The musicians secret to grief.

73111182_10158292369659298_5755838952162459648_o

I’m an award-winning drummer. I have played for 10 to 10,000 people. Many people believe musicianship is a gift we’re born with. Maybe that is true to an extent but, for me, the reason why I spent the better part of my adult life cultivating my ability is I know it to be a way to shake free of grief. I grew up in a deeply troubled home. Addiction and abuse were in plentiful supply. It’s convenient and tidy to say that everyone deals with their pain in their own way but the reality is some people never deal with it. When it’s not dealt with, it eats away at our soul and happiness. I have learned that grief is like a rushing tide of energy and just like great rapids the tide can pull you along for a wild ride if you know how to harness it or can take you to your death.

Music for us wounded souls is a way to provide a conduit for the grief. We hope that if we can control or contain in some way it’s violent movement that it will be less destructive to our being. The lucky happenstance is that others can find solace in our stories, be it painful or happy. I’ve had people come up to me and say that my music affected them in ways that were so intimate. I’ve wanted to stop and explain to them this theory but I always graciously just smile and thank them. What may be hard to put into words is their experience is tantamount to the same conduit. Allowing their pain to finally come out of its safely ensconced nest, shaking free and hopefully, finally out of the body.

While you may not be a musician, there are many other ways in which you can allow space for the energy of grief to move freely, as it was designed to, and finally leaving your soul a little lighter. Love, play every chance you can, paint, write, dance, exercise, or do whatever movement that speaks to you. Just move freely and move in the love of self. There is no wrong or right way. Besides the journey is where a lot of the magic happens!

My depression and two famous suicides in the same week.

GettyImages-953628512-1280x427

(Featured story on The Mighty)

When I saw the story about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain I thought to myself, “I get it.” That is the type of depression that I deal with, its the one that says “I get it” when someone says they just can’t do it anymore.

Today I am struggling with soul-crushing depression and anxiety. This post isn’t from days, weeks, or months ago. I mean today. I am in a cycle of not really eating, sleeping, or have the ability to focus because I am in the free fall of depression. Some shifts have happened in my life recently that have shined a spotlight on purposely, ignored pain I have swept under the rug and also a lifetime of horrible coping mechanisms which I thought I really have evolved from but alas I have not.

Each time I bottom out like I am today (typing through tears if I’m being honest) I remember the same tips I give others and they are as follows:

1) Reach out and bring people you trust in. They not only will listen but they want to listen. They will help you work through the obstacle course of despair. Even if its just hearing you so you can talk it out.

2) Remember this intense pain WILL PASS. You just have to hang on during the dark nights. But don’t isolate yourself because you are ashamed of your pain or sadness. People who truly love you will not judge you for your heart or your feelings.

3) Work with your closest loves and your healthcare professional on a plan. Make an extra appointment with your therapist and they will help you try to pinpoint the source of your sorrow and help to devise a plan of action. You don’t want to be mired down in the hopelessness of it.

4) Remember that its okay to not be okay at times. The narrative your pain is telling you is not the whole story and certainly not the ending. Heck many times its not even the real story at all.

5) It’s worth mentioning again, DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF. Your depression is counting on you to shut out the world so it can tell you all of the lies it has in store. Believe me when I say they’re all lies. Your friends will bring you truth and light, let it in.

Please note that I do see a professional as well. If you are having issues I urge you to do the same. It takes constant vigilance to undo trauma and/or pain in your life.

Thanks for listening and be well.

For Better For Worse

10384837_10153353830109298_5841243606576655272_n

With age comes the understanding
That on the other side of pain, trauma, and adversity
There is a deeper love

One that comes not through relational entitlement
Or instant gratification
But it can only be experienced through sacrifice
and grace, allowing others to be their flawed self
While you are allowed to be a flawed you

We are owed nothing
If we are lucky enough
It is our job
No scratch that, our duty to love in a way that gets our hands dirty, to wrestle with our demons, to embrace the abyss of sleep and the uncertainty that loving another human being brings

Loving one another is as precarious as loving an invisible God
All things worth exploring are intangible and elusive
The great unseen
Love, hunger, soul, anger, lust, even our very thoughts nor the Creator can be quantified into physical matter
We simply trust that it is there, that it is real, and it is something worth risking our very souls for.

