The Saboteur

You find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

You’ve been here before, but each time you return the darkness feels more suffocating, the weight of guilt and shame heavier. Your first inclination is to lie down and accept it, to let it all just smother you. At least that way it would end. Something inside you, though, keeps telling you to get up. You’re not exactly sure what that something is. Your best hope is that it is the will to live. Your worst fear is that you are too selfish to give up on the awful creation you have turned out to be.

You fumble through the space around you until you find something you can touch, and then you begin the slow, arduous climb out. You’re not exactly sure how deep the pit is or if there is even a top to it, but you continue to dig your nails into the walls and make your way up, up, up. Occasionally, you imagine you hear a voice or two encouraging you, telling you that you can make it if you just keep trying. These voices are faint, however, and you don’t trust your senses enough to believe they are real, so you brush them aside and continue your ascent.

sabotageEventually, you see a light. At first, you don’t believe it is real. As it becomes sharper and more intense, you begin to move faster toward it, desperate to feel its warmth and heat. Suddenly, it is real before you. It moves from the world of abstraction to become an oasis in your desert, a shelter from the wind and rain that has pounded you senseless for so long. It illuminates you, so much so that the voices you thought you heard earlier become real as well. You begin to shine yourself, thanks to this amazing, saving grace.

As wonderful and light as you suddenly feel, however, you still feel the weight of your worst fears like an albatross draped around your neck. You know the terrible darkness which resides in your soul, and you know somewhere deep inside you that you are not good enough for this moment. You are not capable enough, smart enough, attractive enough, skilled enough, mature enough to maintain it. The light burns as brightly as it ever did, and it continues to reach out to you and beckon you, but in your mind you are convinced it will see you through you one day and withdraw itself.

You begin to try to secure it, to make sure it cannot abandon you. You begin to form constructs around it, essentially boxing it in and dulling its luminescence. You know you are effectively contaminating the purity of what exists, but your fear blinds you to all logical thought. You realize you need the light to survive, but you are convinced it will not choose you to receive its blessing, so you begin to crave it as an addict would crave a needle in his arm. You are fully aware of your selfishness, and you resolve to do better a thousand times, but each time you look at it you are overridden by one horrible, terrible thought: It will leave me if I grant it freedom.

Then, one day, you are confronted with the truth you knew all along. You really are selfish. You really did destroy the beauty that was before you. You really can’t change what you have done. Your heart begins to race, your thoughts begin to scramble, and you begin to admit your every sin and flaw. You are devastated when the light suddenly speaks to you and says, “You foolish, foolish man. I chose you all along, but you could not receive what I offered you.” You feel your grip loosen and the air begin to rush past your ears as you begin to fall, down, down, down. The light becomes more distant. In fact, you even notice it beginning to turn away, slowly, reluctantly. It wanted you, but you could never believe it.

Your fall is swift, much more rapid than your ascent, and it is not straight. You bump against walls that once seemed smooth, but now seem to be jagged and rocky, puncturing you as collide with them. You recall that you have felt pain like this before, but it seems more intense this time, as it does each time you fall. You wish at times that the fatal blow could be delivered, but it never comes, and you chide yourself because there is still that part of you that is selfish enough to want to cling to life with all you are worth. Then you feel the dull thud of yourself hitting the bottom. The light is gone. You are alone.

And you find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

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Rock & A Hard Place

picking shirtPicking out a shirt, picking out a shirt, picking out a shirt… This should be a really easy thing to do. Go to the closet, find a clean shirt, pick that shirt out to wear. Ah, but it’s never that simple. See, the forecast may be calling for cloudy skies the next day, so you don’t want to pick out something really bright. You might run into someone important or someone you haven’t seen in a while, so you want to look fairly decent, but you also want to be fairly casual. Then you have to get the right jeans – dark or light? Ooh, but then you have to figure in the weekend. You might want that shirt later on. But what do you have for tomorrow then?

If this all sounds ridiculous, it is. If you’re thinking it’s an exaggeration, it is not. I go through this very scenario at least once a week trying to pick out a shirt to wear. For every positive outcome I can think of, I seem to also be able to think of an equally compelling negative argument. Now, eventually, I have to pick a shirt out of the closet, so I’m forced to make a decision of some sort. Even if it winds up being the “wrong” one, I at least have done something to progress things along.

Not every situation is like that, however. There are instances where the decision to make a non-decision actually becomes a decision that makes a decision impossible.

Did you catch that?

Depressed people have major problems making decisions. In my case, though, I seem to be just good enough at making simpsonsdecisions to get myself into the middle of situations where no direction appears to be the right one to take. As a result, I adopt this weird sort of holding pattern where I just take it and take it and take it, feeling powerless to really do anything about what’s going on. It’s the classic “rock and a hard place” scenario; either way you go is going to end in some result you won’t really like.

Just like the shirt, though, the only way to reach some sort of resolution is to actually make a decision of some sort. This is where the specter of regret enters the equation. What if the decision I make is wrong? What if it actually makes things worse? What if it’s irreversible? Well, the answers to those questions are as follows: It could be, it could be, and it could be. Making the right move is never a guarantee, which drives the perfectionist tendencies of the depressed mind to distraction.

What I am having to learn right now through a very painful and trying set of circumstances is that every decision is made with the best resources and experience and knowledge and judgement a person has at that particular moment. In simpler terms, you do the best you can with what you have. With that attitude, even if the decision winds up being wrong, regret can be sort of headed off at the pass. A good friend of mine used to joke and say, “Whatever you did, that’s what you meant to do.” Maybe it wasn’t so much of a joke, though. Maybe learning to live with consequences instead of regretting them is the real key to resolving situations.

shirtsHopefully, I’ll remember all this the next time I’ve been standing in front of my closet for 10 minutes trying to decide between the grey or the blue T-shirt. More importantly, though, I hope I remember it the next time I feel as if my back is against the wall. There’s always a choice. Make it a good one.

