Out With The Old, In With The New

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” – Joseph Campbell

 

So I’m sitting here in front of my laptop, thinking, pondering, wondering how to not sound like a cliche – to be honest, there is no way to convey certain messages without sounding like a broken record imitating other broken records.

 

That being said, please allow me to be grateful.

 

Image result for grateful

 

 

2018 was a turning point in my life; I have had many tumultuous years in my short life span so far, but none have been so transformative, so tempestuous, so life-altering – well, maybe it’s tied with 2005, but that’s a whole other story. This year has been more than the emotional rollercoaster it usually is, year in, year out, day in, day out – it is the culmination of experimentation, and the realization of what I need out of life.

 

Let me start off by saying what I’ve always wanted:

 

I wanted to be “normal“.

(Then again, what the frak is “normal” anyway, right?)

 

I wanted to be free of my disease.

 

I wanted to be rich, infamous, and adored by all, hated by just as many.

 

And then I realized, those are all delusions created by my disorder, dreams and illusions, manifestations of my insecurity, my low self-esteem, my addiction to validation, my desire to be accepted, to be loved.

 

Now all I need is to live, to be healthy.

 

To love.

 

To accept that I will never be “normal”.

 

And that is perfectly fine.

 

In 2018, I lost my job after 4 difficult years of hard work and dedication – a milestone for anyone who suffers from mental illness will attest to – and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I am grateful because even though it was a humiliating experience, it was a learning experience, and I am grateful for anything that will make me learn, that will make me a better person.

In 2018, I lost many friends due to manic episodes, erratic behavior, and other mitigating circumstances that were out of my control – and even though those losses hurt, I learned from them, because I discovered that I am capable of self-soothing, that I do not need validation to give myself worth. My social circle became minute, miniscule, but as many physics buffs might tell you, the more concentrated the mass, the greater the strength.

 

Image result for humility

Friendship is about strength, unity, and support, not how many Facebook likes you garner or how many Instagram cults you develop.  

 

And yet I am grateful because in 2018 I learned so much about my condition, about mental illness in general – I took the daunting step to begin this project, to go into treatment with an open mind, to be responsible and diligent with my treatment plan, to allow myself to be held accountable for my actions, my mistakes, to accept compliments, to respect myself, my significant other, my family, and many others, to discover and embrace my flaws and virtues.

In 2018 I learned that it is possible to live with a debilitating disease, and make the best of what most would see as a no-win situation.

 

Image result for humility

Learning humility is not a weakness; it is empowerment of the will to walk the road that lays ahead. 

 

Today is not New Year’s Eve to me; today is a day just like any other – I woke up, I got up from bed, made coffee, sat down in front of the computer, and smiled.

And now I get to share that warmth and good vibes with all of you; I have the chance to continue sharing those tidbits of knowledge, wisdom, and wit that don’t make me a wise man, a guru, a teacher, a pontificating hoity toity know-it-all – it just makes me a simple man who is working for a better tomorrow.

Every day is a new beginning, tabula rasa, a clean slate for which we are given the opportunity to claim what truly belongs to us: choice.

 

Related image

Here’s your canvas – paint your masterpiece.

 

So now I invite you to embrace a new day, a new year, and make the choice to live a life full of promise, wonder, uncertainty, ups and downs, twists and turns, to look into the unknown with courage, shake with anticipation, walk with caution and maturity towards that fog of mystery that will be 2019 – when the clouds of pyrotechnic smoke dissipate, when the crackling and thundering of fireworks and loud chants of celebration die down, step to the closest mirror, look at yourself, wink, smirk, and be grateful, filled with joy and anticipation, knowing that you are still here, that you still breathe, that you feel, but most of all that you live because you made the choice to do so.

 

Image result for out with the old in with the new

Now go make 2019 your bitch. 

 

 

 

 

Id, Egos, and Superheroes

Batman/Bruce Wayne: “What have I done, Alfred? Everything my family, my father, built.”
Alfred Pennyworth: “The Wayne legacy is more than bricks and mortar, sir.”
Batman/Bruce Wayne: “I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.”
Alfred Pennyworth: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
– Batman Begins, 2005

 

 

Anyone that knows me even in the slightest realizes that I worship comic books. Those bright colors, those awe-inspiring panels full of great deeds, heroic journeys, witty banter, good vs evil; I lived and breathed for every single moment of joy they brought to my childhood, how they allowed me to escape the harsh brutality of a world that didn’t understand me, a world that likewise I was unable to understand.

