Mind over matter

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“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 
I’ve been thinking about the mind lately and how delicate an instrument it truly is.  It is an amazingly complex processing machine that can store vast amounts of data, do many processes at once, both in the foreground and background, it creates theories, reasons, and dreams.  It is what makes each of us individuals. How it processes our experiences and data we feed it helps create who we are.   With all the capacity and ability it is also quite delicate. It is prone to imbalances in the body, it can succumb to its own processes, and it can create problems that don’t even exist.  Its also very prone to stress which many times it creates in the first place.

 

Why I started to thinking about the mind is because my stress level has been slowly increasing over the past several months which has been causing some impairment but nothing very noticeable at least to others.  See I have all these things I slowly built over the years that help me deal with stress, depression, and anxiety but over the past several months I allowed my focus to become centered around one project and thus those things I built like roadtrips, walks, photography, writing, etc slowly slipped into occasional things and some even stopped. My writing was one of the things that stopped.

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“A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.”
― Guy de Maupassant

So I ended up in my doctors office for some pain and etc I was having, which they ran a ct scan and believed there was a kidney stone.  They saw something in the area and sent me to a urologist.  Now I’ve had kidney stones in the past and the last the pain was so great I truly thought I was going to die. So the thought of a kidney stone sent my brain into anxiety mode. I started obsessing over it.  It was later determined it was not a kidney stone but a calcified lymph node, but the process of being reminded of the trauma had started.  I was remembering vividly going through the last one and I was overreacting to any pain on my right side (where the kidney stone was supposedly).   Then the antibiotic they gave me had a bad reaction with me and sent my anxiety into extreme measures and I lost control of my mind and only xanax was giving me a little control.

Once the septra left my system I thought I was okay but still having moments of anxiety from time to time.  I normally manage my depression and anxiety with herbs like 5-htp and l-theanine, but my doctor thought I was on a bad cycle with having various episodes of high anxiety.  So she prescribed me zoloft.  After the first half a dose sent me into jitters and etc which the pharmacist said was normal and would pass, but given everything else I wasn’t up to waiting it out. I didn’t take it again. Instead I focused on fixing me.  Adjusted my herbs I take and added a couple things and changed frequency. Also my wife and I sat down and worked out a list for me to get control back. With the concept if they don’t work I’ll use the zoloft but this time know what to expect from the first doses.

So all of this reminded me of the months after my mother passed and I was sitting in the doctors office crying and asking for meds to help me deal, not having any thought other then I just needed help. The moment I realized I had a breaking point and put more emphasis on self care for myself. I was reminded that the only way to help others to  make sure I take care of myself.  Even then it can be hard to manage my thoughts, emotions, and what goes on in my head but I do manage.

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“After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.”  ― Judith Lewis Herman

So with the thoughts of how delicate the mind truly is I thought of my father-in-law. He has Alzheimers and has no way to battle that, there isn’t a cure and at some point the meds won’t work for him anymore.  I know what its like to lose myself, but what must it be like to lose yourself without any hope of recovery.  Since he doesn’t trust himself that much anymore he relies more on his wife, which I can relate with because that’s what I did rely on someone I trust.  To think about his mind turning on him, he’ll not only lose his memories but his cognitive ability and eventually even motor skills.   My mind is my most precious asset and the thought of what he must be going through hurts. I’m always praying that he manages as well as he can and to give everyone involved strength.

Which today I watched “A Beautiful Mind” which is another case of the mind turning on itself in the form of schizophrenia.  There is a scene that reminds me of myself where he wants to believe he can logic himself out of it, that he can solve the problem that he could in essence win against it.  We don’t want to believe that we are helpless against something, especially the loss of our mind.  I know when I found myself in my doctors office almost 3 years ago crying and asking for meds it was only because I had failed at fighting and could no longer function. I fought the good fight, but failed and needed help, but mine was situational what about things like my father in law that there is no long term treatment for him.  How does one handle that.

” Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” 

There are studies that show parallel connections sometimes between creativity or high intelligence and mental illness.  Which Aristotle did say  “No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness” .    Which many people with high creativity or intelligence can be a bit quirky but most times I attribute that to their perception of the world around them compared to someone elses.   Most of us can be a little interesting to work with. I use interesting loosely because I love the word “interesting” because it can mean so many different things which that fluid translation would definitely apply to dealing with me.  I’m sure sometimes people love me and other times they’d love to strangle me.  🙂

Though the mental illness issue is something people don’t seem to understand. They understand physical illness but mental seems to escape most. I think because they can’t relate if they haven’t experienced it. My father could never understand how I could be depressed or even suicidal, his opinion was you just changed your thinking.   He thought someone that committed suicide was a coward, which isn’t true. Someone that loses that battle is by no means a coward, they lost the war they had been fighting. I always pray for those battling and those souls that lost their war.

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“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” ― C.G. Jung

I know I never mentioned my issues to people until I got older and realized that the only way people might understand is instead of being silent that if I talked openly about it, maybe not completely (I do hide certain aspects many times like how dark I can go when I hit the bottom of depression or some of the issues with anxiety) but still information helps others understand.  There will always be those that judge but there are only a select few that I worry about their opinion the rest I accept they just don’t understand the battles that take place in my head.  They also perceive my mannerisms and speech as I’m ok.    I also know they probably don’t realize how close they are to some form of mental issue: a medicine throws off their chemistry, a physical illness throws off their mental game, drop in a particular vitamin or mineral, etc.   The mind is truly a delicate yet amazing thing.

So today I have a deep respect for the way the mind was created and how it functions. It intrigues me how intricate it is and how much of us are contained within it.  Also how it tries to protect itself many times from bad memories, pain, etc.  Truly a marvelous creation.