Because I Can

This blog is supposed to deal with heavy subject matter. Topics such as depression, addiction, anxiety, God, regret. You know, serious writer stuff. There also needs to be something written here daily, something of benefit and sustenance. Maybe a little fun here and there, but mostly very dour and introspective.

Sometimes, though, I just put something on here because, gosh darn it, I like it.

So as I sat down tonight and turned on my computer, I briefly checked the news feed on my Facebook page, only to discover that the teaser trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – which wasn’t supposed to be available until next week – could be watched online. That made this depressed dude pretty freakin’ happy. So happy, in fact, that it just didn’t seem right to come here and write about anything else.

Sometimes it’s cool just to do something, well, because you can. Marvel movies make me happy. I have a blog about fighting depression. My advice in this post? Watch the teaser trailer. Don’t feel guilty about it. We’re looking for lights in the darkness here.

Why, then, am I posting a video about comic book characters on my super-serious blog site?

Because I can. That’s why.

Tuneful Tuesday: A Lot Of Things Different

People say they wouldn’t change a thing, even if they could
Oh, but I would

Much to my wife’s chagrin, one of my favorite movies of all time is 12 Monkeys. I’m a sucker for time travel, “Does it necessarily have to be that way or could the future be changed?” films. In 12 Monkeys, the theory appears to be that no matter who you do the future is always going to wind up the same way. In this case, Bruce Willis (SPOILER ALERT!!!) is always going to die at the airport, no matter what he does to avoid that. Or that’s how I interpreted the ending, anyway.

If someone offered me the chance to travel back in time, I would jump on it in a heartbeat. For someone with so many imperfections, I am a rabid perfectionist, and the opportunity to erase my mistakes is highly appealing to me. I am also dogged with regrets, and there are some days I would do anything to blot those out as well. “But what about the ‘butterfly effect’? You might change the future!” Yep, I don’t care; I’m goin’ back. Now.

I honestly wouldn’t know another Kenny Chesney song if you played it for me right now, but I caught this one under the absolute perfect conditions on a drive home several years ago. Late night, lonely roads, mind wandering… I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by the vocal, but the atmosphere and the lyrics immediately caught my attention. I didn’t even know the name of the song or the artist for several years; I just remembered there was a song about a guy who would go back and change everything.

Go ahead and scold me for living with regrets, but I’ve never been a “I regret nothing!!!” kind of person. So when I hear Chesney sing “I’d do a lot of things different…”, I know exactly what he’s talking about. Exactly.

Out Of Tune

guitarThe gentleman you see in the picture there is Mr. Dan Knowles, luthier of stringed instruments, picker of banjos, and, in this instance, re-stringer of 12-string acoustic guitars. The guitar in the picture is mine, a 12-string Alvarez of unknown year. I acquired it in a trade involving an Oscar Schmidt acoustic 12-string, a Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar, and a 15-watt Crate amplifier. The sound and playability of the Alvarez is superior to the Oscar Schmidt, but it does possess a slight kink: It doesn’t seem to want to stay in tune, hence my trip to Knowles Stringed Instruments this afternoon.

There’s a word in the vocabulary of guitar players that has been known to cause many of them to go insane. That word is intonation. In short, it means accuracy of pitch, but the maddening thing about intonation on a guitar is it can change depending on where you are on the neck. For instance, your guitar may sound perfectly in tune when the strings are open (i.e., not pressed down against the neck), but they may sound slightly off when you fret a note in a certain position. Even worse, there are any number of factors that could cause this problem – tension on the neck, a bad bridge, worn-down frets, etc., etc.

To someone just listening to a guitar being played, poor intonation may not even be noticeable. To the person playing the instrument, though, it’s like a nagging house fly buzzing around their head. It sticks out like a sore thumb whenever a sour note is hit, and it can throw a musician totally off in a performance. The irony is that the performer may be the only person aware of the problem, but it puts them as out of sync with their audience as the slightly sharp or flat note is to the rest of the guitar. They don’t want to stop and point it out, though, because that would be even worse than just bearing the problem.

As human beings, our intonation gets off sometimes. We don’t want to tell anyone, though, because that would ruin the performance. They don’t seem to notice anything is wrong, so we feel we can’t expose our imperfections to them. There are few things worse in life, in my opinion, than being unable to confess a burden – whether it be depression, addiction, guilt, regret – to anyone. The longer it festers, the more it puts us out of tune … so to speak.

I had the advantage of being able to take my guitar to someone as skilled as Dan Knowles to correct the problem I was having with it. So many times, though, either because of pride or shame or stigmas against counseling  or any number of reasons, people don’t take their mental and spiritual issues to someone who can actually help them. They want to keep the performance going even though they know something is not right. What they really need, though, is someone skilled enough to repair their intonation.

Of course, as luck would have it, once a tuner was put on my guitar today, every string read perfectly in tune up and down the neck. I could have sworn the intonation was off, though, and I’m glad I had it checked out, if for no other reason than to convince my ears they weren’t hearing what they thought they were hearing. I’ve read that one of the charms of the sound of a 12-string guitar is that it’s never actually perfectly in tune anyway. Maybe people are the same way. If we were all perfect, this would be a pretty dull show, don’t you think?