 

Then in 2008, something absolutely magical happened: Iron Man officially kickstarted the MCU – otherwise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe for those of you few uninitiated living in a cave since 2008 – and my life was never the same.

Seeing my beloved heroes on the big screen, epic, fluid, majestic, flawed.

 

Wait….flawed?

 

Yes, flawed.

 

What makes a great and compelling hero, in my humble opinion, is not his power, it’s not his courage in the face of adversity, it’s not self-sacrifice; it’s the awareness that he/she is flawed, and they accept and live with those flaws because they are exponentially at risk of bigger failure than the average man.  They hold themselves accountable for their actions (most of the time), and when they do fail, they regroup, recover, adapt to the situation, and fight once again. They do this willingly because they believe in the greater good, because they represent the will to fight for a cause worth fighting for – the betterment of humanity.

No other character better encapsulates this idea than one of the most powerful, most recognized, and most polarizing comic book heroes of all time: David Bruce Banner, also known as The Incredible Hulk.

 

 

I screamed and bawled like a child with pure joy when I watched this scene in theaters on opening night.

The MCU finally gave me a possible answer to my plight, to finally conquering part of my disease.

 

“That’s my secret, Captain….I’m always angry.”

 

Unknowingly, unwittingly, they killed two birds with one stone: they gave me the secret to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and Narrative Therapy.

 

Unfortunately, it took me 10 years to finally learn what those techniques are, how to use them, and how they would change my life for the better.

 

Better late than never, right?

 

According to Psychology Today, “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. … Categorically speaking, ACT is a form of mindfulness based therapy, theorizing that greater well-being can be attained by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings.”

ACT focuses on 3 areas:

Accept your reactions and be present
Choose a valued direction
Take action.

 

That’s technique number one in a nutshell; we’ll discuss how to apply it in a few.

 

Here’s technique number two: Narrative Therapy.

One of the best definitions I have found during my research for narrative therapy comes from ThriveTalk:

Narrative therapy is a form of therapeutic counseling or ‘talk therapy’ that trains us to identify and change the stories that we tell about ourselves, in a way that promotes mental health. This approach also teaches us to identify underlying skills and positive attributes that can help us to improve our life circumstances.”

 

So what does this have to do with fighting super villains and saving the world you ask?

 

One of my main struggles with Bipolar II Disorder is managing stressful situations, especially as it pertains to anger management and all of the emotional distress that occurs during manic episodes.

 

This brings me to Bruce Banner and The Hulk.

 

For those not familiar with comic books, Bruce Banner is a brilliant scientist, who, during the testing of a gamma radiation weapon for the military, sacrificed himself to save a young man who was idly standing near the test site, by pushing him to safety before the gamma blast goes off, thereby  absorbing the radiation,  unlocking and unleashing his alter ego, the Hulk.

Image result for bruce banner saving rick jones

 

Banner is the representation of repressed emotion, a man who is terrified of the monster that lurks within.

 

Hulk is the manifestation of pure, unadulterated rage; he is a product of the release of anger – raw, powerful, increasing exponentially as his anger keeps growing.

 

After I watched The Avengers in 2012, a running joke began and spread among my family, friends, and colleagues; Marvel had put me on the big screen.

 

Image result for hulk smash

How most people tend to see me. SEBAAAAAA SMAAAAAAAASH!!!!

 

I took that joke and turned it into a healthy coping mechanism.

 

I finally found a way to identify my anger, acknowledge it, and thereby separating it from who I really am, giving me the necessary tools to finally learn more about myself, my condition, how to find better, more productive, healthier ways to manage my emotions – by giving them a name, by creating a narrative of who I am when I am Hulk, I was finally able to acknowledge the problem, be mindful of situations, my reactions, my body language, choose the proper course of action, and then with all of the pertinent information gathered, ACT accordingly. (Pun fully intended)

 

I am writing this right now, crying, because even though Hulk is ever present, ever watching, ever waiting to strike, I now know he is there, and I know who he is; I feel him, I contain him. Hulk is a part of me, and I accept it, I acknowledge it, and when He comes out to wreak havoc, even though I feel guilt over whatever destruction He unleashed around me, I am not consumed by it.

