Note: to drummers, when you’re playing and you feel locked in to the groove, playing not only on beat, but feeling that you are in the beat, and can manipulate it with fills and rolls of all speeds, and still land back on that beat without throwing the song off rhythm.
It’s a curious sensation, knowing that I can talk about myself, my life, with absolute clarity.
I take it for granted now.
Which is also its own kind of weird.
I’m able to talk about my life matter-of-factly.
I don’t talk about it to get pity. I don’t speak about it with frustration or rage. I’m not trying to make myself look like a saint.
I am grounded by the knowledge that I have no desire to please or impress others anymore.
My life is.
My life was.
Facts. Not emotion. Not sentiment. No color commentary.
The suffering I went through was mine. I made my choices. And I faced the consequences of those choices, good or ill.
And I don’t really know if it’s due to the three years of taking my medication for my adult ADHD and Major Depression finally taking effect, or if it’s the strength I gained from taking care of my father – or some combination of both.
But I’m in the moment.
I’m in the now.
I’m present, current. There’s no “what ifs” or “I should’ves.” There’s also no “one day I’ll” or “someday,” either.
And maybe, some of you might consider that a bad thing, and, depending on your circumstance, you may be right.
But I ride the waves.
I feather the wind.
For the first time in my life, I focus on what’s in front of me, and addressing it, paying attention to it. As a result, it’s incredibly satisfying dealing with things as they come when they come, instead of ignoring it or trying to rewrite the narrative.
What a strange pleasure it is, and a metaphorical irony, playing drums for most of my life, and at forty-three, finally being in the pocket.
I’m laying down on my bed as I write this, surrounded by pillows, covered in one of the most comfortable blankets in our home ( it was in a closet, no one was using it, so now it’s mine – no harm, no foul ), my go-to comfortable slouchy beanie on my head.
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, looking at all the people I follow, and, since it’s January 1st, 2019, reading the occasional but unavoidable posts on New Year resolutions.
I left the site.
You see, after I was diagnosed with Major Depression and adult ADHD, and after talking to my psychiatrist and my friends and family, I realized three things about myself:
– Being on social media for long periods of time becomes a sensory and information overload for me.
– I’m an empathetic person.
– I’m a natural problem solver.
I’ve always been a pretty good speed reader since I was a child, but now that I’m on my ADHD medication, I can take in and process a greater amount of information a lot faster.
So, with that particular combination, taking in and processing too much information and/or too much emotional information means that my head becomes filled with people’s problems that I either want to solve, or that I feel terrible about, and I know there’s nothing I can do about it.
So, what’s the point of all this?
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.
I definitely believe that the very nature of the winter/holiday season lends itself to self-reflection, self-assessment.
Nature lies dormant, weathering out the cold until the sun’s warmth returns. All we see around us are ( mostly ) bare trees, slate gray skies, snow, if you’re lucky.
The calendar year, arbitrarily beginning in January, in the middle of seasonal winter, also forces us to feel as if we only have three hundred and sixty-five days to undergo some sort of amazing transformation, and as a result, forces us to feel as if we are some kind of failure in the eyes of our peers.
Social media only heightens this perceived pressure.
Many movies and shows make us feel that our lives are supposed to have a clear, definite beginning, middle, and end.
So after struggling for years, we’re told that we are supposed to overcome our problems, our weaknesses, our illnesses, our addictions, in a much shorter span of time, then proclaim ourselves free, new and improved, washed clean of the stains of our personal problems.
People in the public eye, be they celebrities or politicians, love to broadcast that narrative, and by doing so, make us believe that it’s the norm.
I don’t know about you, but I hate deadlines.
I love guidelines, but deadlines are crap.
Having depression has made me realize that growth is not a linear thing.
Spending time out in my backyard almost every day for the past year and a half, watching the leaves and flowers sprout and bloom, wither and fall, then sprout and bloom again, watching the constellations revolve above me, has taught me that growth is cyclical.
Growth is not linear.
That idea was the creation of some white scientist centuries ago whose belief system was a locked, rigid, racist, classist, patriarchal ideology. That idea, that way of thinking, is wrong.
