Resolutions

I do not like new year’s resolutions. They set you up for failure. Anyone with a mental illness or who has been through recovery will tell you how important one day can be, but that one day a whole life cannot make. When you flip that calendar page, it’s still just today. There is nothing magical about January 1st. If you haven’t set yourself up for success, if you haven’t really put effort into building habits and been willing to have setbacks, buying a new calendar can’t fix whatever the thing is that you hope January 1st can help.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive for change. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do things to better our life. You put so much pressure on yourself to make this magical shift at the turning of a page that there is no wonder that so many of these resolutions fail. I take a different approach. Just to clarify, I usually do this on Halloween instead of New Years. It’s a cyclic thing, following seasonal changes. It’s not important for this discussion. We want to make this time a period of change so we will demonstrate it here. Instead of grand yet vague goals like after living an unhealthy lifestyle for “x” amount of years, this year I am going to get healthy, try this. What are you letting go of this year? What are you bringing to life this year? Two questions, two answers, sounds easy. It isn’t. Let me explain.

What are you going to let go of this year? This is often huge and complicated and is such a bigger thing that it sounds. Letting go of something that is not serving you can be tough. We like to chew on old soup. It can actually become a comfort to hang on to stuff that hurts you. We are complicated screwed up messes like that. This can be hard because when we set down the negativity, we will get reminders of it and will run back to where we set it down and pick it up like a long lost baby blanket. Then we have to put it back down again and try to move on.

What am I letting go of? Expectation. I have several health issues that make life complicated and difficult. I have expectations of how I want things to be and find great disappointment when things don’t pan out. This then gives ammo to the mental illness and it starts a process that pulls me from recovery. I am going to set goals and the like but I am going to be less invested on specific outcomes. I am going to set out to do the thing but am not concerned with exactly how it turns out. It could dead end. It could be a great success. It could end in a somewhat neutral fashion. I will set out to do the thing. I will take life as it comes and deal with what shows up. Having a positive response to what is going on around me is the goal. How do I show up to the situation? That is the goal.

What am I bringing to life this year? This one can be bigger than the first. What are you adding to your life? What is a process that you are starting? What routine are you adding? What new project is getting started? What positive thing are you adding to your life? This blog is part of my answer. I have a story to tell. We all do. I am telling it. My wife and I are working out some things that we may bring to life this year. Bringing some projects to life can be time consuming. Some of the things we are talking about may not actually come to fruition this year but the groundwork is being put down. We want to start some youth projects and are getting nudges as to what they will look like. Mapping them out is what this year will be about.

Sure I am going to eat better and exercise and all the other stuff but I am not hanging my success for the year on it. Lifestyle changes are hard and slow going. Baby steps there for me.

I hope that 2016 is a year that allows you to let go of something that is not healthy for you and it is also a year that you add something positive to your world.

Namaste

Rev J

The Plan, not My Plan

Last week I had grand plans. I had three topics to write about. I had things to do, goals to accomplish. I had the idea that my plan was the plan and was motivated and excited. That is not what happened. My plan was not he plan. A couple years ago, this would have completely derailed me and I would have let my diagnoses get the better of me and I would have ended up in a bad place. The thing is, I had some unpleasant stuff to do and some really important stuff to do that I had not considered because they had not manifested yet.

I was going to write about Christmas, a new way of looking at church and another topic that I cannot even remember. Instead I had to take care of people and things. have a dog, Jack, who is in very poor health. He has a couple of health issues that are making things real tough for him right now and last week was a bad week for him. So I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor with my buddy. I also kind of aggravated my back problems sitting on the floor with a dog, so I had some self care to deal with. My wife also got a couple different kinds of sick within a couple of days so I spent time with her. Then the bomb dropped.

Our home has always been a haven. It is known to our friends, family and friends of our friends that our home is a safe place to be. When you are having problems with your mental state, such as major anxiety or your mental illness is out of whack, you are feeling alone or afraid, or if you need a safe place to land while you are falling, we have an open door. Such an event happened last week and we had to put things on hold to help a beautiful, broken soul find cover. I won’t go into that particular story because it is not mine to tell, but with everything else that was going on last week was a challenge.

Add to this the family drama of dealing with the holidays in my world and last week was a huge challenge that tested all of our limits but we got through it and the holidays came and went with far less pomp and fuss than what is usual. All of this activity and chaos brought me to a point of reflection. I had broken moments to think on what is really important, what really matters.

Family matters. We need to circle the wagons around the family that there is and make sure that connection stays.

Friends matter. We are home bodies and introverts at heart, but we do have many people that we consider friends. We need to find ways to keep those connections strong.

