Sing, Sing A Long…..

I used to struggle with doubt every time I posted a video of me singing on Facecrack not because I care what others think of my singing (they’re all first takes with me accompanying myself, not an easy thing for me to do like rubbing my belly and tapping my head!) but because I questioned my own reasoning for doing so.  Do I really need external validation so badly?  Perhaps reasons for doing it chance with each video, but as I become more and more clear in my path of recovery, one reason always rises to the top:  IT FEELS GOOD!  DOH!  And it doesn’t take rocket science for me to understand the extent to which my braincells are firing when I do it.  So I say, sing, sing a long, sing a song!

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia: study

The hills are alive with the sound of music, which could help people with Alzheimer’s stave off the effects of the debilitating disease. A study by U.S. scientists has shown that the brain function of those suffering from dementia can be improved if they belt out their favorite show tunes.

Breaking the Cycle: Writing Down a Dream

I normally don’t remember my dreams beyond the first few moments of waking.  And I usually sleep like a rock (daily swimming/biking will do that.)  But this week, almost every night, I have been not only waking and remembering my dreams, I have been able to carry them into the day, able to sequester the images, the feelings, the story, and able to return later in the hopes of wringing out meaning.  At first there was a series of plane crashes; not the scary, “I’m gonna die” sort of thing but instead the kind which fosters a curiosity.  They are the “Hmmm….ok, here’s how I’m going to survive this” sort of dream.  In one, I’m forced to take a seat on the wing….literally laying down on the wing with my feet clipped into a ‘chip-clip’ contraption and my arms over my head hanging onto a handlebar of sorts.  Next night, bigger, fierier sort of apocalyptic plane incident in which I simply managed my way through.  Often I’ve been yelling at my family.  On Tuesday after an evening having dinner with two couples (we don’t do dinner/have very few couple friends with whom we interact) I woke up screaming, ‘Why?’

I knew exactly why.  I tried to calm myself after the scream, starting thinking about the dream, and quickly told myself that I’d probably not remember it, that if I turned on a light I would wake myself further and not be able to get back to sleep, that I needed sleep more than I needed to write down or remember the dream, that yes, the dream was really significant and held a piece of a puzzle I have been searching for for a very long time, that I was clearly just lazy because I wanted sleep over truth and insight, that I wanted to stay in my own vortex of avoiding the truth, avoiding hard work, of demeaning my existence, my gifts, my talents, that even if I did turn the light on and write out the dream it would surely not have the same significant in the morning that I was attributing to it while in bed, tears streaming down my face.

I realized in the hour long conversation with all of the voices in my head that I was at a tipping point.  For years my baggage, my stuff, and my process kept me just under the surface of understanding and change.  I have been as addicted to my story as I have been to my drugs of choice so much so that even subconsciously, I have not allowed my true self to break through even in my dreams.  I have held it at bay, necessarily so, until this point in time where now I am allowing a deep voice to bubble up and force me a little further up to the surface, perhaps even breaking through into the air above.

My subconscious cried out, “Why?”  The dilemma?  In my dream, after an evening with new friends explaining to them how I wasn’t an artist but something less than, wasn’t an actor but something less than, wasn’t a musician but something less than, wasn’t a teacher but something less than, wasn’t a writer but something less than, I cried out, “Why?” in tears.  Why am I still doing this to myself?  Why am I still demeaning by natural talents whether they are top-notch, have-assed or new developments/talents/abilities?  Why am I still defining myself as ‘less than’ when in reality, when I look at my gifts, my life, my experiences, my soul, I am clearly something more than ‘less than.’  I am more-than.  I am what I define myself to be.  Law of Karma.  I am what I put out there.

I shared with my partner the next morning with unbridled excitement:  “I clearly heard myself at dinner last night,” I said, “because my subconscious will no longer let me get away with it.”  It felt wrong in the moment at the dinner table, and clearly in the middle of the night I realized I have had enough of the same behavior.  All those voices in my head telling me that I should just try to go back to sleep?  I ignored them, turned on the light, and wrote out my dream.  It may not sound that significant to those of you who make a habit turning on a light to write or who use this tool, dream journaling, regularly.  But for someone who has been listening to all these voices in my head for so long, who has been so comfortable going from “I’m going to change the world” to a “I want to die” on a regular schedule, giving myself permission to see a roadblock and to know it’s not real, to know I can overcome it, to accept the voices are just voices, that the true voice, a “Why” in the middle of the night, is my “barbaric yelp,” breaking my sleep cycle to write out a dream in the middle of the night was breaking a bigger cycle.  A much bigger cycle.

I did it again the night after and last night again.  New cycle.  New voice. New neural pathways….re(dis)covery.

I do belong to my life….

