cool under pressure. Flying brought me peace. It brought me closer to God and a much better view of this beautiful planet we share. It took me away from all the chaos and conflict down below. That’s a true realization. We desire peace but actively harm each other and destoy it.

Flying was one of the only times in my life where I found peace, both within and without, but always up high.

I sat upon the clouds watching the world, finding peace only where my demons could not reach.

Gods beautiful creation. Being up there, in the sky was the only time I ever felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I felt complete and all my troubles were lost in the tiny objects below me.

Even after long and difficult flights when I was so tired my eyes burned, taxiing in after landing was always bittersweet.

Let me dance about the sky. Let me burst in and out of the clouds and rest ever so gently above them.

I still occasionally catch a scent that reminds me of the cockpit; the smell of electric devices in a small space, the combo of fuel, oil, carb heat and leather seats with wool covers.

These days you can’t ask to stick your head in the cockpit without getting someone nervous about your intentions. But if any pilot ever catches you taking in a deep breathe through the nose while even close to the controls, they won’t think it strange. Because they know, we know, it smells like home. That is, unless your copilot had Whataburger for lunch.

Flying never failed me, never let me down, ever. Not even that time I flew Robert J. in his Piper Archer to Cleveland, Tennessee, with him picking his nose the whole 7 hours and 52 minutes of flight time, breaking only for fuel in Pine Bluff. Rob was in the Christian music industry and going to Tennessee for a few months for work. He wanted to fly his own plane there but invited me to drop him and return his plane to Fort Worth. He wasn’t sure when or from where he would be heading home. I was solo for the flight back and loved every second of it.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

J.J. Abrams’ movies often have a trademark characteristic or style. He uses an emotional yet calm and soothing piece of music to score actions and images that are chaotic, even violent. While the imagery can hurt, and the intensity becomes almost unbearable to all senses but sound, its the music that carries us though. That is how I might define my life on certain days. The music carried me through the pain and destruction until, yes, finally, morning has truly broken and God has recreated the day. We are reborn each day. Maybe this day will be better. Maybe this day, those who wish harm to me and mine will relent, repent, and fucking relax. Maybe this day my hands won’t just hurt. Maybe this day my hands will hurt from healing.

“Say it’s here where our pieces fall in place
Any rain softly kisses us on the face
Anywhere means we’re running
We can sleep and see ’em coming
Where we drift and call it dreaming
We can weep and call it singingWhere we pray when our hearts are strong enough
We can bow, ’cause our music’s warmer than blood
Where we see enough to follow
We can hear when we are hollow
Where we keep the light we’re given
We can lose and call it livingWhere the sun isn’t only sinking fast
Every night knows how long it’s supposed to last
Where the time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you’ve left behind
You can have mine…

December 25, 2021

I think it should be said that while those of us who believe in and follow Christ are celebrating these glorious pillars of God, hope, love, joy, and definitely peace on earth, it should be said that we must include everyone in that dream, not just, ESPECIALLY not just Christians. Otherwise peace truly is impossible.

Peace also means loving thy neighbor, even if they make false accusations against you. Even if they purposely hurt you. Even if they do harm to those you love. Even if they are booger eating morons with the IQ of an empty can of bean dip. Yep, I said it. Stupid hateful people need peace too. They need it especially. We don’t hurt each other instinctively. We just don’t. We are all completely connected. So, hurting each other only hurts us too. We must show kindness and sue for peace. Yes, we must be angry at times. We must fight harmful elements of this life. But the fight is always and only for the dream of peace.

So, kindness warriors. Walk softly, but carry a big stick. Practice a little kindness kung fu. And when your enemy is stopped, they are your enemy no more. They are your brother and sister, your mother, your daughter, your best friend. Just like that. Put down the staff and open your arms with love. It really can be that easy. Seriously. Stop the hate. Share. The. Love. Make. The. Peace. Fill the empty spaces not with those things I seem to be struggling with, but with warm and fuzzy, gooey, sappy, funny, extraordinary, love.

Let it fill you up. Let it drip onto your shoes. Its ok. I love the scene in Ghostbusters 2 when the guys convert their packs to spray that love stuff, positively charged emotional slime. Everybody at the end (spoiler alert) is hugging and saying I love you. Doesn’t that seem like a great plan? Doesn’t that seem like the right kind of Christmas miracle?

We can do better for each other.

Dear God,

I want thank you for all the lessons, love, and daily grace you have given me. I want to thank you for the incredible people you have put in my life;
My friends, my family, my children and my wife.

You showed me how to fight depression. You gave me a clear mission to help others, to be a light in the darkness.

Lord, from that moment under the streetlight across from my house, so many years ago, when I was just 12 years old but filled with so much curiosity, but also so much darkness and pain, from that moment you have continued to flicker that light to let me know you are there. I have never doubted your existence since then.

