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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 4: Joy

Joy.

Joy, joy, joy, joy…

Slippery little devil. It has taken some time to write this one. Joy keeps getting away. Last year on the 6th of January, I sat down on the couch in front of the TV. Joy slipped under the couch and was gone for months. It showed up again later, playing cards with my kids. But was gone again the next day.

If you see it trying to slip off the side of your screen, stay focused on it. If you can keep an eye on just one of its 3 little letters, it can’t get away. It cant get out of your grasp. Take your eye off it though, and it’s gone.

Anyway, I couldnt very well finish this post without it, so please excuse the delay.

Sunday, January 16th, 2022


Like I mentioned, it has taken some time to finish this post. In fact, I started writing this part of my current series, All My Empty Spaces, before all the others. This perhaps has been the most difficult post for me to write in a long time. Given all that is happening and all that weighs heavy on my heart and soul, I began to suspect I might never finish it.

Joy. A small word. Just 3 little letters. J. O. Y. And yet, so difficult to discuss. Maybe joy should have been a longer word. Something like Hakuna Matata. Oh wait, that one is taken. My point is 3 letters doesn’t seem sufficient for a word that is so complex, so important. It may seem simple. But anyone who hasn’t been stuck on an island for the last 20 years knows that joy is becoming more and more difficult to find and hold on to. These days my personal search for joy has led me to speak more 4 letter words than anything else.

Boiler Plate

I am not a theologian, pastor, or even all that well versed on the bible. I am just a humble servant of God, follower of Christ. Again, I try to follow the simple code, the example that Christ has given, be love, be kind.

I claim no moral high ground, but I stand my ground. I claim no intellectual superiority, but I continually learn, continually teach, and I have little patience or compassion for stupidity and dishonesty.

Chronically fatigued

So, it finally happened today. I suppose I reached a point of despair that gave me the push I needed to complete my thoughts on joy. Ironic, isn’t it. The last 2 days have been extraordinarily difficult. My body has been fighting my mind. I have tried to get up, get out, and get going. But my body has made it very clear, it is on strike. “Hey pal, where do you think you are going? Lay your ass back down!” Every movement requires everything in the tank. This morning in the shower I could barely even stay upright. My continued physical health obstacles don’t make my mental health any better. My depressive brothers and sisters will understand this easily, but I already start the day out with a deficit. Meaning it takes more work, more effort to reach the same state of mental awareness and mental ability as everyone else on any given day. Oh, I don’t want or need any pity. I have come to accept and appreciate my wiring for what it is. Believe it or not, I think chronic depressives have some unique qualities, powers if you will, if they can learn to control them. Empathy is one of those powers.

But here is the rub, I have recently begun to realize that my struggle with joy isn’t just directly linked to my depression or my chronic fatigue. It isn’t completely tied to the pain I endure or the guilt that comes with constantly feeling like a burden. See I can overcome all of that. I can find joy in depression. I can find joy in the most extreme physical challenges. And, I have. Just last night, I sat on the couch and played a game with my family. Have any of you played the online games through Jackbox.TV? The game is played through your computer or a gaming system like the PS4. So you watch the TV and it prompts you through a series of questions or challenges you must answer or complete via your personal device like your phone or tablet. Occasionally you get to choose which answer you like the best from the other players which makes for some hilarious moments. My children are all well versed and talented in the art of sarcasm, so this game never fails to entertain.

In that moment, I felt joy. It was wonderful. In the middle of the game, my body started going nuts like it often does. I was simply sitting on the couch with this very laptop in front of me, playing this game, and I began to sweat. I broke into an all out sweatfest. My head and face started dripping of the stuff. It was soaking through my shirt. My pain level started to spike and my head became hot, achy, and dizzy. I knew I needed to head to bed, get some meds in me. But it didn’t take away the joy I felt by sharing some precious moments with my loved ones. I wouldn’t let it.

