Looking for Feathers

 

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I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

 

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Howard Zinn

 

That was all a man needed: hope. It was lack of hope that discouraged a man.

— Charles Bukowski

 

It’s real easy for someone with depression, like myself, who tends to view the world through a rather dark lens to begin with, to abandon all hope in the future when looking at the state of things in the present.

The news is constantly discouraging, courtesy and manners have all but vanished from society, and kindness, compassion and morals are well on their way to doing the same thing.

I keep looking for reasons to hope, to believe in a brighter day on the horizon but, lately, despair takes up more head and heart space.

I guess it’s partly because, the older I get, the less faith I have in people. I’ve seen more cases of them giving in to their baser instincts, not their better natures. And the difference is in who they serve: themselves, or others.

Also, giving up hope is just easier; I don’t have to do anything. Hope takes work. If you’re gonna hope, you’ve got to care. And if you’re gonna care, you have to actively engage.

And that’s where the old blood, sweat and tears come in. Nelson Mandela spoke of “one’s feet moving forward,”; Howard Zinn talked about “the energy to act.” They knew what I still need to learn: hope isn’t a state of thinking or feeling.

It’s a state of doing. If I don’t feel hope, I just have to make some. People through the whole course of history have done so, when facing the most impossible circumstances. I owe it to them to do the same.

So, wish me luck. I need, and want, to find hope soon. And, I have a suspicion, a lot of us do.

 

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

The Big. Six. Ohhhh!

 

The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

“Time”, Pink Floyd

 

When I was a kid, I thought 60 was old.

As I turn 60 today, I still think so.

Sixty. It just sounds old to me. It means I’m now officially an Old Man..

And no B.S. about “60 is the new 40.” It’s the same old 60, if you ask me.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me already, for corn’s sake, as Fred Mertz used to say.

I’m hiring a private detective to track down where all the previous years went. I’ve done the math over and over, and get the same answer. Something is definitely amiss here.

On the bright side, I’m eligible now for lots of discounts.

 

I don’t know; turning 40 and 50 didn’t seem to bother me as much as this does. Maybe I’m more worried about my future: A, how much longer will it be and B, what kind of health will I be in?

Before I go any farther, I acknowledge all you geezers out there who left 60 in your rearview mirror some time ago, laughing at my lamentations over turning “just 60.”

Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve never been here before, and it’s a little scary. And, given my resting state, somewhat depressing.

Despite said depression, though, I must say that I’m glad to still be around. Most days, anyway. The bad days ain’t all gone, but they are fewer. For now, at least.

And, for that, I’m grateful.

 

I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things by now but, honestly, I’m not so sure what, if anything, that would be. In some ways, I feel like I’m still trying to learn how to be a man. Even at 60.

(The word man has always felt awkward to me, anyway. I still think of myself as some goofy kid a lot of the time.)

I realize I still have much to learn about love, respect, compassion, forgiveness, patience, good health, and a few other things. I guess the lessons never end.

I guess they’re not supposed to. I used to think, by the time I reached 60, I’d finally have things figured out. Turns out, not even close; I feel about as clueless now as I ever did. Must be a really slow learner.

So, onward I go, my hair more gray and less voluminous, my back a little more bent, my feet garbed in the age-appropriate socks and sandals. I’ve got my health, my job, my stunning good looks (Ha!), my friends and family, my lovely wife of now 35 years, and our two spoiled rotten cats, Izzy and Lizzy. Life is pretty good for this Old Man.

Well, gotta go. I got an early bird dinner to get to. Outta my way, whippersnapper!

 

Notes From the Dungeon

 

In my head is not a pleasant place to be these days.

Thoughts of despair, of hopelessness, of emotional weariness. Of just a general fatigue with it all.

Monsters from without and within, each taking its turn at me, no letup.

Thoughts of putting an end to all of it. Yeah, those thoughts.

Oh, depression, you’re so much fun to have around.

