“I Am” Is Quite Enough!

Just got back from my chiropractors appointment. Yea, I may be experiencing the onset of arthritis. This, of itself, is a bit of a bummer. But if it’s true, the more ominous thing is that means my autoimmune system is starting to attack the rest of my body again. The consequences of that are anyone’s guess.

I’m committed to being positive and proactive. But news like this fires up my anxiety and I have to work very hard to confront it and ease it back. Anxiety due to neurochemistry or physiology is one thing, but that doesn’t mean I have to nurture and “feed” it. To free myself from the aversion to anxiety, the discomfiture of it, is something I strive for. To free myself from attachments to it, to free myself from being possessed and controlled by anxiety, is something I can certainly do. That doesn’t mean I can make it go away, but I can snub my nose at it and refuse to let it get any deeper “into the castle.” If all I can do is offer defiance, then I offer the best, strongest defiance I can.

I’m finding a new strength and determination. This is largely due to the earnest, gracious support I’ve gotten from this blogging community. You all have helped me more than you know. A stupid little thing, a “like” or brief comment absolutely makes my day and makes me feel like I have 10,000 people behind me. The effect that this has on me is something I can’t fully describe.

I thank you. I’m most grateful to you all.

As I said, I want to be positive and proactive. I want to remain that stubborn, hopelessly optimistic, idealistic, audacious “Theseus” who sits on the mast and challenges God to an accounting. Yes, I’m a Quaker. Yes, I’m a spiritual person. But I’m also the “black sheep” of God’s family and I refuse to be patronized or keep quiet about it!

One of my challenges is that I see all of what could have been, rather than what is. Focusing on what could have been is a poison which ravages the soul and leads to darkness. The attachments to things which “might have been,” take away from manifesting myself in the present of what actually is. What “could have been” is a fantasy, “what is” provides the opportunity to answer the great existential question. There is vital purpose and meaning to “what is.” Dwelling on anything else is a betrayal of my purpose, meaning and very existence: It’s a contemptuous refuting of that existence. There’s value in what is. There’s meaning in what is. For whatever reason, there’s a very valid purpose to what is.

Desiring or craving “what could have been” is only a half step from what I wanted, but never could have. This will deaden one’s soul.

I want to be an all pro quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, guiding my beloved home and team to 10 Superbowl rings. Ain’t gonna happen.

I want to be Paul McCartney or Tony Banks (from the music group “Genesis”). Guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

But why is it so terrible to be who and what I am? If I’m always focused on who and what I’m not, I’ll never understands what it means to be all that I actually am. I am a father. I am a husband. I (am coming to believe) that I’m some sort of writer who supports and encourages people all over the world, none of whom I’ve ever met. These things are a sacred trust. Why do I cast them aside so flippantly? How can I be so callous and dead to all that I am? There is value and meaning and purpose in being who I am. Even in pain and suffering, I say there is value…and meaning…and purpose to it all. Why do I discard my appointed task and path?

I am who I am, as I am, for a purpose – a very valid purpose. An essential purpose and reason.

I’m not here as an accident or mistake, and neither are you! We live in the perfection of who we are. To deny or ignore this is nothing less than sacrilege. We live in the perfection of who we are…and we are that perfection in living as we are.

I became physically ill because of the effects of CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). This is my path and my challenge to confront. Come what may, I accept this challenge and defy anything and everything blocking my path. From the deepest crevasse and the darkest places, I cry out defiantly:

I…simply…am.

I wish you all strength, and courage, audacious determination, and as always…

Be (Most) Well, My Friends
Your Friend, Theseus!

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Father, Husband And My Demons Within

For many years I worked very hard in order to get started in life. I worked, I tried to get through college, I changed careers and got a tech certification, I started a family. It was very hard going and even though I was still struggling with the effects of CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), I had managed to get a footing in life and was able to function at a reasonable level.