My prayers and heart go out to anyone dealing with any form of mental issue or illness.

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“Mental illness turns people inwards. That’s what I reckon. It keeps up forever trapped by the pain of our own minds, in the same way that the pain of a broken leg or a cut thumb will grab your attention, holding it so tightly that your good leg or your good thumb seem to cease to exist.” ― Nathan Filer

Which excuse any grammar issues.My editor (my wife) is hold up a dark bedroom with a migraine. Yet another component to the mind that can suck greatly.  Her migraines cause upset stomach, sensitivity to light, dizziness, shivers, etc.  Which proves again it is a  delicate thing that controls everything.

Inspired by….

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 ‘Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God’  – Maya Angelou

We see the phrase “Inspired by” on movies, we hear it from people, and we read about it. Though what does it really mean to be “Inspired by”. While there are so many types of inspiration the most common element is to be motived. Even a movie that was “Inspired by” means someone was motivated to tell the story even if it differs from the inspiration.

For me inspiration leads my life. Something, someone, or somewhere will set off an inspiration inside me. Now the interesting thing is even if it is my own inner drive that gets me moving on the inspiration, the key that turned that switch comes from someplace else. It has a driver that sees more than I can see and also knows me well enough to know how to inspire me. I had to be placed in that somewhere or near that something, or meet that someone. It’s what I call “A God thing”, something I try not to ignore.

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“Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation-and for me the most important part is listening to God’s replies.” ― Frank C. Laubach

I for some reason feel the need to go someplace, so I listen and go. There I end up finding something that inspires something. I’m put in certain spots or meet certain people that seem to help me. I’ve been interested in expanding my photography skill and taking more photos. I go to lunch with someone for one reason but find out they enjoy photography and have knowledge of equipment etc. So not just something we can connect on but also a chance to possibly expand my knowledge.

I learned at a young age to follow the inspiration that comes to me. In eighth grade one of the classes I had talked about the stock market. That stuck with me and over the years my knowledge and understanding of the stock market expanded. It also expanded into finances in general something my parents didn’t understand. That seed that stayed with me from eighth grade on and has been yet another blessing in my life.

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“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I could go on about all the blessings in my life but the point is that if we listen, truly listen to the voice that speaks quietly to us that tries to inspire us, tries to place us where we can be inspired, that understands us and knows how to motivate us it can lead to an amazing life, but the first step is Faith.

Allowing yourself to be open to where you are being lead and trusting that even if you don’t understand that at some point you will. Sometimes it is hindsight that you see where that path took you, but that once you have Faith, the next step is Trust. Trust that even if you don’t understand, that even if it is hard and the path is dark, you’ll not only make it through but end up where you should be.

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“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The thing is that Faith and Trust aren’t always easy especially when faced with your own Ego and desire. Do you let yourself go and just follow blindly to whatever end? Then you have to face doubt, what ifs, the question of is this what is intended, what if I’m not supposed to go this way, whose voice am I listening to, etc.   I can’t answer how to fight doubt because we each face doubt in our own way. I present questions to myself and some things I just know, which I can’t even explain how I know I just do.

I like my data. I enjoy knowledge, researching, and thinking. So what I’m going to say will be opposite from my usual nature. Try not to think too much about it and follow Nike’s advice and just do it. Just set out on whatever it is you are being compelled to do or inspired to do. Now I’m not saying don’t think in general, but I mean when you hear the voice just set upon the path then use your skills, thinking, knowledge and etc. once you set upon the path.

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“Not everything we experience can be explained by logic or science.”
― Linda Westphal

Also sometimes being compelled is just something simple not a grand thing. In fact most times it is small things that you may not realize.

My current inspiration is one I’m intrigued by because I ended up picking up a couple books by John C. Maxwell. A had no knowledge of this author, did no research before getting the books, it started as I came across an audiobook and something clicked in me. I ended up walking to the other side of the store to find his other books. Two just seemed right for me “Today Matters” and “Maxwell Daily Reader”.

I have no idea why. I’ve never bothered to read anything on leadership in the past even with all my reading and self-help stuff nothing ever about leadership, so that is the first odd thing. Though I also understand that whatever I’m supposed to get from this may have nothing to do with leadership even though that is what the books are about. It may be some other lesson I’m supposed to learn. I have no idea which is what so intrigues me about this. It’s kind of fun just to see what happens. It may just be one thing I’m supposed to get from it and have absolutely nothing to do with what the writer is writing about.

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“When many voices are speaking at once, listen to the one most quiet and gentle. That’s the one worth listening to.” ― Miranda Linda Weisz

That’s the other thing, make following that compulsion or inspiration fun, and make it about finding out what the journey has in store for you or even others. Make it an adventure. Also be open to it and don’t go in with preconceived notions. You may even fail at something that started as an inspiration only to realize there was a lesson in that failure that helps you later.

I was done with Church, I was one of the “Done with Church” crowd. Even though I was raised conservative Christian and explored when I got older. I had friends that always talked about how strong my faith was, but then after enough moments I was done. I had no interest in going to a church again. My faith in God and Christ were still there, I just didn’t care to go to church anymore. I had become so jaded by the experience I wanted nothing more to do with the church.

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“Stop expecting the world to affirm you as a person. Half of the world will like you and the other half will hate you, despite what you say or do. Christ knew this truth, but he did his life mission anyways.”  ― Shannon L. Alder

 

It seems the journey I took after that would eventually lead me back to church and in a role that I would have never predicted. It also restored my faith in various ways. It seems that God has a plan for me and lead me on a journey so I would grow more before bringing me to someplace that feels right and I care about and even to something that I feel inspired to be.