Perhaps I have questioned your motives from time to time. But to be fair, tell me one person who hasn’t. You are the boss, so what you say goes. You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I get that loud and clear, Dude. Is it ok if I call you Dude? It’s totally out of love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Man, Aretha sure could drive home a message, don’t you think?

My soul is weary, Lord. I have no peace and my hope of finding it is waning.

“Speak, O Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Amen.

Whether you are working toward world peace or the peace of reconcilliation, whether you are coming to terms with your past or looking for peace in your present, remember the peace process always and forever starts by making peace with yourself. So go easy, my friends. Breathe deeply and let it go. Be at peace within and you will come to peace without.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack

For a playlist of the music found in this post along with a few other songs I listened to while working on the writing, checkout this link to Spotify.

All My Empty Spaces part 3: Peace – On Spotify

All My Empty Spaces Part 2: Hope

Have you noticed lately that noone is ever wrong anymore? People just never make mistakes and their opinion is always the correct one. I know this phenomenon has been around for a long time. Ego, narcissism, misplaced anger. We have all become so fucking smart that we can never be wrong about anything, especially when talking about politics, religion, or other people. 🤔😉 But this incredible mass generation of geniuses really became epic around the time of the internet, the world wide webs, the information superhighway, and Fox news.

Chris, what the hell does this have to do with hope? We thought you were gonna tell us a story of hope, positivity, kindness, and other warm and fuzzy stuff. Well….

Let’s just see where this takes us.

Hope IS actually my favorite subject to write about. And, I have met so many incredible people over the years with these amazing life stories of hope. When I drove Uber/Lyft, this was an almost daily occurrence. That in turn, supercharged my own hope. In fact, that experience gave me enough hope and faith to get me through some of the darkest and most challenging moments of my life.

God gave that to me. And I made full use of it. I also, well, my family and I also found our beloved Broadway Baptist Church around the same time. Another gift from God. We became a part of a bigger family of love, acceptance, and support. I honestly never thought I would find a church that didn’t have me running for the door 15 minutes into the service. But Broadway, and the good people of Broadway have been a huge part of our lives, our children’s lives. That was God sending angels, a bunch of them, to help us through difficult times, to teach us to be better people ourselves, to inspire us, to concentrate on a life of service and kindness. Broadway gave us hope.

I haven’t written much about hope lately, because I seem to have lost mine. At least, I have lost hope in certain things, like the overall goodness of people. It has also become clear that hope just isn’t as easy as I thought it was. Hope is actually tough. Hope takes guts. Without action in pursuit of it, turns out, hope is just another 4 letter word. Stress is another four letter word.

Just go with it…

Still looking for that Christmas miracle.


Stress is playing a central role in life at the moment. Does anyone else feel that way? Stress just likes to steal the show, be the center of attention. Stress sucks. Stress is a hope killer.

My wife and I have been married 19 years. We have seen plenty of stress, obstacles, and dark times. But we have shared some beautiful moments too, miracles even. This year, like several others in the last decade, we are in some rough waters. We have had a number of what I call Christmas miracles over these last few years and I am praying, hoping for yet another. But this time is a little different. This year my hopes are in other people, and that scares the crap out of me. What I mean is, the miracles Mindy and I have received in the past were with God’s intervention but also a result of us vigorously pursuing our hope, our goals, our reconcilliation, or our combined efforts to improve our family life. This year, we are placing our hopes in the goodness of other people. This year I am scared there will be no Christmas miracle because this year, and the last few years, people have really let us down.

For example, a good friend of mine is going through an incredibly stressful ordeal right now. My friend has been doing what she does best, supporting and helping others. Not long ago, someone made a false allegation against my friend and it has had devastating effects.

My friend, she is always so selfless, a true servant of God, especially in situations where no one else seems to care. Now, she is basically cut off from her true calling, because someone either misunderstood or was bothered by my friend helping a particular individual. Sorry to be vague with this story but its a live one so, best not to go into detail.

This is the kind of crap that keeps diminishing my faith in people. At this point, I have also begun to lose hope my friend will ever fully recover from this, nor her husband and children who are also impacted by the attack on her character and good name.

I am losing hope that we will ever get back to working out our differences with each other peacefully. It seems like everyone just jumps to quick assumptions and judgements. Then, they go telling other people their version/opinion of the whole thing and we are off to the races. You end up with a whole network of people being given lies and deception, or at the very least, a tiny sliver of information without any context.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”  -Joseph Goebbels.

Yuk. I hate quoting evil people, but Joe has a point.

I feel like every time I get my hope recharged, something happens and destroys it. Lately, it has been people, not places or things.

God never gives you more than you can handle. So God keeps going “I think he can handle a little more.” And the angels all said “God! What are you doing? You’re out of your mind!”     -Tig Notaro

So how do I break the pattern? How do I get that focus on hope again? How do I fill the empty space where my supercharged hope used to be. Because right now, it’s gone.