Growth is cyclical.
We set a goal for ourselves. We often invariably fail at least once, if not more. We achieve that goal. But it’s rarely ever just one goal at a time. It’s many.
It’s growth in our careers, yes, but it’s also growth within ourselves, and without.
Growth in our interpersonal relationships.
Growth as men and women.
Growth in realizing our gender and sexual identity.
Growth in realizing just where exactly it is we belong on this insane planet, third from the sun.
Growth in being a good person to those who are good to you.
Growth in realizing the harmful, toxic behaviors we learned through nurturing by our parents, guardians, parent figures; and then trying to break ourselves free from those behaviors so we don’t hurt our loved ones the way we were hurt. The way our parents or parent figures hurt each other.
Growth is spirals.
It’s tree rings, stacked from its base, from its roots, raising high up towards the sky.
We grow in spirals.
And, more often than not, our growth process is represented as many spirals, rising and falling, loosening and tightening, as we try to discover and learn and figure out and master all the complex aspects of ourselves.
We spiral upward. We fall down, and we get back up again.
I have never followed the crowd.
I do things when I want to do them.
I do things when I am ready to do them.
And when I do, I do them slowly, over time.
But I do them.
I do not measure my success by the successes of others. I measure my success by how and what I do today versus how and what I did yesterday.
I forgive myself.
I analyze and see what went wrong, what I can do differently – not better.
Then I rise again.
And I don’t stop.
I may take breaks, but I never stop. I meditate. I try to keep my mind present. I always ask myself:
“Is what I’m doing truly making me happy?”
“Is what I’m doing hurting anyone?”
And I adjust, as needed. I take time to make sure I do everything I have to do, to learn everything I have to learn, to practice everything I have to practice.
But I do it at my pace, for myself, and not for anyone else, and definitely not so I can crow about it on social media.
So, do you honestly believe that pushing yourself doggedly, cruelly, without ever taking a moment to stop, enjoy, and feel the fulfillment of achieving a goal is going to create a kinder, happier, more loving you?
Instead of making resolutions that, by definition, are designed to fail, designed to make you feel terrible about yourself, don’t you think that you should simply work on being the best person you can be every day?
Don’t you think that’s better than saying, “Oh well, I’ll just try next year,” the very first time you break your resolution – in February?
Don’t you think you should do it in small, achievable steps?
Don’t you think you should nurture yourself?
Don’t you think you should be more patient, more kind to yourself?
Don’t you think you should be more forgiving with yourself?
Don’t you think you deserve it?
I know you do.
There is always beauty.
That is all that is left.
So many times in my life, I thought I had come to the end of me.
So many times, I thought I had broken myself, into pieces too brittle and infinitesimal, to ever believe that I could put myself back together again.
So many times I thought I had broken those I loved, those who loved me.
So many times I felt the cold hollow cave made of stone and frost and filled with a chill wind that blew eternal in the pit of my stomach, the sum total of all the lies I told, of all the hearts I broke, of all the oaths I abandoned.
So many times.
But that last, that last was worst of all …
Lost to the dark.
Alone, in a ball, in a hole, in a wall, in the deepest darkest crack I could slither in, and crawl.
So many times.
So many times.
And then …
A glimmer …
A glimpse …
I would open my eyes.
Dry, burning, bloodshot, blurry, and red.
And I would look up.
And the height, the height of just where I fell from.
It was so high.
I had fallen so far.
All that trust built.
Smashed to bits with a single action, a cruel word.
But I would get up, like I had all those countless times before and my spine felt so weak and all I felt inside cold wind and hollow.
And I would get up.
My stomach would spasm reflexively from all the ragged crying and my eyes burned.
And I would get on my knees, scarred and pitted from gravel digging in, from years of gravel digging in, digging all the way into my cartilage.
I would wait there, gasping, until that pain was too much, and I would reach out and grasp that first rock again, with cracked hands that split from countless cold December nights when my hands were soaked wet from bleach and piss and mop water and Fabuloso and Murphy’s Oil Soap, from countless nights of cleaning and wiping and scrubbing, and I would begin the slow climb, back up to the top, back up, to the light.