Do you ever wonder if the tiniest moments of joy, perhaps from a memory of a loved one that passed away are the most valuable, the most precious? Does joy that is derived from great pain become more precious than the joy one might find on an average day? I mean, I have had some of the most profound moments of joy during or just after some of the most painful or challenging moments of life. Its like that little bit of joy just became priceless. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting a joy barter system where you get incredible, powerful joy simply by enduring great pain. Yeah, that’s not a thing, at all. But I am saying that when you endure pain or loss, or life challenges, you develop a greater appreciation for the joyous experiences.

Back to the rub. The biggest challenge to find and keep joy is people. Because people suck.

⚠️ CONTENT WARNING ⚠️

CONTAINS anger, frustration, judgy mcjudgerson, some explicit language, occasional bad grammar… well probably more than occasional, if I am being honest. Oh, truthiness, pessimism and optimism in the same sentence, bad humor, and more anger.

There is a war on. It’s a war on truth. It’s a war on civility and mutual respect. Those waging it have no ability or inclination to give any of it. Have you noticed how widespread the phenomenon of never being wrong is? Well, I guess that means it isn’t so much a phenomenon as it is just a nom. Or would it be nomenon? I should maybe look that up but I am in complete free style rant mode write now (get it?) and don’t want to stop. It doesn’t matter anyway because I am probably not using the word correctly in the first place. My word skills aren’t very phenomenal. Maybe I should have used the plural participle in the first sentence?

Well, see? We are already off the tracks. So, hold onto your butts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride from here on. But seriously, trying to talk sense into those “never wrong” folks is like feeding my dog her allergy med hidden in peanut butter and then she sneezes, leaving tiny little globs of peanut butter truthiness and little bits of medicine in the carpet, on the walls, my fresh clean shirt, and my incredibly handsome face. Her words, not mine…

Yes, the dog.

Ok. Time to change the mood lighting from bright and colorful crazy Christopher rant disco ball lazer show to a little more serious and focused. Let’s say a darkened room with a tactical red or green underlight, like in the cockpit of an airplane, or the bridge of a warship.

This war on truth, civility, and mutual respect is becoming more brutal everyday. It continues to spread and mutate just as Covid 19 has. And like the January 6th, 2021 attack and insurrection on the Capitol, it is championed by the most extreme idiology of hate, but it sucks in mobs of people who wouldn’t otherwise cross a certain line. Those people, at first, are innocent (kind of). They are very misguided and naive, but now they have succumbed to those darker forces. Now they are culpable. And now because they couldn’t possibly be wrong, they are no different than the ones who were telling the lies and calling the shots in the first place.

That leaves us with noone in the middle to hold onto both sides of our torn society. It squashes peace and hope. It conditions love. And it leaves no oxygen for joy. Kindness and “love thy neighbor” become weaponized or signs of weakness.
Christianity has been usurped. Much the same in other religions but as a Christian myself I am focusing my concerns within that demographic. The never wrong effect has found its way into more than just our politics or ideology. It has begun to affect our basic sense of care for each other regardless of our beliefs. We are just meaner and less willing to see each other as good people. If someone does something we don’t like, now we just go for the nuclear option instead of trying to work it out. It’s crazy!


I became naive enough to believe there were places, organizations, and churches that could rise above this. I felt like my own church was saying and doing the true work of a loving, inclusive, kind, and just God. I still do. But like any other church or body of organized religion, it is comprised of people. People are messy, self-serving creatures. And that truth has yielded its ugly head where I have lived, prayed, communed, and connected with God for the last 6 years.

Besides being disappointed by a few folks at my church, there is also a crisis in this country that kills joy.

Patriotic Depression and the search for joy in a deplorable world.

This Christian nationalism bullshit has truly broken me. I care deeply about the health of our nation. And it has never been more in peril. January 6th, 2021 was a day many of us watched in horror as the mob attacked the Capitol. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I knew something like that was inevitable, but horrifying nonetheless.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

The anniversary of the insurrection was just a few weeks ago. Since then, I have been having the strangest dreams. Last night, for example, I dreamt I was at Willie Nelson’s funeral and it came under attack by the Captiol mob. That idiot with the horns on his head, waving a confederate flag was leading it.