That makes tears of joy stream down my cheeks because that is a breakthrough I will always be proud of.

I learned to separate Hulk from Sebastian*, and in the process shining new light into aspects of myself that I can now work on and improve.

*FYI, my real name is not Sebastian. I didn’t know it back then, but many years ago I had used narrative therapy to create the Sebastian persona, but that is another narrative tale for another day. Just go with it. 

 

I am not a super hero; in fact, I am far from it – but not all heroes wear capes, as they say these days.

No.

Sometimes being the hero is acknowledging that you are, in fact, not a hero; by accepting your limitations, and working on becoming a better person, you are displaying the same courage and fortitude that comic books put on display – the sheer force of will, the motivation to make the world a better place for yourself, and for those around you.

 

We are all heroes in our stories; the key is to write stories that heal and save the world.

 

One comic book at a time.

 

 

 

  

Resolution Blues

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” – Mark Twain

 

Oh, it’s that wonderful time of year once again!

 

No, I’m not talking about Consumer-Is-Mass, not Don’t-Krampus-My-Style; I’m talking about whipping out that notepad and pencil, laptop, desktop keyboard, and social-media-ize the hell out of your good intentions to change and be a better person through meme after meme, post after post of New Year’s Resolutions!

 

New-Years-Resolution-Memes-3.jpg

Tradition dictates they will last about a day or two, depending on how vain, superficial, idealistic, naive, or stubborn you tend to be. Carry on.

 

Who is it that said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? I always get them confused, but whoever coined that phrase is a cynical, bonafide national treasure in my book.

Look, I’m all for change, growth, self-improvement, etc. Hell, this is what this project is all about! But if there is one thing I’ve learned from all of this in 2018, if there is a single lesson I have taken to heart and will death-grip with all of my Force abilities until the day I become a Force ghost, it is this:

 

Intent does not make a person; action does.

 

When I was young – back in the days of cocaine cowboys, kitschy glam rock, big hair, and genius John Hughes movies – I could care less about the troubles of the adult world. Bills, responsibilities, work, adulation, infamy, social drama, gossip, those were all grown-up problems. My biggest concern was making sure I got as much fun out of my toys and imagination before heading off to bed at 7pm EST. I had a strict sleep schedule, even back then, though that was more obligated than self-imposed.

(I would later discover that avoiding sleep deprivation and maintaining a well-regulated sleep regiment is a key component to treating mental illness; go figure.)

Life was all about the now, the current moment, what made me feel good and alive, and all of that was done naturally, unwillingly, without thought or hesitation.

 

And then I grew up.

 

We all grow up, become adults, and get bombarded with the idea that there is a finite timeline to how events in your life should unfold, that a perfect schedule of appropriateness and success has been formulated, prepared, and disseminated unto our society, and if you do not adhere to those sacred instructions, well, you are worth nothing.

 

That, of course, is utter bullshit.
Bipolar disorder tends to wreak havoc with its absolutist sense of morality; good is good, bad is bad, and whatever shakes that foundation, whatever makes us doubt is instantly discarded, like most hangover-laced resolutions being whispered when hardcore celebrations of another yearly survival ritual have ended.

At some point, you realize that life is not supposed to be about constant happiness, eternal bliss, a quirky sitcom with an UH-OH problem with resolution and happy endings in the span of thirty minutes.

urkel.png

Yes. I did. *cue laugh track*

 

Life is all about moments – strands full of colorful, bright, and dark yarns that weave through the infinite tapestry that is the Universe.

The human experience is not a fixed, resolute, finite, etched in a stone slab for all time; it is the constant ebb and flow, bob and weave, of our collective senses assimilating information, always giving way to new things, wonderful, painful, orgasmic, numbing, chaotic, CHANGING.
So with all of that being said, why do I feel as if New Year’s Resolutions are a bunch of Hallmark obsessed hogwash?

