Something About Apples

My dad and I have never really had the best relationship.  It’s always been tough for me (and I’m guessing him as well) to find common ground between the two of us.  I’m 35 and he’s 61.

I suppose you could say I grew up in a pretty traditional family.  Mom stayed home and took care of us kids while dad was away earning the bread.  It was this set up that lead me to become closer to my mother.  She was always there with us – guiding, nurturing, and disciplining.  She made meals and helped us with our homework.  That had to have been hard raising five children.  I have so much respect for that woman.

Throughout my juvenile years the relationship between my mom and I strengthened like a piece of wood.  Like every relationship we’ve had our disagreements and rough spells, but we always got through them.  Nothing hung us up.  In the meantime, as I aged, I was feeling more and more alienated from my father.  I’m sure my rebelliousness and lack of experience had a lot to do with our headbutts.  And, knowing myself, confrontation pushes me away from people.  However, it’s not pushed me away from him entirely.  We still talk here and there and its usually pretty good when we do.

Fast forward to present day and even as a 35-year-old I still find it tricky to connect with that 61-year-old man.  Since starting therapy again I’ve presented with the idea that my dad may not have been available as much as he should have been when I was younger.  I’m still working on discovering how this may have effected me as a young boy and teen.

But just this week something happened.  I had missed him on Fathers’ Day.  I tried calling home a couple of times to reach him, but never got through.  He sent me a text the next day saying he was sorry for missing my calls and wanted me to call him back when I got the chance.  So I did.

We spoke for a good hour.  I chatted him up on my struggles and challenges; through therapy and medication; my realizations, uncertainties and self discovery.  I’ve often heard stories of how my dad struggles with his own problems.  He’s struggled with social anxiety and depression too most of his life.  Every year we have a big family reunion in the summer.  My father will normally not make an appearance.  Its been that way for years.

Group settings have and probably will always be tough for him.  And after I opened up to my dad on the phone I was able to fully get why he is the way he is.  I’m that way too.  It became so clear to me in that instance.  We connected on a personal level.  I dare say it had been awhile.  From there the conversation took flight.

Friday night I spoke with my mom.  But, this time I was on the phone with her for two hours.  We tend to do that.  I mentioned how my talk with dad had went so well and that I realized that I was a lot like him in so many ways.  I never thought I’d say that, but it happened.  For years prior I would reject the idea.  There was no way I was going to end up like him or be him or whatever!  Perish the thought!  Yet, it’s as they say, the apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree.

My mom filled me in on other things my dad experienced when they were first together.  Turns out we both struggle with same stuff: depression and anxiety.  My dad, like me, would get down for no apparent reason and sometimes it would last for a week or so. She told me how it used to make her feel like she had done something wrong, but she soon realized that it wasn’t her fault.  Now she just deals with it knowing along the way that it’s just how he is.  The conversation continued.

Within a few short days I’ve learned something very valuable.  My dad may not have been available as often as he could’ve been, but now I understand why.  When I get depressed or riddled with anxiety its difficult to be available for anyone let alone myself.  It’s a constant trip between being okay and not.  And when I’m “okay” I’m trying to pick up where I left off and remember where I was at before I fell.  This dance can be taxing.  And through the thick of it you’re trying to keep together the one dynamic that matters most: you.  Family and friends may get the raw end of the deal.  For me, a good even balance is hard to come by.

There’s no denying our roots.  We are our parents’ children and whether we like it or not we’re going to inherit something from them.  No matter how hard we try to resist becoming like them there’s no escaping genetics.  And instead of fighting it, embrace it.  Learn from it.  Read the manual.  Be curious.  It took me a long time to realize this, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling some relief because I allowed myself to open up and let my guard down… judgement free.

 

Let’s See Some I.D.

Since April this year I’ve been writing in a journal.  I never saw myself doing this until I had a momentary lapse of insanity back in March.  Creating music has always been a good outlet for me to express difficult feelings since I find it challenging to just open up sometimes.  I would play guitar or dibble dabble with beats on my laptop.  I did that for years.  It was always my “go to.”  But, early this year that changed.  I found myself not enjoying it.  My interest was starting to fade and it scared me.

