The fallacy of the “Aha!” moment.

In my experience, a lot of people sit around, waiting for an “Aha!” moment. A moment in ones life that changes everything for them. They know what to do, how to go about it, and begin to feel assured and confident about their own lives. Until this magical moment occurs, we do what comes naturally: we wait. Some people, they actually receive this moment – but not without hardship.

Most people who have an “Aha!” moment do so through a traumatic experience, a near death sort of thing – something that reminds them of their own mortality. The switch is flipped, and they go and make the most of their lives. While some experiences may be some sort of enlightenment about a facet of their lives, do you know what that “Aha!”  moment is for most people who have them? It’s the realization that there is NO “Aha!” moment, and that they are only wasting time when they wait, time spent not fully living.

Take, for instance, those who attend college. Working hard towards their degree, figuring everything will work out because they are taking the “correct path.” They figure the dream job will just lay itself across their lap, or that with enough learning, they’ll be able to create in the way to make a living. That isn’t to say that college doesn’t have its merits or that students are lazy, but too many people go that route thinking there will be an “Aha!” moment payoff upon graduating. You only need to know a few graduates to see that that isn’t the case.

Instead of waiting for this magical moment, we have to decide to take action. Don’t just daydream about an ideal self, figure out what steps you can take right now. Our entire lives are lived in the present moment, where the past and future only hold as much weight as we give them. It is foolish to assume the next day.

We get in these habits and patterns and we feel comfortable because nothing truly “bad” happens immediately. We put off exercising for the day? It’s not like we’ll gain 10 pounds. We put off following our dreams for a day? It’s not like we’re dead tomorrow. Given enough days like these, however, there can be consequences.

This line of thinking is dangerous because it leads to complacency and that willingness to wait for an “Aha!” moment, one that never comes. The brain loves habits and that which is known and comfortable. We don’t exercise because it’s easier not to, and the alternative is discomforting. However, you can develop GOOD habits in as little time as it took you to develop bad ones. With enough effort, you can make your brain feel comfortable getting outside your comfort zone! The days where you don’t exercise or choose to follow your dreams will feel like the odd outliers.

Another way we tend to get in our own way and settle for waiting for an “Aha!” moment is through idealistic comparisons. Some may be more fleshed out than others, but most of us have some sort of ideal self that we think about. This person could be rich, famous, successful, accomplished, etc. Where we go wrong, if you’re anything like me, is getting down on ourselves for not yet being that person. This can be a viscous cycle, as we lament not being our ideal selves, and react in a pouty and/or self destructive way. We make our present moment worse through these comparisons, instead of figuring out how to use that present moment to our advantage. Having these ideals isn’t inherently a bad thing, we just have to be aware of how we go about relating to them. These ideals should always be the carrot on the stick driving us forward, and not the pack of self doubt and hostility weighing us down.

In my personal life, I’ve had several disappointments lately. I’ve fallen into these traps of lamenting my current situation, acting in self destructive ways instead of taking charge of what I can control. This has been my usual course of action for my entire life, unfortunately. I wait for that “Aha!” moment where I become my ideal self, only to act out in ways that take me the opposite direction. I bow to the expectations and desires of others, unwilling to face the discomfort that focusing solely on my ambitions would cause. It’s unusual to take charge of your own life, while it’s normal to wait for the “Aha!” and go about life on the surface level.

Yet I am the one that is left looking at myself in the mirror each day, asking “Why not yet? How much longer do I have to wait?” I am tired of the sad look the mirror gives me when I ask that question, never receiving a reply. It won’t be easy, a daily grind even, but I have to ask myself which I prefer : Distracting myself from life and dealing with the disappointment of fruitless, eternal waiting? OR Making a conscious decision to make the most of the present moment, being the best I possibly can in the now and knowing the slow, hard road is the only way to realizing my ideal self?

Sacrifices will be made. Resistance will be great. Trails will be multiple. I know this, but I plan on moving forward, and I fully invite you to join me. Figure out what it is that you desire, and see if there is anything truly holding you back, besides yourself.

I’m tired of asking, “When will my life change?”
I AM THE CHANGE.

YOU ARE THE CHANGE.

Forget the “Aha!” moment, and start being proactive in the present moment.

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Crime of (dis)passion.