Which is working for the church, but another interesting twist. The church is a United Methodist Church which is the faith my wife grew up in and the last denomination I was part of before being done with church. Which I noticed the positive impact on my wife with us being there. So it not only was my journey but it ended up helping her. Which anything that helps my wife and makes her happy, makes me happy.

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“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”  ― John Lennon

Yea God has a beautiful sense of humor and irony. I kind of dig that about him. Though I’ve always considered him a friend and thus it makes sense humor and irony would be part of our relationship.

So to close, listen to that voice that inspires, the voice that comes from someone that knows you, loves you, and wants to help you be where you should be.

 

Thanks for your time.

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
― George Bernard Shaw

FYI, any grammar errors you find I apologize for. My editor was sleeping when I finished this and then had this silly thing called work this morning. I decided to be daring and post it without her review of my work.  Which also means if at any point it felt like I went off topic or it was a little confusing, well its just the way it hit the page.

The pictures are from our trip to McCormick State Park and Cataract Falls in Indiana.

Running on Empty

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“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” ― John Muir

The past few weeks I’ve been running on empty.  One of the issues with running on empty is ideas are harder to form and even the inspired ones you doubt because you know you are running on empty.  I knew this past week would tap the rest of my fuel, but I didn’t foresee a stubborn computer and a “new” hard drive malfunctioning.  That tapped the last of my reserves and had me running on fumes.

I put the computer back in place Monday and finished the last of the adjustments to it. Though there was a point while dealing with it that I was pretty sure it was going to have an “accident”. It would have been satisfying and enjoyable fire…um accident.  Actually the most frustrating thing was the fact that one day was burned on it trying to get the “new” hard drive to work with it. Now if I had not been running on empty I would have been more aware that it was probably a bad hard drive but running on empty I didn’t even consider that fact because it was “new”.  Everything went smoothly once I salvaged a hard drive from an old system.
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“A great way to get rid of stress is, every once in a while, do something totally different and unexpected without any prior planning.”  ― Franklin Gillette
That’s the problem with running on empty is things become harder. You have to put more effort into ideas, into figuring out problems, etc.  Though this week I also found myself thinking about how I broke a couple years ago. How I had an anxiety break that had me sitting in the doctors office breaking into tears asking for something to help because I couldn’t function right.  A lesson learned.  Mixing running on empty with my personality doesn’t work well.  Why? because  I don’t give up easily and I’ll keep running on empty for as long as needed to get a job done.

The problem with that is if the fuel runs out and the fumes are gone then…well… you break. So I learned to take time to refuel.  I also learned that taking that time to refuel is much better then running on empty. Also when you know a big thing that you have to push through is coming up scheduling a refuel  after is a good thing. Sometimes you have to run on empty but if you know there is a gas station ahead then you have hope.

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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” 
 John Muir

We each refuel differently.  For me I refuel in nature.  I refuel by hiking, drives, etc in nature.  The bad part is when I reach the point I am today it is hard for me to formulate my refuel plan. Though at moments like this is when I truly just sit back and say “okay I’m spent, I’m going to need some help here”. That is what I did earlier tonight while driving to get get rid of some metal recycling. I couldn’t think, I was stressed and my daughter had asked me a few times if I was okay because I looked grumpy.  So I’m driving and couldn’t come up with a thing to refuel and that made it worse. That’s when I realized I was still fighting, that I was still pushing but not for work, friends, or etc but fighting for relief.

When that awareness hit me, that I was still trying to get my empty tank to a refuel station with a broken gps, no map, and no idea what to do.  I cranked the music, okay it was already cranked but it went up slightly more, relaxed enjoyed the moment of just driving and music. Then I said something that is hard for me to say “I need your help, I hate to ask but I need an idea to refuel”.   By the time I got home I had a few ideas spinning in my head, though the one that really stuck was waterfalls.
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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson
Which when I mentioned to my wife she said she had the same thought.  So I’m thinking Tennessee. There were some waterfalls we visited before that I’d love to see again. Also the hills there bring a freshness to my soul.  So I think waterfalls may very well be my refuel.  Which my camera will most definitely be with me no matter how I refuel.   Which my camera is another way I refuel as well as change my perspective.   Though I may also go up to starved rock state park in Illinois or to cataract falls in Indiana, hmm maybe around Farmington area in Missouri… See where we end up.  🙂

I need to make sure to get more three and four day weekends in this year.  Nature is my connection and without it I just burn fuel without a refuel.  My advice is whatever you use to refuel do it often.  Also realize we all refuel different. I’m an introvert so being away from people is better for me, yet my daughter is an extrovert and she desires to be around people. So the very thing that taps me actually helps her.  So just find what works for you and do it.

Thank you for your time.

“Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language–not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book which is written in that tongue.” 
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Musical Connection

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“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” 

― Albert Einstein

I love music. I find enjoyment in almost any kind of music. I love the music we produce in lyrical prose to the beautiful music nature composes. It is an important part of how I go through the day. When I’m on a drive enjoying time by myself, music is always part of that. When I write, music is almost always a part of that process. In school, music was always part of my studying and doing homework. My mother used to be confused how I could listen to music and still do my work.

Though the enjoyment of music has led me to enjoying various styles and artists of music as well; from native american flute to the headbanging melodic rhythms of heavy metal. I have artists like Brad Paisley, Fall Out Boy, Sick Puppies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, AC/DC, Eminem, Akon, The Clash, David Guetta, Peter Hollen, Lindsey Stirling, Epica, and so many more that are part of my playlists.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” ― Victor Hugo

The styles, lyrics, and instrumentals vary greatly and yet I find enjoyment in all of it. Sometimes it is a particular mood that brings up listening to something. Other times I switch frequently between all of them while listening. Earlier I was listening to David Guetta, and then moved on to Avicii, and then Metallica. Though no matter what reaches my ears it brings various reactions and hopefully enjoyment.