I’ve always been critical on myself.  I’ve spent years believing that I had to reach for some standard that would somehow insert me into the music biz.  Sure, I’ve had lots of enjoyment just playing and writing over the years, but nowadays it feels like I’m playing music for the wrong reasons.  The role it once portrayed in my life has appeared to have up and vanished.  These days it feels more like work and that’s not good.

As I get older I notice that I’m setting a slower pace for myself.  With guitar as an example, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to focus on what my fingers are doing.  My fingers start to blur and I get easily overwhelmed by too much movement.  I start losing focus and coordination.  It sucks.  I didn’t see that one coming.

I grew up on metal and it was this style of music that inadvertently made a huge impact on me and my musical life.  I still love listening to it though.  Blast beats and lightning fast riffing; chunky grooves and brutal vocals are still very entertaining to me.  I used to strive to be that.  But, now I don’t want to be that.  Not right now, at least.  The same feelings arose when I fell in love with EDM.  I still dig it and love that sound.  I thought I wanted to be a DJ.  And now?  Nope.

And that’s really hard for me to come to terms with too.  Something that I identified with for so long is taking a backseat in my life.  Heck, more like not even in the vehicle!  It’s so unreal.  It’s like watching a strong marriage of twenty years suddenly end.  Why?  How could this happen?  The same goes for electronic music composition.  I’ve got nothing.

Since I’ve been writing, these changes have become more prevalent.  Switching gears from music to prose has been a big change – a good change I think to be perfectly honestly.  My intentions and expectations perhaps poisoned my ability to enjoy writing music and playing.  I don’t know.  It’s hard to explain.  But, since I’ve been breaking out the journal weekly and blogging I’ve been learning a lot about myself and realizing some things along the way.  I am not who I thought I was.

Not only that, but I’ve seen that writing is something that I’ve been enjoying just for myself.  I don’t feel this urge or need to hurry up and share what I’ve done with the online community.  No expectations.  No limits.  Just pure freedom in my words.  I don’t care how many followers I have and I don’t care about how many people read this.  It doesn’t matter.

I used to draw a lot when I was younger.  About a month ago I picked up a sketch book and some fine point pens.  I started drawing again.  AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!  I don’t feel compelled to snap photos of sketches and plaster them all over Facebook.  Like writing I’m more focused on the present moment of creating rather than jazzing myself up for what the end result is going to look like only just to be disappointed with the finished product.  That’s just insanity.  I’m through looking for validation and acceptance.  I’m sick of seeking that spotlight like so many others are.

You know, I told myself that I wanted to learn how to play piano.  But, maybe I should wait it out.  Maybe music isn’t the answer right now.  Maybe I’m just destined to go down a different path this time around.  I don’t have to let one thing, like music, define who I am.  I’m a human being fully capable of trying anything: pass or fail; hit or miss.  The world has so much to offer and I’ll only be on this planet for so long.  Make the most of it.

Sticks

I saw the word ‘imaginary’ scrolling through the Daily Prompts looking for inspiration.  I’ve not written much recently and I’ve noticed that my fingers haven’t met keys in some time.  I’ve realized that I’m not always going to talk about my problems on here.  I’ll keep it light and jovial when I feel the need to crack a smile or two.  SO IMAGINARY it is.

When I saw this word a memory came to life in me.  I envisioned a time when I was quite young, perhaps eleven or twelve.  I used to be obsessed with sticks I’d find out in the woods.  What boy wasn’t?  I would pretend they were futuristic laser blasters and while alone in the forest on my parents’ property I would pretend I’d be running head first into battle – plunging myself into a great war where the odds were always against me.

Cartoons have always been a big part of my life.  I can say that I probably watch more cartoons than I do live action shows.  I’m a 35 year old kid and not ashamed of it.  Among some of my favorite cartoon shows was X-MEN.  You know, the original from 90’s.  It was on every weekday after school at 3 or 3:30 PM.  I loved that show.   After watching an episode I’d promptly head outside.  Mostly because I had to.  My mother would say to my siblings and I, “Your father doesn’t want to see you sitting on your dead assess.”  Colorful, but as an adult now, especially with the increase of media, I get it.  So, again, I’d head for the treeline.

