Day Twenty Nine: Scars

Daily Journal

Yesterday was very productive. The kids completed the tasks on their To Do list by 11:00

businessforbohemians
The latest book by Tom Hodgkinson, one of my favorite Gen X writers.

AM, and then went to the movies to see A Dog’s Purpose with my mother and sister. I took a couple of hours to catch up on three days worth of blogs I was behind on, and restored the kitchen back to a clean condition. I went through all my bills, using a bill organizer notebook I purchased for $2 at Dollar General. Remarkably, I noticed I had paid off $350 to a collection agency for debt owed to my doctor’s office for almost one year, and paid off half of what little defaulted credit card debt remained with this week’s paycheck. I ran my annual free credit report, finding 3 open accounts I still need to pay off. Surprisingly, I’m almost debt free. The problem seemed much worse than it actually was, but I’ve been so poor for the last two years that even paying off $1500 in debt seemed impossible. I finished filing my taxes yesterday too.

 

I downloaded two new books to my Kindle, and added to my Goodreads reading list:

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hodkinson since I first bought his book The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste at the Borders bookstore on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ sometime during the year 2007. I generally purchase every book he writes and Business for Bohemians is the latest one I didn’t have.

Write It Down
My advice now is to go for a long walk and think about your life. Then come home, sit down with a notebook and write down what you want to do and how you want to live. What brings you pleasure, and what brings you satisfaction? What would your ideal day look like? That is the first step.
-Chapter One: How Do You Want to Live?, Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

My ambitions are return to a regular writing habit, keeping a blog, and writing ebooks which I put up for sale. I’d like to have some kind of part time job I don’t have, and a band that produces income and keeps my legacy and name out there. My ideal day will go like this: Wake up early in the morning. Shower. Meditation. Exercise. Breakfast. Writing or journaling. Maybe podcasting. In the afternoon, I have some kind of job I do that I don’t mind doing. In the evening, I have dinner, spend time with my family, maybe have a beer or a coffee, and read a good book. On weekends, I hike, play a gig somewhere, go on a road trip. 

This sounds like fantasy, but everything I’ve done started with goals. In 2007, it might have looked like this:

I plan to release several more albums with different acts, go on tour every winter, eventually getting a spot in a band with a bigger name, going professional. Quit my job. Maybe live part time in Kentucky, and do winters in Phoenix or Los Angeles. Write a book. My ideal day: I wake up whenever I want, work on my book in the backyard with a laptop, coffee, and pack of cigarettes. I practice on my bass or a guitar for an hour or so. I don’t have a job, and luckily I don’t need one because I make more from music than a job would pay me. In the evening, I socialize in a bar, drink as much beer as I want, and stagger home to bed. 

The reality went like this:

Three of four albums I played on came out. That would be The Earps debut and follow up called Get a Room. Back to Monkey City with Jeff Dahl. The Moonshine Millionaires EP. The idea that any of those works sold well enough to not have to work is beyond merely laughable. I moved back to Kentucky. I stopped writing blogs and failed at several attempts to write a novel. I did manage to earn $12,000 per year by playing every weekend in a country cover band, but that only lasted four years. The rest of the time I worked 40-50 hours per week at $10-$12 per hour dead end jobs. I was asked to join one of my favorite bands, Nine Pound Hammer, to the shock and awe of my old bandmates, particularly The Earps guys. I played two gigs with them, the summer Europe tour never happened and I was disappointed about that, and then the former bass player asked to rejoin the band and I was out. I did drink a lot, smoke a lot, and spend a lot of time in bars. After I turned 40, I started to think more seriously about my health. Everything fell apart when the ex ran off with a coworker, and I bottomed out completely.

I think it’s good to make a plan, and maybe follow up on it in six months, tweak it a little. I’m not sure everyone ever achieves their ideal fantasy life, but it does at least give you some direction. That’s all planning is really good for. It is remarkable how much of what you planned can be accomplished, even if those things are subject to disappointing results or Careful What You Wish For syndrome. Then there are some unplanned events and disasters. Note: Not all unplanned things are negative, but many of them can be.