But then there were more surprises in store and the past 20 years have brought illness, financial ruin and conflict to a level of just plain survival. Even so, we were able to maintain a standard of living which included a place to live and food to eat. This, of course is in contrast to many all over the world who have no home and are not certain where their next meal will come from. I often beratement myself for struggling as I do, when there are so many who have less and must struggle for bare existence more. It’s hard to reconcile and one of the things which angers me the most is that I’m seemingly not able to do more for those others. This is another reason why I’ve become a Quaker. If I’m not able to lead the way and help others, I can join a group and faith which does, contributing as much as I’m able to the larger efforts of the (Philadelphia) Quakers.

Part of this guilt and berate is part of the CPTSD. My parents always humiliate and shamed my siblings and I by pointing out that others have it worse in life. But this was an insult and an actual dismissal of those folks and what they struggle with. The actual reason for my parents telling us this wasn’t to make us aware of others, but to justify the life that they were creating for us: They were justifying the abuse by trying to make it seem more normal, even privileged.

I carry no physical scars, but there are wounds which the eye can’t see.

Perhaps I would never have developed and empathy or appreciation for the life threatening circumstances of others had I not been exposed to my own level of abuse. If this is the case, then I’m glad, to a certain extent, that I had those experiences. I find it unacceptable that anyone should have to be subject to any type of abuse, violence, displacement or starvation. But I may have gotten too much of a dose of it myself. I’ve been ground down over the years, to the point where just trying to do the dishes invokes acute resistance and intense emotional pain. Not being able to function, even for the benefit of myself, helps no one. I need time and space to heal.

I do what I can for those who are within my reach. My son has his own struggles, but he doesn’t struggle with the emotional and psychological deformities I do. His focus and interests are on “personal excellence,” which is the way my wife and I have raised him. His focus and efforts aren’t on comparing himself with others or trying to outdo others in achievements or acquisitions, they’re on achieving the best of what he’s capable of and manifesting his talents and abilities. This, I believe, is why he’s so liked and loved by others. He has no pretense. He’s willing to share of himself even while doing for himself. If I’m unable to presently help other children of the world, I can start by doing right by my own child. For now, that will have to be enough.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been supporting and encouraging my wife to reach out and find strong, talented, independent women to network with and further explore her own interests. When we started, she hated her job and felt trapped and unfulfilled in her life. Yet to do anything outside of what was familiar and comfortable seemed intimidating and impossible. She and I took many walks, for many hours. I encouraged her to talk and explore where she found herself, what was holding her back and how she felt about it all. I did research on women’s groups and women entrepreneurs. I showed her what I had found and gently challenged her and questioned her as my findings became our – and then her – exploration of possibilities. I didn’t push, but nudged her to contact some of these groups and women so that she could join them in meetings and lunches. I chased her out the door when she was trying to make excuses for not going to an event or lunch. I listened to her struggles and excitements. I joined in with her joys as well as her fears and struggles. In being there to help her take some first tentative steps, she became able to take flight and soar with her own determination and passion. This is what partners do for partners. If I’m unable to presently help other women of the world, I can start by doing right by my own wife. For now, that will have to be enough.

Supporting my own wife and son are easy. I have a high level of empathy and compassion. Knowing my own pain and fears, I’m able to help others overcome theirs. No, I don’t know the specifics and details, but fear is fear. Pain is pain. The validity of these things are found within oneself. Sometimes it just helps to have another person listen – to actually hear – and mirror back that which lays within.

While good with others, I still struggle with myself. Though I know I can influence and effect my thoughts and emotions, there are so many deep, festering wounds, that I need time and space to allow them to heal. Trauma can’t be turned off like a switch. It can slowly be dimmed and be metamorphosed into something else, but this takes time and a great deal of constant, determined effort (with the constant spike of pain and terror as part of the process). 20 years ago, those pains and assumptions (of thought) were fading. Things were getting better, to the point where I could function reasonably well. I was quirky and neurotic, but reasonably normalizing and healing. The past 20 years not only ripped open those wounds of the past, but they’ve multiplied and expanded their effects.