First of all, the idea Willie Nelson’s death is scary and sad enough. So, long live Willie! But seriously, don’t you Trump loving idiots go after Willie! And stay out of my dreams!This is what can suck the joy right out of the day before the day even starts.

“You have a republic, if you can keep it.”

That has been a popular Ben Franklin quote as our nation struggles to find a path forward. But in full context, Franklin then said, “All it might take is a man on a fast horse (no, not that man) perpetuating a lie to lose it. Ok, I am going to France until the Constitutional ink is dry. Peace out.”

I might be paraphrasing…

We still feel the need to be better off than others. We still have have this burning desire to punish freeloaders, to hurt, imprison and starve other human beings for simply crossing a border without permission in an attempt to reach safety. We let greed and power rule our morality. Christianity has been infected, poisoned with that greed. And, we are never ever wrong or obligated to apologize to each other.

In the United States in particular, Jesus carries a cross in one hand and an assault rifle in the other. We apparently all get to choose which version of Christ we want. Yeah, I’ll take the 3rd Jesus on the right; the white one with the MAGA hat and lots of contempt for anyone who doesn’t look like me.

Stay angry, good people.

I am reading “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk by John Pavlovitz. He speaks very well about the current crisis of the Christian faith and of the troubled state of our nation. His words resonate with me and have helped me through this dark period. He has given me the focus I need to keep finding joy. I still lose it all the time anyway.

So about joy…

I am trying to fill these empty spaces with those connected heart and soul fillers of peace, hope, love, and joy. But more than my own demons, fellow Christians seem intent on keeping those empty spaces from being filled with anything that might give voice to my questioning their actions, or more importantly the motives behind their actions.

I know the calendar says we just started a new year. As a follower of Christ I have always felt more like Easter marks the start of a new chapter. Spring comes along with the resurrection so it just seems like a more natural transition. Not like January 1st in the dead of winter. Plus these days, January feels more like insurrection, not resurrection.

I have always been skeptical of organized religion. I have always believed in God and have reaffirmed my faith in Christ many times throughout my life. But Christianity is a huge let down, even in places I thought were immune to the hypocrisy and hate. Maybe its just me. Maybe I have given people way too much credit for doing the right thing. Because even now and even a place I have truly loved has offered more of the same hypocritical betrayal. Godly words on a wall inside what is supposed to be a place of love are only worth the actions of those who walk those halls. These days, people fail the tenets of Christianity and do so in the name of Christianity. Proving yet again, organized religion is a joke.

From nakedpastor found on Facebook.

We no longer care enough about each other to standby and support each other in truly difficult times. We are hollow shells walking around hollowed hallowed halls with banners of hope peace love and joy but when tested, those are just slogans on a shirt, written on a wall and not in our hearts. We have become a society championed by hate. And, hate infects us all.

“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silenceAnd the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
Then the sign said, “The words on the prophets are written on the subway walls
In tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence


Think of our shared belief in God and in each other as a large 4 engine aircraft. The engines are named hope, peace, love and joy. The fuel comes from a mixture of kindness, compassion, truthfulness, respect, civility, and the simple understanding that we are ALL connected. We are ALL on this big plane together. But if we can’t produce enough fuel to feed those engines, one by one they start losing power and shutting down. That also means the other engines have to work even harder to keep us flying. It doesn’t matter which engines you wish to use for this analogy because whether you have lost hope, or joy, you, we, are still losing altitude.


Tuesday January 25th, 2022


I have continued to struggle with joy. I have continued to fill those empty spaces with anger, sorrow, disappointment, and confusion. I used to get those booster shots of faith in humanity by driving Uber and Lyft. Meeting people and hearing their stories was always a reminder that people are inherently good. The last two years have been a true struggle trying to find and hold joy. That, as it turns out, isn’t from my personal challenges. It certainly isn’t because I have lost faith in God. It is because I keep getting disappointed by people. Now, more than ever, I am forced to deal with lies, hatefulness, and incredibly selfish people. I am forced to confront those “never wrong” folks.

