Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nothing is Something (But let's choose something else)

Please allow me to share a little bit with you.

I am continually learning more about myself and the world around me.  Some of the simplest things seem to play such a big role in providing me with some of the greatest feelings of life.  By that logic, it would make sense that sometimes some of the most insignificant events/things in my life can be a cause of some poor distress.  It's unfortunate really.  Just barely running into something at the beginning of the day seems to have a lasting impact.  This makes me wonder: how do these ripples echo in the way that I treat others?  When I say something and am trying to make others feel comfortable, at ease, or included, could it be that I am leaving others out?  Or put another way, could I potentially be lifting one person up only to neglect another, and therefore put him/her down?

These are the kinds of things that I think about.  Well, I'm not sure if "think" is exactly the right way to put it.  They seem to be on the edge of my subconscious and a motive for much of my thinking or acting.  Am I acting out of love when I open my mouth?  Are my actions reflecting my words and vice-versa?

This analysis paralysis stuff can really be quite crippling, but what is so significant about this brief blip that I get to spend here?  Sure, there are significant moments and everything has significance, but think about it, will I the actions I've done today be remembered 50 years from now?  I can answer that with almost complete certainty: no.  To put this into perspective, what do you know about what happened on July 23, 1964?  Sure, we may have memories about special days or historic events that greatly affected the world we lived in, but that doesn't happen everyday.  We get so concerned about what people will think of us or what they'll say that we're afraid to take action and do something for the mere reason that we believe in it.

On the other side of that coin, I would venture to say that the opposite is true: historic moments and special experiences happen everyday.  Perhaps the reason that we life seems so bland at times is less a reflection of the world around us and more a reflection of our own willingness to take the initiative and make a decision.  If we want something to be different we have to be willing to make a change.

I have a strange feeling about the world right now.  I think we're at an important stage in our history.  I'm not using this phrase in the way that many use it.  I'm not just saying this to inspire others.  I truly think that we're at a monumental shift in the way that the people of the world are beginning to think.  Sure, there have been many other periods like this and it is important to learn from our past.  The thing is though, I believe we're at a point in present history where we have two choices.  We can either choose inaction and let the world keep spinning out of control and constantly point to the things we don't like about the world and place blame on others or we can do something.

Doing nothing is still choosing something.  It involves the active decision of remaining inactive.  I want so desperately to have an impact on the lives of those around me and I don't want it as something that will lift me up.  I want to empower others to realize their full potential.  I know that so much of my own time has been wasted sleeping, worrying, overanalyzing, and planning for days that have long since passed.  So how do I encourage others to change if I'm not willing to change myself? That's the thing though, I desperately want to change I'm just too nervous about the implications that it will have.

I often feel so stuck, like a butterfly on flypaper.  How do I get out of here?  And I wonder: Am I just trying to escape my current circumstances for a temporary release?  I don't think that is the case most of the time, though there are times when I do fall victim to such thinking.  How do I change others' thinking without coming from an imperialist conquistador perspective?  I want to work for change alongside others, not for them.

So one small step that I am taking is the one I'm doing right now: writing this Blog.  Having an outlet to share my thoughts and ramblings on life is a way for me to begin to change my thinking.  It's a place that I can look back on later in life and see how I have changed, see what I have done.  It's also a place where I hope to encourage others to critically think about how they are living their lives.  Are we living today or are we reminiscing yesterday?  Are we embracing the time in the hallway between one door and the next, or are we focused only on the door at the end of the hall?  Surely that room will be better, I just have to leave the dungeon I'm living in and all will be healed.  We must learn to embrace the hallway moments, fleeting though they are, and when we come across something that must be changed we must strive to make that happen.  We can no longer just sit on the sidelines and point fingers at the players, we have to take action and join the game.

