Time

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for being given another opportunity to grace this earth. For being able to take another breath and enjoy the things in my life which brings a smile to my face. For my eyes and being allowed to see my beautiful wife, children and grandchildren and whatever else graces my view throughout the day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in thought thinking about how I spent this past Sunday. I was on call for Crisis Services. Despite this and my usual Pavlovian response as I nervously wait for my phone to ring; I decided to relax and spend the day the way I wanted to spend it. When I’m on-call I make no concrete plans because a call can come in at any time. As I grow older I see less and less value in filling each day with concrete plans. There are things which need to be done, tasks which need to be completed. Those will get done for there is little which needs to get done at that moment. I found the world will not cease turning if something is left undone.

Jack and I rose and we went for our usual Sunday morning walk. Before returning to the inside of the house, we perched ourselves on the front porch and based in the solitude of the morning. There is, for me no other time of day which brings so much joy. The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit.

The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery person. It sat protected in its orange cocoon protecting it from the elements which may have otherwise disturbed my ability to read its contents with some modicum of joy. Jack watched as I ground beans for my morning coffee. As his eyesight fails at his age of 15-years, his eyes grow cloudy with cataracts, he thinks he is going to be fed again. I allow him to smell the freshly ground beans. he takes a quick sniff and turns his head away in obvious disgust as he realizes this treat is not for him. read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit. I have this new coffee an Instagram friend suggested I try. Don’t tell my friends at Death Wish coffee, but I really enjoy this smooth taste. All of the information if you’d like to find them on the Internet and give them a try is right on the bag.

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For those of us who reside in the year 2017, sitting and doing nothing is difficult. We all know this and many of agree using one of the excuses which make every hair stand on end; “I just don’t have the time!” First of all, this is Bullshit!!!! We have nothing but time. It is all in how we choose to spend the time we have. So, when done correctly, the ability to sit and do nothing productive, is, in fact, a momentous achievement. There are some people who see me doing nothing as defined in their terms because whatever activity in which I am engaging does not fit their definition of productivity. These are the people who would disagree with me. That’s too bad because I find reading, lying in my hammock, playing with my grandson, writing, smoking a cigar and drinking a couple fingers of a good whiskey are being productive.

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In the past, I had struggled with sitting quietly alone. I felt like I need to be in perpetual motion. It seems as though the minute I sit my brain begins to wander. My eyes also wander. I begin to see things around the house which may or may not require my attention. Most certainly those things do not require my attention at that time. My son joined me. We both noted it had taken him 4 hours to clean his car inside and out. It’s not that the car was that dirty, it’s that he stopped several times, sat and we talked.

I have a salve for my spirit. It comes in the form of silence, of solitude. When I am physically able to run, it comes in the solitude which I feel during a run and which accompanies my spirit for some time after the run has concluded. It also comes in the form of reading, journaling and smoking a good cigar. My entire professional life I have found myself chained to a calendar and a clock. Questions abound such as “Do I have enough time to do this or that?” These things have resulted in a perpetual feeling of anxiety; of being on-edge. When I apply the salve, which ever one I have chosen, the grip which anxiety has had on me begins to weaken. The difficulty arises when I do not apply the salve as often as is recommended. When I neglect an application, I feel out of place. My mind wanders and guilt, self-imposed guilt reenters or should I say I allow it to reenter. I regret now not doing more in my work life to disrupt that configuration.

Try it sometime. You might actually become addicted to “not doing anything productive.”

namaste

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I stood and walked toward my office door. I lingered for a second before gently pressing it closed. I heard the gratifying click signifying it would not open under its own power. I returned to my desk, removed my glasses, placed my head into my hands and vigorously rubbed my forehead. The left side of my head humming with pain. Rubbing my forehead briefly allowed the pain to go away knowing it would not return until I left the office. That time would come but not soon enough.

I sit at my desk and my back remains fixed toward the large windows which adorn my office. I am happy to have windows but on this day, not being able to see the sunshine might have been a better option.

The phone rings and I am made aware my next patient awaits. I stand and walk toward the window and see my Vespa through the window. For a split second I am lost in thought; daydreaming about the ride home which will be the most relaxing part of my day. Before I leave to usher my patient to my office, I call one of our nurses and ask for another “cocktail”, the medication which I know will help this throbbing headache go away and will allow me to hobble through the rest of the day.
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After my patient leaves, I begin to think about this session. I realized I have not consistently done the things which I have asked him to do in his recovery. I open my journal to reveal I have not written in it since June 20th. I felt like I had nothing to say; obviously, that wasn’t the case. My meditation cushion has been obscured from view, lying under a pile of opened but unread magazine and newspaper articles. I reached for one of my fountain pens only to find out the ink has dried from lack of use. The pen needs to be cleaned before it can be re-inked. I sigh and walk to the bathroom to clean the pen. As I am flushing out the old, dried ink; I become mindful of my need to flush out these same thoughts which are keeping me tied down. I have allowed myself to dry up and become unusable.