Oh, how I desperately long for a society that acts like the family it claims to value so much.

And yet, once again, God has seen fit to remind me that not all people are bad. Every time I fall down, doubt myself, or doubt the goodness in people, God smacks me on the back of the head and says, ‘Stop doing that!” He just did it again.

I have seen something I guess I didn’t expect. With the enormous stress and pain my family has endured recently, my negativity has peaked. I have felt bitter and wounded. I have watched people I love struggle with unecessary pain inflicted by others, the never wrongers. But my focus has shifted from anger and negativity. In the midst of all this drama, I have been shown a better path. I see good people rising up and trying harder to spread love and kindness in the face of those who have become misled by hate and fear, and self-serving actions. I see good people, stronger than me,  practicing a little Kindness Kung-Fu, you might say. And that gives me hope. It brings peace. It amplifies love. And I am joyous again. Just like that. Have you ever noticed God gives us grace every day? He gives us just enough to make it through, so long as we open our hearts to it.

645pm, Wednesday January 26th, 2022.

As I sit in my car outside my church, waiting for my daughter to finish her Wednesday night youth meeting, I am finally listening to a song my friend, John shared earlier today. He is quite good at finding the right song for the moment. Today’s troubles are more significant than most by an order of magnitude. Yet, I am strangely at peace in this moment. I am hopeful. I love my friends and family. And I am experiencing a rare kind of joy. I am overwhelmed, not in the pain and frustration my family has gone through recently, but in the response of others. I am reminded we are all connected and kindness is important, even when we work through conflict with others. I, myself have been a self-serving knucklehead at times and someone kind stood before me and showed me I can be better than that. I can DO better than that. I don’t think people are totally bad. In fact, most are good but still capable of doing bad things, making bad decisions. I know I have.

I sat with friends this week. I was given comfort. It felt like rain in the desert.  And, even in the midst of all the “people made” pain I have been in, I have once again found joy.

All this to say I have been letting the wrong voices fill my head and heart. In case any of you didn’t know this, I write as a form of therapy. I write to find understanding and wisdom in the universe that I couldn’t otherwise tap into. When I have my most success in this theraputic process, the light comes on and my own inner voice says, duh!

Find your joy. Better yet, create joy. If people steal that joy, take it right back and leave those negative influences behind. I know that seems simple. But my struggle is proof that it’s a challenge. Look at it this way, if you are passionate about anything that involves people, count on being let down, repeatedly. It turns out, I am passionate about everything, so I am constantly challenged. But, oh man, when the joy kicks in, its that supercharged warm and fuzzy stuff. The occasional disappointments are worth it. Because as it turns out, God made all of us. So we are all very connected. Better to get along and stay engaged, as families are supposed to do.

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

One last bit of music that has brought me joy lately. Below that is a link to a playlist I used as I developed this post. Peace be with you, my friends. Joy too.

StreetLights: Sunday Night Edition

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

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

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

Your checklist for the week.

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

One last reminder for those feeling lost in the woods…

Trees.

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

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

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

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

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

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: A Tale Of Two Felons

A Tale of Two Felons

Tom

A few years ago, my next-door neighbor, Mark, decided to buy another house and rent the one by us. After a few months of living next to an empty house, Mark finally found a renter, Tom. From day one, Tom was a great neighbor and we became friends. We would watch his two little dogs when he was out of town. He would drop stuff off for the kids from time to time. We had some great talks in one garage or another. The only thing my wife and I worried about was when Tom would someday move, since he was just renting. That day came 3 weeks ago and now the house next door is empty again except for the visits from Mark’s handy man Lonnie, who can’t fix a fence to save his life. Just sayin’.