How strange a thing that people so often distract themselves from their own brain. Think of all the distractions we have readily available: Internet, TV, cell phones, music, Netflix, etc. The list goes on and on. People can’t even sit through a single meal without feeling the need to distract themselves with their cellphone, made uneasy by mere minutes of lack of entertainment or distraction. How often does a person take the time to sit and think? To just be alone with their thoughts and brain, trying to connect and better understand themselves? Hardly ever.

I think people are becoming increasingly disassociated with their actual selves. Let me explain what I mean by actual self. I believe the actual self is what is behind your thoughts. Your “soul”, so to speak. People always associate themselves with their thoughts because, of course, why not? I think, therefore I am. However, thoughts are as automatic as a beating heart! It’s part of what makes us human – that we are thinking, conscious beings. Thoughts come to the surface like bubbles in a boiling pot. Left, right, constant. But thoughts aren’t our actual selves. Indeed, the fact that we are even AWARE that we are thinking means that there is a higher level of consciousness. That is what our actual self is. The part that allows us to either dismiss or identify with thoughts as we see fit.

This is why I believe meditation is so great. You sit down and make a commitment to shut out all distractions for a moment, and to just be present. Refuse to grab hold or identify with any thoughts, instead letting them drift away like a cloud in the sky, or a lily pad on the water. To call back the boiling pot metaphor, meditation is lifting that pot from the burner, allowing the water to settle and providing a clear view to the bottom of the pot – your higher consciousness. While the practice of tuning out your automatic self and tuning in to your actual self is quite difficult, with time, effort, and practice, you are able to slip into this fully realized state with greater ease.

That is where I would like to spend more time. My actual self is creative, engaging, curious positive, vibrant, and fun. The moments or day after a good meditation session, I feel at peace with the world and my place in it.

However, my automatic self is negative, petty, scared, anxious, self destructive, and bothersome. This is the mindset that I, unfortunately, default to unless I am taking care of myself, be it through exercise, meditation, creation, etc. Most of my waking life is spent either battling or kneeling to this awful mindset. Much like meditating often leads to easier connections with your actual self, the more I give in to this negative mindset, the easier it is to stay locked/trapped inside it.

Life is a daily grind. Each and every day we are given the freedom of choice – to accomplish as much or as little as we like. While obstacles may block our path, the world often rewards (or gets out of the way of) those who strive to accomplish with great conviction. No matter how big or small, each day we must make a decision to be a better self than the day before. Meditation helps me in this aspect, because it allows me to cut through the nonsense – to be more in tune with who I actually am and what I actually care about, helping make this daily decision much easier. I am much less distracted by the annoying and unhelpful thoughts of my automatic self.

This brings me to what I would like to talk about. Passion. How often do we find ourselves saying we are passionate about something? To me, being passionate about something means that we throw ourselves into whatever it may be with great conviction and purpose. We devote ourselves, spending as much available free time as possible to work on our great passion(s) in life.

Yet.

If we were honest with ourselves, can we really say we’re passionate? In my life, I like to think I’m passionate about writing, reading, meditation, and running. Those are the four things I would ideally do on as close to a daily basis as possible. Yet I find myself watching Netflix or playing video games or browsing the internet. This is what I do in my free time. So I have to ask myself, am I really passionate? Or am I lying to myself.

Passion is a fiery lover. You get as much or as little as you put in, and nothing else. These simple distractions I do on a daily basis (television, internet, phone, etc) must be my actual passions, right? For I spend the most time with these outlets, and not with what I think I am actually passionate about.

This is where distracting yourself from your brain, meditation, and the daily grind come in. By distracting yourself from your brain, you lose touch on what your passion in life is. You lose touch with your actual self, the part that decided upon these passions. The brain is a puppy that is full of energy, bouncing from one play thing to the next. Unless it is properly reigned in, it can become quite destructive.

Meditation allows you to reconnect with your actual self, strengthening your convictions and rekindling the passion that you may have let wither out. You see through to the bottom of the boiling pot, and are given a clear picture of what it is you actually desire.

The daily grind is something that we have to be aware of, for we can’t ever be content with a single day’s work. There seems to be a reset button that is pressed each time you go to sleep, and the work ethic or momentum you may have kickstarted before is now slowed. That is why you must make the decision each and every day to keep moving forward. If you are stranded in the water and are fighting to make the shore, you won’t swim for a minute and expect your momentum to carry you the rest of the way. No. Instead, you must stop treading water and invest yourself in the action, striving with each stroke to make the shore.