This is a path I must journey on my own. This has also been true for my son and wife. I could offer empathy, compassion, love and support, but their achievements are their own. My job as a husband and father is as a glorified cheerleader. I am not responsible for the successes they’ve achieved on their own, but I revel in them from my sideline perch.

At this point in my life, all I want is peace. If I could, I would find an isolated cabin in the Pocono Mountains (Pennsylvania) or the Adirondacks (New York) and spend the rest of my life walking through the woods in silent meditation. I would want to be alone to quiet the noises of the world I now live in and to silence those within my mind and soul. I would prefer this for the reasons Lord Byron wrote about “I love man not less, but nature more.”

I don’t know where my journey will lead or what the end will be. I won’t leave my wife and son because I made a commitment to them and have grown to love and adore the very sight of them.

…but the pain remains and I spend my days fighting off demons which never tire and know the most exacting ways to torment me.

I make my stand each day and do the best of what I can to heal in the best way that I can. But my soul is profoundly maimed and disfigured. Any movement of mind, body or emotion is excruciating. It’s difficult to deny and forgo a way of assumption and living which has been been so thoroughly imprinted upon my very soul. I’m working towards a way of life and living which a part of me is certain doesn’t exist. I’m trying to make my self see different things in those torturous assumed forms which seem so solid and eternal.

If I’m granted the time and space I need, I’m certain I’ll be able to work this all out. I’m not so sure this will be granted. To this point, life has had other plans for me, but I suppose this is the reason for faith. I do, because I believe in something I can’t sense and which there is no supporting evidence for. I soldier on because of my faith that there is more to my life and the larger world, than what I’ve been lead and taught to believe.

Be Well, My Friends,
Theseus

Striving To Find Peace Within, So That I Can Reach Out

I haven’t written anything for a week or so because of the tech meeting I hosted last week. For a first time meeting, I suppose it went as well enough. One person walked out and a number of the others seemed rather disappointed about what we did. I did what I could to engage everyone who was there and tried to get some discussion going. I suppose many were looking for me to do more teaching, but I had been clear about this being an interactive, group gathering.

Just dealing with people in general is challenging for me. Dealing with people in a more business like context is much more difficult. I’m still trying to regain my balance and achieve more of an internal equilibrium, so trying to extend myself and guide along such a group was very difficult. I made it through, but I was shaking and short of breath as the meeting went on and no one else really made much of an effort to participate. 2 people did. But for the most part, everyone else sat stone faced and silent. When I was younger, healthier and more audacious, I was better able to navigate business meetings. If nothing else, my friendliness and enthusiasm could put people at ease and even inspire them. I have an idea of how to make the next meeting more interesting and interactive. But the problem isn’t with the format of the meeting or the reaction of anyone who was there.

I’ve been in a daze since last Thursday night. The emotional pain has been intense and I’ve been disassociated for much of the time.

One interesting thing was Sunday. In the morning, I took my spouse and child with me to a (Philadelphia) Quaker meeting. I’ve been going to these meetings for more than religious reasons. While spirituality is of interest to me, I’ve also attended in order to learn how to better relate to people and work towards developing some form of a support system. I have no family or friends I can relate to or talk things over with. I have no support system and find interacting with people cumbersome at best. I’ve found Philadelphia Quakers to be inclusive and welcoming. They have no Cannon or dogma. The only belief is that all living beings have an “inner light” or “that of god within” and they (the Quakers) use this single idea to live their every day lives. I find this simplicity and openness of faith (openness to others and other ideas) very alluring. Jainism has a similar idea – basically, it’s “non-exclusiveness” of spirituality or a being open to other ideas and perspectives. People are people, so yes, many of these Quakers were quirky – just like everyone else. But in general, I’ve found this group to be more open, compassionate, empathetic and inclusive than any other religious or spiritual group I’ve ever been a part of or explored. Much to my surprise and delight, my wife and son have enjoyed going for the past 2 weeks as well.