To sit is a verb and verbs are action words.  If we are choosing to sit down we are choosing to settle for the status  quo.  That is fine if the status quo is what you want, but I do not want to sit down and be complacent.  I want to take action.  So let's get off our butts and move!  And yes, that's a "we," I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to you.  Let's go!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

nŏ-stāl'jə, nə-

Listening to old songs from different parts of my life is like looking through a scrapbook.  Scenes from my life come back to life like a movie I fell asleep watching.  I listen to the memories with mostly fondness.  There is some sort of longing to go back there, though I know I can only be here.  My time machine only moves forward.

I see old days of looking through pages.  Living a life that I thought was just a shadow.  Much like right now, I know that life is only here and now but I can't help but reflect on the past and ponder the future.  What would life had been if I had said how I felt?  Where would we be if I had apologized sooner?  What if I had chosen my first choice instead of my second?  What if I had stayed another year?

I cannot keep thinking like this.  I'll drive myself mad if I do.

That's enough for now.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Over Thinking

I've nearly called a suicide prevention hotline multiple times.  This isn't a cry for help, though in some ways perhaps it is.  It's really a struggle to get out how I feel when I'm around other people.  There are many reasons for this.  The first is that whenever anyone asks the question, "how are you?" most of us respond with hardly a second thought.  I try to be intentional about how I live, including the words that I choose to say, but it's not always easy.  Also, sometimes I'm not sure that the meanings I've attached to some words have the same meanings that others have placed on them.  Could the response "I'm alright" be interpreted as someone having no complaints, with the interpretation that nothing is really wrong right now, but rather everything is right or all of life is right?  It's understandable how so few words can be interpreted in so many ways.  Language is a complex issue and yet something like 40% of our communication is done verbally.

A similar reason for why it's often difficult for us to share how we're feeling involves the uncomfortableness in sharing how we're truly feeling.  I recently read somewhere that it's much easier to say "yes" than "no" when asked to do something because a no requires an explanation.  Agreeing to do something by answering "yes" to a request is sometimes easier because it doesn't require us to explain why we would or would not like to do something.  Similarly, when someone asks us how we are it is much simpler to just respond with a quick response with little to no real thought.

Telling someone that you're not doing very well may put both the asker and the responder in an awkward position.  First of all, the asker may regret having asked the question in the first place, thinking something to the effect of, "I was just asking how you are to be polite, I'm not exactly interested in your life story."  These exact words may not be going through the asker's mind but I think that somewhere along the line society has taught us that most of the time when we ask someone how they are doing, it is mostly out of common courtesy and not from a place of genuine concern.  An exception to this comes when we find ourselves talking with a close friend or family member with whom we feel we can place our trust.  Having someone who will empathize (not sympathize) with us can be crucial in moments of deep despair.

As I mentioned before, it is not only the asker who may feel uncomfortable with an uncommon answer.  The responder, who desires to be truthful on the one hand and not a burden on the other, may find it challenging to find the middle ground between these two responses.  Someone who is feeling less than "well" may be hesitant to share that with others with the fear that (s)he may be misunderstood.  Perhaps the person with whom (s)he shares may blow the situation out of proportion.  I must admit here though that there are many people in this world who genuinely care for others and I am so thankful for these people.  Also, I know that sometimes we may just feel that we don't have time to sit with someone and discuss how their every feeling.  However, when you find yourself falling into that second category I challenge you to remind yourself of a time when you were feeling distraught and felt as if you had no one with whom you could speak.  How much of a difference would it have made to you to have someone just sit with you and listen for a minute?  Perhaps you didn't even know how to express how you were feeling, but just having someone sitting there in the silence with you would make all the difference.

So sometimes we may not say anything because we don't want to burden others.  Similarly, we may choose not to just sit and be with someone simply because we feel ill-equipped.  It is not that we aren't willing to sit with the hurting person, we've just convinced ourselves that nothing we can do or say will help.  It could be true that nothing we say will help a person to snap out of his/her downward cycle but what is the alternative?  Sitting in silence with someone could save a life.  I would like to make an important point that it is important to ask the person what you might do to help and possibly suggest if (s)he would like you to sit with him/her.  Sometimes people may just need to be alone with their thoughts for a time.  Other times people will welcome a companion as they wrestle through seemingly unexplainable thoughts and/or feelings.  The important thing is to ask what is best appropriate at that time.