 

This isn’t really stuff I want to share, but I need to show the bad side, as well as the good.

It ain’t always like this (fortunately), but it’s not all zippity-doo-dah, either. This $#!t can pull me down pretty quick.

And sometimes, I even want to stay down. How twisted is that?

It’s just part and parcel of my life. Unfortunately, that means it’s part of my wife’s life, too. I hate that.

This, too, will pass; I know it will. Just sucks at the moment.

Hopefully, the next post will be cheerier. Love to you.

Wishing Your Life Away, One Friday At a Time

 

Typical workplace conversation, Monday through Thursday of any week:

“How’s it going?” “Be going better if it was Friday!”

“How’re you doing?” “Just trying to make it to Friday.”

“Is it Friday yet?”

“This would make a good Friday, wouldn’t it?”

“I sure wish it was Friday!”

Typical workplace conversation, any Friday:

“YAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!”

“FINALLY!!”

“How’s it going?” “Great, it’s FRIDAY!!”

We say this Every. Freaking. Week.

Mondays through Thursdays are simply annoyances, standing in the way between us and our precious, sacred weekends. And Fridays are the golden gate through which we cross into those oh, so longed for Saturdays and Sundays.

And then, just like that, the weekend is over, Monday returns, and the longing begins anew.

Sorta sad, when you think about it.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my weekends, absolutely. It’s my chance to wake up without an alarm clock, unless you count my cat. I’m not putting on the uniform I wear through the week as I drive my shuttle bus; I can actually wear other clothes. I can spend time doing what I want, instead of what I get paid for. Weekends get two thumbs up from me.

But, I don’t know, I guess I worry some that I’m rushing my life along, looking for the next Friday down the road. It’s not like I can store up all the Mondays through Thursdays to use another time. Once they’ve passed, they’re gone for good. And as I rush headlong to my 60th birthday, I’m becoming more sensitive to the value of all those days in between the Fridays.

I know I should experience each day just as it is: the people who come my way, the food I eat, the weather I encounter, the opportunities, the circumstances, the sights, the sounds, all of it. After all, who knows if we’ll make it to Friday, or if Friday will make it to us?

But it’s going to take a major mental adjustment to begin taking and appreciating each day for the singular treasure it is. If any of you can offer some tips on how you do it, I’m listening.

 

On a somewhat brighter note, this is the first post I’ve managed to finish after several weeks of false starts, so I take this as a small victory.

A Strange New Sound

 

Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you

”The Air That I Breathe”, The Hollies

 

Ah, my friends, to breathe is a wonderful thing.

Just a week ago, I had nasal polyps completely blocking any air from entering my left nostril, and partially blocking the right one, a condition that had persisted for months. The task of breathing was mostly relegated to my mouth, which was highly annoying.

(the task, that is, not my mouth)

(though my mouth can also be highly annoying)

But now, thanks to endoscopic nasal surgery, I can take in precious oxygen through both sides of my nose. Yaaayy!!

Sorry, but when you’ve been denied something for so long, to finally have it again is a big deal. (Some husbands might identify with this feeling.)

And you know it’s been a long time when you notice a sound that’s, at first, unfamiliar to you, but then, you finally recognize the sound of air entering your nose.

A beautiful sound, I tell you.

My sincere thanks to the surgeon and the hospital staff, whose care and professionalism were present all the way through this procedure.

And thanks to all who had me on their minds last Friday morning as I was having this done. I felt all your well wishes.

Everyone, take a deep breath, and appreciate how easy it is.

And, if it isn’t, go see a doctor. Breathing is kind of important.

From Your Little Boy

 

You idiot! Why are you such an idiot?

How stupid can you get?

Shit, talkin’ to you is like talkin’ to a child, sometimes.

You cotton-pickin’, half-witted idiot!

 

I know that, over the course of our life together, you said many kind, loving words to me. I know you loved me.

I loved you, too. I admired you. I looked up to you. I wanted to be just like you.