 

Because every day, every single moment, is a new resolution, a new opportunity to make change. You do not need a list, you do not need to validate your intentions with the parking attendants that are the people that surround you.

 

Once upon a time, I used to smoke like a chimney. I would smoke at least three packs of menthols; the stink of cigarette smoke and failed intentions permeated my clothes, my skin, and my soul. I had that hacking smoker’s cough, that alveolus burst of lung failure and despair that always reminded me that I was but a few drags away from calming my anxiety. It wreaked havoc on my health, on my hygiene, and most of all, on my significant other. The stench of constant disapproval and concern always lingered; as the days went by, and the foul stink grew ever more disgusting, I would promise myself and others that I would stop the habit, break free of it, always buttering up the bread with luscious, creamy, convincing lines of assurance and misled, false conviction.

And then, one magical day, this wise woman who saw through my bullshit said to me:

 

“Show me, don’t tell me.”

 

From that day forward, I stopped smoking. Cold turkey. Haven’t had a single cigarette since.
My world view changed once I heard, accepted, and internalized those words.

 

It is a truth the echoes in my mind every day; it is a spark that always lights the kindle for motivation, good will, and prosperity within me.

I no longer make promises, nor resolutions; I just do what I must, accept failure when it arrives, and celebrate victory when I triumph.
You know, live life and stuff.
When you feel tempted to announce how you’re going to “change”, “make things happen”, “insert-motivational-here”, keep in mind the irony that even if in the theater of the mind we have a never-ending adulating audience, the harsh truth is that nobody really cares, and those that do, don’t need to tell you.

 

They just show it.

 

It is up to you if you want to be the voice of change, or the agent who carries out its will. You don’t need a public service announcement, a carefully redacted list, or anyone’s approval to remind you that you, and only you, can make positive change happen.
PS. Write that down.

write-that-down.jpg

Van Wilder knew what was up. Genius. Ryan Reynolds IS a freakin’ national treasure.

 

 

Ob-Noxious Behavior, Pt. II

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.” – Samuel Johnson

 

So here we were, holding hands, walking along the middle of the proverbial train tracks, when the drama train was gunning for us full speed ahead, remember?

 

all-aboard-the-drama-train.jpg

 

There were three crucial questions I asked before heading for certain doom:

1) How do we avoid a disastrous collision?

2) If the imminent disaster occurs, how do we manage damage control?

3) How do we minimize collateral damage?

 

To answer those questions, we have to view the situation from two distinct vantage points; one, the always-right-kung-fu-master, and two, the punching bag.*

*Otherwise known as the communicator and the receiver, according to Berlo’s conceptual model of human communication, but let’s stick to the more whimsical, appropriate imagery, shall we?

Image result for kung fu master vs student

Yeah, they’re communicating. Really.

 

Here’s where things get a tad complicated.

You see, I was going to waltz into a diatribe on human behavior as it stems from nature vs nurture, the current standard of living as it pertains to social interaction in this current stage of human evolution, facts, charts, diagrams, puppet shows, YouTube clips, social media memes, etc.

And then I realized how simple it truly is to explain, instead of sounding like a pedantic wannabe.

The truth is, speaking from personal experience, toxicity stems from irrational thoughts and fears when it comes to the mentally ill. A mentally ill individual normally does not want to be toxic; quite the contrary – we wish to be at peace, to co-exist in a harmonious existence of perpetual bliss. That, of course, is a fantasy that we project* unto those around us.

*According to most textbook definitions I have found while doing research, psychological projection is defined as a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

hqdefault.jpg

Not to be confused with astral projection; that’s a whole other can of worms.

So you see, when our expectations do not conform to the vision we have of what something should be, we immediately see it as a threat and act accordingly. We expect other parties to fully understand that THEY are at fault of situations that arise, not us; WE did nothing wrong, WE acted according to our perfect little vision of how things should be, so WE prepare for battle – battle flags are hoisted, fortifications are secured, and onward to battle we go.