Once outside my imagination would ignite.  At times I’d find a good sized stick.  More like a branch.  One that was slightly taller than I, preferably with no bark.  If I had to make alterations it was no bother.  All part of my master plan.  This was my staff.  A staff of great power and majesty.  I could summon anything with it.  I could devastate anything with it.  I was almighty with this staff.  I’d rapidly blink my eyes to create special lighting effects for explosions I’d cause with my staff.  My mouth would attempt to conjure the sounds in sync.  I’d venture deeper into the woods.

Sometimes I’d test my strength.  Often I’d just grab a stick off the ground and swing it like a baseball bat squarely at the side of large solid tree.  My goal was to snap the stick in half and, if I did so, feel good about it.  I’d jeer and brag like I was taunting an opponent or a crowd.  Maybe even flex a little if no one was watching. Occasionally one of my sticks would outsmart me. The result of me whacking said deceiving branch against a tree would result in a rattling vibration that would travel through my hands and arms causing some funny discomfort.  That’s usually when I’d stop proving my might and just accept being second best.  Resorting to pushing over dead trees would prove a better (and safer) altenative.

I grew up on 26 acres of land seated in the Swan Creek Region of Swanton, Ohio.  My parents’ property is made up of mostly thick forest that my dad mowed a good long trail around with his Kubota.  I have good memories of growing up and part of that was being able to spend time in the trees.  One day the imagination faded and my trips into the woods became less and less.  Fighting battles and ruling the world gradually turned into sneaking out to smoke with friends.  Funny how things change.

 via Daily Prompt: Imaginary

… and then I went blank

I felt guilty yesterday.

It had been the first time in a while that I had five days off in a row.  I guess in most cases a lot of people would be jumping for joy to have that kind of time off.  But, for me it wasn’t the case.  Not at first.

Last Wednesday I was really looking forward to being off work for a little longer than usual.  I always get Memorial Day off and generally its adds up to a three-day weekend for me.  But now that I only work Monday through Wednesday I was sure I was going to have a nice five days off.

The first few days went fine.  I ended getting the relaxation that I needed after a jam-packed work schedule.  Sadly, I’m still trying to get rid of this cold I inherited weeks ago.  It seems to shift to different locations in my body.  Now I’m congested again and there’s a pain in my left ear.  My hearing is a little muffled on that side now.  Wonderful.

With the weather being beautiful on Saturday I spent the afternoon at La Mauricie National Park hiking and sight-seeing.  The only complaint I have is that there were swarms of these little biting flies everywhere.  It made my excursion a little less enjoyable than I had hoped yet I still managed to kill about four hours there and took some great photos along the way.

Now normally Monday I head back to Vermont.  Monday marks the beginning of my routine and I’ve just grown accustomed to waking up early those mornings and hitting the road.  But, this time I didn’t do that.  I got to sleep in a little.  I got to see my wife yesterday morning which is a change of pace because she’s usually sleeping like everyone else at that early of an hour.  After she left work I started doing laundry.  Then I just sat and zoned out.

I felt lost.  I felt strange just not being on the road; not having left earlier.  There was really anything else that needed to be done around the house nor could I think of anything productive to do.  I started watching Netflix.  Then I switched over to Fallout 4.  I didn’t feel good.  I had this feeling of guilt.  Like I should have been doing something else with my time rather than nothing.  Even the things I normally enjoy for leisure were not enjoyable.  I got depressed.

I did my best to shake the feeling off.  So after a little debating I changed and hopped on the treadmill for a good forty-five minutes.  That seemed to help in the moment, but once I had finished exercising I went right back to feeling useless.  Why?

I struggle with this.  When I feel like I’ve had too much time to do whatever I want and that free time perpetuates I start feeling really guilty.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be that I’m off.  Sometimes it just happens without warning.  That feeling of guilt from doing nothing is haunting.  I don’t like it.  It’s as if my existence in that moment has no meaning.  Like I’m not contributing to anything good; no cause, no purpose.  It’s like being in some sort of self-inflicted purgatory.

Maybe I’m over thinking this.  Maybe.  At times that’s the case.  But where does this guilt come from?  Why does it make me feel like less of a person?  Why can I not just simply enjoy doing absolutely nothing?  Is this a result of being constantly overstimulated by technology?  Or am I just being too critical of my own existence?