Either way, we are really lucky to live in the first world, where we can pursue our dreams instead of merely pursuing our next meal and trying to avoid our own death today.

Deng Ming-Dao on Scars

Today’s entry is like Part II of yesterday’s discussion, focusing on the scars and abuse we were subjected to in the past. He says that “scars that have happened through no fault of our own may bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.” He goes on to say that doctors and priests can only do so much. Personally, I’ve dealt with many issues from childhood that have carried over into my adult life and helped set me up for failure, creating a lack of confidence and self worth, which I medicated with booze for about 15 years. Bullying, whippings, humiliation, and intimidation are really the only events I remember with any clarity from my childhood. At this point, not being able to change the past (yes, I can reframe the past, perhaps), I look more toward not scarring my own children and “try to acquire as few new problems as possible”. I’ve gone through psychiatry and counseling. As the author says, it only did so much. I was unsatisfied with psychiatry insistence on treating everything with drugs, and at best the results were mixed good and bad. I think Deng Ming-Dao gives good advice here that we must heal ourselves through self cultivation. Use many methods. “Travel widely”. Overcome our phobias. Do not continue living with your own toxic patterns and perpetuating more problems. If we cannot overcome each scar, they will “bar us from communion with Tao”.

The Daily Stoic: Keep it simple.

Good advice today. Don’t overthink things. Focus on what’s right in front of us. “We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.”

On February 1st, I will celebrate an entire month of blog posts. I will record a podcast where I reflect on the experience of January 2017. February 1st begins a new challenge: I will spend at least 15 minutes per day doing some kind of work toward the goal of increasing my income. That can be looking around for a better job, looking for extra money gigs, updating resume, anything that might help improve my earnings for 2017.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Eleven: Healing

I’m now on my fourth day of waking up at 5:00AM. I didn’t count my vacation days because I was in a different time zone and stayed up late Friday night to play with The Earps, but I didn’t sleep after 7 or 8AM on any of those days.

I am aiming for this morning ritual:

neil peart.jpg
Neil Peart, drummer of Rush, on his motorcycle trip he made to heal from the loss of his wife and daughter. 
  1. Wake up.
  2. Coffee, tea, or water.
  3. Shower and dress.
  4. Journaling or blogging.
  5. Short Reading.
  6. Meditation.
  7. Simple breakfast.
  8. Leave for work and arrive ten minutes early.

As I said in a previous post, mornings have mostly been pushing Snooze several times, waking up for a rushed bathroom  routine, and speeding off to work, for most of my adult life.

Right now, I just have to wake up at 5AM, and do whatever I want before I leave for work, for 7 consecutive days. Then, the following week, I’ll wake up at 5AM, and take a 10 minute walk every morning for 7 consecutive days. Things will be changed and added every week as I work through the Self Mastery book.

Why New Years Resolutions, and self improvement in general, are so difficult to pull off: 

I am basically a paid slave, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have cultivated some self discipline from showing up every day at a job for over 20 years. I’ve been in leaner times the last couple of years, losing jobs and my part-time music gigging income. I make $12 an hour loading trucks and packing boxes. After I pay daycare, phone, car insurance (mine is especially expensive after two minor wrecks in the last two years), medical bills, groceries, gas, there is little left for dining, entertainment, etc. and if I want to pay off my debt too, I need to work any overtime that is offered. So that’s 10 hours per day, at least 4-5 days per week. Weekends are spent with my kids.

Most of my time is sold to someone else.

I would say this is true for most other people.

My secret weapon will be my weekday off. Wednesdays.

Today, I will log how I spend my day and post the log tomorrow.

Chapter 11 of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Key points: 

  • No matter how extreme a situation is, it will change.
  • Fires will burn out, turbulent seas will become calm.
  • Nature balances itself by having its events seek its opposite. This is the process of healing.
  • This process takes time. Days, years, even lifetimes.
  • In an extreme situation, the wise are patient.
  • All life is destruction and healing, over and over again.