The aforementioned party then gets blindsided in a stupendous WHAT-THE-FUCK moment that becomes a struggle to survive an unnecessary onslaught of emotions. Many of these moments cannot be avoided; they are just immediate triggers, and it is up to the individual who suffers from a mental disorder to apply techniques learned through experience, treatment, and introspection. After all is said and done, if steps were taken and a crisis still occurs, then all parties involved must be understanding, patient, and most of all EMPATHIC towards each others’ plight.

 

Simply said, it takes two to tango.

 

So that brings me to the extremist meme that I posted last time as an example:

FB_IMG_1545165742248.jpg

 

Nobody, I mean NOBODY is indebted to ANYONE; let me make that abundantly clear.

 

If a friend, loved one, or family member decides to stand by your side out of love and commitment through your disease, then that is a blessing that should be cherished and nurtured.

On the flip side, if a friend, loved one, or family member decides they have had enough….

 

IT IS FUCKING OK.

 

They are human beings, with limits just like any other person; they are allowed to feel frustration, anger, all the emotions that are associated with someone struggling with a painful situation that, in their own heart and mind, they cannot handle or are not prepared for.

 

IT IS OK FOR SOMEONE TO WALK AWAY; THAT IS NOT ABANDONMENT – IT IS SELF-LOVE, DIGNITY, AND SELF-RESPECT.

 

Just because you work in a hospital does not mean that you won’t get sick and need a few days off; does that make you a shitty caretaker?

Of course not.

In order to take care of others, you need to first take care of yourself, to be healthy and to be prepared.

So that brings me to the previous three questions that were asked. The solution is quite simple – really – when you think about:

 

Don’t be a prick.

 

Seems kinda anti-climactic, minimizing, simple and childish, right?

 

Just look at the facts:

  1. If you are a prick, prepare to be treated like one. Deal with it. It sounds harsh, and there is more to it than that because like I’ve said before, life is never simple. That being said, you get what you give; it’s simply the law of reciprocity.
  2. If you deal with being a prick and show you don’t want to be a prick, then allow others to help you not be a prick.
  3. If you decide to continue being a prick regardless, don’t be surprised when people tell you to go fuck off.

What it all boils down to is the fact that you cannot treat people like shit and expect them to just stand there and take it on the chin just because they love you; that, ladies and gentlemen, is called ABUSE.*

*I will be addressing the issue of abuse another day, because it is an extremely important component that affects all aspects of mental illness, both from a victim’s standpoint and the abuser’s standpoint. It is an important, fascinating subject that needs to be discussed with the utmost attention to detail and delicateness.

 

Nobody likes to be abused.

 

Toxic behavior can be modified, and in many wonderful cases, can be eradicated, but it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, mindfulness, and empathy.

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan melted down, creating a nuclear disaster of unforeseeable magnitude. After 7 years of effort and cleanup, Fukushima has slowly been rebuilt, opened back to the public, repopulated, and is being proverbially healed. The Japanese government estimates the cleanup effort will take around three to four more decades and billions of dollars to complete. They could’ve gone the Chernobyl route and just dump cement over the problem and call it a day; but they want their nation to thrive and grow beyond the wreckage of misfortune.

 

It will take time.

 

It will take insurmountable effort.

 

But they have the commitment and the drive to make it happen.

 

Be a Fukushima, not a Chernobyl.

 

 

Depression And Other Fairy Tales

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Seuss

I had so many ideas about what to write about this week. My head was full of ideas; I bought notebooks, downloaded e-books, and wrote down a few ideas. I was motivated, pumped, full of energy and moxie, ready to continue my writer’s journey of self-discovery.

And then depression hit.

Hard.

All it took was a single moment for me to realize, unwittingly, that I was looking at a blank, empty page, a sliver of time that went on for centuries in my head; for a fleeting moment I sat staring at nothingness with that awful sinking feeling in my chest, the absence of feeling, wondering where the world had disappeared to.

I began this blog, this journey, as a way to cope with my disease, to heal, to navigate through the stormy seas of a world that I barely understand most of the time. There are days that fill me with joy, the elation of accomplishment – pride that my work, as minute as it may seem, is the beginning of something special, something more.

