Day 29: Hope

There are three words that I do my absolute best to keep in the center of my spiritual practice. These words are hope, gratitude, and love. The one that is getting touched on today is hope. When you are on a road or path that includes mental illness, hope can be a fleeting thing. When you are walking deep in the shadows, hope can be replaced by fear, exhaustion, and hopelessness. It can be easy to lose your focus and let the self work and the progress wall from your grasp.

A dictionary definition of hope is: noun

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

This version of hope is in the search. I have hope that I can overcome the challenges of this day. This definition of hope on the outcome. I am working my program today in the hope that tomorrow will be better. This can be a desperation kind of hope that when you are at the breaking point, hope can rescue you.

The second option for this definition is:

  1. archaic

    a feeling of trust.

This is the hope that I try to live in on the day to day. I have hope that there will be better days. I have hope that there will be balance and centering. I have hope, in better days.

When people say hope is desperation and faith is what you really need, this is the hope that I am talking about. This hope can be a type of faith. This hope is a knowing. This is a secular faith. I have hope because I know I can work my program, I have the tools, and I have the practice to make better days.

Hope to me is a powerful word because hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. I have hope because I know and trust that I can get through anything. I expect to be better. I desire the outcome. I have the tools and the means to get there. I have hope.

Shadow work, and dealing with the less than positive aspects of what makes you the person that you are means that you can look at a disorder and not see just the pain, suffering and damage that you have been through and that you have caused but that you look at all of the opportunities to set things right, to learn about yourself and to grow.

Hope is the anchor point hat you tie off on when you are in the shadows, knowing that you can come back from this. You are worthy of joy and gratitude, and love. Hope is the beacon that shows you the way.

Today I am grateful for hope.

Namaste

Rev J

Day 28: Time

Spending a good portion of last week dealing with self care issues, a family tragedy, and in support of several friends that needed help, my attention and focus shifted. My attention came to the subject of time. We only get so many trips around the sun. people get sick, accidents happen, people grow old. Eventually we all check out. It’s just a matter of time.

So, here is the question for me. What am I doing with my time? What is it that I am accomplishing, working towards and celebrating? What am I leaving behind when I go? I think of greatness and legacy. I think at some time we all go there. Then I realized that perhaps I am looking at things the wrong way. I don’t have to a gigantic accomplishments to leave something behind. It sometimes takes simple steps.

My wife and I have raised three wonderful children as well as came to the rescue and support of several others. I have been a vital part of many people’s support systems. I have been a guide, a mentor, a teacher, and a minister. I have left a mark. I wasn’t the big fame game impact. It was simple gestures exactly when someone needed them to show up.

The next question is what do I want to do with the time that remains? I want to continue to have that impact on people, but I want that sphere to expand. I am not sure what that looks like at this moment, but I will find out.

We only get so many trips around the sun and today I am grateful for the time I have had, and the time I have remaining.

Today I am grateful for time.

Namaste

Rev J

Day 27: Thanksgiving

It’s thanksgiving and what better time to write about gratitude, and to write about it in a realistic way. It is easy to move through my day looking at my challenges and obstacles, only to say, see how hard my life is? I have medical and mental illnesses and injuries that can make my world very difficult.

The truth is, I have it very good. I am blessed. I have been gifted a very good life. By way of the random chance of being born in a particular longitude and latitude range, my life is inherently easy. By the nature of gender and skin tone, my world is inherently easy to manage. I do have physical damage that counters some of this and I have mental illness that counters other aspects, but by and large, I have a very good life, simply by showing up.

I am not lacking for necessities. All of my needs are met. I have shelter. I have food. I have clothing. I have clean water. I have access to health care. I have all of the basic needs covered to the point that things that aren’t necessities seem that way and they are covered as well. We have personal transportation. I have disability support. My wife has a quality job and pay. We have access to news and information. We have internet access. We have access to recreation and entertainment. Outside of the medical, I am, we are so blessed.

You can say what you want about this holiday. You can politicize it. You can make it what you will. I simply make it a time when I spend extra time to look at and be thankful for who am and what I have to be thankful for.

Today I am grateful, simple as that

Namaste and Happy Thanksgiving

Rev J

Day 26: Art

One of the most important elements of my recovery process has been finding ways to express what is going on with my mind and body. Being able to share what is happening in your bubble is so important when it comes to support, advocacy, and education. If you can’t adequately communicate where you are and what you need you can’t help yourself, you can’t ask for help properly and you can’t help other people.