And so I would grab another.
So many falls.
And so many climbs.
So many promises made.
So many promises broken.
So many scars, from within, from without.
Holding the hand of the one whose heart I broke.
What else could I do?
I couldn’t stay down there.
Not when I was needed up here.
Not when, if I couldn’t make us better, if I couldn’t heal us and make us whole, I could at least help you.
Help you get through.
At least I could do that.
So I did.
And those whose hearts I’d hurt, saw that I did my best to heal.
I left, but I did my best to heal.
I left, and I hoped that they had healed.
And to my surprise, they did.
As sure as spring follows winter.
As certain as day follows night.
As raw and red and as certain as the dawn, or a healing wound.
And time would pass, just as sure as spring follows winter.
As certain as sunshine follows rain.
And, with that passing left the pain.
And those who I made cry, I now made laugh.
I repaired what I could, and now, gray-bearded and older, I keep my vigil.
I watch and I care and I protect.
But I stay away.
And I marvel that in the passing, the pain fades away, like shadows melt away at dawn, and with that growing dawn light, in that shining sunlight, only the beauty is left revealed.
And nights, dark and dim they may be, are now just nights, because now I have the knowledge that the sun still shines on the other side of the world.
Nights reveal starlight, and moonshine, and the reflective glimmer of cats’ eyes.
I know this, and I shall never forget – in my depression I have hurt people, and though it was my depression, it was still me.
I know this, and I shall never forget – in my depression I have hurt myself, and though it was my depression, it was still me.
And I know this, and I will never forget – I have managed my depression.
I have named my demon and I have locked it within a faux-gold-covered wooden box.
And I will never open it up.
For I know this – with time and work and the healing-fevered pain of resetting bones, all the bad fades away.
Fades away, but does not dissipate.
It is always an ever-present reminder.
But what comes to the foreground, what comes into focus?
The pain, the dark fades away.
All that’s left is beauty.
“I shut and locked the front door
No way in or out
I turned and walked the hallways
And pulled the curtains down
yeah I knelt and emptied the mouths of every plug around …
I’m in hiding …”
-Pearl Jam, In Hiding.
I am a man adrift on a raft on a sea of my Major Depression management.
It’s funny – I totally believe in medication – prescribed and administered properly.
God knows it’s helped me. But it’s never a cure-all. There’s a mental health saying that goes, “recovery never happens in a straight line.” And it’s true.
I know I’ve gotten better.
I feel it.
My psychiatrist told me he wasn’t worried about me anymore – and that was months ago I’m done grieving – both for my father’s passing away and my breakup.
So I’m feeling a strange kind of numbness.My emotional state goes from numb to even to content.
However, setbacks – predominately at work – really do set me back. I still feel the gravitational lethargic pull to my bed, to fall in, stay, and disappear.
One day I took off from work, I stayed in bed for most of the day. The following day as well. I recover back to neutral.
I go on.
I’ve isolated myself.
People and their problems were too much for me.
I had kind of lost myself in trying to be available to help others – as a way of avoiding my own problems, but also as a way of doing penance for the wrongs I’ve caused others. But people are people, and they’ll do whatever they’re driven to do anyway.
So I cut off everybody and cocooned myself.
I’d sit outside, smoke my pipe, and think. Sometimes listen to music. Often without, instead listening to the sigh and sway of The Three Sisters.
Now the school year’s ending.Summer’s coming.
I can feel it.
I’m getting restless.
My energy is coming back, now that it is not 100% focused on my students.
Another change comes with it.
And who I will be after that, who can say?
I just ride the ocean tides.
Letting go of everything and cutting off everyone leads to me to a refreshingly odd sense of balance.
I’m a bastard.
A cold-hearted son of a bitch.
Heartless, cold, detached – removed from everyone and everything.
If you ask some people what they think about me, that’s what they would probably respond.
Asshole, I believe, would be another fitting epitaph that belongs in that Top Ten.
Because I’ve let a lot of people whom I’ve met recently go.
I’ve cut them off from my life.
Pointless relationships that have added more stress, more drama, more baggage into my life – a life that has already been overloaded by stress, drama and baggage.