Mother’s Day

A day late and a dollar short but here are my thoughts on Mother’s Day.

While Mother’s Day is a lovely day for many, it is dreaded by some. Greeting card companies, businesses, and the media all make it into a colossal deal. It’s the one day a year that mom gets to be doted on. In kind, local businesses are hopping. Farmers markets are packed with smiling faces, restaurants are bustling with families dressed in bright, spring colors, and just about any other place that mom likes to be is a hot spot. The only way you can avoid the dogmatic suggestions of how to spend Mother’s Day is to avoid going outside, watching television, going on the internet, or interacting with other humans. On second thought, maybe staying in bed might do the trick. So why do some people have the blues on Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day, in one way or another, affects everybody because we all have mothers, but for some, it will bring to mind deep hurt.

tumblr_n0hbpzHNMz1rpu8e5o1_500
The parent/child dynamic can be complicated, thus bringing up a wide array of hurts. If mom is dying, or is deceased, it can bring about aches of missing, longing, and loss.

Adopted children who have never known their birth mother might have a difficult time celebrating even if they have an amazing relationship with their adopted mother. For some, it can be a reminder of how rocky the beginning of their life was, bringing up feelings of abandonment.

However, the one segment of the population that is usually left out of the Mother’s Day blues equation are ones who have a strained relationship with their mother due to mental illness, moreover, their mother’s mental illness. Depression is affecting an ever growing number of the senior population and unfortunately many of them subscribe to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to their depression. As many of us know, this is a recipe for difficult relationships, and sadly, even more serious problems.

For many, they would rather not get into it because it brings about an emotion that we all hate, pity. Random people have pity for you, for your family, and what feels like, for your very existence. It’s an awful look to get, unmistakable, and is tough to shake off. We can all relate to the pity face, whether we are the recipient, or the perpetrator. This pity stems from a fairly common shared belief in much of the world; the belief that we should have a fantastic relationship with our mother, and if we don’t, then we are bad people. I’m kidding about that last line but you get the idea. Also, a helpful tip is that empathy is far better received than pity.

How can we help with the blues on this day?

If you are the person asking what someone is doing for Mother’s Day, and they give you the, “I don’t know” answer, don’t press. If you are close, and at a later time you would like to ask about it, please do, but don’t expect a dissertation on it days before Mother’s Day. It is painful, for many, to talk about.

If you are the person being asked and you have an tenuous relationship with your mother, it is perfectly OK to have the conversation with some folks. Its important to talk about our emotions but its equally important to talk about them with only a trusted audience. This is not only a painful subject but its also partially the story of someone else, your mother. It’s important to respect and honor privacy by not telling too much of their story by way of yours.

So how do you process these emotions the day of? One option is to hide in your house, feeling sorry for yourself, but another is to share the day with another woman who needs it.

With even a minimal amount of searching, you can find other people who are hurting over that day as well, and would love to be taken out. Women who have children who live far away, ones who have lost their child, or even grandmothers whose children will be spending the day with their children are likely to be very receptive to a fun day out. It is especially important for people with fractured families to form chosen families. After all, family, regardless of their origins, is the most important of all.

Book Signing! Saturday, May 17th!

Good Afternoon! Tomorrow, May 17th, I will be at L.A. Cafe signing copies of my recent book release, Prisoner to Patriot. If you mention that you saw this post on my blog, I will give you $2 off, and you can purchase the book for only $10! The event is FREE! Come down, spend some time hanging out with me, drink some coffee, and eat some delicious food! The cafe is located at 5815 Dixie Hwy., Waterford, MI

What makes us whole?

I have pondered this question in the past but have always come up with something simplistic. Something that is frankly pedestrian and easy. Let me start from the beginning of my thought process.

Many people share the similar experience of either caring for someone who is quickly approaching the end of their time here or have witnessed it. While I am not short changing the witnessing experience, the caring garners the bulk of my attention these days. Many people describe it as a brutal and exhausting experience. Even people who are “right with God” or are “very well adjusted” can be dismantled by this experience. So, this left me wondering….why?