Music can change a mood or help me better connect with a mood. I can be angry and end up listening to angry music to help me through or playing something to help bring a different response. I can be depressed and end up listening to Suidicial Tendencies or Skillet’s Never Surrender but then again I could end up listening to Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel or Smile by Uncle Kracker. Though sometimes I just use music to help free my mind and chill. It helps me think, especially while driving.

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou

Music has to be one of the top gifts we have. It connects across languages proof of course can be found in the international hit Gangnam Style by Psy or any number other songs. I like Jpop and anime music like Tomorrow by Mikuni Shimokawa from Full Metal Panic (a good anime). You have Rammstein that did Du Hast. I’ve always been amazed that even without a lyrical understanding music has the ability to connect.

Its also interesting how music can invoke a passionate response and strong opinions. You have die hard fans of various genres, artists, etc that will tell you how it is the greatest music ever, or argue over interpretation and even get mad because some one dared do a cover of a beloved song of theirs. Music is truly an amazing thing to experience, not just from listening, but from those that enjoy it.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”  ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If I said I liked listening to Nickelback there would be various opinions on that simple statement. Even more interesting is how people judge based off the style of music one listens to sometimes. An example would be someone coming up to talk to me about Jesus, and how I needed to stop listening to my devil music because I pulled into Best Buy jamming to Metallica. Which I mused in my head because I would think Slayer or Danzig would be more appropriate to get that sort of response, maybe even Dio, but Metallica? Really?

I also find it interesting how we utilize music in movies, video games, and the like. That when watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon you can hear classical pieces. Including one of my favourite Bugs cartoons “Rabbit of Seville” you may know what piece they use for it by the title. 🙂 There are even concerts given to these pieces. The St. Louis Symphony commonly will offer nights of music from movies and there is a concert series called Video Games Live that plays music from the video games, as you may guess, live. Music is all around from the gently purr of a cat to the rhythmic lapping of waves to the music we produce. I enjoy all of it.

“Music is … A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy”
― Ludwig van Beethoven

I guess it is appropriate that music gets its origins from the Greek word mousa which also means muse. I also find this interesting given that music is many a persons’ muse. It gives us inspiration, thought, and touches our spirit. One of my favourite classical artists is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I found his music in 5th grade. I remember coming across the cassettes in the church school’s little library and I went through every cassette they had of his. Yes, with all the other artists and styles classical is among them, just as is big band.

I can listen to Mozart’s piano concertos and just sit back and daydream. His music truly transports me. So much so that I remember when I came across his music for the first time. Though to demonstrate how one person’s spiritual transcendence can be another person’s noise, I remember giving my grandmother a ride one time and was playing one of Beethoven’s Symphonies, I don’t recall which, but she asked me to turn off that noise that it was hurting her ears. Yes, apparently even Beethoven has his critics. 🙂

So what kind of music is your muse? How does music help you connect?

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great day.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”
― Hans Christian Andersen

The Kindness Agenda

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I’ve seen throughout my life people with agendas and with their own idea of what needs or should be done.  People that focus on what they want and only do something as a means to an end to get their own project or passion done.   A memorable learning experience for me was when I was 16 working and a co-worker played to my kindness and told me how he needed to get out of there and if I would help him get his job done, he would then help me. I helped him and yet nothing ever came about for him helping me. In fact, the manager had a discussion with me about why my job wasn’t done in time and when I told him about the co-worker he said that wasn’t his problem.

A problem with being kind and having a caring heart is people can and will take advantage of that kind heart whether intentional or not. They also may never realize the scars it leaves in the individual that they took advantage of.  I’ve met people that have become very jaded for that very reason believing people are just out to use them. I actively attempt to not be that way.  I reason out things and believe that sometimes people become so focused on their own passion, agenda, or pain that they just don’t realize that they are using or hurting someone else.

I see people want things done for them yet they put off doing things for others because they just don’t have time for it or they have different focuses. They want this, they want that, but when it comes to what someone else wants it is pushed to the side because it doesn’t align with their own agenda.  I always wondered how this worked out for those people. How do you get other people to care about your project or passion when you don’t show the same regard for theirs?  Just something I’ve wondered.

I wonder how many walk away from something going “I’ll never do that again” because they’ve felt used or hurt because they wanted to help but were only used then put to the side until needed again.  I’ve seen the scenario over and over in my life. I even have people in my life that the only time I hear from them is when they need something, but when I need something they are conveniently unavailable.  How do you live your life that way?  Yes sometimes I just am not available to help or can’t for one reason or another but if I can I will.

How do you walk through life with a “it’s about me” attitude? How do you only see the world as what you need?  How is it that only your agenda matters?  I don’t know.  The other problem I have is I have a good long term memory, my short term well not so good.  Though long term can be a little too clear sometimes. I can remember someone standing at a door telling me that what I want to get done they can’t think about right now and don’t have time for, but what they wanted done was suppose to be my priority.   You don’t have time for me yet I’m suppose to have time for you.

I see this in many things where communication just doesn’t happen between people that things just don’t get done. Each person has their own agenda and all they hear is from that agenda and don’t see a bigger picture.  I have always been a kind soul and yes, sensitive, sometimes a little too sensitive. I take things to heart, and I remember hurts, even if I forgive or reason them out, I remember them.   I’ve been told by my father, uncles, and other males that I need a thicker skin or need to just ignore what happens.

I don’t do that. I feel, I experience, and I care.  It makes life hard sometimes because even a little comment can make me wonder what it meant and I will sit and try to discern it.  I care about people, about their feelings, their thoughts, and their emotions.  This also opens me up to be hurt which has happened many times in my life. Yet I still persist in caring because I’ve also experienced love, connection, and amazing beautiful people.  I’ve heard amazing stories and been able to heal others and help others.  I have no agenda in this life but to experience life and to help others.  The projects, passions, and so forth of mine have a reason and a purpose but they do not supercede someone else’s projects and passions.  I see the worth in their works as much as I do my own.