And then there are days where I feel that nothing I do is good enough, where I obsess about website traffic statistics and analysis, insights, social media metrics, wondering why nobody is reading, why nobody says anything, why no one will validate me, why cheerleaders with pom-poms and pig tails aren’t ra-ra-ra-ing my efforts, why society doesn’t care about the downtrodden, the unfortunate masses, why people are so uncaring, cruel, ignorant, despicable.

 

Are you seeing a pattern develop?

 

Do you see the jumps and dips, the ups and down, the flips and turns?

 

The fact that I struggle every day with combating the concept of duality and binary thinking is a trademark symptom of bipolar disorder.

 

My first year majoring in Computer Science I discovered the concept of binary systems, how they are the bread and butter of processing data, the life blood of information and electronics theory; all information consisting of 1’s and 0’s, the state of on and off, the duality of existence, of chaos finding order and organization, finally enlightened to how the world should operate.

I was fascinated by that concept because I was obsessed with the dichotomy of everything, the thought that existence, choice, thought, is or is not.

You see, one important symptom that helps identify bipolar disorder is the famous concept of black and white, do or do not, there is no try.

73b86fc81f2985974dfa5de70e0aaba7.jpg

*insert double entendre meme comment here; wink wink nudge nudge*

 

For someone suffering from bipolar disorder, shades of grey are a fallacy, an impossibility; it is extremely difficult to not deal in absolutes. When confronted with a situation where the dance of nuance, the tango of subtlety, comes into play we become that one drunk guy at karaoke – in his mind, he’s belting tunes out like David Draiman from Disturbed, while in reality he’s just squawking out of cadence like a monkey on horse tranquilizers.

*I just had to do it. Seriously, I had to; my description would never do this perfect moment in time justice. Lords bless the Internet. 

 

I call this common phenomenon the fairy tale effect.

Let’s be honest; we all have delusions of grandeur at some point in our lives (mostly when we’re teenagers who think we’re invincible, indestructible, infallible, in-whatever-word-to-describe-we-are-not-wrong-always-right, yada yada yada). We all have idealistic notions of what we want the world to be, philosophies of life that are set in stone, rigid, inflexible, perfect.

Until we realize the Universe is an ever-flowing ebb-and-flow of chaos; and that is not a bad thing, nor a good thing. It is just the way things are and always shall be.

 

Unfortunately, nobody delivered most mentally ill patients the memo.

 

And no one gave an instruction manual to their loved ones on how to deal with the backlash.

 

So with that being said, whenever things don’t go the way I want, my creative little noggin’ goes into overdrive; it becomes the Shakespeare of logic and reason, weaving tales of tragedy, victimization, and plots against my well-being that would make most JFK conspiracy theorists proud. These are the fairy tales concocted out of irrational thoughts and ideas when our minds cannot reconcile the fact that not everything is as simple as black and white; there are not only shades of grey, but a spectrum of bright colors, a venerable cornucopia of possibilities and solutions.

 

If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is; the same applies the other way around. When in doubt, just take a step back, look at the facts, and throw some introspection into the mix, sprinkle in some reasonable hope, a dash of healthy optimism, and – VOILA – life goes on.

 

Nobody needs to live happily ever after; that, my friends, is a fantasy.

 

Not all fairy tales need to have happy endings and not all fairy tales need to have unhappy endings.
Why?
Because there are an infinite amount of stories waiting to be written; it’s just up to you to write stories that make your world a better place.

 

 

 

The Law Of Conservation Of What Matters

“No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal,—that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
Henry David Thoreau

 

In chemistry, the law of conservation of mass or principle of mass conservation states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as system’s mass cannot change, so quantity cannot be added nor removed.

 

Whoa, dude, English!

 

In layman’s terms, matter cannot be created, nor destroyed, only transformed.

 

Better?

 

Good.

 

I share this example with you because in essence it offers a great metaphor as to the nature of human behavior and personality, growth, and evolution, at least in my opinion.

 

I have been accused many times of being unstable, unapproachable, alienating; unfortunately, those assumptions are correct most of the time, especially during moments of extreme duress. In the past, I was (and sometimes, still am) guilty of erratic behavior, emotional outbursts, and what can only be described as man-child super-tantrums:

 

*I only include the footage as an example, mind you; it’s funny, sad, and creepy all the same.