These beautiful souls that drop into our laps matter. We always question our parenting abilities. I think all parents do, but these lost ones keep showing up on our doorstep. We must be doing something right. They keep coming and we keep getting them pointed back in the right direction. We keep getting this push or nudge, saying there are things that are yours to do, go do them. I think we get the message at this point, finally. We don’t have any formal training, we are just parents, parenting other peoples cast offs. We don’t have much space so, for now, it is one at a time, for as long as we can, until we can get them safe. Maybe one day we can find ourselves in a bigger home so we can help more than one at a time, for longer. One day we can get the training to put the word out on a more public scale that we have a safe home for young people that need one, so we can do more for them other than crisis management, food, and hugs.

All of our great prophets and wisdom writers say the same things. Everything is love, and take care of each other. We have the love, all of us. Lets just take care of each other.

Namaste

Rev J

Thoughts on what’s next

I have finished the advent project for my blog/journal and now it is time for a next project or goal. Mostly what I have been writing so far has been completely off the cuff, no prework, out line, or advance thought other than “this is the topic”. I would like try something else. I think I can get my ideas and thoughts out better than I have been in this free writing style. I also need some writing goals.

Since my writing seems to fall into one of two categories, I am going to try to write twice a week. At the beginning of the week I will attempt to write something of a spiritual nature. At the end of the week I will try to write something that address a topic that is near and dear to my heart, mental illness or as I like to think of it, mental health. While often times these topics can and do combine into a message that is beneficial to both audiences, I would like to have the intention to be more focused.

If this blog is the precursor of my next door opening, from a spiritual perspective, I think it will do good to place more energy into what it is I am putting in here. I have purposefully placed myself in “the hallway” as I am shifting from one spiritual experience to the next. I knew it was time to shift from what I was currently doing but wasn’t sure what the next step would be. At about that same time, I was nudged into the 30 day gratitude project and that went very well. It is the first time I had written every day for that long in a very long time. It was also the first time I had made a true gratitude journal. I tried a different take and shied away from a daily list of things I was thankful for and tried to talk about specific things/people everyday that were important. I enjoyed the experience enough to tell myself that I wished more people were exposed to what it was that I was trying to do. I moved from another blog site to this one and I immediately had people outside of my social circle reading or following my words. This made me happy, not from a narcissistic self promotion standpoint but that people were reading what I had to say and enjoying the experience. It felt good.

I hope that what I have to offer is enjoyable or useful to those that have or will find my words. I am enjoying sharing them and hope to continue to do so.

Brightest blessings on this joyous holiday week.

Namaste

Rev J

Peace

This weeks topic the final week of advent, peace. Again, this can be talked about in a number of ways, but I think talking about a personal peace, an inner peace, is most relevant to own own journey right now.

This time of year can be a big challenge to your sense of inner peace. This is all of the shopping, advertising, and commercial aspects of the holiday. Your life gets busier socially and even church life can get busier and more complicated. Stresses from family interactions can deal a huge blow to your inner peace as well. I cannot forget to take time out for self care during the winter holiday season.

There are many ways to talk about inner peace and achieving inner peace. From the mystical to the practical there are many ways to manage your self care during this holiday season. From a practical side of things, boundaries and limits are essential to keeping me happy and healthy. So many things are going on and so many ways to get busy during this season. I have to look to what is most important to me and say yes to that first, then carefully look at what else is happening around me and get involved where it makes the most sense to me personally. When it comes to mental health and wellness, it is perfectly OK to be selfish. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t really enjoy what is happening and participate at a level that other would expect. This is your holiday season too. It’s OK to say no to things, even when others are applying pressures to you to participate. Take time out of your day, each and every day, for your self care. It sounds daunting to do this is this most busy of seasons but it is a must. Even if it is 10 to 15 minutes a couple times during the day, take a time out from everything and just be. Sit and read a book, listen to some music, write in a journal, or simply just sit quietly and breath. This type of thing allows you to reset your emotional levels and catch your breath.

On a mystical level this is a great time to start or reenforce a spiritual practice. I am not saying run out and join a church and get super involved. I am talking about self care. Meditation and prayer exercises can do wonders for your emotional well being as well as the spiritual. You don’t have to “buy in” to a spiritual dogma or religion to have spiritual self care. One of the biggest tools I use to manage my mental health is meditation. Taking even ten minutes out to stop, relax the body and breath in stillness controls so much of my well being. I try for 30 minutes every morning and 10 as needed, but that isn’t always possible, or so we think. What is more important, your wellness or episode 34 of that show? What is more important, your health or bubble popper thing on your device? I would say if you take it seriously, you can find 10 minutes a couple time a day to begin a meditation practice. It’s all about priorities.

