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My Mental Health

I love spiritual matters. They are fun to think about, sometimes to talk about. But my work is of this earth. Spirituality seems to be a good tool of understanding, but the task at hand is in the Earth. And what is that task?

Really, it seems to me it boils down to loving each other and being good stewards. Or at least that’s a valid approach. So how we doing?

That leads a series of big questions where answers are found reflecting on the fabric of life. My steps toward perceived improvement depends on my answers to those kind of questions. It’s easiest to reflect on one’s own steps. Me, hits and misses on the loving thing. Still deeply immersed in the study, much more to learn. My walk of life in Earth could have a much smaller footprint, so not so great there either. I could break it down further, but I’ll just get to the chase.

My entire life has been spent living it to the fullest. I had no vision of kids, so I planned on enjoying life. That was actually working pretty good, but now I have infant twin children. It’s like putting on a different pair of glasses. The whole world looks a bit different. Rather than having a good time experiencing this world, now it’s about making it a better place. So as to being a good steward…

What is the most important thing I can give my kids? I mean, they are the biggest chunk of what I’ll leave behind, you know. I’d like to point out I’ve introduced two more of the world’s most efficient killing machines, according to history. I’d like to think there is also within them the hope of the world. 

I’m not going to be writing about just my kids forever, so a new father is not a needed suggestion. I will say I ran a trial ballon on another platform and the basic answer was time and yourself. But what if you are a jerk?

When they were born, I told my friends we’d take anything, even bad advice.

You can leave that advice at

I had a conversation with a friend that I see a few times a year. He asked me how I was doing. Pat answers- If I was doing any better, I’d have to hire someone to help out, or- I feel sorry for anybody who’s not me.

The truth is it’s taken me a life time to get here, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather spend my time. I’m not trying to brag, although I know I make this look easy. It’s not, or at least, it isn’t for me. I would call it a life long battle, but I think I’m through with fighting. I think I’ve found a better way.

If you’re not living the dream, you’re not living your life.

What about your dream and life? 

I heard at an early age it was good to live for something bigger than yourself.

So I looked around at some options and chose.

Then I found tools of character.

Used them to build the kind of man I wanted to be.

Then chose things contrary.

Found a better way.

Bountiful life so far.

Now I want to use the platform of writing to change the world.

Is that too much to ask?

Want to know more? 

I’ve spoken about a couple of things where I’ve gotten to be proficient. There is value created using a skill to build something, for instance.

I’ve also just gotten diving certified. Or, I’m a novice under the water. There is value in being a novice.

That’s not a contradiction. Every diver had the first time breathing under water, every carpenter had the first time picking up a hammer and so forth. It’s good for the accomplished veteran to remember that time for a couple of reasons.

You’ll have a pretty good understanding what a new person is going through. Maybe a word of advice or encouragement… Those kinds of things go a long way to the ears of a novice. It costs nothing but gratitude is usually the reward. The ears of a novice are something never to lose. It’s always good to be listening to what people say about your craft. Even someone not related to the work can say something to spark inspiration.

Perhaps more important is the attitude of the novice. The curiosity, the wonder, the drive that got you started down that path in the first place… If these things can stay fresh, the work will not grow old and you will never reach the end of your skills. There’s always something new.

I’m a novice in everything I do, and that’s valuable.

I am getting better at assigning value to things. I used to value drinking. As Dennis Quaid said, “First you have fun, then you have fun problems, then you just have problems.” It’s easy to value things that ultimately take more than give. Best to value that which adds to life, no?

Ultimatly, that’s the question. Where are your valuables?

There has been a battle going on most of my life. How does one find the time to do all the things that must be done? I mean kids, work, housework, family obligations… The list goes on, completely filling the day and I don’t even get to the things I want to do. I bet I’m not the only one who’s had those kinds of thoughts.

Well, I think I’ve conquered time.

If you follow physics quantum entanglement is a lot of fun. To me, it just shows that there really is a Now that is the same across the universe. It is that Now that trumps all other concepts of time.

The past is nothing other than the path tread. It allows the accumulation of skills and a perspective, but both can change starting Now. Now if I’m mad about something that happened five minutes ago, I’ve lost. I can’t focus on Now if I’m obsessed with changing a past wrong. That doesn’t mean you don’t learn from a wrong because the only real wrong you commit is the one you repeat. That also means success doesn’t rule, but that’s worth it’s own post. Life doesn’t seem to be about the accomplishments, but rather the journey.