 

Moving Parts

Being on the road this much has stirred up some provocative thinking in me over the last few months:

  1. All that sitting can’t be good for me.
  2. There is no freedom in living out of your car.
  3. The time spent alone driving is possibly contributing to me disassociating.
  4. What other dangers are there that are not so apparent?
  5. I don’t understand how truckers can do it!

All this back and forth is a lot.  I literally drive hundreds of miles every week.  No kidding!  When I first started this venture back in October last year I was totally on board.  I must admit I was nervous; maybe even a little scared.

A large concern of mine has always been the wildlife, particularly in Vermont.  And when I say “large” I do mean LARGE.  Aside from deer and bears that can occasionally wander into the highway there are moose.  Just last night I saw one around eight PM no more than fifty feet from the main drag out in field.  He, or she, was just standing there grazing before seeing me.  The moose stopped eating, stared at me for a little bit with ears perked up, then trotted off into woods.

It never occurs to me that I’m looking straight at a moose until I get closer.  My initial thoughts are usually “Huh, that’s weird.  That one horse is just… WAIT A SEC!

Collisions involving moose can be lethal and you’re lucky if you walk away with just a few bumps and bruises.  FYI.

Not only are animals a danger, but other drivers as well.  Its said that you’re more likely to get into a car accident than a plane crash.  Every now and then this thought takes up space in my head and I can’t help but feel very fortunate that I’ve not had any close calls or fender benders.  People in Quebec drive too fast.  People in Vermont drive too slow.   No happy medium.  Here in Vermont you’ve got redneck rampage going on.  Dudes with souped pick up trucks that are too big and too loud.  In Quebec you’ve got the flashier, more sophisticated sport car types.  Ooh la la!  And everything else in between.

Another issue I face at times is just being tired.  Some days I’m exhausted.  Doing overnights at a residence for boys doesn’t usually provide me with a restful night’s sleep.  It’s not home.  Its not my own space, nor bed.  I’m either on a couch or a bed in basement.  Neither location in the house is ideal for comfort and relaxation in my opinion.  The bed I use is shared by all staff who do night shifts and is in our staff office.  The bed is surrounded by what you’d expect to be in an office.  The couch is upstairs.  Its in better surroundings, but the fact remains that its still “sleep on a couch.”  It’s not preferable.  I don’t expect work to be luxurious.

I don’t get real sleep until I go back home.  Sleep is so important.  Its a physical and mental requirement.  We should all know that.  Getting shorted on proper Zs can really effect your day.  Not being fully rested makes me irritable and irrational.  And, yes, running on five or less hours of sleep can make driving a bit tricky too.

There are many days where I don’t feel motivated to do much.  While in Vermont there are times when I get this urge to just call in and go back to Quebec.  I seek escape.  But, I don’t.  I need the money and I, for the most part, enjoy my job.  And I don’t want to further isolate myself.  I need human interaction even if it is with colleagues and clients.  I work with some fascinating human beings.

Being alone in the car gives me plenty of time to think.  This is not always good.  Negative thinking leads me down this spiral of hopelessness and fear.  And its not always easy to pull myself out of it.  One tool I’ve recently began using while in my car is meditation.  Over the weekend I was inspired to start meditating again from a blog that I read by Neurodivergent Rebel.   I highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking to get back into meditation and need a swift kick in the pants to get going.

I’ve been pulling over in a shady spot or just staying in a parking lot, set the timer on my phone for ten minutes, shut my eyes, and go.  Its been helping.  I’ve noticed that I’m starting to be able to sit better with ugly thoughts rather than spin on them.  A good start for me.

I hope that meditation will allow me to wake up a little more while out there on the road.  Not so much in the literal sense, but rather heighten my awareness of all the moving parts.  No matter how much I complain it won’t change anything.  I have to remain behind the wheel for now.  But, in the meantime, if I can find some tricks to help me get through the tougher times I will.  I’ll graciously try anything.

 

 

 

I can’t just let it hit me… can I?