I (like the majority of the population) spend my days occupied with stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we have honest and true obligations that must be met in order to eat, live, etc…but it seems that the remaining hours are spent in willful distraction. Television, internet, social media, celebrity worship, fame seeking, sex, money, and the wanting to be special are the lion’s share of our waking lives. I am no exception so this isn’t about judgment, just mere observation.

Besides breathing, death is the most assured and natural part of life. So why the big shake up to watch someone slowly make the transition, what’s the root of the problem here? I can’t speak for everyone but for me it seems to be this… OH, one more thing first. For those of you who don’t know me well I am somewhat of a Liberal Christian, so my belief system (like yours) is always at the center of my observations and with that being said, here is my take.

I think when we are in these pure moments of caring for someone who is passing; we are so close to the creator. Just as God lends us to this world, we are meant to eventually leave and to be so close to somebody making that journey to whatever is next is a glimpse into the other side, if you will. We slow down and get in touch with what really matters; life, death, and the creator of all things. To be in the presence of death is as awe inspiring as witnessing a birth because it is a way to see a miracle of the process of life and watch the work of a higher being. For those who don’t pray or believe that God hears their prayers, this is also a way to seemingly be in the very presence of the life force or cycle.

Now what makes it so difficult is that as we care for someone, we also have to exist in the world and try to go on with our lives the best that we can. THIS is where I feel the conflict arises. We are, by design, amazing creations. Just the idea of the fever managing infection, eyes, the way the heart works, etc…Throw in a soul and conscious to complete one heck of a package! WOW! We are made of the elements that we can tangibly see and ones that we can’t. Our very design is a freaking miracle and once we can get in touch with that, once we honor that acknowledgement with a birth or a death, we get how beautiful and valuable we are. However, the world says that we have no value innately and we must earn it through works, beauty, money, fame, etc… THIS is the rub; it’s the very moment where our intrinsic soul and the world violently collide with one another creating this explosion within us that translates into anger, pain, confusion and sorrow.

I don’t want to dismiss the obvious things. For instance that caring for a loved one is HARD work along with carrying on with your life and the mere thought of them leaving us and missing them is real, no doubt about it but the thing that shakes our very soul is the sudden awareness that we are not living a whole life, that like marionettes, we cave daily to the expectations of the world. It seems to me that these situations bring to light how much we are of the world and not just living in it. At least, it is for me.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings and feel free to leave you input as well in the comments below. I always love to hear them!

S

The heart of the matter.

Image

So the sweet boy in the photo is Nob. He is the subject of my last book and will be 85 in a few months. He is now in an assisted living facility, in the Hospice wing. He’s still pretty sharp, witty, and funny but his heart is failing. He is of sound mind but his body is not going along with the program. I have sat with him day after day chatting, watching him sleep, eat, interacting with family and friends. It has been a life changing experience for me. Not that I plan to run out and scale a mountain or save the world but it gives me a keen sense of mortality…..in a good way. No pity or worry but gratitude. I am suddenly much more appreciative of my health, body, and mind. I have a new focus and responsibility to care for my body and mind because it really is such a precious gift that we ALL take for granted at some point. This is a man who is smart and good spirited but his body is failing as all of ours will. Get up, go for a walk, go to the gym, learn a new language, travel, drink in life by the cup full.

The Future….

As I age I realize that there is a fine line between facing the future and forcing it. In times of transition I think we often times have to embrace the inevitable changes with some amount of grace and dignity as we realize that kicking and screaming won’t help. That was my tiny stab at humoring a moment we all find uncomfortable. However, maybe it isn’t everyone. Maybe its just a certain sect of people that fret it. I, by design, am often hyper in my thinking, movement, delivery, and expectations. I need things to not only move at lightening speed but I need to know the how and why. I labor day in and day out with the why of EVERYTHING! My husband often times snaps me out of those moments by bringing up a scene from the movie, Rain Man. When Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond repeats the famous ‘who’s on first’ scene from Abbott and Costello, his movie brother, Charlie Babbitt figures out that its a riddle he is trying to solve. So Charlie finally says to Raymond, “It’s not a riddle, its a joke. You will never solve it.” My husband will occasionally use that line to bring me back to earth when I’m caught up in the cause of the human condition, of change, and the uncertainty of the future. With all the changes going on in my life as of late I am only left to assume that God has one hilarious sense of humor.