So what do we do with all of this?  I think the answer is twofold: First, when asking people how they are we must really mean it and be willing to accept the response.  Second, when people ask us how we are, we must be willing to state the truth and accept empathy from others.  We can go on thinking that people are against us and that we are in this alone, but that will only isolate us further.  If we speak truthfully about our feelings and let others into our lives, we may be surprised at the amount that people really care about us.

Through all of this there is one additional point that I would like to make: choosing empathic responses is choosing to feel with someone, while choosing sympathetic responses is choosing to feel for someone.  When someone around us is experiencing a difficult time it is immeasurably more helpful to figure out how to feel alongside that individual than it is to feel sorry for him/her.  Perhaps we move to showing sympathy more often because it is so much easier.  However, if we can learn to be more empathic, I strongly feel that we will be better equipped to build deeper and lasting relationships.

Finally, I just want to reference my initial sentence before I end this post.  Though I have recently been in a rather dark place I have no intention of ending my own life.  It is not that I want to kill myself, but rather I want to live my life alive.  I've been pretty isolated lately which leaves me to my own thoughts, which can get pretty dark.  However, I have hope that life will go on and that I'm going to make it.  I know that life will never really be rainbows and butterflies and it's foolishness to believe that the happy moments are the only ones that matter.  At any rate, I will go on living and look forward to continuing to share this life with you all and growing ever closer to you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


It's not a word I want in my vocabulary.  Or maybe it's just not a word that I don't want to have a preference toward.  Everything in my life lately feels so much like nothing that I just don't know where to turn anymore.  I'm running out of options and I'm running without moving.  Where do I go? I'm stuck in this lonely, though populated desert.  Who do I talk to?  I don't want this life to just be on repeat as it is lately.  Nor do I desire to be a statistic.  So what then?

Do I quit?  Do I start something new?  What does it look like to start over?  How does one do such a thing?  I don't know what to do anymore.  Everything seems like nothing and I'm repeating myself.  All these connections feel like dialup.  They feel like there is barely meaning.  Meanwhile I've been at work for over two hours and no one else has even showed up.  So then what?

Do I check myself in?  Do I try and rise myself?  Who is there?  Why do I feel so much like an island in this sea of people?  What people?  Where?  Help.  I don't know what's going on.  I don't know where to go.  I'm stuck.  Houston is a flypaper of comfort.  Who will help me?  Help is a cry, but not a shout for sympathy.  Help is a gentle whisper with my mouth closed for empathy.  For togetherness.  Who is here?  Who will hear?  Help.

How do I help if I can't help?  Help.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Am I an Island?

One quick thing before I go.  Motivation comes slowly these days.  I can go to the bookstore, browse more books.  I can sleep on the sofa.  I can even leave my apartment in an attempt to get something done.  The problem is once I get there my mind seems to stop working.

Depression is real.  I don't want to use it as a crutch but that even seems to be a way for it to get to me.  "Don't claim depression as a reason for your problems," it tells me, "you're just being lazy and anyone else would be doing something in your situation."  That's just not fair!  I want so desperately to get these things done but I feel blank.

Meanwhile, I feel like an island or a lighthouse.  Everyone's just sailing passed me.  A bird almost flew into me, how does that happen?  Anything I do feels like nothing, yet it requires so much more effort than usual.  Some people might say to just join up with people and talk about it.  It seems so easy but it's not.  I'm stuck here at a place where I feel like I can't really move forward.  The main group of people that I could potentially be reaching out to don't seem to be the right ones.  Am I being too picky?

Help.  Help.  Help.

But remember empathy, not sympathy.