We like to say we are passionate about certain things in our lives. Make the decision each and every day to make sure you aren’t lying to yourself. Do what you love, and love what you do. With enough effort, you will find yourself touching the shore. You may be exhausted, but the relief will be great.

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The Tithe

The flame flashed, light exploding into the air around the torch. This lasted but a second, as the light flushed back to the timid flame that remained. Finding its courage, the flame grew in boldness, and soon I was able to take in my surroundings.

My gaze started low. My throat clogged when I was not greeted with the view of my feet that I had obviously taken for granted. A circle of grey surrounded my ankles, taunting me in the absence of five toes. It almost seemed to bubble with laughter at my obvious dismay, but that wasn’t quite it. The obstruction in my throat became a grunt of air when I realized the grey was but a fog, one that rose from the ground that my, now confirmed, feet stood upon.

Brown. Brown was all I was able to make of the actual ground. It was too obscured by the lazy fog that sat thick, clinging to the floor like a child would his mother on the first day of school. As I lifted my eyes from below, only fog was eager to greet me.

I did not know where I was.

I began to walk. Slowly, at first, head anxiously bent forward, kicking away the fog to ensure that my next step would not be my last. After several minutes of this, I grew bold. Or was it frantic? Either way, I assumed my foot placement, and quickened my pace. I allowed my attention to stretch, trying to reach the edge of the fog with my imagination.

Was I dreaming?

Perhaps I am on a beach. Recovering from a normal Friday night of overly ambitious drinking. This fog seemed familiar in that aspect, but the lack of a headache would make this scenario seem unlikely.

So what was this? I craned my neck around. The faint yellow glow cast from my torch and reached out several feet in every direction, yet succumbed to the thickness and persistence of the fog and ultimately faded out. I continued on.

Thoughts danced along the edge of my consciousness, but I was too groggy to bring them to the forefront. I felt like I had been submerged in a vat of glue, and every movement and conscious moment was sluggish. Exaggerated, even.

The light grew stronger as I grew more confused. Or the fog was growing tired of its uninterrupted reign. Whichever way, I was ripped out of my thoughts as I became aware that I stood in a ravine.

I could now see the cracked ground I stood upon. Dusty, brown, and dead. If I had to guess, this dirt was older than life itself. It panned out in all directions, coming to an end at both to my right and to my left. Ahead and behind me, however, this dirt path continued on into the fog, an expanse currently unknown to me. To my left and right, this dirt found its end when it became a wall.

The walls (cliffs?) went straight up. And up. Above me (a direction I had not yet taken the liberty to explore in my current state), the air was still tinted brown, yet I could make out the top of the walls. Their tops jutted out into familiar shapes. Wait. Faces?

I stretched my right arm as far above me as I could, stretching my neck and trying to take in the view above me, hoping the torch could bring some answers if it were closer. I was given no comfort with the results.

The walls weren’t walls, they were figures. People. Things? They stood above me, at least 50 feet tall. Hunched over, draped in what I could only call robes, I saw the outline of a face. Skull, to be accurate, but yet…I could see past the faded white bone and identify a face. As if there was a person behind the skull. Was that it? No, I think it was the person before it was only a skull.

They sat and they watched me. These figures. I whirled in circles, and I could see them all. Dozens, if not hundreds. Shoulder to shoulder, towering above me, hunched over and watching my every move. This realization brought fear, but that would not compare to the feeling I was forced into next. What I saw now, as I brought my torch high above my head, was a figure removing its hood. How, I could not say, as I saw no hands. No method of removal, yet the skull came fully into view as the hood fell back.

Dozens of shapes jettisoned from the back of the skull as it became fully exposed to the light. I kept looking up, and these shapes swirled about, unrecognizable in form, but floating away from view. The skull stood naked, but I saw its face. In midst of my terror, I could only think one thought.

I know that face. I remember.

But.

What could I last remember?

This thought was what brought on the headache – one so piercing that I instantly lurched to my knees, my right arm twitched and inadvertently threw the torch beyond my grasp. I cried out in surprise, a quick stream of pain pouring over my eyes before they went utterly black, and once again, I was gone.

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I’ve recently discovered camping.