There are many ways that I have expressed myself over the years. Most of that expression comes from blogging. Useful blogging, like this blog, I try to hang on to. When I was doing daily journals, I would burn them as an act of release at the end of each year. Blogging is a good way to share what is going on with you and perhaps give something useful to the reader.

Another way that I have tried to express myself is through art. This takes on different mediums. I have drawn, painted, created poetry, and created music. All of these things are expressions of who I am, where my head space is, and what I am feeling when I am in the process of creating that particular piece. I have done very little sharing of any of what I have done. Most of my art creation was personal therapy. The goal was never to share, until perhaps now.

I have always been a support person when it has come to any public performance of art. This has always been in the form of music and with one exception, it has always been in support of other performers and it has been very impersonal. I was recently asked to jump into that role once again. This would have been a very new experience for my in that the performance was going to be in support of a much different subject. I turned down that opportunity, not because it was another support role, but because it energy levels are so poor after a very taxing year.

It has got me to think, however. The thought that is now in my head is, perhaps I need to create a performance of public showing of, not what I can do as a support to another’s art, but as the artist. I have had a couple of ideas that have come and gone over the years and they have sort of gelled into one very interesting idea of multimedia expression of my recovery from mental illness and what it is like to be on the inside mental illness, and of those in support of said person. I have thought for a while that my path of expression wan in the form of a book, but perhaps not. Perhaps it is in compiling all that I do into one expression, one complete telling of a story that I feel is worth telling.

Today I think about how I express myself and my story. I express my story through my art.

Today I am grateful for art.

Namaste

Rev J

Day 25: bonus mission, Gentle Lessons

So, I have been in the habit of taking the weekend off from the blog, mainly because I have been so busy with other things on the weekend. Today my wife has a meeting at church and I have time to reflect on some stuff so I do what I do, and I start writing.

Yesterday was very strange for me. I don’t treat people the way I think they should be treated for any reason other than it simply is the right thing. There is never I hope or thought of any sort of reward or feedback loop. It is just what you are supposed to do. I am not going out of my way to do anything that shouldn’t be done. I just treat people the way I feel they want to be treated. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

I was overwhelmed with the messages I received with my birthday wishes. It is humbling and quite frankly a little overwhelming to think that I mean that much to so many people. I am not doing anything that should be considered extraordinary. I am just being nice. I received so many messaged that lifted my spirits and made me feel so good.

I see myself as a person with so many very obvious open flaws and imperfections. I get stuck in a space of these are the things that are wrong with me. These are the things that I do wrong. Then, one day, I get overloaded with messages of how I have impacted and helped people. It made me think of two things. The first, is what I do that extraordinary? Isn’t this how people are supposed to be treated? And the second is, what kind of self talk do we tell each other every day that tears down our self esteem and self worth?

Self talk, that quiet voice inside our head can be a monster. It is very easy to see our own faults so easily, but it can be so hard to see the good. Our mirror is broken. There is always work to be done and we focus so much on the work and not enough time on the success. Our self talk should include as many good elements about ourselves or our day as it does the negative.

Shadow work is important. Looking at the faults, the cracks and the work is so important to being a whole person, but shadow work is not an endless stream of negative self talk, picking away at every little imperfection. We need to celebrate our higher selves as well.

Should we all be self absorbed narcissists? No, but we should try to show ourselves some love every day. Yes we need to look for ways to improve and grow, but part of growing is loving yourself and knowing the good that you represent as well as your challenges. Sometimes our biggest growth point is the challenge of self love.

Yesterday the teacher was once again taken to school. My friends sent me gentle reminders to love myself and that the kindness I show others is important and should also be shown to myself.

Today I am grateful for gentle lessons

Namaste

Rev J

Day 24: Birthdays

So, today is my birthday. It is an important day to me for a couple of reasons. The day itself has also sort of lost a bit of focus and importance for me in other ways.

The day is less significant because, well, I am 47. At some point we stopped making huge deals about birthdays for adults in our family and circle of friends. We still wish each other happy birthday and there is a card or two, but big parties and making a fuss have traded places with low key dinners and evenings with family. The other reason is that I have a daughter that was born two days after my birthday 20 years ago and another one was born a year and six days later. Kid birthdays are a bigger deal and the reality of it is that when they were arriving I was not interested at all in celebrating getting older. My day went on the back burner and I was happy for that.