I don’t ever remember feeling like I belonged.  To my family, to the 7am AA meeting, to the agency staff, to this theatrical production, to that group of friends.  To the porn world.  To the teaching profession.  To my disease.  To my addictions.  To my trauma.  After working through several therapists I finally sought out a specialist, a Harvard psychiatric nurse, who helped me onto the path of recognizing the hand I had been dealt was wrought with trauma.  Yet I continued to talk about my story as though it were just that, a story.  I never felt like I even belonged to my own story.  In my detachment from my life, from my story, came that uncanny ability to compartmentalize, to act like I belonged when necessary, to prove a point or for survival, but to also quickly tear away one mask in exchange for another when a situation, relationship, scenario required it.  How I could strut and fret my hours on the stage, the stage being every waking minute of my life. The first proscenium my bedroom where I was likely sent when in trouble but to which I ultimately sought refuge from a bully of a father and life I could not longer control with childish charm.  When the adventure of living in South Africa ended and Buffalo and parental marriage problems fell on us in blizzard proportions, I started living other lives because I could no longer bear to live my own.

Why does this matter all these decades later?  Because even after an additional psychiatrist and various treatments and psych-meds were added to my entourage of therapies, I still feel the same as that little kid.  I don’t want to live the life I am living.  Sometimes the only life I want to live is the one I am reading about in a book.  That’s where I have gotten to closest to belonging.  In books. The Hardy Boys created an adventure out of 3 years in South Africa.  At 6 I started and didn’t stop reading until we returned to the States; somehow the brothers lost their appeal when I was no longer exploring caves with my mother, finding scorpions under rocks or hunting pregnant Pit Vipers whose babies ended up in a jar offering to my  3rd grade science teacher (unappreciated).  Then came the grocery store horror books, Stephen King, The Amityville Horror, anything that proved there was a way of living and dying more gruesome than the one I felt I was experiencing.  Then came classics, Richard Bach, the Joseph Campbell collection, Jung, and eventually a game I played when going into book stores:  the next book I needed to read was already calling my name.  I just needed to find it.  My life became bearable because of books.  Those of you who know me might question how this could be:  I’m a happy sorta guy; give good energy, care deeply about people, am a go-getter, dream-maker, goal setter, etc. etc.  I learned how to become those things in the books I read, and not being willing to come to terms with my true self, I’ve worn these masks all my life.

So I have  minor propensity towards being depressed.  See?  I’m already rewriting a story I am hoping will be closer to truth than it’s been.  I’m an addict and I’ve got some serious depression going on.  But luckily I have begun to find a balance somewhere between hanging from the nearest tree limb and knowing I can conquer the world, fulfill my destiny, and forever be happy. It’s a daily struggle to belong to my life.  There are so many patterns of behavior ingrained in my head that I am often at a loss as to how I end up where I end up at the end of the day.  When these patterns start to emerge, I typically try to pick up a book and just forget who I am.  It works for a little while.  Sometimes longer than a little while.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I have connected reading books to wanting to write books, wanting to give others the peace I find within pages, to offer an escape from their own lives into the comfort of a life not their own.  And wanting to do something desperately which one cannot find the strength, perseverance or determination to do, pretty much sums up this torturous life journey towards grandiosity that inevitably spills me onto the macadam scrapped, bruised, and bleeding.  A cycle of depression, balance, optimism, grandiosity, back to hopelessness.

I need to learn how to live my life.  When I turned the page of a seemingly innocuous novel I am reading, Amherst by William Nichloson, about the love affair between Emily Dickinson’s married brother and another married woman and about the 21 century writer desirous of capturing the story in a screenplay, I stumbled upon a minor character who, in her suicidal depressive state, is talked into walking through her death by an older mentor.  He tells her to describe it, to walk through it, and then to talk about all the issues and traumas of her life and what has happened to them now that she is dead.  A simple exercise.  With simple intention.  To prove that we can die anytime we want to, symbolically, and in doing so, we can eliminate all those haunting issues.  If they can disappear with one’s last breathe, why can’t they disappear with a breath that far precedes the last?

Before anyone gets up in arms, let me reassure you there have been years of therapists, professional medical doctors, medications, programs and therapies in my process.  I have worked through, starting at a very early age of introspection, why I am the way I am.  And I have been stuck in this life the entire time.  Haunted by my patterns, by issues, my every cell of memory.  This isn’t a “born-again” experience, an attempt to recreate myself in the image of someone else.  I want all the pieces of me, I want to BE ME and all the wonderful/fucked up things that means.  I want to live this life.  Somehow on p. 131 of the book I am reading I have been given a gift, a tool, a suggestion I’ve never heard before.  There are plenty of people who have suicidal ideations.  I am not the only one.  I happen to find a deep spiritual meaning in death, and don’t suggest anyone with thoughts of suicide to “play through” an act of self-destruction.  But what I am going to do is try this myself:  I might set aside some time to do a meditation (because that is what this is) using creative imagery (creative recovery, right?) to help me eliminate that which I no longer want to carry.  I have been defined by those moments, but I know longer want those moments to rule my life and prevent me from living my life.  I want to belong to my life; there is no longer room both that which is killing me and that which is begging for life.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  I’m going to give it a try.  And in the meantime, I’ll continue to live, heal, grow, and perhaps hide, in these pages before me.