Life would work so much better if people communicated better and helped each other without regard to their own agenda or what they could get from someone.
I was watching the first episode of “Psych” the other night and the police detective was inquiring of the main character why they had so many jobs over time.  His simple comment was “for the experience”. They saw the individual could have been valedictorian and even commented how the main character could be head of IBM which his response was “why would I want to be that”. I really liked that moment because it is how I am.  I do things for the experience and while I could be something bigger, I like using my talents to help others and I like that my experiences have helped me to help others.

I just wish other people learned to use their talents to help others instead of for their own gain.

When I leave this world, I want to know that I made other souls feel better that I helped others and that some stranger that I spoke to briefly someplace may see my photo in the obituary and say “hey, that’s the guy that took time to listen and helped me”.

I’ve walked this earth most of my life broken myself, so really all I want when I leave is to know that I helped fix a small part of the broken in others.

Though given I’m an INFP personality type which Keirsey referred to as the healers , I guess it makes sense that my desire is that my memory left in others is my kindness and that I helped in some way.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read.

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”   Maya Angelou

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It’s Not Easy…

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“You can see how he changed on the surface. But at the core of it all, I think Superman has remained the same – a character with incredible powers but almost superhuman humility and restraint.” – Jim Lee

Five for Fighting does a song called “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” that I enjoy a lot. I am a big Superman fan so much so that when I was a kid, I tried my hardest to hold the ideals that I saw in the man of steel. So I guess it is no surprise that I relate to the hero and desire to be the hero more than any other character. I’ve wished to have super powers on various occasions so I could help people. The ability to influence the world and change it for the better. The power to save others.

I love when they depict Superman with real emotions and compassion. I haven’t read the Superman comics in years, but I still watch the animations and etc. I have various animations of him that I like for different reasons, but one I was thinking about in correlation to the song I mentioned earlier was Superman Versus The Elite. There he faces off not just against a group of super powered individuals but the deeper story is that he can’t follow what the world seems to want. He can’t go against his ideals just because the world seems to want something else. Even Lois seems to side with the world, and he just can’t do that.   He stays strong to who he is. The struggle to do the right thing in the middle of an outcry for something different.

“I grew up watching ‘Superman.’ As a child, when I first learned to dive into a swimming pool, I wasn’t diving, I was flying, like Superman. I used to dream of rescuing a girl I had a crush on from a playground bully.” – Tom Hiddleston

That kind of concept is what caused a discussion in the family of why I love the super hero more than the villain. The villain may be fun to watch like Loki in the Thor movies, but it is the hero that has the hardest battle. The villain gets to indulge his dark side to do as they wish and embrace their whims. The super hero has the conflict of not just the villain but also their own inner turmoil of what to do.

A quote from Batman in “Batman: Under the Red Hood” helps demonstrate this:

“Jason Todd: What? What, your moral code just won’t allow for that? It’s too hard to cross that line?

Batman: No! God Almighty, no! It’d be too damned easy. All I’ve ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he’s dealt out to others and then… end him.

Batman: But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place, I’ll never come back.”

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“For me, growing up in a ridiculously poor family living in dead-end neighborhoods, Superman was a deeply personal icon, one that said you can do anything if you put your mind to it. What he stood for formed the core of who I wanted to be as I grew up, and informed how I view the world and my responsibilities to other people.” – J. Michael Straczynski

 

The greatest conflict sometimes is within us.   I most definitely relate to the hero. The one that wins against that inner conflict and comes out triumphant. The person that no matter the odds overcomes themselves and thereby the world to stand tall and be themselves. The person that no matter their own trials and tribulations, still gives a smile and kindness to others. The one that finds the ability to get beyond themselves and show love to others.

The core of the super hero I look up to and want to be most like has nothing to do with his super powers. His super powers allows him to do great things but it is his heart, his kindness, his perseverance in the face of darkness, and his belief that people are innately good and worth fighting for.   Even without his powers he still fights for what he believes in.

“For a hero is someone who is selfless. Think about it, friends. Superman, Luke Skywalker, and Captain America. They are helping others. They aren’t only thinking for themselves. They are reaching out beyond themselves.” ― Mark Andrew Poe

In any situation, I prefer the path of the hero. No matter how multi-faceted and how much depth you give to a villain he still gave in to the darkness. That doesn’t mean a hero doesn’t fall but the difference is a hero pushes to get back up. They fight to be the hero again.   Which brings me to another song I like with a hint of Superman, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down. “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? If I’m alive and well, Will you be there a-holding my hand? I’ll keep you by my side With my superhuman might.”

When the hero falls sometimes they need someone to help them get back in the game. To lift them up out of the darkness and push on. Someone that believes in them even when they can’t believe in themselves. In a fight to get yourself back it helps to have those that see the good, the potential, and hold the belief that you will get your “A” game back.

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“Actually, it’s as if Superman is more real than we are. We writers come and go, generations of artists leave their interpretations, and yet something persists, something that is always Superman.” ― Grant Morrison
Those people don’t just come from those close to you but from all around you. I can’t remember what super hero it was or even if it was a super hero but I remember a scene where a hero was broken, had given up, didn’t believe they could do it and the start to their recovery happened from a child that still believed in them.   We have to remember the impact we have on others and how we have the ability to give hope to even a stranger with how we interact.