Recently, the idea of my birthday not being a big deal has shifted in my head. No, I am not looking for big parties with over decorated cake and things like that. I just realize that, by and large, my gift on my birthday is that I keep having them.

When I was first diagnosed with all of my issues and challenges, some fifteen or 20 years ago, one of the things that kept coming up in discussions and research was life expectancy. With all of the things that I have been diagnosed with, I was told and read over and over again that the average life expectancy for my “demographic” was about 40 years of age. When you are given an expiration date, it messes with your head. When I look back I can see that this little bit of news made everything worse. It really facilitated a checked out mentality. I crawled into my cave and hid. I didn’t do much living during that time and I took a long time to shift my mentality and attitude.

So now here I am, in what could be called my seventh extra inning. I am in overtime. I can’t put my finger on the event or the moment. But at some point my attitude shifted from someone who was dying to someone who was living. It was probably after the dreaded 40 barrier, but regardless of when, I made a shift. I think that shift has made things better for everyone. I am not just waiting for things to get to a point where I check out permanently. I am trying to do things and be present for myself and for the people in my life.

I appreciate a good sunrise and a good sunset. I love driving through the countryside with my wife. I love to perform and play music. I love creating and sharing. I love doing the dishes and the chores that I am allowed to do around the house. I like my time alone and my time shared with other people. I love my family, my friends and my pets. I don’t have the time or energy to get and stay angry at people and things. There isn’t and won’t be enough time. There is only now, and I need to do something with this particular now. I don’t want to waste it being negative.

Sure I miss the mark a lot. I struggle with mood swings and anxiety still. I’m going to. It’s built in to the model. It’s there. I advocate about it. I share about it. But I try to not let it define me. There isn’t time for that.

A birthday is a thumbing of my nose to the statistics that held me back. It is a celebration that I am not done yet. There is work to be done, things to do and see, and people to meet. I am not ready yet. I don’t know when that time will be and I don’t particularly care. I am here now and today. I am having a birthday.

Today I am grateful for another birthday.

Namaste

Rev J

Day 23: Escapism

This is one of those days when I didn’t have a clue what to write about until I was just wanting to start. I woke up feeling a bit mellow. Nothing in particular was going wrong, in fact the morning started out well, just in an off space. Perhaps it is the continuation of the cycle that has been present for quite some time, maybe it is the heavy dose of negativity on social media lately. It could have been what is happening around me, around many of us, lately. Or, I could have simply woke up in an off mood. Who knows, who cares. I was in a off space.

Then a friend contacted me. She is having a wide variety of challenges in her life. I listened, gave my perspective, shared some experiences, and dropped some Unity concepts on her. I was support for someone for an hour or so. I come out of it feeling a lot better about my day and about where I am in general. I spent an hour in someone else’s head space. I escaped.

Escapism can be tricky. It’s OK to check out and take a break from your challenges and obstacles, but you can’t live there. Your challenges still exist and need to be met. If you stay in other people’s spaces for too long your world will be much the worse when you finally get back to your space.

There are some benefits to escapism of this type, however. It feels good to help and support other people. I also feel that it is important to help. We are all in this together and people will need other people at some point. When you walk with someone as they untie the knots that are messing up their life, it can generate a mood shift in you as well. It feels good to help other people. It truly does.

The other way that I see this type of escapism benefiting me is that it really isn’t always escapism. This work more often than not helps me work through something that has my world tied up in a knot. As I walk through their issues, I find parallels and common grounds and I see things from fresh eyes. It more often than not reminds me of principles and wisdom that I have learned and need to do a better job of putting in to practice. It can truly be a student being the teacher scenario.

It is easy to fall outside of your own wisdom, and your own self work during your daily walk. Stuff come at you faster than you would like, you don’t respond in a healthy way to one little thing and it slowly builds up and pulls you further away from how you want to approach things. It can either be slow or it can build up and cascade down and rip you away from a healthy space and allow you to abandon your tools and teachings in favor of wallowing.

When you help someone else you remind yourself to be the person they see when they dome to you for the support. Then, when you get back to your work, you can build off of their path and you both grow because of it.

Escapism, when practiced in a healthy, safe manor, can be very beneficial, and today I am glad I had it as a tool for my friend and for myself.

Today I am grateful for escapism.

Namaste

Rev J