Tom moved over to Fort Worth near 7th and University. He loves that part of town so even though he had a falling out with Mark (because Mark is a tightwad, but that is a story for another time) he was ecstatic about making the move to his favorite area. We will still keep in touch and maybe grab a meal or a drink from time to time but I will miss him as a neighbor.

Tom used to live in Houston many years ago. He led successful but very busy life. He was married and had 3 kids; 2 boys and a girl. All his kids are adults now and Tom is single. He is really enjoying his single life. But 20 years ago, Tom was a regional manager for a national athletic store. He also spent an enormous time as an umpire for AAA baseball. When he wasn’t umpiring, he helped develop and run competitive youth baseball leagues. Tom knew everyone in the baseball world in Houston and he loved what he did. He went to church Sundays with his family and had a great life, almost. You see, Tom was over-committed. He didn’t have enough time for all the components of his life. He was out of balance. Tom started to develop anxiety and depression which slowed him down in an already taxing life schedule. He started to drink alcohol more and offset that with energy drinks and coffee. As things started to get tense at home, Tom started unravel even more from the mounting pressure. One night, he was out for drinks and a friend (drinking friend) offered to let Tom try meth. Tom was feeling desperate and suffering depression so he thought, how could it hurt?

In an extremely short period of time, Tom became addicted and as he put it, “I lived for meth and nothing else.” He lost his job, his standing in baseball, and he lost his marriage. After that, he became homeless and wound up in prison on drug related felonies. His life was over. Tom attempted suicide 3 times in prison. Once he got out, he was still homeless and he returned to drugs. He ate from a dumpster behind the Four Seasons hotel in Houston. Conveniently, that is also where he slept. Tom had no future, no present, and the past was nothing but shame. Meth had taken everything away. He remembers many days just walking around thinking of ways to end his life. He said he was arrested again and from there, he somehow managed to get into a drug rehab center.

Tom finally got clean and started learning how to stay clean. He lived in a halfway house for awhile until he could find work. Slowly, he started building his life back from the ruins and learned how to maintain balance. Tom is now self-employed for the last 10 years. He remains clean, keeps himself healthy and minimized any activity that would put him at risk. If he goes out, he is always home before dark. His business is thriving and so he can afford to do some getaways. He likes going to Vegas and Miami. I was surprised thinking he might have extra temptations in both of those cities. He told me that he does still like to have a drink or two but never never anything else. Tom has managed to repair his damaged relationships with both his adult sons. He reaches out to his daughter on a regular basis but she still won’t return emails or calls.  Nevertheless, Tom keeps sending her updates and greetings. Tom is somewhat selective about who he shares his story with. He does have a kind and giving heart. He has helped many people who have dealt with setbacks in their lives, including addiction. But he is cautious about who and where he shares his story because he now has contractors and employees to think about and would never allow his personal story to compromise the company. Not all customers will see his story as one of redemption but rather they would just see a felon. That is not the kind of thing that looks good on a Google review. This is also why I am not giving to many details.

I can tell you that once every month or two, Tom goes to the Four Seasons in Houston and always books a room that looks down on the alley where he ate and slept by that dumpster.  It helps remind him of all that he lost when meth took over his life. He said it also reminds him how far he has come and to remember that there were people along his path that helped get him back. Looking down at that dumpster reminds Tom that his success now isn’t of any real value in life unless he can help others. Tom is a Kindness Warrior now. He has a mindset that keeps him looking for ways to help anyone and everyone. He jokingly said that this approach hasn’t always worked well in his dating life. He has met a few women that really took advantage of his generosity and willingness to help.  He is trying not to use “fix you” as dating criteria moving forward. He says he doesn’t want to remarry and that he does really enjoy his bachelor life. He also knows that he blew a marriage to a woman he truly loved and cared for, and he never wants to be in that situation again. She remarried a few years after she and Tom were divorced, while Tom was in prison, I think.