When I attend a spiritual gathering and I hear something like “my peace I give to you”, I seldom think of “world peace”. I think of that inner calmness that says, despite all the chaos and confusion around me, it will be OK. That is the peace I wish for you this season and every day.

On this Holiday season I wish you peace.

Rev J

Unconditional

So this week’s topic is love. There are a lot of different places to go with this one. Love for another person is important and worth a topic. Love of a calling or hobby is worth a topic. Love as an abstract is worth a topic. What speaks to me most when the word love comes up, other than my amazing wife and wonderful kids, is self love. The thought that comes up at this time of year is unconditional love. Both of these types of love can be very hard. Some of the hardest ways to love are unconditional love of people and any kind of love directed back at yourself.

Unconditional love is sort of an easy thing to say. We must love each other unconditionally. Yeah, everyone can get on board with this one. Go us. We can do it. Then you open the internet. How easy can you live unconditional love now?

First up lets differentiate between love and like. Love is frequently defined as strong affection, concern or compassion. Like can be defined as, enjoying being with, to regard in a favorable way, to feel affection. Can you like someone and not love them? Can you love someone and not like them? I say the answer is yes. You can decide you do not enjoy being with this person. I do not agree with you or hold you in high regard. However I do love you. I love you as a human, a human who, as I am, is flawed and imperfect. I can love you but not your beliefs, thoughts, or actions. I can do those things. Do I, do you, do those things? Can you, do you, say that.

That is the key to unconditional love. For me it is saying, I love you the person. I love you that exists in this moment. We do not have to be like minded. We do not have to agree. We do not have to share a social circle or a social moment. I just have to allow you to be the imperfect person that you are and you have to allow me to be the imperfect person that I am. That is hard. I an era where everyone’s beliefs, ideas, and opinions are plastered across the internet and broadcast across the airwaves non-stop, it is all to easy to get caught in the net or hate.

It is too easy to go from disagreeing with thought word and action, and take that to hate. We have become too invested in accolades. We count our likes when we post on social media. We can up vote ideas and opinions and we can down vote them. We check and check again to see if anyone is reading our blogs, and we check comments to see how many smart people agree with us and how many idiots do not. Being right has become more important that being knowledgeable. Being right is more important that being happy. Being right has become more important that being polite. Being right has nothing to do with fact as much as it does with someone agreeing with your worldview. In this digital age, we get soundbite and blurb and we don’t know anyone, we know their status not their personality. We know them as a character, but we do not know their character. We are exposed to a steady stream of negativity and that makes it so hard to maintain a positive attitude. Once we lose the positive attitude it becomes hard to love unconditionally. They have to agree with us. They have to have the same spiritual ideals. They have to have the same values. They have to demonstrate a worthiness for our love. We set conditions every day. If only they would see it my way. If only they this. If only they that.

You do not have to agree with them, or me. You have to get into a mental and spiritual space that allows you to be different. You have to put yourself in the space where the individual matters more than the country, culture, political party, or spiritual practice. That is my challenge. I fail far more often than I succeed, but I keep trying. I keep trying to be a better me and part of that is accepting you as you are in this moment. That is hard, but it is worth it. For me the key is to recognize when I am judging and casting stones. Then individually, moment by moment, I can work on it. I can change. I can do this. It is simple but not easy. It starts with accepting, then it grows.

I hope that you will find unconditional love this holiday season.

Brightest Blessings

Rev J

About Mental Illness

I am taking pause from the spiritual side of things to address something that is very important to me. This post may help you understand the dilemma that people with mental illness are in. It is not only about managing symptoms and balancing medicine. It is also dealing with perceptions, stigma, and assumptions. Sometimes dealing with other people can be the hardest part of having an invisible illness. This post tries to explain what it can be like for someone who has a diagnosis. This isn’t a list of things I want you to know about mental illness. It is a list of things you need to know about people with mental illness.

Regret is a real thing. I feel regret about almost everything that I have ever done, even things that have turned out more or less OK Things could have been better. That one awkward things that was said or done during the event taints it and I think about it every day. Everything I have done I stained by mental illness so everything I have said or done I would like to do differently. I can’t go back and undo or redo things but I want to, everything.

Fear is a real thing. I live in constant fear. I am afraid that I might say something that might upset someone. I am afraid I might do something that will hurt or upset someone. I am afraid of reacting to something that someone else has done in such a way that the person is reminded that I have a mental illness. I am afraid or reacting in such a way that the person thinks I am coming unhinged. I am afraid of being by myself. I am deathly afraid of being around people.