I live in an area that is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast. Amazing scenery, trails and cabins galore. I haven’t been the biggest fan of such things, however. Sure, I’ll pop off to a trail every now and then when the weather is just right and the mood strikes, but I’ve never gone out of my way to embark on an outdoor adventure. This disposition has changed lately; A change that, not surprisingly, coincides with the time I’ve spent seeing someone who is an outdoor enthusiast. This woman, and the group of friends she has, make a point of hiking out to a cabin for at least one night a month, and I’m forced to admit that I quite enjoy the experience.

There’s something about putting civilization to your back, turning off the phone, and trekking out into the woods. A willing severance from that chaotic and consistent stress that is a modern life in the 21st century. Often, the hikes out to the cabin take several hours of wandering through the wilderness, with only the sound of your increasingly heavy breathing and the shifting of the pack on your back to break the silence. Conversations are kept somewhat to a minimum as you just focus on putting your head down and following the trail; while at the same time trying to take in as much as the unspoiled view you are being presented. The moment when you first spot the cabin, you are filled with appreciation. At this point, you’ve probably stripped off a layer or two to combat the sweat you’ve worked up, and the opportunity to drop the 50+ pound back from your shoulders is a welcome one.

You get to the cabin, change out of the sweaty gear you’re laden with, go about nesting by laying out your sleeping bag (and sleeping pad, if you’re smart enough to bring one), settle in, and that’s when the full cabin experience starts. You are now confined to this small area that more than likely can only hold ~10 people, hours from civilization and responsibility. If you’ve planned it right, the rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to waste away in any manner you see fit. In all honesty, this usually involves a fair bit of drinking, because of course!

Often, you’ll take advantage of the remaining daylight to go exploring. Strap up your gear again, and meander along the shore or surrounding trails, depending on the cabin’s location. Once the daylight wanes and you are once again craving the warmth that the (hopefully working at this point) diesel stove provides, you shuffle back to the wooden refuge and settle in. Board games, card games, drinking games, and drunken conversational exploration are the go to methods of spending time. You really get to know another person on a camping trip. Most, if not all, of a persons little quirks and habits are exposed on these sort of trips. How they plan ahead (what kind of gear and/or supplies they packed), how they handle miscues (do they freak out if the stove hasn’t started working yet?), what their sleeping ritual is (some have to brush their teeth and fully get down with the pajamas while others need to make themselves a sleeping bag burrito), etc.

All these things combine into quite an enjoyable experience – and I’d like to share with you a few from the last few months.

The Frozen Lake

One of my more recent camping experiences involved hiking out to a cabin that was situated on a lake. Being waist deep in a colder than average (at least, up to that point) December, this lake was solidly frozen and was safe to walk across. So, after a few beers, of course we set out to cross from one shore to the other .We were blessed to have a clear sky and a full moon to brighten our way, so while we had our headlamps, they proved unnecessary. Before you start to sweat the safety of a frozen lake coupled with inebriated campers, we made sure to take a sledge hammer to the ice beforehand to see if it would hold. It did, and it proved to be no problem. Well, the far shore was a bit slushy where it grew shallow, so we didn’t bother to test it. 

I can now officially say I’ve ran across a frozen lake. Not all the way across, as I kept doubling back to join up with the group, but it was a temptation I couldn’t resist. It was quite the experience – a flat, snow covered sheet of ice that stretched out for a mile, at least, to the very far shore. We didn’t quite go to the far shore, but we trudged across the icy waters for at least an hour. Enjoying the company and the view that the full moon laid out before us. The next morning we were dumped upon by the weather, snow accumulating overnight to the tune of at least six inches. This made for a gorgeous view. We had to take advantage somehow, so several of us hiked out a bit into the lake, and proceeded to carve out the word “REDRUM” in the fresh snow, the letters each standing about 10-15 feet tall. I had just watched The Shining for the first time (I know, I know), so I felt it was quite appropriate. While the word was barely discernible, back standing on the deck of the cabin, we still felt like it was a job well done.