John

I met John at Lowe’s, where I currently work. He had just been hired on as a part-time stocker. John is about 6 ft 2, and has a kind of rough look about him. But when he talks, he can be pretty friendly. John and I hit it off pretty well and he was well liked as a hard worker by his supervisor. Unfortunately, after only 2 and a half weeks, John was terminated because he failed the background check.  See, John is a felon. He has been in prison twice. And he had only been out about 2 months when he started working at Lowe’s. Before that he was working at Jack-n-the-Box making minimum wage.

John had started going to school to become an HVAC technician. He lived in a two-story house off Brentwood Stair and Sandy lane in Fort Worth. This was a halfway house for men. He didn’t have a car when I met him, so he walked, caught the bus, and occasionally got a ride from a coworker. My shift ended the same time his did so I took him home a few times. I continued to be friends with him after Lowe’s let him go and would give him rides to school as well. I figured this guy was really trying to better himself, so who am I to say no to a ride request.

First, let me say that John didn’t lie on his application. He filled out everything properly and as he was told to do. He was given the idea that he could be hired with his record. Apparently, there are some specific stipulations that disqualified him. He went back to work at Jack-in-the-Box. John was disappointed but undeterred.  He knew he had an uphill battle. But he felt like he was doing quite well compared to his previous life. And so, for a couple of months he went to school and worked at JITB.

John is 41. As I said earlier, he has a kind of rough look about him. Sometimes when he is animated, he gets this kinda crazy eye look. We laugh about it but if you didn’t know him, yeah, it could be kinda scary. He has some teeth missing on the right side of his mouth because he got shot. He still has some bullet fragments in his head. John keeps the x-ray images on his phone like a war wound. He doesn’t have an education beyond high school and his home life was kinda rough. His parents fought all the time and both liked to drink. So, he spent a lot of time outside with other kids who had similar homes. John had a temper, no real foundation, and became influenced by the wrong people (my words, not his). John assumes responsibility for all aspects of his life. But back then, he didn’t and he became a criminal. He was a thief and a robber. In his words, “I didn’t care who you were. I would hold a gun to your head and take your money. And if you looked at me the wrong way, I might beat you. I didn’t give a fuck. And I was usually drunk or high when I did it.”

John was in his mid-twenties when he finally got caught on something bad enough to put him away for years. He continued to have an angry heart in prison and got into many fights. Before he was arrested, John had amassed a number of misdemeanors and fathered 2 girls who he had no real relationship with. It was in prison where he started learning how to control his anger and start taking responsibility for his actions. He began to communicate with his baby’s momma and his daughters. When he got out of prison, he visited his daughters but didn’t quite step into the dad role. There were still some wicked turns coming that John didn’t see.

After getting out of prison, John was surprised when his father asked him to come live with him. His parents got divorced while John was away. So, John took him up on it. He said he thought maybe his father was different now that his parents had split up. John laughed when he was telling me about his parent splitting up because they were living just down the street from each other. But he hadn’t really changed and he and John began arguing all the time. John was working at a place in Marshall, TX close enough to his Dad’s place, he could walk home at night. He developed a little routine so he could delay getting back to his dad’s place and minimize any interaction. After work he would stop by a nearby convenience store and buy some beer and cigarettes. He said he would enjoy walking down the dark road by himself, drinking his beer and smoking his cigarettes. It was the only time in his day he didn’t feel hassled by someone else.

John’s mother would often drop by his dad’s place to check on him (dad) but they always bickered about something. One night, right after john got home and had argued with his father, his mother dropped by like she does and she got into a really bad fight with Dad. John decided to intervene and his father immediately threw John out telling him he wasn’t welcome there anymore. His mother let John come stay with her. Now about this time, John lost his job. So, while he was with his mom, he spent some time looking for work and occasionally did some things on the side to make some cash, which he promptly spent on beer and cigarettes. He was growing desperate and hopeless. John didn’t have any real plans or ideas for the future and he had little to no resources. One night, a guy he used to work with but now would drink with, offered a very drunk and depressed John some meth. John had never tried it before but knew that it was a dangerous drug.  But the state he was in, he just wanted to escape, even for a little bit. John said it was like nothing he had ever experienced. He said his mom found him on the back porch surrounded by empty beer cans and cigarette butts. She threw John out. It was a short trip to addiction to meth after that for John.  Which meant, he needed money for drugs. He didn’t really get a chance to steal any because he failed his drug screening at his parole officer check in. And guess what, he went back to prison.