As far as the future, I apply faith. I don’t look at faith as a belief is a religious system or such. If I decide to do something in the future, I am done with it. Until it comes to be. Which it will, at it’s proper time. The mere fact I have decided to do it is enough. It doesn’t help to worry or obsess about it. That’s a misuse of Now and not how faith works.

Now is the time to talk about. I get to chose how I spend this Now. I could chose to think about nothing and just breathe. Or I can be completely present with someone I am around. Focus on every sound and movement, or what I’m really doing, writing down thoughts so they are out of my head. The point is life is Now and I get to chose how I want to play with it. Now. I can’t change the past and there really is no promise of the next minute. But there is Now.

I say I’ve conquered time, but it’s more like building a perspective. It’s easy to focus on the wrong thing, but I like to think of it as maintenance rather than skirmishes.

I think I’m going to teach my kids it’s all about value. It’s not about making money, but creating value. Do that and money will take care of itself. Value can be traded for things like money, but value is it’s own thing that does a lot more than money.

I write about construction. I built houses many days ago which families are still enjoying and deriving the value. A home is a valuable thing, no? I got paid for building those and evidence shows I blew that money long ago. I created lasting value for others to enjoy because I traded that value for money. Does that make me the fool?

Funny thing is I still have the skills I gained building those houses. If I needed money, I could put on a tool belt and do it again. Or I could use those skills gained and create that value for me. Know what’s really wild? I could build a house unlike anything I’ve ever built before just by taking those learned skills and applying them in a different way. What’s the point?

Drop me in the middle of the woods this morning and I’ll be sleeping comfortably tonight.

Now, construction is a great way to make money. But if that had been my motivation? I built apartments for a while and the focus there is schedule and budget. One of my favorite people from those days was a framing contractor who told me he knew how much he was going to make as soon as he signed the contract because all of his work was subbed out at a square foot price.

If you didn’t follow that, lets just say every job generates accounting numbers. Those numbers tell of many things and most folks are interested in profit and loss. That’s what superintendents track. It’s very easy for owners to focus on that and with reason. If I had gone into construction with the goal of making money, I would be very good at it and all my decisions would be motivated by profit. The difference?

I would have to hire someone to make me comfortable in the woods.

I simply cannot overemphasise how fundamentally life altering it is to know if you do not like your environment you have the power to change it.

I went for a long drive not too long ago and I put in the earplugs and started singing. It wasn’t too long before I knew I was out of practice.

I had forgotten where to throw my voice to do certain things. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re not a singer. It had taken many years for me to learn how to do this and my skills were not as sharp. Of course, for me to be able to say I can sing is testament God will grant you what you are not born with.

Music is not my gift and I always thought that must have been some kind of a divine oversight. So I made it my study. I can talk to you about music written on a staff, by letter or by number and would be able to play it however you could express it. I can sing, play the trumpet, cords on a piano and some more. I have skills. But music has never been my gift, just one of my life long loves. I would never call myself a musician.

I am a carpenter and builder. That is one of my gifts and I have developed it into a talent. What is the difference?

If it can be built of wood, given tools, materials and time I can build it. There is a great probability I won’t even need a drawing. If you have a problem with your house, I can come and look at it and tell you what causes it and what it will take to fix it. I haven’t made a living in wood working in years, but I do projects now and again and there is no loss of skill. My eyes don’t work as good, but that’s another topic.

Growing up poor is a good way to learn a work ethic and I have always had an insasible curiosity. I have applied the same skill process of learning to both music and woodworking and music but got different results. I can’t write a song worth listening to, but I can make wood sing.

I look around and I think there are a lot of folks who have gotten good and making a living at something that is not their gift. Is that living the dream? Perspective and focus are the answers to that, I think. Or, for me, what am I going to spend my time getting good at?

I mean, there is not enough time to master all the subjects I’m interested in. Last week I was finishing a job, studying a new course, taking care of babies, trying to help around the house and not enough hours in the day to get the lists done. But everything is a direct result of a choice made by me. Maybe it’s less about mastering and more about how things are mastered. The journey is the destination kind of thing. Or… Maybe there is an approach that applies to everything. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Know what I mean?

I don’t know anyone who has described me as a type A personality. I have been called laid back a lot, and I think life is better living in the moment.  It seems my mind does not always agree.

Years ago, when I knew my first marriage was in deep trouble, I could not figure out how to fix things. That’s the first anxiety attack I remember, and it lasted a couple of weeks. It hit again a few years later as that marriage ended and a new life was in front of me. I’ve since remarried and now have twins. And another attack.