One more note – a dog was with us that trip. His name is Pan, and he belongs to one of the consistent cabin dwellers. This dog happens to be mischievous as fuck, with piercing eyes that dance about as he stares at you (and I swear, this dog is always staring at you). He’s part husky, and will talk to you in that way that Huskys are wont to do. It turns out that this dog is quite helpful, as I’ll detail later on in another camping experience I had, but don’t doubt it, this guy is a trickster. Now that I’ve sort of introduced you to this character, let me tell you what makes me bring him up. The evening that we trek across the lake, he is with us. Running ahead and quickly doubling back, darting in front of us, ultimately tripping one of the people that was in the party, baiting us into chasing him before squirming away. Normal Pan stuff. We reach as far as we’re willing to test the sturdy ice, and double back. This is where Pan gets me. Out of this entire lake, that has to have an area of at least several square miles (and keep in mind, we don’t necessarily retrace our steps on the way back) – I step in the one place Pan decided to take a shit. Imagine that. An entire frozen lake, and Pan gets me to step in his shit. Typical, but yet….impressive. How often can you say you’ve stepped in dog shit on a lake?

The Broken foot / lost dog experience

My second camping experience ever was one I will never forget. It’s just one of those things I’ll look back upon in 30 years and go, yeah, that was one crazy weekend. You’ll have to forgive me for making a long story short, but I’ve detailed the experience so many times since that I can’t quite motivate myself right now to give this story the full detail that it deserves. In fact, it is this camping trip that inspired the story that I am currently working on. I’ll sum it up in bullet points, because who doesn’t love bullet points?

  • Arrive at cabin with 2 others, joining a party of ~6 that had already spent one night
  • Sit down to drink a beer and take a quick breather after long hike
  • People duck off to use swing in middle of the night (pitch black)
  • Girl ends up breaking her foot
  • We drink heavily from that point (after setting her up as best we can and going over our options)
  • I end up getting more drunk than necessary, fall into creek and scratch self up pretty well (scar above right ear)
  • We call it quits on the evening at that point, as our evening is obviously cursed
  • Next day, helicopter comes as we nix the idea to carry out broken foot girl and waters are too choppy for boat rescue
  • Seeing a helicopter land on a tiny patch of flat beach is cool as shit
  • Everyone leaves, me and woman I’m seeing volunteer to be the last to hike back – take back dogs that belong to broken foot girl
  • Dog, unsurprisingly but unaccounted for, freaks out about seemingly vanished owner (she disappeared after that loud thing showed up!)
  • Takes off on me and woman about halfway back on the trail
  • We drop gear and double back
  • Dog ends up going all the way back to the cabin, but then runs off again as we arrive
  • Decide to wait it out. Lost daylight at this point, need gear to not freeze to death in cabin
  • I opt for a solo hike while woman waits for dog
  • I have a kooshdakah experience (half otter, half man trickster of local native culture lore). Like, seriously. No joke.
  • Haul back both our packs (100+ lbs of gear) in semi “pants fully shat” state
  • Get lost on way back for about 10 minutes. Pants 85 percent shat at this point.
  • Finally make it to cabin. Commence waiting for dog.
  • Dog finally shows, cold and hungry and finally willing to tag along. “Oh, I guess you guys know what’s up. I’ll follow now that I can’t stop shivering.”
  • Meanwhile, Pan, the trickster, is being super cool as he seems to understand the stress of the situation.
  • Dog on leash now, we set out again, hours past when we were supposed to arrive back in town. Pan leads the way, stopping and waiting for us at tricky parts of the trail. Like I said, he’s a total bro on this trip.
  • Still manage to get lost several times on the way back, stressing out.
  • Finally make it back to parking lot as the search party is pulling in. Literally at the same time. The timing was uncanny. We were expected back by 5pm. We reached parking lot at 1am.

So yeah, that was my second ever camping experience, one that involved a lot more hairy situations than what I’ve just summarized. It was one where I felt pure elation (seeing that parking lot finally creep into view) and pure terror (hearing the kooshdakah while I’m burdened with way too much gear and only bear spray to defend myself).

I couldn’t be happier to have gone through that experience, however. The scenery, while marred with injuries and miscues, was amazing. It was another blessed weekend of perfect camping weather, if not a bit cold. It turned out to be a solid bonding experience for all those involved, and we’ve shared many laughs after the concerns finally melted away. The woman and I still are abuzz with the shared experience, and I’d be lying if I said our relationship didn’t grow stronger because of it.

Camping – fun stuff even when just about everything that can go wrong, does.

I think it might quickly become one of my favorite activities. I’ve tried to get my own group of friends more involved, and at this moment, I’m freshly returned from a cabin that we boated out to this weekend. It was, once again, quite a fun time, even though it took us the better part of a day to get anything that could generate heat working. Such is the camping experience! Prepare for the worst, but expect to have the best time. Bring some good friends and you’ll bond that much more. Bring some acquaintances (or even strangers), and odds are, you’ll become friends. I can’t sing enough praises about the cabin camping experience, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. 