 

Why am I sharing this with you?

 

Simple.

 

My Law Of Conservation Of What Matters* states that even after extreme episodes of irrationality and stupidity, people are still capable of transforming themselves, because I believe that innately all people are good-natured, and have the capacity to change for the better.

*Patent pending. Psyche. 

 

To believe that life is a constant, static, cemented place is to not have looked up at the sky and wondered about the vastness of the Universe, nor played with Legos (without stepping on them, of course) to build castles of wonder and imagination, or stared at rose petals, watching flowers bloom, whither away, and then grow once again, more beautiful than ever. Perfection is a fallacy; it will never be achieved, will remain the unobtainable prize – the real treat, the real carrot in front of the mule, is in the journey, the brown sugar in the mocha latte being building the strength of will and perseverance to achieve what you choose to achieve.

 

Life is ever flowing, ever-changing, full of chemical reactions, dances of light and energy, miracles and disappointments; it is an everlasting tango of movement, chaos, mystery, and laughter, but at its core it is all the same: an experience.

 

An experience that comes with joy, sadness, pain, triumph, the amalgamation of everything that makes us human – the perception and acceptance of emotional responses.

 

At our core, we are just the accumulation of our surroundings and experiences, the events that shaped us into who we are, but that’s just a malleable foundation; we are still capable of taking those experiences, those emotions and memories, and turn them into something amazing, even through the hurt, through the agony of tears and smacks that life is capable of dishing out at us.

 

Go ahead. Do the math.*

 

 

 

formula for happiness.jpeg

 

I’ll wait.

 

In reality, I believe we are all capable of change; true enough, we cannot change the past, but we can most definitely live in the now, and always dream and strive for a better future, because in the end, it is imperative that we conserve what most matters – a healthy life, a healthy mind, and a healthy heart.

 

 

 

Timing (And Clarity) Is Everything

“Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” – Ambrose Bierce

#WARNING: This post contains language and imagery some may find offensive; if that is the case, then tough titty said the kitty.

Human communication is a funny thing.

We speak, we inform, therefore creating bonds, relating, sharing; words intertwine with meaning, emotion, and intent.

From the beginning of time, we have grunted our wishes, yelled out our aggression, announced our intentions, moaned out our pleasure and pain, through sound, symbols, gestures, and the occasional middle finger or two.*

*How ironic that just like creatures in the animal kingdom, humans do not necessarily need opposable thumbs to wreak havoc; one middle finger is enough to instigate gang warfare, so yeah, take THAT pesky lemurs, bears, and raccoons!

middle-finger-2790310_1280.jpg

The universal communicator needs no translation, ladies and gentlemen.

So why is it that now, in an age of technological advancement, of electronic miracles gifted to us by the gods of invention and innovation, have we become so….damn….regrettably….STUPID.

Ok, so maybe the word stupid is a tad harsh.

Snowflakey, perhaps? (Snowflakey is an actual word; go look it up. I swear it’s real! )

#Sucker

No. That’s not it.

The word I’m looking for is desensitized.

Taking out cultural differences, language barriers, and all sorts of myriad variables and complications out of the equation, there is one all-encompassing, crucial component to effective communication, in my humble opinion:

Clarity.

A blessing that many mentally ill individuals sadly do not possess the way most healthy members of society do (and unfortunately take for granted).

I have struggled most of my life with social communication. I was a very awkward child growing up due to my senses being all out of whack; I was a quiet kid with an itchy trigger finger when it came to emotional response, especially in stressful situations. Being bilingual didn’t help matters much since I would think in two languages; a lot of things would get lost in translation. I would stutter, hesitate, become confused very easily, which would lead to anger, frustration, desperation, and finally, backlash. I would constantly get into fights and confrontations in school, in my personal life, and especially in my family life – every day was a constant struggle to keep control, keep myself in check, or get smacked around like a Mexican piñata.

Edgar Sanchez, 10, of Cedar Rapids, winds up to smack a piñata at the Festival Latino de Cedar Rapids on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, July 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)

Yep, just another normal day at school for me.