And I hung on to every single word you said to me.

Including all the ones at the beginning of this post.

The ones that sliced deep into my heart. The ones that told me I was a failure in your eyes. The ones that have haunted me ever since, and I still struggle to forget.

As far as I’m concerned, I am an idiot.

And so, for the rest of your life, I couldn’t look at you without imagining you looking back at me and wondering how you ended up with such a stupid son.

 

I never told you this. I couldn’t.

I guess I thought it was something I had to just get over. Maybe it is.

But, dammit, it’s tough. Even with the memory of how good you were to me. (And you were.) Even with the memories of all the good times we had together. (And we did.)

You’ve been gone nineteen years, but even if you were here now, I probably still couldn’t tell this to you.

So, this is as close as I’ll ever get, I guess. Now that I’m nearly 60.

On some level, I forgive you. I know you were angry or frustrated when you spoke these words to me.

But, I could never convince myself you didn’t mean them, anyway.

Shouldn’t be so freakin’ sensitive, right? Dads say this $#!t to their sons all the time.

 

At the end of all this rambling, I guess all I really wanted to say is, I wish I had told you.

So you could apologize. And we could embrace. And it could be behind us. And everything would be okay.

But I guess I couldn’t do that right, either. Sorry.

 

#Where’s Me?

 

I’m still here, for better or worse.

One of the things you deal with when you have depression is an inability to concentrate. Your mind becomes somewhat scattered, and it’s hard to focus for any length of time.

In my case, I have a hard time reading a blog, let alone, writing one. Writing is generally something I enjoy, but when it’s this much of a chore, it takes away the fun.

Or maybe, I just don’t like having to work harder. Frankly, I’ve never liked it. I know it’s supposed to be rewarding in the end but, Jeez…

Anyway, that’s why I have a few blog posts started, but none finished, and why you haven’t heard from me in awhile. I have an upcoming appointment with my psychiatrist to see if, perhaps, my medication needs some tweaking. I’m feeling like, maybe it does. We’ll see.

 

In the meantime, a few short takes, since that’s about as long as I can stay on any one topic:

If you seriously think a wall at the border is gonna keep anybody out, you’re incredibly naive. Period.

Does anyone really need to hear the State of the Union address? I say, let’s skip it this year. Maybe, next year, too.

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets my early vote for Congressperson of the Year. If you don’t know her, Google her. And incidentally, I’m thrilled to see the diversity in this Congress. Fewer old white guys in there is a good thing, far as I’m concerned.

Let’s be clear about climate change. The planet Earth is not in any danger; we are. The planet will keep right on going long after we’ve brought about our own extinction. Which we’re currently on the fast track to doing.

I can’t stand the New England Patriots, but I gotta give it up for quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, going to their ninth Super Bowl together! That’s just plain crazy. I still hope they lose.

Congatulations to former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, the first player to ever be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote. Not Ruth, not Cobb, not Williams, not Robinson, not Mays, nor any of the immortals who have entered the Hall before him. That’s how significant this is.

 

So, I guess I’ll close for now. At least, I didn’t quit on this one halfway through, so I feel pretty good about that. Take care, y’all.

___ New Year

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

King Henry, “Henry V”, William Shakespeare

 

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.

Author unknown

 

Well, Happy New Year, everybody!

Just curious: how many New Year Resolutions have been blown completely to smithereens by now?

I know, that’s mean. Sorry.

My resolution is to lose more hair this year. Pretty sure I can keep that one.

I realize it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. I’d like to post more often than I do; really, I would. It’s not like I don’t have things on my mind and my heart. I have a lot, actually.

But, it’s a fight for me to just write this.

My level of concentration is low these days. My brain just can’t seem to stay focused on any one thing too long. Just a byproduct of depression.

Another is the temptation to delete everything I write. So I’m posting this before I give in.

Bye.