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2014, WHAT’S UP

As 2013 fades into my memory and the newness and potential of 2014 presents itself, I can’t help but think of a particular book; The War of Art came recommended to me by a friend, one who shares a similar mindset. We both work at a job that we view as temporary. Something to fill the day (and the wallet) while we work towards reaching our potential in our particular areas of interest. For him, the dream is music and art. For me, the dream is writing (and possibly radio/broadcast related).

You see, the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” comes to mind. Here we are, working in a small store in a small town surrounded by small minded people. Yet, we both dream big. There’s a certain untapped potential that we can sense on one another. That’s where the previously mentioned book comes into play. We both find what the author calls “Resistance” playing a huge part in our lives. Resistance has been called many different things by many different people. Basically, Resistance is what makes you lazy – that voice that says you  can take it easy when you know you should be working towards something. Resistance is what convinces you to plop down in front of the TV or computer and waste away an evening. Resistance tells you that you’re too tired to exercise. Resistance is always telling you that tomorrow will be the day you start working towards your goals. Resistance wants you to be comfortable at all times – no point in exerting yourself in any way! Resistance is a bitch.

Resistance is the single biggest hurdle I face in my life. The reason why this book is a burning presence in my mind lately is because (for me) it gave Resistance a face. It describes Resistance and its intentions succinctly, giving me something tangible that I can be aware of. Before, I knew there was an inner turmoil, a part of me that didn’t want me to try to stretch myself out and seek accomplishments, but it was too vague, and I could never quite put a finger on it. Now? Now I’m aware.

Me and this friend happen to have had our eyes opened around the same time. It’s like we’re standing in a dim room with all our friends, peers, coworkers, etc. Everyone is shoulder to shoulder, wanting to move on to the other room, but feeling a little claustrophobic and scared. Unwilling to move, as they can’t quite make out the way. Me and this friend, however, happen to have this handy little tool. A faint headlamp just popped on for the two of us, one that allows us to just make out what lies ahead. Enough so that we feel comfortable moving forward, even if it means leaving behind the others.

While that previous analogy sucked, there has been plenty of analogies and metaphors flying around in the recent conversations I’ve had with this friend. Talks of having our eyes opened. Talks of swimming when before we were content to float. Quotes of the motivational variety, from famous people and ones not quite as famous. Quotes like this one from Hellen Keller

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision

We’re at the same place, and we’re realizing that we can’t just sit around and hope life falls into our lap – rather, we’re going to have to work for it. Finding that likeness in another person (especially in a small town where talks of change or improvement is met with hostility, fear, and/or Resistance) is refreshing, and our conversations have been lively and entertaining. A sense of momentum is building. That momentum, and that call to overcome Resistance, is what I keep thinking about when I look towards 2014.

2013 in Review

It was an interesting year, to say the least. I sat on this very website at the beginning of the year, and called for big changes. Surprise surprise, I was right (even though saying there will be change in a given year is like saying the year is at least 360 days long). As I sit here, I’m fully aware of what is new. This laptop I’m typing on – new. The shirt, pants, belt, shoes, chair, table, apartment, section of the town I’m living in…all new. The notch on the belt is new, as I was consistent enough with my pledge to run that I had to make a few more notches to keep my pants from falling down. Even the dedication to which I am approaching this post is new. Often, when I would sit down to write, I would get to the first test, and quit. That is, I would reach that first moment where I would be stumped on what to put down next – so I would quit. Click away and left myself be distracted by the wonders of the internet. Anything to alleviate this feeling of a mental block. I’m having to strain my brain just a tad? Well, fuck that!

A new approach I’ve taken (much in thanks to The War of Art), is to plow through those moments. To put in the effort and quit waiting for inspiration to strike. This mindset has helped me tap out three chapters of a book idea (~3500 words so far) when I was struggling for words at the beginning of Chapter 1. Ideas would always come fairly easy, but I would pat myself on the back for having them, and never allow them to come into fruition. I’d be content simply having thought of them, and lament the fact that they never became reality when I, myself, never sat down to allow for it to happen. This is one of the things I’ve wanted to carry over and focus on during the new year.