We always think of the hero as the one that saves the day. The one that saves others that stands tall against great odds. The truth is we all can be heroes everyday. It comes down to how we interact with others. You want to save a life? Show kindness, share a smile, give to charity, volunteer, but most of all be engaged with others in some positive way. You won’t only save someone’s life but you may very well change the world.   Your nemesis is apathy, selfishness, callousness, and people that leave broken pieces in their wake. To be a hero help pick up those pieces by sharing a smile, a kindness, a helping hand. The greatest super power is altruism.

Thank you for taking the time to read.  I hope you have a good day filled with kind moments.

“Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share — I’ll never stop fighting.” – Superman

 

Check out kindspring for some cool ideas to spread random kindness.
http://www.kindspring.org/

Where are you Christmas?

 

A song that I like during Christmas is the song “Where are You Christmas?”.   There are Christmases that I connect with it more than others. The Christmas after my father passed away was one of those that I felt disconnected from the holiday season. I didn’t know that I would just have 2 more Christmases with my mother after my father passed, that she would pass away as well. Though those aren’t the only times that the song has applied.

Life is about change and that change sometimes is hard to adjust to. My first real coherent memories of Christmas was the Castle Family Christmas when everyone tried to make it in to my grandparents to enjoy Christmas together. I remember the love felt during that time. The gifts weren’t special but the love was very special. Then it disappeared when my grandparents passed away. So Christmas changed.

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Sandi’s mom appreciating a christmas basket we put together one year

Then I got married and we would juggle which parents would get Christmas and which one would get Christmas Eve. With the kids, it became a special thing to me again. Watching their little faces light up to all the magic of the season. My wife’s father would do a Christmas hunt for her and myself every year and the kids would get such a kick out of watching us try to figure out the clues. We’d have Christmas at home as well. You know the kind where everyone is in their pajamas, you have hot cocoa and you watch with anticipation as the kids open their gifts.

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My Dad wanted a record player for sometime so surprised him with one.

The Christmas after my father passed felt so empty to me, but I never really said that to anyone. My father had a special place in his heart for Christmas, and with him gone it just felt empty to me. So Christmas had changed again. After mom passed, I found myself thinking how we needed to work out whose house we would go to on what day only to remember that we weren’t going to one house anymore. That was a hard change for me.

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My Mom would get excited over any gift no matter how small.

Christmas changes again as my wife’s father has Alzheimer’s. With some things becoming more difficult some traditions are going to the wayside because of his disease.

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Sandi’s Dad loves Labradors. Doesn’t matter the size.  Love seeing a smile on his and my daughter’s face.

Though one of the interesting changes for me is as the kids have gotten older and our own traditions change. Christmas was always me finding events for us to go enjoy. From a candlelight Christmas in Vandalia to a candlelight walk in Augusta. I was always finding different things to do with lights, etc. I would spend quite a bit of time on event sites planning out the holiday season. Those things have kind of gone away, especially with busy schedules and etc. Something I miss quite a bit.

This year is an off year for me. I am finding it hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit. My tree was just put up today but no decorations yet. I can’t even explain what is wrong, just that this year is different for me. Though I know one thing about Christmas will always remain with me and that is the Love. Love is the biggest connection I have to Christmas from that of the Christmas story to the love of family and friends. Love is the one thing that doesn’t change.

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Duquoin has a great light display with an inside thing with trees, shows, etc. My kids and wife being patient with me taking the pic.

 

In fact it is Love that makes some Christmases harder than others.   So no matter how Christmas changes for me, as long as I can feel the love it is a good Christmas.

I hope you have a great holiday season and hope you feel love this season and always

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A boy and his truck.

P1330236“You can set my truck on fire, and roll it down a hill, And I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coupe DeVille I’ve got an eight-foot bed that never has to be made You know if it weren’t for trucks we wouldn’t have tailgates” Pickup Man by Joe Diffie

My father owned several vehicles when I was growing up including a 1957 Chevy. The 1957 Chevy was the one car he always regretted getting rid of and always talked about buying another one. In fact his password for many things was 57chevy2doorcoupe. Though the vehicles that stood out to me were the ones from my later years, the trucks.

He had this old Chevy truck that had rust everywhere and was basically falling apart body wise. That’s the vehicle we moved from Kentucky with. We owned a station wagon and that truck. I learned to drive on a 3/4 ton Chevy pickup it was green and brown and it had a 350 4 bolt main in it. It would flat out fly, I know I jumped tracks with it shortly after getting my license.

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The truck he got that he kept for years was one he bought off my uncle. A 1984 Chevy s-10 extended bed. He put over 300,000 miles on that truck before trading it in on a newer s10. His trucks were the first vehicles I truly fell in love with. It was the fact that you could haul things and help people, but there was a bigger aspect I loved about his truck.

I loved that it was intimate. When you sit in the cab of a truck it feels more intimate then a car to me. It seemed you got to know your driver or passenger more that way and the fact that it was a truck made it feel more personal and less formal. You get to have a different kind of conversation in a truck. Whenever I borrowed dad’s truck, my wife would slide over to the middle to be closer to me and feel more connected.

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I also think of people more down to earth when I think of a truck, farmers, construction workers, and just people less worried about image and more concerned with a dirt road, country, and helping people. So for years I have wanted a truck.   When I was young I wanted a 57 corvette that was my dream car. Though that changed to wanting an extended or crew cab truck.

Though with having a family a truck was not an ideal choice and with our money it really wasn’t. The last two vehicles I owned were both vans I got from my in-laws. The 97 astro I fell in love with it was on an s-10 body and it was my truck for many years. It had 240,000 miles on when I let it go but even at 240k the engine sounded perfect.

I got my first taste of my own truck when my daughter wrecked the kid’s car. I bought an s-10 and let her use the town and country. The s-10 needed a lot of work and the only thing really good on it is the drive train but it accomplished my daughter having a safe vehicle and a truck for me that at least got me to work.