At first I thought it could be left over effects from playing football. I remember hitting people and having everything turn white and just checking out for what seemed like a few minutes, but when my vision and I came back, I would be standing, looking around. Didn’t know much about concussions in those days. Or a couple of other head injuries I remembered could be it.

Except the attacks were not constant, which was the only thing that gave reassurance. I somehow knew they would not last. Maybe some kind of chemical imbalance, but it seems tied to life, rather than random.

I call it high anxiety with apologies to Mel Brooks, but I’m still not really sure. New marriage, new kids, new career, no money could be good reasons to worry, but it’s more than just that. It’s best described as an overwhelming desire to just get up and move and a mind that will not stop. I could lie down for a few moments, but the demand to get up and walk around made sleep impossible. Lack of sleep builds the problem, and any minor pains become a major irritant. Breathing becomes an issue. It is possible to work while it’s going on, but hard to imagine one can do the best when most mental energy is spent fighting that urge.

The first time I wasn’t all that sure it would end and I had few tools to use. I wound up drinking myself to sleep. It lasted for a couple of weeks, but if that was going to be continuous, there was not enough booze. I started meditating and it was a battle to be quiet, but meditation did what the bottle could not. It stilled the mind enough to be able to think again.

The second time was a surprise; I thought I had beat it out of me. I added counting my blessings to meditation and there were only a few times I could not sit still, and the event went on for only a week. Last time gratitude was added to the toolbox and it was more of a mood with a few low points. It only took a couple of days to banish it.

Dealing with it as little as I have is enough to give empathy to those who commit suicide. There was no fun during those episodes and I was completely unwilling to accept it as a new normal. That’s what led me to look at it with as many perspectives as I could think of. I mean, how do those tools come into play?

Worry itself is totally useless and for the most part, detrimental. Careful preparation and a flexible approach is enough for nearly everything that comes along. Anything else falls under faith. Worry only takes away joy from now. Easy to get caught up and forget that. if you can get the silence of meditation, you’re not worrying. At least at that moment.

My current marriage is a source of stability in my life. I am fully aware things can change, but I’ve been down that road before and that’s not where we’re going. I knew my wife would be waiting for me when I got out of my fog and that was a focus point. I knew if I could hold on to life, she would hold on to me. At least for a while, and that would be long enough. That is an awesome blessing.

What if the episode didn’t end? I now understood those who find life not livable. I mean, if your mind or body is an enemy? Still, I’ve never been a fan of willfully ending mine. Maybe it’s because I think problems come up to be worked out and it’s hard to find solutions if you’re not here. Having things to work through makes one stronger and sometimes illness creates gratitude for wellness.

New kids are something else. We do have a bit of a village going on and I feel if we intentionally pay attention and just do our best, the kids will be fine. Worse case, if I could not regain power of my thoughts, they have an unbelievable mother. I believe, however, life is a series of choices and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I took comfort in knowing I would be able to get me back because I really want to get to know who they are as they grow into themselves.

A new career is stressful because there are no guarantees it’s going to work. However, I feel obligated to follow joy. I really want to be there for my kids and wife as they grow and time spent with them is more important than money earned. But the bills don’t care and a large part of parenting is responsibility. The key is finding the right balance. I have reinvented myself a couple of times before and I know there is a lot of work involved and most of the time you have to take a step back before you can take a two steps forward. The same kind of work has been successful and worth the effort in the past and there is no reason to expect differently this time. Worse case, my old careers are there anytime I need them.

Needing money finds it’s own expression. It’s our creation. In fact, that is always fluid and it’s really more about perception. I say I have no money, but I am wildly wealthy compared to living conditions in most of our world. I have also learned that financial difficulty, unless you jump out the window, is not fatal. It’s never more than adjustments and if I really think about it, it’s kind of hard to imagine financial setbacks being something that cannot be overcome. Considering where I have been in the past, I have nothing but gratitude for life today. In fact, I wouldn’t change places with anybody. And that’s what I’ll use if anxiety ever comes up again.

If you notice, this is not really a story about high anxiety, but about Spiritual growth. I have the problem, I have the solution. I paid attention and now I can see it arising before it can take over. And I know what tool to reach for. And I know how to use those tools to build shelter. I would go into greater detail about that, but that is it’s own subject for later.

Point is, life is a spiritual journey and whatever we face I think the work is to expand our vision. The key, I think, is that as I looked at my circumstances during the last attack, they were completely unchanged after. Except for my perspective. I need to make sure I’m looking at life through the proper lens.

Esoteric forays into mysticism provide results in this physical world.

Wanna talk travels?