As a whole, it has been a solid year for me. I stayed out of trouble, for the most part. I pushed myself into uncomfortable situations, and came away glad that I had. It wasn’t enough to coast by in life, I thought, and several times I decided to force a change. I’ve begun to makes steps in the direction I think I want to head in life. Nothing serious, to be sure, but baby steps is better than nothing. I’ve met a woman whom I’m happy to share my life with, and while you never know what will happen, it’s been special up to this point. I’ve focused on my mental and physical health, and have become a better person for it. More positive and more fit, two things I would have been thrilled to hear about at the beginning of 2013.

Outlook 2014

I want to keep the momentum, that’s for sure. I want to try to succeed, every day, in making myself a better person. Luckily, there are several ways for me to accomplish that

  • Read
  • Write
  • Run/Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Work on a new skill (piano, etc)
  • Check/update goals and to-do list

It’s pretty simple, but if I can accomplish at the very least one of those things from the above list each and every day, I’ll consider it a success. I’m tired of letting Resistance win certain days – where I accomplish nothing and lie in bed, lamenting the fact while having done nothing to overcome.

I also want to fail more in 2014. Failing more means that I have tried more, something I haven’t done enough of in my life. I’ve been too scared, too often. Sitting here, looking back on this post, I see enough errors or oddly worded sentences where (in the past) I’d become too ashamed to post, holding down the delete key and questioning why I even bothered. No more. Now, I’ll let my thoughts breathe a little easier, and quit trying to stifle my creative mind so much. I want to try to post consistently again, possibly once a week? We’ll see. I’m thinking, if it rolls around to a Sunday and I haven’t posted anything in the past seven days, I’ll force myself to sit down and hammer out at least 300 words. Hmm. That’s basically saying I’m only going to post on Sundays, isn’t it? Well, whatever it takes.

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The truck, orange from rust, wheezed to a stop next to the gas pump. Inside, Cliff switched off the ignition and sat, rummaging through the contents of the bag next to him. After retrieving his wallet, he stepped outside the truck to stretch and take in his surroundings.

Glancing down the road in the direction he had come from, there was nothing to see. The air was brown and hazy from the dust and dirt that baked in the midday sun. Flatness expanded to both sides of the road, stretching as far as Cliff could see, only saved by the dotting of a cactus here and there. The direction he was heading yielded no better view.

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Cliff brought the truck door shut with a groan, and made towards the station. His walk was ambling, as if he had no where to go and all the time to get there. The plaid over shirt flapped against Cliffs wiry frame in the wind as he ducked into the shadow cast by the building. His long, crooked nose was the first to enter the building, and his long legs brought him to the counter.

Cliff looked upon the attendant from the dark, sunken eyes that nestled underneath the bushy eyebrows that lined his face. His mouth, twisting as it does when he speaks, offered a good day and requested a full tank of gas.

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Depression – my struggle.

I don’t know how to feel about it. On one hand, the prospect of a worse case scenario in this situation almost excites me. On the other hand, I would quickly be tossed into a reality of uncertainty, left to my own devices as to the direction I’d head. Which is troubling, considering I’m the one who got myself in this questionable situation to begin with.

So over the past year or so, I’ve hit a low point in my life. Now, my life has always consisted of valleys and peaks just like everyone else, but unfortunately, those peaks don’t come as often as the valleys, and those valleys stretch much lower than most. Depression is something I’ve struggled with nearly my entire life at this point, and the past year it got to the point where I was needing help.

I wouldn’t come into my job – no call, no show. When I actually was at work, I was a husk of myself, just staring at the screen for 8 hours, counting away the seconds til I could go home and crawl in bed, unable to go to sleep due to the worry about how poor my performance was at work for the day. Rinse, repeat.

I stopped hanging out with my friends, stopped participating in any of my hobbies, stopped taking care of myself — simply trying to self medicate my way to happiness. I would stay up to late, have no energy all day, and be unable to fall asleep at night. Things had gotten bad. Eventually, work started to care. Over the past year, I have been written up 3 or 4 times for my behavior. The last time, I was sure I was to be fired, but luckily, my union rep asked if I had any sort of depression history or anything that might explain this erratic behavior of mine.

That simple question flipped the switch.

The weird thing for me, is that depression is almost sneaky. It washes over me, so slowly that I don’t seem to notice. Like easing yourself into the cold pool an inch at a time. You don’t get that jarring sensation of temperature difference, you just slide into the water and become one. Depression was like that for me. Often times, I don’t notice it creeping up all around me, tangling itself around every fiber of my being, until it has carried me off and I’m content to just float away, oblivious to what is happening.