Once we got home, my wife and son went off to go about their day. I spent the day watching tv. Nothing spectacular, but the interesting thing was that I didn’t experience any of the emotional pain or negative thinking which is always so central to my daily existence. I felt fine. I was at peace. I felt almost…normal?!

In thinking about this, it seems to me that I, myself, create, generate and maintain the negative emotions and thoughts. They originate within me and are – at this point in my life – my own creation. For this, I have to say, I’m grateful. Yes, my thyroid illness invokes anxiety. But this physical invoking of anxious emotion is nothing like the negativity and pain which CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) generates and maintains. I am able to guide and direct my thoughts. There are patterns and assumptions of thought which plague me, but, with effort, I can guide and direct them. I can also influence my emotions. This is much more difficult and is something I’m even less skilled at, but it is possible. Thought and emotion are different. You can’t use thinking to control emotion and you can’t use emotion to dictate thoughts. Many do, as I do. But using the one to dictate to the other causes problems and confusion. There is an overlap where both “communicate.” But they’re both, fundamentally, different ways of perceiving and experiencing oneself, others and the wider world. Thought must be dealt with by thinking and emotion needs to be dealt with by the it’s own ways of experiencing and expression. Once each is resolved and resonant with itself, only then can the one communicate and work with the other in a unpolluted and healthy way.

I’m still trying to heal. My experiences have left me rather anxious and a bit neurotic, but I’m still trying to heal.

Making the effort on Thursday was a big deal for me. I’m still not sure where to go from here. The people at Thursday’s meeting and the Quakers I met with on Sunday have their own eccentricities and quirks and it’s hard for me to get through my own issues to meet others where they are.

All I know is that I’m trying. All I know is that I need to find a space of peace within myself so that I can reach outside of myself and join others in the process of daily living.

I must say, thought, that the wounds of CPTSD make this a very difficult process and journey.

I just want to do the right things, for the right reasons…because it’s the right thing to do.

Wish me luck!

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Striving To Find And Build A Healthy Support System

I’m experiencing a great deal of fear and anxiety about the meeting of the tech group I set up this Thursday. Yet I still feel determined to see it through. There’s a misperception that people with chronic fatigue, thyroid disease and other ailments – that they are lazy, faking their symptoms, weak in character or uninterested in striving for personal excellence. I’ve experienced such insinuations and accusations for many, many years and the weight of hearing it so often, by so many people, has been a source of a great deal of anger and resentment.

I know of a numbered few who have worked as hard as I have or have been as determined to achieve healing and a sense of peace as I have over the course of my life. I’m not saying others haven’t worked hard or been determined, they have. But working hard is not the same thing as striving to overcome trauma – and find a way to live…to survive. I’ve known people whose lives were utterly destroyed by what they had to face. I’ve know a few folks who were so overwhelmed they committed suicide or made suicidal decisions which ended their lives. I’ve also known people who think the ordinary inconveniences of life were supreme challenges and that overcoming such things somehow proved that they were “superior” beings. There is a vast chasm between a personal drive to achieve excellence and simply trying to survive physical / emotional abuse and trauma on a daily basis. I deeply grieve for – and am deeply enraged on behalf of – those who weren’t able to find a way forward. I deeply regret not being able to share their darkness and try to help them find a sense of peace and healing. I don’t think myself superior. I grieve, and I grieve deeply. I always wish I had better understood and had done more to help.

Since 2006 I’ve been trying to find medical assistance to address my illness, but also to find a way to continue the journey of earning a living and being a good husband and father. I’ve never minded being sick. I’ve never been averse to working hard…even while sick. But in addition to being sick, I carry the added challenge of being taught to think in unhealthy ways and wrestle with the emotional damage I didn’t deserve. I don’t ask for favors or hand outs. I’m determined to not only find my own way, but help anyone else I can on this journey.

One of the things which has sustained me all these years is a spiritual struggle. I’m not trying to preach or proclaim and “one true way.” I only know what I struggle with myself…within myself.