Masks are real. I wear masks all the time. I wear masks at home to try to make people believe that everything is OK. I wear masks when I am in the public so that people think I am enjoying myself. I wear masks when I am at home to make people think that it was a good idea to stay home because I am not doing well. I wear masks when we go to other homes to avoid being the topic of conversation. I wear masks in other homes so we can stay longer. I wear masks when I am home alone to try to trick myself into thinking I am happy being alone. Yes, when I am alone. That is a thing. I wear masks at home to make everyone think I am happy with company. I am almost never not wearing a mask. I may have lost track of the wearer of masks.

I am almost always tired. Managing mental illness is like carrying glass balls, except you are carrying one more that you are able and they are covered in baby oil. It is exhausting to try to keep them all off the ground. It is exhausting to try to do the next right thing. I am paranoid that whatever decision that I make will be the wrong one so I over analyze everything. Every decision is a life or death crippling decision. I idea of upsetting, embarrassing or hurting someone that I love is so terrible that I am constantly thinking about what to do next, like really analyzing if I order “that” at a restaurant will that somehow be a mistake? Really.

Pain is real. I am almost always in pain. I have a health condition that is physical along with the mental illness. I hurt all the time. It is exhausting to be in pain all the time. I lose focus and screw the thing up. My physical condition impacts my mental one.

Quitting is real. I am not wimping out. If something is going too well I want out before it starts to go bad. If things aren’t going well I know what is going to happen, even if it doesn’t, and I want out. Things don’t turn out well so I don’t stick with plans. I love doing the thing and I really really want to do the thing, but it is going to turn out bad and I am going to hurt someone.

Self harm is real. No I haven’t hurt myself. I think about it all the time. It is always a possible solution to any problem. I have a low pain tolerance and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and that keeps me from going there, but it is always a totally rational solution.

Paranoia is real. I feel like everyone, even people who don’t, know I have mental illness, are waiting for the wheels to fall off. It feels, not seems, it feels, like everyone expects the wheels to come off any second. It’s tangible. It’s tactile. I feel it. When I enter a room, they know I am screwed up and they are waiting for me to screw up. I try to hard to not screw up and bam. I screw up. Even when I don’t screw up, I look back and find the screw up in the event that went off perfectly.

Fear of emotion is real. I am terrified of feeling. If I am having a good day and start to feel happy I wonder if I am headed towards mania. I wonder how the next person I see is going to reaction to that mood. If am a bit under the weather I worry that I am on a down turn. Is this leading to the pit of depression. If I let out a sigh what will the people think. If I get angry about something what will people think. Is he coming unhinged? If I don’t feel anything will people think I am growing distant? Will they think the wheels are coming off?

Worry is real. Not my worrying but yours. I know you do. I don’t want you to, but you do, because I am broken and we don’t want me to be broken. I hate that people that care about me are more or less constantly worrying about me. I worry about them worrying and I break the thing. I drop one of the glass balls. I can’t make you not worry and you can’t make you not worry. It’s part of the bizarre train track that we live on.

The last thing that I ever want to do is to say or do something that will hurt someone or hurt me. Because I am constantly trying to not do that, things get bottled up and then something little happens and I do or say the thing that I don’t want to and I hurt people. I can’t not hurt people because I am trying to not hurt people.

That is my daily struggle. How do I not hurt people? How do I make people think it’s OK? How do I let people know it isn’t OK? Even when it is OK it isn’t OK because it might not be OK and that makes it not OK. I can’t fix it because it isn’t broken at the moment but I am sure it will be broken soon so what do I do when it breaks? That is my head all the time.

This is mental illness. This is being aware of your diagnosis. This is being aware of what you have done. This is knowing.

Assumptions are real. Many times people assume something is wrong. That often causes them to react in a way that the thing they think is happening, happens. I am not the only one that sabotages the thing when there isn’t anything wrong.

What do I want people to say or do. Mostly I just want a hug and people to know I am going to screw up the thing. I can’t help it. Hug me and know I am trying. I am failing, but I am trying. I am not wanting a free pass. I want to be called on it when I start to screw up the thing. I want to be reminded that I asked to be called on it when I get mad that you called me on it. I want understanding that sometimes the wheels fall off. I try to keep them on but my hands are fully of oily glass balls. Ask me if I am messed up. Tell me it seems like X is happening. Something is probably happening, but it usual isn’t X until I think you think it’s X.

What I really want is one day when none of this is happening. Just one day.

Most days I am having a good day, believe it or not. Most of the time I am happy. However, everyday is this blog. Every day is like this. Life is good, except I am about to screw it up.

Update

No i haven’t abandoned the journal. I have a couple of topics to bring up that are in line with what I have been writing, but first, my latest posts can’t see daylight yet. It comes from a very different place and someone else needs to see it before it come here.