How have I come to this decision?
What led me to this?
Feeling nothing has lead me to this decision.
What do I mean by that?
Ever since last summer, it’s been a constant ritual of mine to go out to my backyard, listen to music, have a drink, smoke, and think. Recently, however, I’ve noticed something. The ritual hasn’t really changed, but the motivation behind it has.
I don’t feel anything anymore.
And I mean that in a good way – in the best way possible. The pain is gone. The sadness is gone.
I’ve realized that I’m no longer grieving. My father, my breakup, my cheating.
The grief has gone.
I’m at peace.
And that is such a damn good feeling to have.
Fine, but strange.
I’m not used to this.
I’m not used to feeling even.
The rituals I have created to help me process and manage the pain are have now become the rituals I perform to simply unwind. It is now a ritual of relaxation, a ritual to enjoy simple pleasures.
I still think.
I still ruminate.
I still take mental and spiritual inventory. I practice being in the now, being self aware.
I’ve started smoking pipe tobacco.
I love it.
It suits my contemplative lifestyle, my fetish for collecting objects with I can physically interact with. But it is also a way for me to stay connected to my past – my dad used to smoke pipes. So it’s a ritual with a spiritual aspect, and I need those practices in my life.
It was during this time, when I was taking mental inventory and feeling at peace that I was able to pinpoint other, much smaller, but no less significant areas of stress and anxiety in my life. It was in that state that I was able to itemize the personal relationships in my life.
I’ve been striving to achieve peace. Now I have it. And it’s allowed me emotional distance and clarity of thought.
My life has been a constant struggle to balance a life of solitude with a life filled with having relationships with people whom I always feel I need to validate my life to, with whom I seek constant stimulation from.
I’m tired of that.
I’m tired of trying to impress people.
I’m tired of trying to actively have people in my life who don’t really want to be there.
I’m tired of trying to show people all the good about me that they don’t even have the eyes to see.
I’m tired of having people in my life who feel the need to remind how they don’t have to be here, how they could be doing other things – that their spending time with me is a sacrifice their making.
Who the hell says that to another human being?
Because I never have.
I’ve given my time up freely. I’ve accepted people into my life as is: broken, whole, mental illnesses or physical illnesses. I’ve accepted them because I’ve enjoyed their company.
And I don’t feel that any friendship should come with an asterisk, or with micromanagement. I don’t tell people to stop telling me about Zodiac signs, because I don’t believe in that. I don’t tell people to act this way when they themselves act that way.
I don’t tell my friends how to live their lives – I make suggestions. I’ll bring up the subject – but that’s only if they constantly vent about something in their lives. I tell people how to live their lives as a general statement more on a social media post than I ever have in a one on one personal relationship. And I do that to provoke thought.
And after the life I’ve lived, the mistakes I’ve made, the damage I’ve done, I know that I am no one to tell someone how to live. I can offer advice, that’s all.
I’m tired of trying to make friends I don’t really want and I’m tired of trying to impress or get the attention of women I don’t really care about.
So they’re out.
I’ve deleted, unfollowed, disconnected everyone who isn’t important to me, who hasn’t made my life better.
Is that cold, heartless? I don’t think so.
I’m not a fool, nor am I delusional.
I know that anyone that I’ve cut out will be as glad to be rid of me as I am of them. I know that anyone I’ve cut out already has too much going in their lives where they will barely notice my passing. Or if they do, they’ll get over it soon. I know no one I’ve met depends on me.
I know that no one I’ve met would be devastated by my absence. Because most of the people I’ve met and have formed any sort of bond of friendship with since my father passed away have been in their mid-twenties. Any twenty year old is not going to be all broken up by what at best would be considered casual friendships.
Even one whom I considered my best friend for a time, but with her unchecked depression, I would invariably be the one she would dump on. She would tell me not to send her memes on my being a Gemini – I mean flat out text me back, “I don’t believe in that. Stop sending me that.” She would always feel the need to remind how busy she was, and that she didn’t have to be here in my life.
I’m sorry, but who the hell is anyone to tell anyone that they can’t do the little things they do because it’s part of who they are?