My life used to be a series of mistakes, regrets, and failures.
Now, I realize my life is a series of lessons, valuable experiences, and miracles. In the most recent years, I have come to understand my life isn’t about me at all. It is about all those souls around me and that gives me eternal purpose and yes, hope. If I can keep my demons in their cage and remember that purpose, I can keep the light of hope in front of me. I can actively pursue it. After all, God has given me so much. I can’t let people destroy that. My life is full of grace. But I still fight it some days. We all do. We all do.

Grace is that moment when God’s will syncs with your will. You might then think perhaps you have never experienced it. But you have, every day. If you didn’t see it or feel it, you haven’t opened your heart to it. But it is given to you nonetheless. So how is something given to you a product of God’s will and your own? Simple, God is the one who gave it to you.  Don’t overthink it. Just allow it to be. Open your heart, allow God’s love and you will find grace wherever you go, whatever you do, every day.

If you want to be in sync with the universe, just let it happen. Stop pushing on the ocean and realize that your life isn’t filled with a single thing you “have to” do but millions of experiences you ‘get to” do. And those people who let you down might just be the ones who need your kindness and hope the most.

Did you ever see that movie “For Love Of The Game” with Kevin Costner? He plays an aging pitcher in his last baseball game. The plot moves back and forth from the game to his life leading up to it. It’s a love story to be sure. But it is about the love of baseball as much as a romance between two people. It’s a great movie.

Anyway, when Costner is on the mound,  he has this routine where he says “clear the mechanism” and all the noise goes silent while he gets laser focused on the next pitch. As the game goes on and he is in more and more pain, giving his last efforts ever on the baseball field at a possible perfect game, his routine starts to fail him. “Clear the mechanism.” And the crowd is muted but only for a second, as his focus fails him. “Clear. The. Mechanism.” Still can’t zero in. He does it one more time and manages to hurl another fastball over the plate but the batter makes contact and sends it low near 2nd base where the 2nd baseman quickly snags it and throws the batter out at first. This was so very close to a hit and ruining Costner’s perfect game. But now he has the whole team playing their absolute best to get that perfect game. He has the whole team and everyone watching the game full of this amazing hope.

I won’t give away the ending but it is worth the time to watch this movie.

I am having trouble clearing the mechanism these days. There just seem to be too many distractions, too much pain, and way too much disappointment. I need to find my way back. I need to focus on hope, remind myself of all those redemptive stories. I need to trust in people again. I need to get back to Church. I need to let the anger go. I need to reach out to those who seem the least interested in my hand and keep trying, for their sake and mine.

I need to realize that I get to do all of this.

Clear. The. Mechanism.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

I think I may have listened to Southern Cross more times than any other song, ever. Something about it always gives me hope, makes me smile, and I can feel the warm salty air on my face. I can see the sun setting over the ocean with orange, yellow, purple, and pink. I always find myself beginning to heal my broken heart and weary soul. For me, the woman they sing of is a metaphor for the incredible but often very destructive moments in my life that I am trying to move past, sail away from. It is about the healing power of the universe.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time,
you understand now why you came this way.
Cause the truth you might be running from is so small.
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day.
So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dying.
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain.
I have my ship and all her flags are a flying.
She is all that I have left and music is her name.”

Here’s hoping you find wind in your sail as well…


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

What is the future of humanity when we have become so hate filled and vengeful, we slay the very angels God has sent to save us?

Sometimes being kind comes at great cost. Answer this, if you knew it would cause you harm, would you still help someone else in need?
I am praying today for all those whose hearts are filled with anger, including my own.

How many times have you heard or used the phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle?” That’s a load of crap.

If you haven’t heard of Tig Notaro, you should checkout her latest special on Netflix. Tig is a stand-up comedian and actor who has gone through enormous life challenges, including a double mastectomy. Her Netflix special tells her personal story and how she used humor to prevail. About 32 minutes in, as she is talking about the pain of losing someone and finding out she had cancer almost simultaneously, she gave this wonderful quote.

“But you know, the nice thing about all of this is that you can always rest assured that god will never give you more than you can handle. [Audience laughs] I just keep picturing God going, ” You know what, I think she can take a little more. And then the angels are standing back saying, God, what are you doing!?” You are out of your mind!”

Kindness Warriors, take part of your day to give the kindness of prayer. There are so many who need it. There are so many whose pain is too much to handle.

Normally I would say, hold fast until the dawn. You are not alone. We are all connected.  Be love. Be kind.

These are not normal times and my faith is shredded. I am wondering if the sun will ever rise again. The only light is from the lightning of a gathering storm, and it pains me so greatly.

Tired eyes, maybe you’ve seen too much
Tired heart, every end has a start
If you find yourself in trouble, falling off the track
Would you come back?

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

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.

Driving Away Depression: Attitude Is Everything

Happy Friday, Kindness Warriors!

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.

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.

We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

Be love. Be kind.

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

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