Once again, John got clean and prepared to have another go at life.  This time when he got out, He chose to go to the halfway house and not depend on his parents or anyone else. John had turned the corner and began to feel like things were finally going his way. He even got engaged! John made a few visits out to Marshall to see his daughters. One of those times was to see his oldest daughter graduate high school. Things seemed to be getting better.

John didn’t much care for working at JITB. He worked with a bunch of kids who would goof off, call in sick all the time, quit with no notice, etc. John had developed a work ethic of getting the job done and being reliable, which he was while he worked there.  He also worked several day-labor gigs through various agencies. That paid better than Jack but it wasn’t as reliable.

When he finally got some grant money for school, he was able to finally get a car. I remember how proud he was of that accomplishment. But his joy was short-lived. John was getting more work through day labor and made the decision to leave Jack-in-the-Box. Shortly thereafter, he got kicked out of his halfway house due to a miscommunication about days away from the house. They have rules set that all living there must abide by and if there is an issue, you can be voted out of the house by the members. John was voted out.

His fiancé lives in Red Oak and he would go there on weekends.  Upon hearing that John needed a place, she allowed him to come live with her. She was reluctant as first but realized she wanted him to stay. John was careful not to push her. He had respect for her comfort and didn’t want to make things uncomfortable. Well, the “honeymoon period” ended rather quickly. John had stopped getting day labor work. His fiancé almost immediately when he moved in began to complain and belittle John. He was getting pretty stressed.  John and I met the day he got kicked out of the halfway house. He was surprisingly optimistic. He told me not to feel sorry for him. He pointed to his car and said, “Chris man, I got a car! I even have insurance on the mother fucker. I got a fiancé; I got my girls! ME! I got this stuff. Man, I ain’t never had a car, that I didn’t steal. Most people take that shit for granted. Not me man. This is a big goal I have accomplished! Nobody knows how that feels. Ain’t nobody walked in my shoes. I’m gonna be just fine!

About 3 weeks after John moved in with his fiancé in Red Oak, I got a call from him. He said he got a job working for a cabinet maker and would be working 6 days a week. He said he was really happy about it because his fiancé was getting kind of abusive because he wasn’t bringing any money in.  He asked if he could borrow some money until he got his first paycheck the next week.  I didn’t have much to lend but I met him last Friday and gave him $40. He was in sad shape when I saw him. He also told me that he and his girl had been fighting. Then he proceeded to tell me he lost the job with the cabinet maker and he had fallen behind on his insurance. John explained that the cabinet maker position promised 6 full days but he was hired as a temp and temps get cut every day first, before the permanent employees, so he wasn’t getting nearly the hours he was promised. He also missed one day because he ended up in the ER. This cost him 2 points with the temp company. They only give 3. He lost the 3rd point for being 10 minutes late the day I met up with him. His positive attitude was gone. He seemed rattled and beat down.

Two days later, John was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge after he and his fiancé got into a heated argument.  She hit him and he pushed her down causing her to hit her head. I didn’t know about it but I started getting collect calls from the Desoto jail, and then from Dallas County Jail. I finally realized it had to be John so I took the call. John cried when he told me about the story. He said the worst part was he started using again. He said he was on meth when they got into the fight. John began to say how bad he fucked everything up. “I was weak, Chris. Things got tough and I messed it all up!” John said as he chocked back tears. “Are you disappointed in me, Chris?” he asked. I told him I was. I told him he broke his trust with me and he did the one thing that truly hurt himself by using meth again. The assault charge was of the lowest kind. John’s mother bailed him out and has allowed him to stay with her for a few days. But his fiancé now has a restraining order. John said the one bit of good news is that he got a job at a car wash in Waxahachie.