It might be irresponsible of me to criticize psychiatric medicine, but having tried that route before, the medicines administered to me did not bring healing. That said, I think the medication may have been useful during my freakouts. The problem is there was no plan of taking me off the medications, which caused unpleasant side effects. I stopped taking the medications on my own and chose not to adopt the label of “mentally ill person”. The doctor advised that I must keep taking Risperidal or I would end up back in the psych ward. There was an assumption made that I might no longer work and would draw disability.

There was no real diagnosis. They simply didn’t know what was wrong with me, with no prior history of serious mental health issues. I was marked as “Schizophrenia/Other”.  There were other opinions too. One hypothesis was that I suffered head trauma from my fall in November 2015. Add extreme rage and depression, sleep deprivation, stress factors such as job losses and changes.

After being referred to Communicare, I decided they were pill pushers and the counseling wasn’t helpful and I couldn’t understand how a 20 year old female psychiatry student as a counselor could relate to the issues of a 40 year old man who went through the meat grinder of divorce with kids and the loss of just about every thing he loved in a swift blow of the midlife destruction hammer. How could she relate?

I simply stopped going there.

Instead, I started hiking on a regular basis, going to group meditation, studying Buddhism, reading Thomas Merton and self help books.

If money were no object, I could take some time off, and I had no dependents who rely on me, I would have taken the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage or hiked the Appalachian Trail. Instead I take my pilgrimage, 6 miles at a time, every Tuesday night after work.

Joe at Loose Leaf Hollow told me, “Grief is not in your head. You can’t think your way through it, because it’s in your body. There is something about movement.”

This seems to be true. The drummer from Rush, Neil Peart, took a very long motorcycle trip following the death of his wife and daughter in a short time period. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. And so on.

The Buddha said that all life is suffering and the third noble truth says there is an end to suffering (which I wanted) if you follow the Eightfold Path.

I don’t want to take pills. I’m putting all my faith in ancient wisdom, and that is why I’m here and what this blog is about.

Meanwhile, the Stoics say something different. 

“Epictetus is reminding you that serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility—other people, external events, stress—you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.”
-Ryan Holiday, If You Want to Be Unsteady, The Daily Stoic


Thomas Merton said something similar:

“If you go into the desert merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils.”

Photo I took at Thomas Merton’s grave on September 8, 2016.

Same place, tomorrow. 

B.G.

Day Ten: Disaster

I spent most of yesterday catching up with the last three days of blog posts, working from notes made during my Phoenix trip. Today, I am reporting back to work. 

I have two personal challenges going on this week. Waking up at 5:00am instead of 5:30-6:00 and 30 days without energy drinks. 

30 day challenge to deal with energy drink addiction. No energy drinks from Jan. 8-Feb 8.

The Disaster Show

Go back and read Day One for a bulleted list of all the series of disasters I’ve faced in the last 2-3 years, with their roots going back for many years. 

Deng Ming-Dao says to remember our goals, which brings me to another tool I’ve been using, recommended by my friend Shauna “WhiskeyChick” Castorena, blogger at www.countrymusicnewsblog.com

Its called a “bullet journal” and its all the rage in the productivity community right now. Go to www.bulletjournal.com for more information, or watch the demonstration video on YouTube.

“Disasters may well change us deeply, but they will pass. We must keep to our deepest convictions and remember our goals. Whether we remain ash or become the phoenix is up to us.”

-Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao


The Daily Stoic: Seeking Steadiness, Stability, & Tranquility

“Well, it’s not luck. It’s not by eliminating outside influences or running away to quiet and solitude. Instead, it’s about filtering the outside world through the straightener of our judgment. That’s what our reason can do—it can take the crooked, confusing, and overwhelming nature of external events and make them orderly.”

I find it interesting how so far both books, 365 Tao and The Daily Stoic are taking parallel paths through the same struggles. 

B.G.