In terms of “God”…well…I’m pretty pissed off at “God.” No child should have seen or experienced what I did as a child – and there are others who’ve seen and experienced far worse. Praying desperately as I did, while experiencing what I did, and getting no assistance or even a reply…”God” either does not seem to exist or is not willing (or interested?) in intervening.

However, I’ve always felt some form of spirituality. I don’t know why, but there does seem to be something other than all we see. Over the course of my life, I’ve been drawn to writers like Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Kierkegaard. I’ve also felt a pull towards Taoism, Buddhism and Jainism. Though I’m not a scholar, these writings have made sense to me and the best answer I can come up with as to all the “Why’s?” of the world, is that it’s simply not for me to know. This seems counter-intuitive and confusing, but in considering why things have happened to me (and others), it just seems that the deeper, ultimate questions are just not for me to know. In an odd way, this is the only thing which makes sense to me.

There is a “right” way of living as well as a “wrong” way, and my challenge has been to navigate the long, deep stretch of grey which lies between the two. Being a loving, compassionate, empathetic husband and father is “right.” Treating others whom I meet each day with the same is also “right.” Striving to heal and be at peace is “right.” Taking my pain out on others, definitely “wrong.” For me, these are a way of living and a certain perspective and understanding of life. My thoughts and assumptions are warped because of what I’ve seen and experienced…there’s more than what I think and assume. My emotions are wounded and highly reactive…there is more than the pain of what I feel. I’ve always striven for things beyond my experience, thoughts and emotions and I found guides in the writings of those I mention above.

A few years ago, I started attending various meetings of the Philadelphia Quakers. Some believe in “God,” but some are actually atheists. This may sound strange, but the premise of the Philadelphia Quakers is that all living beings have an “inner light” which guides them. It’s a vague term which basically means listening to the better parts of ourselves. There is no doctrine, no profession of beliefs, no strict adherence to bible passages or catechisms – only a striving to listen to that “inner light.” It’s actually all of what Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Kierkegaard, Taoism, Buddhism and Jainism profess: Optimism, compassion, empathy, healing oneself, helping others (not to the detriment of self), a sense of inner peace and contentment, a demand for justice and personal excellence, generosity and much more.

Today, I was able to bring my wife and son to their first meeting. I still feel uncomfortable around people in general, but I need to develop a support system of more healthy, compassionate people. These Quakers are people, just like all others, with quirks and eccentricities. But they are not the abusive, cliquish, intolerant type of folks I’ve spent most of my life with. I don’t agree with everything and there are some who annoy me and make me feel uncomfortable. But they accept me for who I am and no one try’s to tell me what to think or believe. So I’m spending time with their community and trying to find a way to relate to people who seem to be much more healthy, accepting and inclusive than any other group I’ve ever come across. The fact that my wife and son enjoyed their visit makes me feel that I haven’t misunderstood what these “Friends” (Quakers) represent and intend.

Everyone needs a support system. Especially those of us who have struggled with the effects of CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), need to find a foundation of support: We have no family to turn to or depend on. Cults, religious fanatics, political movements and causes which cloth themselves with a religious sheen all promise a better life – a life of meaning and healing. I just want to be at peace. I’m not interested in joining another exclusive club of conformity and condemnation. I’ve been lacerated too many times, in too many ways, by too many people, to sign up for anything like that again.

We’ll see how this all works out. The Tech meeting this Thursday, as with the attendance of these (Philadelphia) “Quaker” meetings is just another way I’m trying to find and develop a more healthy network and support system of people who – at the very least – aren’t as screwed up as what I’m used to and raised with. If I was “scary smart,” like Steve Wozniak or had some immense trust fund, then perhaps I wouldn’t need other people – or need them as much. But the fact is that I don’t have such advantages and I do need other people. The challenge is that I need to find others who accept me for who I am and encourage me to become all that I can be. I’ve spent far too much of my life around negative people who have rather twisted thinking and it’s high time I find the sort of people I deserve to be around.

I expect and demand nothing less for myself.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus