Category Archives: Mental Health

Behavior Prevails

Online therapy isn’t as satisfying as in-person therapy.

But cognitive therapy from a practical focus is amazingly effective for me.

One of the things I loved about in-person therapy was having the things I’d said or written repeated back to me.

It’s a stunning thing to SEE my own rationalizations exposed and repeated. It’s part of the reason I softened toward my dad. To recognize a small part of him inside of me was not a welcome realization. This kind of insight takes a while to accept, much less deal with.

There’s a huge difference when you’re talking or writing to someone who has dealt with hundreds of people and has heard every rationalization under the sun. Unlike friends and family, they experience your version of truth for what it is.

Mostly bullsh!t.

I can recap and summarize the difference quickly: I know an awful lot about human psychology and have learned a book of insights and lessons, yet, my biggest failing is not applying them to my life.

If you focus on behavior and set aside your thoughts and words, everything gets distilled to its essence.

It reminds me of one of my favorite examples. If a person never tells anyone that he or she is Christian yet lives a love-and-compassion-filled life, observers can see that your worldview is in action through your behavior. Because lovingkindness is the essence of what Jesus taught. One of my biggest problems with evangelicals is their certainty and rigidity – and focus on dogma and judgment. Live the example. That applies to me, too, in case you think my hypocrisy is something I don’t see in myself.

Likewise, if you are a loving and insightful human being, people over time should easily find that behavior consistently and clearly evidenced in your life. The things you do will be reflected in your daily life and mirror what’s in your head and heart.

When these things are not reflected? That disparity signals a problem with either your self-perception or a significant failure of behavior. If you know your motivations and what you value, the best practical approach is to examine your behavior critically.

If you are what you do, then when you don’t, you aren’t.

If you want to be satisfied or happy, you must work to remove behaviors that interfere. Happiness isn’t a realization; it’s a constant process of doing the hard work of choosing to spend your time and life finding a way to live the way that you know you want to be.

When you are closer to the sunset than the sunrise as you age, everything just looks different.

Otherwise, it is all talk, smoke without fire, and pretense.

Ugh.

But also, yeah!

Love, X
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Personal Post 76

It is possible that one death prevented another catastrophe.

It woke me up to the fact that other people would be devasted by more loss.

I don’t know what another two weeks might have brought.

Whether a fortuitous accident, fate, or simple happenstance, the universe rolled in my favor this time.

It’s been almost a year since my emergency surgery.

Thereafter, I committed to a ‘reset’ project. I failed at that on a couple of levels. I’ve kept the weight off and stayed active. My failures were personal.

The funk I experienced not so long ago wasn’t that much more profound than others I’d temporarily passed through. It was like a mile-long curtain of beads hanging from a doorway I was attempting to go through. I did, however, get wrapped in those beads, ones which got heavier the further from their source I traveled. The feedback loops in my head trapped me there. My feet were moving step by step, but no motion propelled me.

It’s a dangerous place to be.

I understand it much better now.

Being humbled does that to you. Having to look at yourself harshly is never a comforting experience.

Our egos have a way of whispering with too much bravado.

Someone in my circle recently suffered a profound loss, one which will forever demarcate her life into the before and after.

I don’t want to be a part of anyone’s loss or regrets.

The curtained beads are behind me again. I hope I retain the lesson, though. I always hate that I forget the primitive lesson of loss I learned in 2007.

No matter what happens, you have to “Get busy living or get busy trying,” something I originally was going to add to this post.

I woke up this morning with so much energy that I could feel it radiating off of me. I hope that energy converts to motivation and enthusiasm. Without those, life is a series of responses to the world around us.

I chose the picture for this post because it’s one I took a year ago when I was just happy to be outside feeling the sun on my face. That was enough – just literally standing outside in a foreign place, surrounded by trees and distant people in the periphery. Gurus have maintained for centuries that simplicity is one of the components of happiness. I’m not sure any of those gurus had to live life in this modern world.

Love, X

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The Fuse Conundrum

My sister posted an affirmational meme, and it reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago in response to people’s addictive or destructive behavior. Including my own.

“Fill your life with people who reflect who you are and who you want to be, not with those who are a reflection of who you once were and no longer wish to be.

If you’re a fuse, don’t stand near dynamite, as the results are inevitable. You start to believe it’s your purpose and inalterable. Abnormality begins to normalize patterns that aren’t ones you’d otherwise choose.

And if you are a fuse, choose to stand elsewhere. Proximity to undesirable people and behaviors infects you incrementally.

You end up with a life you didn’t choose and don’t want, and you wrongly assume, “Well, I am a fuse, after all.” That’s garbage thinking.

Every change commences with a choice.

Stay away from the fire and those who need or want you to be a fuse.

Choose.”

X
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Underwear On The Door, Part Two

This post isn’t for you. You know who are, favorite DNA person. 🙂

Most of us live in our private nests.

Pretty much everyone feels like they need to clean more, reduce more, and spend more time in the bureaucracy of keeping their nest aligned with an arbitrary level of cleanliness. That’s okay, too. Each minute spent to do so should not be at the expense of your moments, your friends, your family – but more so, at the cost of your mental well-being. Time spent concerned about how your nest looks is time not spent being creative or enjoying even simple pleasures. You become too focused on the “ought to and obligation” of keeping your nest perfect.

Stacks of mail in the kitchen, dust everywhere it can be. Clothes to be washed, clothes to be put away, clothes that don’t fit inside the closet, dressers, and on the floor. Books to be read, magazines you will never read. You don’t have a crazy drawer, you have an entire crazy room, garage, or storage space filled with miscellaneous everything. Most of us do. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there! People keep their nests largely unhidden, so we wrongly assume they don’t have the same problem as we do.

You can’t triage the physical space. Look around. For the most part, whatever condition your house is in right now, it’s probably the default. That might bother you to accept. It shouldn’t. You can fight an agonizing fight to spend a lot of time and energy temporarily fixing your space, or you can yield and do the best you can and let it go at that. Homes and nests are meant to be lived in, and you will always have to make choices to keep it pristine or lived in. You can’t have both without wasting a lot of your now moments.

The same is true about your job, your diet, your vices, and your mind.

Each person’s best is variable, fluid, and often contradictory. And that is okay.

If you have precious things, keep those that are tied to defining moments and memories in your life. The rest? Sell what you can to have the things that add value to your life.

Donate, discard, disown.

We hoard and clutter partly because it makes us feel like our place is a home, a nest, and our place to be. But we also do it because we don’t see the arc of time getting shorter and shorter.

For a later day, I might need it, it’s valuable; these are all valid reasons to keep things. But it is not things that matter. Not if you don’t use them regularly, not if they don’t light you up, or if they fail to make your life fuller and more satisfying.

“Treasures that aren’t treasured, admired, or used aren’t treasures at all. They are anchors, ones that keep up from enjoying the here and now and the people in our orbit.” – X

Out of sound, out of mind, trinkets, and treasures stored for no witness or participant.

Things are to be used or admired. Everything else? It not only clutters your nest, it clutters your mind.

Simplicity is the toughest goal. It requires herculean effort to overcome the urge to keep, to store, to accumulate.

As someone smart once told me, “Ain’t nothing you got that can’t be taken except for your peace of mind. This world honors nothing with permanence.”

Love, X
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Wait In The Truck / Southern Justice

There are a lot of bad men out in the world, whether they physically dominate or mentally degrade their wives and children. The smart ones are fiendishly clever in concealment; their masks in public are often adorned with a suit and tie, a quick smile, or an engaging personality. Growing up, I had to endure abuse. A lot of people knew it was happening. Few ever attempted to intervene. I understand the complicated issues at play for their failure. That kind of abuse, however, leaves most people with a shaky faith in their parents, their god, and of their ability to leave such trauma behind.

With that in mind, even though I am a liberal, I have always been drawn to the concept of southern justice. When someone does the right thing, even when the right thing is also terrible. It’s not revenge. It’s taking the light back from someone who isn’t worthy of its possession.

I’m not advocating violence.

I’m advocating action.

Sometimes action yields a terrible consequence yet remains the lesser evil.

Someone I know whose life suffered due to the presence of a human monster sent me this song.

It resonated exactly as expected.

Love, X
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empty space

I’ve learned that people who isolate invariably have an addiction or a trauma. Quite often, it’s one they bury; like the ghosts of a cemetery, they emerge and travel capriciously in that person’s mind. Loop after endless loop. No one else bears witness. And because angst or depth wildly varies between different people, no one really understands the profundity of what afflicts them. Some people relentlessly look ahead, leaving behind the most heinous offenses. Others get trapped in the vortex over things we judge as minor. Though the loop may be nascent and small in circumference, each cycle takes the person closer and closer to calamity. We all see it coming and are mostly powerless to stall its progress.

Cognition seldom helps. You’re not rationalizing with the individual. You’re attempting to overpower something that is both tenuous and tentacled inside someone’s kidnapped mind.

You can try to get close out of love or concern. They often rebuff you. Isolation becomes its own self-fulfilling reward. The phantom loop constantly whispers to the person trapped in a behavior; its voice is not only proximal but deafening.

Don’t fault yourself if you’ve tried to pierce that bubble and can’t. It does not mean you shouldn’t try, even if it’s futile. Because the uncaring alternative is much worse. Even if the story ends badly. Most of us will return to that wall and vainly attempt to chisel away at it, even though we fluctuate between helplessness, anger, or realization.

This is the thesis of my Bystander’s Prayer.

And despite our varying cynicism, our hope for a dramatic change sometimes happens. The alchemy of why or how is beyond calculation. If this were never the case, our behavior would automatically adjust to just accept the unacceptable before we even tried. When it does come, the change, it brings joy. Everyone loves an underdog or someone who has overcome.

If it does end badly, we promise to try something different the next time. Likely, we won’t. There will always be a next time, as this world is full of trauma and unseen damage. Most of us believe that love or some fruitful variation will be enough to convince someone that it’s time to pull up into the high clouds instead of plummeting.

When one person plummets, we all do because that person carries a piece of us with them, even if they are blind to it. It’s how friends, family, and tribe work.

If you can, keep your hammer in hand, your chisel sharp, and your optimism high. If life gets you down, you might be in the hotseat. You’ll need us to pull up, just as we need you when we’re in the loop. The horseshoe finds its way onto every hoof, no matter who you are.

X
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Regarding

This isn’t another one of those, “Look at me!” posts. It’s about how surprised by the visceral reaction I had.

As I stood near the creek earlier today, I wanted to stick my feet in there and just sit, my thoughts and my time merging – and let the day drift away. Work was busy and not at all a burden. Don’t tell my bosses, please. Enjoying work is tantamount to stealing. (That’s supposed to be funny.) The moments I had in the creek very early in the morning were still on my mind.

I walked back to the street where the bridge overtakes it. Across the way, I saw a man rifling through the pantry box by the parking lot. He pulled a couple of things out of it. It was then I noticed his old car parked temporarily perpendicularly behind the others. That car had seen some tough miles. He walked back toward it and got inside. I knew I had cash, money set aside for the quarter-eating washing machines at my apartment. I paced across the street and walked around the side of his vehicle. The driver’s window had been taped multiple times. He was leaning over away from me, leaning toward his girlfriend or wife, distracted. She motioned that someone was at the window. He popped the door open, immediately giving an apology and attempting to explain why he was there for only a short respite.

I shook my head and handed him the bill. His face underwent a transformation. First surprise, then shock. “Oh lord, thank you so much.” It seemed like he was about to cry in relief. I’m sure of it.

Completely to my surprise and spontaneously, tears welled into my eyes. I felt a sob start. I walked quickly away, waving backward as I walked, not saying a word.

Life is so effing hard for so many people.

Even people with resources and money, as foreign as that may be. Even for smiling people who pass us during the day. I get so caught up in my life’s drama that I hate to admit sometimes I gloss over people’s humanity. It’s an uncomfortable realization that you’ve been selfish when a word wouldn’t have cost you anything. All of us careen around and foolishly make assumptions about other people’s lives. Most people have facades that they put on in the morning, thinking the facade protects them. It doesn’t – the arrows will get through. Eventually.

This anecdote isn’t about me giving a stranger money. Anyone can do that and a lot of good people I know help in ways that they will never admit to. This story is about how raw I was, unbeknownst to me. I had two such moments today, one in which I transformed a prank into an opportunity to remind someone how important his great sense of humor is and how much he is valued. Even when no one seems to take the time to show it. I busted his balls a little too because that is how a lot of us show our affection.

I’m not even sure how to close this post, other than to say that today had its moments, both happy and spotted with tragic limerick.

Love, X
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