P1330169“When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.” ― Dejan Stojanovic

On my father’s birthday this year I got to buy a truck that I wanted. It’s the first vehicle for myself that I chose in years. One that wasn’t out of necessity like the s-10 or a hand me down from my in-laws. It was one I took the time to find, feel good about, and choose. I found it appropriate that I bought it on my father’s birthday. Though he would disagree with the make of the truck. It’s a Ford and as you may have guessed he was a Chevy man.

I made a post after buying the truck that I dubbed it Blue Thunder. It’s a dark almost midnight blue 99 Ford F150 extended cab with 160k on it. It’s a beautiful truck and I connected with it first time I saw it. I know a little funny that I say I connected with the vehicles that I truly enjoyed I had a connection. My 81 Riviera, 97 Chevy astro, and now this 99 F-150.

I’m sure some people didn’t understand why I was so ecstatic about buying a used truck but I don’t need a new truck to be happy. This truck fits me and is something I’ve wanted for years. The only thing that it misses is an off-road package but that is more something I’d like and I’m happy with being blessed with what I was able to get.

P1330302“The Road goes ever on and on,Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow,

if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

After buying the truck I started getting antsy about getting it out and spending some time by myself. I’m mostly an introvert. I interact well one on one or small groups but too much interaction taps me. Normally how I refuel is nature and time by myself. Something my wife sort of understands, but she accepts it. I truly appreciate and love better after I’ve had time to get out on my own a little.

So my daughter and I changed out the state of the art cassette head unit for something that while not as state of the art has cd, Bluetooth, and xm radio. After that the truck and I left for the day. I drove up to the bird sanctuary and spent time taking pictures then on up the river road to Pere Marquette a truly lovely drive along the river. It helped to get away.

Then yesterday the truck and I left again and went on a drive to southern Illinois just south of Murphysboro along route 3. We found a nice gravel one lane road that took us up the bluff to various scenic overlooks. I could feel the layers of stress and anxiety just peel away as I jammed to the xm radio and just enjoyed the road and nature. It was magical.

P1330315“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.”
― Amit Ray

The way I destress is with alone time and the s-10 I didn’t trust enough to get out and about with. This truck I trust and truly enjoy. So I can pace myself again. For the first time in months I had my camera with me and just nature and God. We did a trip earlier last month to waterfalls in Tennessee which I had my camera and that was nice, but there is something truly freeing about being alone on backroads or in nature with just you, a vehicle, the radio, and God.

So I’ll finish by saying….Truck Yeah!!!

Thank you for your time and I hope you have a wonderful day.

I apologize for any grammar errors. My editor (my lovely wife) was not available to edit and point out the error of my grammar usage. 🙂

P1330329“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
― Henry David Thoreau,

Happy Birthday

waterfall leaf“Water is the driving force in nature.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

We hear “Happy Birthday” on our birthdays even from strangers when they find out it is your birthday. Even I find myself wishing another whether I know them or not a happy birthday or well wishes for their birthday.

Birthdays for me have always been a mixed and emotional event. For as long as I can remember, I get moody around my birthdays. As my wife says, on my birthday always approach with caution.  It has gotten better as my life has gotten better but the emotions still linger. It is why I normally try to take off my birthday from work etc because I know I get emotional and I find myself many times going for drives around my birthday being reflective and talking to God as I drive on back roads through the country.

I didn’t find myself this birthday on back roads or just cruising, but helping setup for a craft fair at church and helping others. Which even on my drives, I almost always find someone to help along my path like God trying to remind me of my purpose. I don’t talk much about my early childhood partially because it isn’t all there, and the parts that are or that come to me aren’t always pretty.

water cummins“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
― Mark Twain

Very few people know this, but my final bit of trust was broken as a child by a male family friend. Which helped create the anger I had when I was young, or moreover feed my anger. Anger that even helped me put a kid in the hospital. Which also happened to be the moment I attempted to first control it and mold my reactions. It would take years to finally get the anger managed completely. To learn to walk off instead of letting pride keep me in the fight, learning ways to change how I saw things, etc. Learning to change how I saw a situation as I was experiencing it was one of the best techniques I learned to spin it.

Though I’ll skip all the rest of the whiny stuff. I’m 42 today and my life is quite different from when I was younger. Today I have a beautiful, loving family. Kids that love me and I them. A wife that loves me and I her. I have a job that I love getting up and going to because of the people there as well as the job itself. We have spun our start of expenses exceeding income and being on state aid into a better existence and able to help others.

I find myself sitting here at 42 thinking about how I once saw my life as cursed and hated my very existence and now see it as blessed and full of love. How the wounds of the past are mostly a memory and have no control over me anymore.

waterfall - fallscreek“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ― Gautama

I sit here at 42 looking back and realizing that the people that would tell me how much potential I had were right just in a way they never knew. They saw the potential in my intelligence and ability. They saw what they perceived as me wasting my talent. They were right I did have great potential just then wasn’t the time for it. My potential was raising my children, passing on how to see the world with love and acceptance, to see the beauty of the children we raised.

To sit here on my birthday and think about today when my daughter got hugs from two different women because of a note she left on a table for them and my heart smiled. There…there in the hearts of my children, my two daughters and son, is my potential. The potential to change the world because we showed them they mattered to us and that other people mattered no matter their social status, dress, color, or etc. That people mattered no matter their attitudes. My children are beautiful and they are three of the best gifts I have ever received.

waterfalls burgess“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”  – Bruce Lee

I sit here on my 42nd birthday no longer wondering why I was born. I am reminded daily. I am reminded that helping others and making others smile is one of the greatest gifts you can give others. That passing on your heart and time to your children is the greatest gift you can give them. I find this birthday while busy and full of various things to be one of the best I’ve had so far. I’m a long ways from that young adult that was overwhelmed with starting a family, providing for that family, and trying to control anger in the middle of all of that.