Tom and John have both gone through some troubles in life. So many factors play into how an individual does after they get out of a prison term.  One thing I know to be true, it ain’t easy. The other thing, Methamphetamines WILL absolutely ruin or end your life. These two men both attested to that fact saying meth was the only thing they had experienced that had them needing it more than they need food and water.

Prison is tough, life after prison for many is tougher. Ask John.  He tried to work hard, go to school, and be good. He also began to question his faith. He knew he would have a tough time getting out of prison and felt that now that he was clean and living his life according to Christ, he would make it. He still might. But the odds are clearly against him. He paid his debt to society with his prison time. But you never really stop paying. Everything in his life is harder than someone who hasn’t been to prison. Has must check that felon box every time he applies for a job, a bank loan, a rental agreement. One big difference between Tom and John, Tom knew what it was like to be successful. John has never had that and so he has never had a chance to really develop the life skills needed to succeed.

God bless Tom and John. And God bless all the kindness warriors out there who make life just the tiniest bit easier for others. There are certainly many people out there who could use even the smallest break.

#TBT Blowin’ In The Wind

#TBT

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

Be love. Be kind.

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

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

#TBT

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

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

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

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Holly From Green Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

StreetLights On a Saturday Night

People Profiles, Driving Away Depression

Holly From Green Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?

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

What is?

“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We both burst out laughing.

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

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

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

Life is love.

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

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

Grace.

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

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

StreetLights: From The Garage Friday June 26, 2020

From the garage…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melancholia.

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

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

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

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

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

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

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

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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StreetLights June 9, 2018

This post is from June 9th, 2018. So, my friends, it fails to account for the crazy shit we are dealing with today. Now more than ever, we must be kinder to each other. We must make kindness a conscious effort with every interaction. We are all connected…

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. These are just two of the most recent names, two people, two extraordinary people who made contributions to our society, our world. In the last 3 days almost 400 more people in this country have taken their own lives.

According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, afsp.org, about 45,000 Americans die from suicide a year (2016 data). Far too many other people continue on a path of self-destruction from depression because their disease remains undiagnosed, untreated. They are lost at sea in their own body and mind. This is not a character flaw. This is a REAL DISEASE.

The reality is far more than just mental health contributes to suicide. In a nation as wealthy as ours, too many still don’t have access to affordable and proper healthcare. There are too many poor who are struggling. Economic crisis is a major contributor to depression.

But we also still have a stigma with depression. I have been suicidal two times in my life. I can say for my own experience, even though I had many people who loved me and cared for me even though I loved and cared for others, I was alone. I was confused. I was sad. I was filled with guilt and shame. I felt defective. And, I couldn’t see a clear path back to “normal.” Whatever that is…

Through the grace of God, I had angels who entered my life, I had circumstances that kept me from dying at those two critical moments in my life. But I still went on dealing with depression without truly understanding what was happening to me. More on me another time.

There are going to be about 123 suicides today according to statistics for 2016. Not to be pessimistic but given the current state of our country, I think that number is higher.

My love goes out to all who struggle with this disease.

I ask each of you to REALLY consider depression and think about the people in your life. Do any of them show signs of depression? Do you feel you might be dealing with depression?

This is a treatable, controllable disease or illness. And in truth there is some hope. The more we learn about genetic depression, the more medical researchers hypothesize that the same gene that causes depression also inspires creativity. When you think about it, for a great many of our artists, musicians, designers, actors who have fallen by their own hand, this is a rational argument. So, this means we can become better at treating depression.

In the mean time, be kind my friends. Slow down! Be kind to yourself. We are all in this together!

Shine your light brightly so people like Kate and Anthony might find their way out of the darkness and sorrow before its too late.

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