One of the worst things that can happen to a guy like me with anxiety is being put on the spot.  This happened yesterday and it took me several hours to recover from it.  Its really disarming.  When it happens I freeze.  I’m at a loss and I can’t get my brain to move on to the next step.  My pulse speeds up and I can feel my heart thumping away in my chest and my head.  My eyes desperately begin scanning for an escape route.  I usually just end up looking away until the “bad thing” goes away.  It sucks.

I get hot, especially in my face.  My head goes void.  Empty.  I stop thinking.  I still hear the words of the other party who’s responsible, but I’m unable to follow nor care.  I’m in fight or flight mode.  My only way of preservation is to just disassociate and wait for the end.  And of course, time screeches to halt.  This is one of those instances where I really don’t want to be in the moment.  Oh please, please leave me alone.  Why me?  Why now?

I know I can’t avoid confrontation in my life.  Its impossible.  My actions will most definitely result in a reaction from somewhere or someone.  Its inevitable.  I can’t just weave in and out of the fabric of consequence.  Its sort of like driving in Vermont.  You can’t avoid every pothole.

And it doesn’t have to be big confrontations that set me off either.  It can just be as simple as Hey, you didn’t do this thing right or C’mon, man, just play guitar for us.  Or sometimes it can be a confrontation that hasn’t even happened yet.  Like if I’m late to work or something.  You have no idea where my mind goes.  But maybe some of you can guess.  Its exhausting.

But what I can do is try to manage my reactions better.  Try to respond more constructively.  I can’t expect the other party to know how I’m feeling, especially if they’re the ones causing my discomfort.  How would they know?  How hard could it be to just say, “Hey, I’m really not feeling comfortable right now because of this situation…” and just explain?  Seems easy enough.  Now, in order to do that I just need to not be knocked on my ass by the initial wave and not be continually throttled by the surf.

That’s something that I’m putting my focus to.  When I bind up and get defensive what do I do to control that first rush of emotion?  And secondly, if I can’t get that far then, how do I not allow my emotional response from totally overwhelming me?  The mind quakes with possibilities!

And partly what I’ve learned about myself over these past few months is that I have a really hard time taking feedback.  My pride often gets in the way and I tend to perceive feedback as negative and its translated into an attack on my abilities or self.  Maybe I’m just afraid of being vulnerable.  Who knows?  I certainly don’t.  That’s why I’m in therapy.  I’m looking to unveil the secrets of this mystery and cast away an shroud of misconception I have.

But first I need to learn to be comfortable with myself before I can receive others more comfortably. 

Late Morning Perspective

I watch the cat slumped against a pillow on a chair.  He’s drifting in and out of sleep.  His incessant licking has left his lower abdomen a buddha belly bald.  My acoustic guitar takes in some sun.  It propped up on its stand in front of the window that faces the street.  I’ve not touched it in over a month.  Its become a dormant floor ornament.

I hear a church bell singing a slow melody in the distance.  I look forward to hearing it every weekend.  Then suddenly the tempo picks up.  The bells seem to be rejoicing or spreading a message of faith to those on foot.  A reminder to the people that their church is there for them.  I’m not religious, but this is music to my ears.

There’s a pressure behind my eyes making them feel heavy and burdened.  I’m still in my striking sleepwear – a red, black and white plaid pajama bottom and a turquoise tank top with a palm tree graphic.  Three cups of coffee into my morning and I still feel sluggish.  The cat is fast asleep on the same chair in the same slump.  He’s snoring and I’m envious.

Today is a good day to be outside.  The heavy rains have dissipated and spring has sprung.  There’s this energy beyond the living room windows that excites my eyes.  The sun reflects white bursts in rear car windows as they pass by.  I’ve never seen this many stars so early in the day.  I should start putting myself together if I’m to explore this cosmos that’s teeming with life.

But now the clouds come.  They seem to wrap themselves around the world like arms.  I see tree branches quiver from uninvited winds and the stars have disappeared.  The energy I thought once to be exciting has now slowed to a crawl.  The bells sound once more as if they seek to revive the world.  An enthusiastic attempt to purge the skies befallen by gloom.

Suddenly a light begins to break through.  The tempo in the street picks up the pace.  Perhaps there really is some magic to those bells.  I still don’t see my stars, but I’ll keep my eyes open.  I guess I’ll remain awake while the cat still sleeps.