Roadblocks

There are triggers and then there are roadblocks.  I personally don’t know which are more damaging to me seeing that my triggers often become paralyzing moments indecision. Or worse.  Naturally a trigger is something that sparks another action.  Obviously in the world of addiction recovery, the word, ‘trigger,’ almost always has a negative connotation; a trigger often leads an addict down the wrong path.

A roadblock–an impenetrable thing standing in the way.  In the world of coaching, self-help, and life-affirmation, a roadblock is often something negative that is then turned on it’s axis into something to be surmounted, something that can be overcome.  Watch any Tony Robbins video of him helping someone with a life-altering roadblock in the way, and within minutes, whether you believe it contrived or not, the person has not only identified the roadblock, they’ve blown it to smithereens and are continuing on their journey.

What happens when your triggers are the roadblocks themselves?  If you are someone like me with a well-developed sense of self-righteousness, my “I’ll show you” super-hero-powers can blow away almost all roadblocks in my way.  My “I’ll show you” tied to my grandiosity tied to a sometimes over-zealous belief in a synchronistic, “The Secret” way of life can perform miracles or at least feats often seen by others as mind boggling.  I’m not saying this is healthy.  It’s not.  It’s what can get me into trouble.

I may see a roadblock, feel that drive and power squeezing up from my solar plexis which finds its way into a stubbornly clenched jaw, and then I trip over a trigger.  A familiar place.  A person.  A smell that triggers a memory.  I can quickly crash into a heap of self-destructive behaviors, the road block long ago surmounted, opportunity sitting there in front of me waiting to be taken, but I am suddenly too focused on hurting myself to take another step.

My triggers are dangerous.  My triggers are many.  My triggers spark actions that involve blood, cuts, deprivation, purging, and on and on.  It’s an old traditional exercise, but today I again write out my triggers so that I can honor their power and learn that the power I have to overcome roadblocks is the same power than can successfully deal with a trigger.  Easier said than done, but like anything worth doing, it’s worth practicing and doing again and again.

DOWNSIZING

The days of upsizing whether to add an additional 500 calories of McDonald’s fries, to extended a warranty designed to make you feel good while destroying your budget,  to remove that natural sand dune because you need a better view:  gone.  You may not realize it, and that’s fine.  Everyone at their own pace.  I simply feel bad and have always felt badly for those who don’t understand the blessings of downsizing.  Of simplifying.  Of saving, of stretching out a bottle of lotion by cutting it open and realizing there is another week’s worth of moisturizer waiting to be used.  My mother taught my sister and I well.  We scrape, pinch, do-it-ourselves, and only buy bargains.  All a form of downsizing.  Fact is, I need all the feel good moments I can get, and if that means wearing a $5 pair of no-name shorts that make my ass look just as good as a $150 pair, then I’m on it.

Great blog from Power of Positivity:   5 Life Changing Things That Happen When You Downsize

You’re Addicted

You go to sleep telling yourself that tomorrow will be different.  You’re going to start tomorrow clean, maybe read a book, mediate, perhaps go to a meeting to get some human connection.  A couple cups of coffee later, you’re suddenly pinched by a little urge.  It’s nothing mind-shattering, no unbearable feeling of being out-of-control, of knowing you are about to break down and fall back into old patterns.  It’s just a pinch, a reality check that this is going to be a lot harder than you thought.  Thankfully, you have to go to work which, truth be told, holds its own chances for relapse.  It’s everywhere at work, everyone is using, everyone seems just fine with their patterns of use.  How are you going to get through a work day without it?  Are you going to tell your colleagues?  Are you going to ask them for help even though the thought of that is so embarrassing you think giving up would be easier.

It’s not even 10 o’clock and you’ve thrown in the towel.  You tell yourself you did pretty well.  You lasted 4 hours.  But now you have to go online.  You have to check in to Facebook, Twitter, and the half dozen other sites which give your day it’s structure, and dare you admit it, it’s meaning.

Look, I don’t make light of being addicted.  Being addicted to technology is nothing like being addicted to the purest form of mind-bending chemicals which are not available on the internet.  You won’t end up chewing off some homeless man’s face while your on it.  But you might end up chewing out someone who has a different point of view, a different way of life, a different thought process.

You have choices of how you use technology.  Don’t let it run your life.  Don’t let it be your life.  If you want to preach, start a blog.  That’s what I’m doing.  And guess what?  You can’t comment on anything I’m writing!  Why?  Because it’s that sort of back and forth banter on social media that, while sometimes creating lovely and lively discussions, drives me crazy.  I’ve spent the time and money to start this website and a few others, so I get to set the rules.  So do you!  Use your social media filters, keep your boundaries intact, don’t engage with people who bring you down.  Rediscover who you are occasionally by disengaging.

A Great Read:

Untangling Your Digital Life While Embracing It