 

Year End Review

 

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As another year draws to a close, I’m still here. Alive.

Now, that may not sound like that big a deal to you, but all my fellow depression sufferers out there can appreciate the significance of that statement, because they know.

They know how much of my time is spent in absolute indifference to everything and everyone, and much of the rest of my time I’m depressed or angry.

They know nobody wants to see any of that, so I try to hide it around other people. Except my poor wife, who gets the whole experience, making her life much tougher than it ought to be.

(I truly hate that.)

They know self-care is not much of a priority, despite focusing most of my attention on me. My doctor tells me exercise helps with depression, but if I don’t care about exercising…

They know that, deep down, I actually hate feeling like this, that I actually want to get better, but I’m my own biggest obstacle to that process. I stopped seeing a therapist; I mean, if I haven’t taken to heart the suggestions she’s offered me already, what’s the use going anymore?

And they know the indifference can occasionally skate out onto the thin ice of desperation, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

So, to still be here – living, breathing, at the end of another year – is, if not an accomplishment, a relief, at least.

Fortunately, I know, worst-case scenario, I have lifelines to hold onto so I don’t fall through the really thin ice.

Which is good to know.

 

I know this is the time of year to be jolly, and I’m sorry if I just dumped a bucket of cold water on that. I just wanted to let you know how I am as we approach a new year. I don’t know what’s in store next year, but somewhere in me is the hope that I can begin to move forward, mentally and physically, toward better health.

Meantime, I promise to have as Merry a Christmas as I can. 😊 Please do the same, all of you. Enjoy family, friends, food, music, decorating, shop…no, not shopping, forget that. But all the rest.

’Tis the season, after all.

 

 

 

More Requests for Your Carolers

 

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So, about this time a year ago, I shared a list of some of my favorite renditions of Christmas tunes; some familiar, others, less so.

Well, here’s a few more of my favorites for you to check out. Enjoy:

Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Céline Dion. The first one, a reminder to keep the Christmas spirit alive year round; the second, an uptempo love song about spending a special night with your special someone.

I’m also including The Prayer, by Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli. Even though it’s technically not a Christmas song, it’s included on Céline’s holiday CD, These Are Special Times. But, everybody deserves to hear these two sing together. Andrea is, for my money, the greatest vocalist in the world, and the note he holds at the end of this piece is absolutely breathtaking.

Run Rudolph Run (live), Bryan Adams. Bryan does this Chuck Berry classic justice.

Jingle Bell Rock, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Everybody knows the Bobby Helms rendition, but this instrumental take is a lot more fun.

‘Zat You, Santa Claus?, Louis Armstrong and the Commanders. Louis gets an unexpected visitor one night. Who might it be? Hmmm…

Someday at Christmas, Stevie Wonder. This song was originally released in 1967, but its message is as timely as ever, which means, unfortunately, Someday hasn’t arrived yet.

Louisiana Christmas Day, Aaron Neville. A little zydeco music for Christmas. It’ll get your feet movin’.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (live), The Christmas Can-Can, Straight No Chaser. Two hilarious tunes by this men’s à capella group.

Christmas is Just Around the Corner, Barry Manillow. Barry knows how to deliver a happy tune, and this one about anticipation of the Big Day is yet another example.

Silver Bells, Kenny G. Jazzy instrumental version, with Kenny G.’s smooth sax out front.

Please Come Home for Christmas, Eagles. Fellow Texan Don Henley gives this one the proper blues treatment.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Vince Vance and the Valiants. Country Christmas ballad featuring terrific lead vocals by Lisa Layne.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey. Yeah, this is the one we all know. Mariah rocks it.

Little Saint Nick, The Beach Boys. Because, after all, it just ain’t Christmas without The Beach Boys, am I right?

O Holy Night, anybody. Best sacred Christmas number of them all.

 

There you are. Enjoy the music you love with the people you love this holiday season. Season’s Eatings, um, Greetings. Peace and love to you all.