But, if I am somehow made aware of it, as I was in this situation with my union rep, I can begin to focus inwards and start analyzing my thought patterns. Start paying attention to my actions, and am able to discern that not everything is going well. I’m able to fight back, and not let myself get carried away by the apathy and lethargy.

So I resolved to fight, once again. Informed my work of my depression history, vowed to seek out help, and actually followed through. One cycle of medication and several therapy sessions later, and it’s like night and day. I’m not feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of simply being in a grocery store. I’m not held down with the anxiety and fear of judgement from others. I’m not burying myself in negativity. Instead, I’m living my life again. Throwing myself into my hobbies. Meeting new people and actually striking up conversations with strangers. Enjoying myself. Smiling more. Laughing often.

Life feels good again, and my only regret is that I took so long to get it figured out and seek help. I always had reservations about medication. I had been on it once before when I was around 20. I was attending college at the time, and ended up dropping out due to depression and the related anxiety. Went on meds, but quickly weaned myself off because I wanted to be “me” still, and didn’t think I needed the help.

Obviously, I’m not afraid to say that I do need the help anymore. Depression is such a heavy thing that simply weighs on you, day in and day out. It’s always hungry, trying to feed itself at every opportunity throughout the day. So the medication and therapy have been embraced this time around. I want to make sure I don’t spend another second scared of life, actively going out of my way to avoid living. Existing is not living, and I was doing way too much of the former. I want to seize this new opportunity and make the most of it.

So, that being said, I’ll come back around to my initial point. I don’t know how to feel about my upcoming situation. While I thought I was in the clear with my job, it turns out I have ONE more hearing. And I can’t help but think it will end in me being fired. How can it not? They have run out of ways to discipline me, and even with the knowledge of my depression this time around, I can’t imagine they’d go through all this trouble just for another slap on the wrist.

So I fully expect to get fired. And I’m oddly excited by that prospect. I would focus on running and writing, looking for jobs in areas I find myself drawn to (radio) and not just doing a job for the money/benefits. I would check my status as a student at the local college, see about enrolling again for some creative writing / English classes, etc. There are plenty of things I would be excited to take part in.

But on the other hand, I’d be getting fired. I’d be losing my benefits and steady paycheck. I would become a failure in a sense, and I constantly worry how that would reflect on my father, who works for the same department, but as a director. If he ever wanted to keep moving up, would the fact that his son couldn’t even hold a job in the department matter? Would I be shaming him? I know I shouldn’t worry about these things, and that, at this point, I have no control over what happens. I just wish I did.

I just wish I had gotten help a little sooner, as to avoid this (what I assume to be) final disciplinary hearing. However, no matter what happens, I know I have to just keep on keeping on. I know that I have to constantly ground myself in the present moment and ask, “what can I best do, right now at this moment, to better my situation?” That is all we have, after all. I can’t dwell on the past and I can’t worry about the future. I just have to focus on what can be handled at this present moment in time.

In fact, if I do indeed get fired, I need to be thankful at the timing of it. Right now, I feel like I’m on an upswing. My head has been clear, moreso than it has been in years. My heart feels full, and my brain has been coming up with some pretty neat ideas (especially revolving around a book idea). While I was worried that the meds would stifle my creativity, the opposite seems to have happened. Instead of the harsh inner critic shooting down every idea I had, my ideas have been nudged encouragingly into the open, and I’ve been able to explore them and open up my imagination, inhibition free, for the first time in a long time.

So, for all of those out there dealing with depression, anxiety, and other issues — realize that it’s never too late. Don’t be content to simply coexist with your affliction, take ownership and initiative to seek the help that you deserve. I’m looking at everything as a learning opportunity now, whether I fail or succeed, and I’m all that much happier for it. I can only hope that you can find the same peace in your life.

Consistency is the key to success in life. Anyone can lift a weight for a day, stop smoking for a day, write for a day, run for a day, perform well at their job for a day, suppress negativity and embrace positivity for a day, etc. But can we do it day in, day out? Can we make the choice, each day, to better ourselves? That consistency is what I strive for. I don’t want to look back on this post and yearn for “that time I felt good, even in the face of uncertainty.” I want to be able to look back at this post and think, “man, and it only got better from there.”

 

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