Don’t check me like that. I don’t correct your spelling. I don’t tell you not to parrot your college professors – or at least not on the daily. You are as you are and I accept you as you are. Isn’t that real friendship?
I definitely do not need people like that in my life.
I’m sorry, but I feel only two should have the right to correct me – and that’s my mother and my mate – and she was neither, so I forced her out of my life.
I felt nothing when I cut her off, no grief, no sadness, no regret. Actually, I felt good, I felt light. I felt free. Now what does that tell you?
There are some people who I’ve remained on good terms with. People who I would like to have friendships with in the future, if possible. But these are relationships that have been maintained at a constant temperature, with people who are more even-tempered.
But right now, all I feel is the need to put myself first.
I’m still working on being me.
I’m still working on solidifying the relationships I’ve already had with the people who have been in my life. I have my relationship with my oldest brother and his partner. I have my relationship with my mother. I have my relationship with my best friend all the way back since our elementary school days who just had a child. I haven’t visited yet, and he expects me too. I need to prepare myself to be more of a presence in his and his son’s life – which he also expects.
Then there’s the relationship with my ex-girlfriend.
I reconnected with her. Things between us aren’t a hundred percent, but it’s the best they’ve been since we fell apart. The space and distance and boundaries I’ve set have helped. We’ve talked. We both know that we may never have the same relationship before. We may never be able to get back together as a couple at all. There’s still so much to work out before that, and our lives are still so different. But I do want her in my life.
I love her.
I always will.
Having her and her daughters as some part of my life is important to me. And after all that has happened, I’ll take whatever I can get.
I’ll be in their lives in whatever way she’s comfortable with – even if that means she doesn’t. It’s her call. After everything, she’s earned that right.
It’s worth it to me. It’s my decision, and it’s a decision that I choose to make, and it’s a decision that I make on a daily basis. And I’ll change it if it’s not beneficial to me, if it hurts me more than helps me.
Who I keep in my life, who I cut off – it’s my choice.
And if I no longer see any value or benefit for me, then I’ll cut you off.
I can do that, because it’s my life.
I can do that, because I’ve wasted too much of my time on people who just used me.
I can do that, because I know that I’ve either given, done, or tried something to make that person’s life better.
I have given them something of worth, of value. I’ve given, not taken.
And at least I announce it.
I’m not a coward, some indifferent person who simply ghosts you – that’s simply inhuman.
Every relationship begins with an introduction, so if that relationship must end, then there must be a farewell.
It’s the geometry of life – circles and lines.
I believe in closure.
The equations of relationships, the balance of my life.
Everything must be equalized, calibrated, on the scale of my life.
It’s what allows me to sleep at night, free of guilt, remorse, or what ifs.
I’ve put good karma out in the world. Now, some might say that karma will leave me alone in the end, that karma will have people I care about leave me on a dime, without a word, for the actions that I’m doing in the present.
That’s fine. It’s been done to me – plenty of times. But if they leave me, then they weren’t really good for me in the first place, were they?
If I’m left alone, good, I prefer solitude – especially now that I know who I am and that I’ve learned how to enjoy it.
Life’s all math, isn’t it?
It’s all odds and percentages and additions and subtractions.
Risky behaviors done repeatedly increase your chances of an early and ugly end.
Positive behaviors and habits increase your chances of a longer life.
Then there are those random one thousand-to-one occurrences – like car crashes, terrorist attacks, mass shootings – that come out of nowhere and in a few second’s time rip your world to shreds.
Funny how numbers rule and determine our outcomes.
Time, told in seconds, minutes, hours, with it’s ironclad multiples of sixty.
Days, months, and years – dictated by the Gregorian calendar, with its multiples of 12.
Your geographic location – longitude and latitude.
Some numbers we can’t escape.
Others we can proactively do something about, to change our predicted outcomes.
So, yeah, in a way, I am being calculating.
And if you consider that cold-hearted, then I’ll own it.
I play the long game. I follow my in-the-moment, short term-gut intuitions to increase my chances of the best long term life I can have.
Because in the end, that’s all we really do have, isn’t it – ourselves?