Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Embrace What You Got

Life hits us pretty fast. We're all tired. We're all stressed. We've got a pile of TO DO, and a mountain of I WANT. But its best to keep in mind the John Lennon quote: "Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans." But hey, keep trying your best. Chase the whimsies and find your happiness.

Over the last few months, I've crawled out of some nice depression and with the help of therapy and self evaluation, I've learned to stop the triggers and put ME first. If people think I am a dick to do that, that is okay. But in the end, I am all I will have when the long trek is over. I have to be able to live with myself and the choices I've made. And so far things are rolling along. Things are truly better. I'm happier now. I can get goofy and take a chance to stop and breathe. And when bad things happen, I can cope with them. Its a good head space I've dug in and cultivated. I've created a nice happy sanctuary of sanity for myself and I am enjoying its existence. Its a thrill to wake up in the morning. Its a joy to create something new or think about what is to come. Beats not caring, like I felt a few months ago!

Depression sucks. No doubt about it. But it can be controlled.

You have to face your anger and your fears and put them into perspective. I'll give you one example.

One of the things that really added to my depression last year was the death of my friend Caleb. I've talked about it many times on this blog, as you know. And I've tried my best to turn that all around. I made a book with him in it. I helped with all the fundraisers. I did all the travels to the places we planned to go and did things he could no longer do. Seemed like everything I did involved "honoring him." I tried all I could to be there for his family and friends. So I was there for everyone else, but myself and how I felt about it. So the inner struggle continued. But still, there was one major thing I had yet to do. That was, going to see him. I just couldn't do it. It took me forever to even sit in his cubicle at work when there were no available seats left in the room when I was on overtime! In a way, I guess it was acknowledging the truth. It always felt more comfortable to me to pretend he was just on holiday and was coming back. Its the same fantasy I had when my mom died.

But as I went through therapy, we discussed Caleb's influence on my life and how I should feel sad sometimes, yes, but I should also be happy I even got to know him. That I should celebrate his life and find peace and happiness that I got to know him, his family and friends. It was tough. I had Jacob and his wife (his longtime co-worker and close friend) over one night for drinks and of course, I got drunk and cried hard about missing him. I knew I still had more work to do. Even today, I still do. His name was brought up yesterday at work. And I had to pause and stop myself because I felt that sting behind my eyes start to rise up. His name cannot be a trigger word for tears. But rather it should trigger a smile! Most of the times, it does.

But I knew there was one thing I needed to do. I had to go see him.

I went to the funeral back in August but I didn't go to the graveside service. I had no idea where he was or what graveyard he was in. So finding myself open for a couple hours on Saturday, I did a google search and found the location of the graveyard. It was a few miles north of Owosso. I found it and drove around the place. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. But eventually I found it.

It certainly is one of the most beautiful stones I've ever seen. There's a tree design on the front that matches a tree tattoo his wife has. And there's a nice tree nearby the stone itself! On the stone is a jar with little notes inside. And there are pictures on the front and back of him, his wife and family. 

I was out there for almost an hour. Just crying and talking. Crying and talking. I poured out my heart and said everything I needed to say. It had to be done. The mountain I was carrying with me, I was now climbing. I shared all my thoughts and stared out into the clouds beyond the field, hoping to feel something. Some sort of comfort or some words to pop into my head. Some sort of, "answer." Even as I said everything I'd need to say, I'd wipe the tears away and look back at his picture and see that all familiar smile. And I'd start laughing. That smile is forever burned into my memory.

I chased some demons away that day and as I drove away, I felt better. I waved goodbye and promised I'd visit often.

I've been to graveyards all my life. I know deep down that "they" aren't really "there." Because they are stored in memory. They reside inside your heart and soul. And you can recall memories or create fantasies at any time. You can talk to them. And sometimes if you listen hard enough, they will answer you. But I always make it a point to stop and visit my grandparents and my uncle Rich and mom and Gloria when I visit southern Illinois. And I told my dad that I know one day he will be gone too. And I'll not have too many reasons to come back to visit there when he is gone. But I made the promise that I will go back just to make sure he always has flowers on his grave. Just because I can. He will lay next to those he loves most. Forever at peace and rest.

I decided long ago that I will not have a grave. No stone. I will be cremated and dumped into a river somewhere. Probably Mt. Pleasant, land of my childhood. I don't want anyone to feel the obligation to put flowers on a stone bearing my name or feel guilt that they haven't come chatted with me. I've always felt that if someone wants a chat with me, do it by reading my stuff. Blogs or comics. Or listen to my favorite music or watching some of my favorite tv or movies. That is the best way to connect with my energy from beyond. But there is some comfort in having a final stop, in a field of stone, resting next to the one you love. I love that, even though I know its not for me. Its a far better resting place to come to. A nice quiet corner, near a tree, next to the one you love most dear. One day.

But I left there feeling one thing: Envy. I'm happy my friend is at peace. Looking back to all the people who helped him and his family through their rough time, has me thrilled at how we can still love and help each other. That he indeed had a good world around him when he left, and how we can cultivate that and keep it alive. I left knowing that his grave isn't a place of sadness, but a place of celebration. He made it through and had a great world around him. Because he cultivated that around him by the way he was. And we were better people for having known him. I was envious of him at rest in a quiet corner, with a beautiful stone created with love and care. He had a place to go in the end. And he will lay next to his love at rest someday. He has something I will never have. That realization made me smile. 

But back to today: We got what we got. TO DO, I WANT... and we embrace what we got. Now and coming up. What happened and what we can make happen. Face the fears, honor what has happened and who we know. Have a good world when we die. Thats the ultimate goal.

After I visited Caleb I spent some time in Owosso. I had never been there before. I found a Ponderosa and ate an old familiar meal. Then I found a used book/Cd/DVD store:

I walked out of there with some old Metal Edge and Starlog magazines. Stuff I don't really NEED, but stuff I had when I was a kid. I've been thumbing through the pages, remembering. I'm comforted by the past. I'm a nostalgia guy, let's face it. All I collect are CDs and old video games. Things from when I was happy in the past. I'm embracing the memories.

..but most important to know, is that I am conjuring that happiness into the now. embracing who I was and who I am. And today, I am happy with that. I got what I got and that is just enough. And I'm happy to go and visit old and new friends. To spend time with those I love and hold most dear. To pick up a pencil even though my hands now hurt and still pencil the next page, and dream of the next story to come.

This is the life I got. And this is all I'll ever need.


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