Today I smile when I look at my family and all I have been blessed with. I have truly been blessed.

Thank you for your time
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I, Swear

P1170989“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

It is kind of funny to think that the year I was turning 21 is the year I got married. Even more odd to me is the concept that today I celebrate 21 years with my wife.  There is a song that called “Don’t Blink” and when you are young you don’t quite understand that concept, but I can tell you in some ways 21 years ago seems like ages ago but in other ways it feels like not that long ago.

When we started this journey we were just a couple kids with a child on the way.  There is no way I could have predicted the path our lives would take. I could have never predicted the trials and joys or how quickly that 21 years would go. I couldn’t foresee another 2 children, deciding to homeschool our kids, me staying home with them, the fights, the uphill battles, the passing of my parents, or her father getting diagnosed with Alzheimer.

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“Happiness is only real when shared” ― Jon Krakauer

There is no way I could have predicted anything ahead of us.  In fact 21 years ago the only thing I was doing was fighting to have the woman I wanted, then saying I do to someone I wanted in my life. To think about  that start amazes me. Also that back then I had no idea how we would make it.  It felt so overwhelming and I took a lot of walks just to figure things out. We started living with my parents for a few months and then our own place.

Expenses exceed income driving old cars (though I did love my 81 Riviera),  and just the support of our parents. We had state aid from health insurance to food stamps.  Sandi would have to go shopping with the food stamps because I couldn’t use them because of how it made me feel.  You learn to focus on the beautiful people that see beyond the situation to the people inside. There are plenty of jackasses out there but you try to focus on the beautiful people.

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“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” ― Dave Meurer

We’d go for drives with the kids and the car didn’t have air conditioning so we would use a spray bottle with cool water to spritz the kids sometimes to keep them cool.  It seemed everyone had an opinion and well I’m pretty stubborn person with my own ideas of how to approach things.  Which is probably why it worked out that my wife and I did a role reversal and she went to work and I stayed home. You see we both always believed that one of us should stay home and that meant even when finances dictated that both of us should work.

The priority was our children.  I’d fit various ways to bring in extra money in over the course of the years I stayed home including starting my own business. It was an interesting start to a marriage. A small wedding in the woods with only a few people and a honeymoon at a cabin in the woods that her parents rented for us. In fact my wedding band I had to borrow money from her dad to buy.  Which that man has always amazed me even though he didn’t agree with me, disagreed with us getting married, and he still helped us, though you always knew a speech was going to come with the help.

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“The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” ― Stephen Kendrick

So 21 years ago most people didn’t think we would make it, some didn’t even think we would make it a year. It was a tough way to start a marriage and even tougher way to start a family. It didn’t help that I was very headstrong and not willing to listen very often to others.  Which sometimes was to my advantage and other times not so much. Though I guess the biggest perk is both her and I were committed to making it work and we trusted were brought together to complete each other.

While our song back then was “I, swear” by all4one, the song that really touches both of us back then and even now is “Keeper of the stars” by tracy byrd.  I can’t think of anyone that would put up with me 24/7 for any amount of time, let alone 21 years. I’m moody , headstrong,  and brought scars with me that there she could not have been prepared for. Especially since she had the typical American family upbringing, while my childhood and youth was by no means typical.  I didn’t bring any drinking or drug use with me nothing like that. Okay I did bring smoking with me which she hated but the things she had to deal with was those scars that impacted how I dealt with life and influenced my anger. I’m so glad God helped me find a way to handle that anger because that was my most destructive trait from punching walls, throwing things,  to my mouth. I’m still not sure how she put up with that. Faith is the only thing I can think of.  Maybe it helped to understand the root of that anger but still it was the one big thing that could have taken down our marriage.

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“Sometimes the best and worst times of your life can coincide. It is a talent of the soul to discover the joy in pain—-thinking of moments you long for, and knowing you’ll never have them again. The beautiful ghosts of our past haunt us, and yet we still can’t decide if the pain they caused us out weighs the tender moments when they touched our soul. This is the irony of love.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Her father and I talked several years later and he said that was the concern he had with us as well was my anger.  He saw it before we even got married that he would anger me with his comments and I would walk out saying some explicative and slamming the door as I went for a walk. Though I would always return when calmed down to continue the talk.

When you stop seeing the world as always against you and allow yourself to see the beauty. When you deal with the scars and stop allowing them to control you. When you open yourself up to be healed and stop seeing yourself as a victim and just as something that happened and is part of you. When you realize that the life ahead of you is so much more important than the scars from the past.  When your focus changes it changes everything.

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“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.” ― Ogden Nash

21 years later and with the faith of my wife and  God. I have learned to nurture the loving caring heart that my wife saw in me and I let the anger go years ago.  It has been an amazing ride and I can’t think of anyone better to take that ride with.  Though our years has been filled with mountains and valleys but it’s the love and joy that has made it a beautiful 21 years.

I’m listening to music while I write this and the song “I,swear” came on as I finished writing this. It has brought a smile and tears to my face.  What an amazing, beautiful ride this has been. I thank God for his guidance the entire time and giving us all the opportunities he has along the way and showing me how to truly use my heart.

Thank you for your time and I hope you have a wonderful day.

p.s. My editor has not reviewed this so any grammar issues blame Microsoft word for not catching it for me. 🙂

“Love’s about finding the one person who makes your heart complete. Who makes you a better person than you ever dreamed you could be. Its about looking in the eyes of your wife and knowing all the way to your bones that she’s simply the best person you’ve ever known.”
― Julia Quinn

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