One of the problems of life I see is we tend to compare our life to our friend’s Facebook life. Or, in the movie biz, it’s like we look at everybody’s highlight reel and we compare with what’s on our editor’s floor. Everybody has hard times. This is an example of spiritual tools and how they work in those times.

My wife brought home a cute new puppy from the pound, happy with what they were calling a medium sized dog. I took one look at those muffin paws and knew this was no medium size. He grew into a 90 lb affection hound.

I call him an affection hound, but it’s more like he’ll lay his head in your lap rather than try to sit on it. He likes his butt scratched and he’ll come say hi now and again, but he’s not needy and is a really good guard dog. He can be very intimidating, even though he’s never bitten anyone and I don’t think he will. He just doesn’t care much for other dogs and likes to establish order.

He has gotten past me a couple of times to settle things with other dogs on the sidewalk. This does not work in my neighborhood. I believe an owner is responsible for the actions of their dog and we were now facing the city’s animal control bureaucracy and a lawsuit. Plus whatever social ostricization in the hood, though that never ranks high on my decision making priority list. So we could move. Or we could get rid of my dog.

Lease and business obligations make moving very difficult, with lots of planning. Kind of hard to call a friend or even a family member with the line “My big dog is a bit of a problem. Can you take him?” I’m lucky I have a cousin living in the country with six dogs already and some property. A little arm twisting and he agreed to let him stay until I can rework the home situation. Still, it’s a family broken up.

The first weekend was the hardest so far, because my dog had no idea what was happening, but he knew something not good was going on. He is trying to adjust, but he doesn’t know why. My cousin says he has the loneliest howl between one and five am. The dog went from sleeping on the sofa in the living room to a sleeping bag in a penned up doghouse. He also knows which shed we put his collar and leash in for when we take him on walks. Seems like when he’s out of his pen, he spends most of his time lying in front of the shed’s door.

The first tool of coping I reach for is Love. It’s the biggest, most versatile tool in the box. Really, to think of it as a tool is a bit derivative, but it works. It’s also the blueprint for whatever I decide needs to be built. Love is whatever I cover him with when we separate and when we get back together. When I find myself missing him, I think about the love I have for him and send it to him. I also have spent my weekends going south and running through the woods with him.

Which brings me to intent. I want my family back together, even if it takes years. Which means I want my dog to know my growing kids and for him to know he has a place in the family. To make my intent reality, my actions must match. I couldn’t just drop him off and hope for the best when I pick him up in a year or two. I have to spend time with him and make sure he is adjusting. If not, I have to create other living arrangements.

Another tool is hope. I’m not just talking about hopeing the dog will be able to come home. Country folk treat dogs differently than city people. Dog fights usually get settled among dogs in the country. City people will try to break it up. Country folk know there probably won’t even be blood before they decide who the big dog is. Maybe it’ll change the way he deals with other dogs after he gets HIS butt kicked. I mean, if you’re going to fight all the time, you will discover losing sooner or later. This weekend, my cousin was hanging a deer to clean it. My dog would not be a part of something like that in the city. Maybe he’s just a country dog at heart.

My dog also has fear, and a lot of what he does is to cover that. Next to his pen is a pasture with some horses in it. He sees them as huge somethings and he backs away barking and such. Of course, the horses know dogs and I think they like to aggravate my dog. A chance to work on some of those fears. He is a smart dog.

I’ll follow development and we’ll see what happens.

I get into strange conversations with people because I think there are questions that take a little thought to answer. The process of gaining those answers fascinates me. The ones who seek the answers are the ones who love the mystery the most. (I forget who I’m paraphrasing here.) Like is there a God?

Either there is, isn’t, or we just don’t know. If you research the topic, you will find things that back up your opinion. I think the agnostic is hard to beat in debate, but I choose to believe there is a Creator. The power of that decision is found in faith, or intent. Sound like crap?

Here’s how it works. I believe God is Creator. I can’t really define it any more than that. If I refer to God as He, I neglect or even disrespect the femine side. As soon as I say God is not, we are not talking about the One who is all. See?

Even so, to continue the conversation, if I were to pick one word, it would be Love. That comes from the idea that this God created everything and the Creator loves creation. But if God is Love, what does that mean to me?

How about that no matter what I go through in this walk we’re calling life, everything I encounter should be approached with a loving intent? Like what I see as creation should be loved and respected as if it were the Creator. It just seems like the logical conclusion to me.

Now the fun is to see how good I can be at that. It’s actually taken a long time to reach that simple point, but if you want to be good at a game you should master fundamentals, right?

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