That struggle followed me throughout my teen years, where it was amplified by puberty and rebellion, hormonal imbalance, and the constant desire to fuck almost everything in sight.

And then I graduated high school.

Oh boy, did the fun begin there!

You see, I entered college, and then -BOOM- the freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted, however I wanted, was granted to me, except I didn’t count on one simple detail: actions have consequences, and the only sense of consequence I had ever experienced growing up was violence.

You could get away with a lot when you’re 13 – the age I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder – but not so much when you are legally bound to take it up the ass from Chucho El Horrible* after you’ve broken quite a few laws while disturbing the peace getting into drunken bar fights because your mouth wrote checks your body could not possibly cash.**

*I have withheld Chucho’s picture out of respect and fear; needless to say, imagine if Sasquatch and a rhino had a baby, that baby would be eaten alive by Chucho.

**What can I say, I had the need; the need for speed. See what I did there? Twice? Whatever.

I was lucky, though; I never served a single day in jail (though I have been institutionalized many a time), nor have I ever been convicted of a crime, and I am still here, living and breathing because the All-Mighty Lords of the Universe decided I misbehaved, yet learned my lesson so I could tell my story.

You know, communicate.

Properly.

Other people, unfortunately, are not so lucky.

That is why it is so important to be mindful of everything you say, every gesture you make, every syllable you utter – it is exhausting to scrutinize every last detail, but it is a burden that is worth carrying if it means better living and better relationships with those around you.

For someone who suffers from mental illness, even the slightest twitch equals an alien invasion, so if a situation arises, here’s what you do (mind you, it’s worked miracles for me, but please feel free to try your own variations):

1) Speak clearly and intently: No, this does not mean “Heeeeellloooooo Biiiiilllyyyyy, I am heeeeeere toooooo heeeeeeeelp youuuuuuuu” – that’s just being a condescending jackass. Just be clear with your intention if the person seems to be confused or taken aback; when in doubt, explain once again.

2) Be assertive: Translation – this is not the part where you insult someone to the point of chemical meltdown; just get your point across, firmly, affirmatively, with respect and consideration to the other person’s feelings. You cannot control how someone else reacts, but you can sure as hell control how you say things. The second you include a curse word or a combative phrase, it’s game over.

3) Avoid aggressive gestures: Yeah, gesturing is a fine way to emote your displeasure with dramatic flair, but this ain’t the movies nor Broadway, so if you want to avoid getting popped in the kisser, or avoid a confrontation that you will surely regret later, keep your hands at your sides and to yourself; do not fist up, or, better yet, you may try hugging yourself by clutching your elbows or clasping your hands. It’s a self-comforting technique I’ve been advised of many a time, and it has worked wonders when I feel I am losing control of my temper.

4) When in doubt, shut it down: When all else fails, and the communication breakdown is imminent and irreparable, it’s time to pack it up and go home. The situation will only escalate to the point of verbal aggression, or worse. I highly advise to use the first three steps mentioned above when closing an argument; clearly state why you are ending the conversation, do it in a concise, respectful manner, avoid making angry gestures, throwing insults, etc. and most of all explain that the reason you are walking away is PRECISELY because you don’t want to engage in hurtful behavior. Hopefully, the responding party will react in a mature manner and leave it be; if not, fuck ’em – just walk away anyway, but you can be proud of yourself for attempting to diffuse a sour situation and not being an immature jackass.

I have lost many people, and burnt many a bridge, in my life due to miscommunication. It makes me sad when I realize that usually they were just silly things that could have been avoided if I had just kept an open mind, identified and assessed the situation, and addressed it accordingly.

That being said, the beauty of it all is not to look back on past failures with regret; I look back with melancholy, yes, but I also use it as a learning tool, another experience, another opportunity to become wiser, to take one more step towards serenity and peace with myself and with others.

Playful banter, witty sarcasm, cynical jokes, and a satirical outlook on life can be a healthy choice, but like all good things, they must be kept in moderation; not everyone will see things my way (though they should, dammit), nor yours, and that is perfectly fine.

In summation, as two wise men once said:

Be excellent to each other.