I re-inked the pen, my favorite; a Visconti Homo Sapiens with a nib which writes unbelievably smoothly. I touched the nib to the absorbent paper of my journal and watch as the ink and the words the ink has become, fill the page. Thoughts and feelings are pouring out of me like a water faucet which has been turned on high. I stop momentarily, in disbelief as I previously thought there was nothing there to come out. The clog has been removed. Thoughts and feelings begin to flow again, unimpeded.

Namaste

Anonymity & being Anonymous

I woke this morning with a heart full of gratitude for so many things. Today I feel gratitude for having the time at my job to take off and enjoy this beautiful summer weather we have been experiencing.

I woke this morning ready to start my day.

I was aware yesterday the NYS Office of Mental Health would be in the office today to review our program. Been there and done that. It doesn’t mean what it did in my career 20-years ago. It’s important, don’t get me wrong but I’m not in that top position anymore and I have to say, I enjoy not being in that position.

They came they saw and they reviewed. Today they’re in the office during which I spend the majority of my time and I’m off today. My boss is more than capable of managing what needs to be done, so the little bit of guilt which I have has been pushed to the side.

I was watching the Tour de France last night and I received a call from my dad asking if I was off Friday. I lied and said I wasn’t and he asked, “I thought you said you were off the next three Fridays?” I knew what was coming and I was right. I’ll be heading there sometime Saturday to “fix the computer.” Unfortunately, my dad is 79 and he often touches things he should never touch. I asked him what was wrong with his computer and he said: “there was a paper jam and when I tried to fix it a spring popped out.” Now we all know there aren’t any springs in a computer. Did I forget to mention my dad’s memory is beginning to fade and I am watching him become more and more confused. It’s sad. There are three kids and I am the only one who is ever called on for assistance. It’s not that I mind but there’s that anonymous thing again.

I thought about being anonymous. What a joy I think that would be. Not that guy in the mask anonymous but anonymous as in no one knows I’m there. No one knows I’m around. No one knows I exist. I want to do the job I enjoy and fade away into the quiet solitude of the night. My friend Henry Thoreau had quite a bit to say about solitude as did his counterparts John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the things I really enjoy about going on vacation is the fact that for all intents and purposes I am anonymous; at least for a short while. U2 wrote the song “Where the streets have no name.”

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I’m done. I’m going to cut the grass with my headphone listening to some Pearl Jam and enjoying the solitude of my relative anonymity. I’m hoping you enjoy your day.

Namaste

 

Chris Cornell – Rest in Peace

Chris Cornell, a prolific singer-songwriter died Thursday.

Chris’ death, not unlike that of any other individual at his age was sad news. Unfortunately, the Internet is alive and well with best guesses about his death. He died, one report said he had hanged himself, another that the death might have been either an accidental hanging or an accidental overdose.

I knew of Chris as most others did, through his songwriting. I recall hearing one of the first songs I heard from Chris was the song “Hunger Strike” when he was with Temple of the Dog. I listened to the song lyrics like I did when I was a teenager, replaying the track again and again and again.

I had heard Chris had been troubled by many demons, many of which could be heard through his lyrics. I heard Chris tried to manage those demons with heroin and other drugs and that just before his death an assistant was asked to provide him with two Ativan tablets. This, his family believes was the true cause of Chris’ death.

As a social worker for over 30-years and having spent much of that time as an addiction counselor I was overwhelmed by the sadness of his and the decisions of others to use some type of drug to help manage our feelings. Unfortunately, the one truth which I know is that when we don’t feel we don’t learn to understand our feelings and as a result, we can’t learn to manage those feelings. None of us, I’m fairly certain that’s a correct assumption, don’t like to feel feelings like sad and hurt, fear, loneliness, guilt and shame. These are pretty powerful feelings who many of us didn’t have good mentors to help us navigate. We gravitate like most others to feeling “good.” We learn to do whatever we need to do to “feel good, not feel bad and to not feel pain” both physical and emotional. Unfortunately, the modes of coping which we choose tend to lean toward the unhealthy.

I won’t speculate why Chris died. I will only say that when I see people Chris’ age who have died, I’m just two and one-half years older I feel sad.

To have such a life cut short. I can’t say Chris had an “amazing life” because I don’t know that he did. He had money. He had fame. He had the ongoing adoration of millions of fans and I am sure his family; but what Chris struggled with no one knows. None of us will ever know the struggles of another. Chris’ secrets will remain with Chris.

Rest in peace, my friend…