Milestones and Reflections

This past week, my blog surpassed 400 followers from all over the world. Granted, that’s not a huge number, but it’s still an amazing milestone to me, considering I write for my own pleasure and therapy. I didn’t set out to create any kind of following for this site, only a place for me to put some thoughts somewhere, like a way to journal. Originally, Story of My Life was a place for me to do some writing during my deployment to Afghanistan and share a few things with my family and friends. After returning from war, I took a two-year break from posting here. I then started using Story of My Life again in February 2016, as an outlet for self-therapy and recovery. Based on the number of followers, comments and likes on the posts, it seems like a lot of people can relate to what I’m putting out there.

As I celebrate a very modest milestone, I also want reflect on Story of My Life and share with some of you that might not know the progression this blog has taken the last couple of years and why I post (almost) every week. I say progression of this blog, but in reality, it’s my progression. These are my thoughts, feelings, experiences that I share here. Some entries are comical or silly. Some are dark and painful. Some are rants, usually complaining about dealing with the VA. I’ve posted poetry and short fiction stories, but mostly, real-life stories of me surviving my life.

While my first blog post to Story of My Life was 5 years ago, it’s only been in the last two years that I started a new journey of using weekly writing as therapy and sharing my story with the world. The beginning of this new journey started with me opening up about a failed suicide attempt, being taken to the psych ward at the hospital in hand cuffs by the police, and being diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. From there, I shared what I saw as obvious irony in the fact that I attempted suicide, being that I was the lead trainer in suicide prevention training in most of my army reserve units. Ironic, in a twisted way, I know.

I’ve shared stories from my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, stories about my kids, and I’ve written some entertaining fictional stories. I’ve touched a little on the end of my marriage and I’ve exposed some of the flaws with the VA that veterans have to deal with. I’ve written about the struggles I have from time to time with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve also written about some of the victories I’ve had the last two years, which include sharing a couple excerpts and progress from the novel I’m writing (yes, still working on that). I’ve written about the weather, traffic, youth sports, investing, the Mississippi River, and I’ve shared some about my civilian job in a few posts. I cover most everything that pops into my head in any given week. We can all see the pros and cons in that. But I do it anyway.

I write every week and post it here because it helps me. I am able to sort my thoughts and put them in some kind of order that makes sense to me. It’s a way to track my progress as well as my low points. Each post gives me a record of what I was doing or thinking and I can go back any time and see what was on my mind. I know, I can do the same thing without putting it on a blog, but I feel that making some of these stories public forces me to put more thought and effort into this project. And I know that my story helps other people, too, which is a bonus for my motivation to keep writing and sharing. Knowing there are people out there that can relate to my issues and mental illness is helpful to me as well. I appreciate all the likes and comments of support on my posts each week.

I do this for me. But I also do it for everyone else that hasn’t found their voice yet in speaking up comfortably about their own mental illness. I share it with the world so that someone that might be in the dark places of the mind, like I have been, know they aren’t alone. If you need help, reach out. If you know someone that needs help, help them find help. You don’t have to be a professional to help someone that is thinking about suicide. You only have to get them to someone that is (hospital, police, fire station, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255). Helping is easier than you think.

For those of you that might be new to Story of My Life and want to get a bigger picture of my story, below are some links to previous posts that will highlight my journey the last two years.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/06/battlefield/  (the beginning of my new journey)

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/16/depressed-ptsd/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/11/26/suicidal-anonymous/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/18/ptsd-moments/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/07/15/my-worst-war-memory/

Thank you all for your support, I hope that I am returning the favor in some small way here. And thank you for stopping by this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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My List Is Complete

About twenty years ago I managed a pizza delivery store in Panama City Beach for a couple of friends of mine. During the spring break season, we were open 24 hours a day. It was busy. According to our food distributor, we were the busiest independent pizza store in the country based on how much cheese we ordered each week during that time. MTV was in town covering the festivities of party-goers, Spinnaker and La Vela were packed every night, and the strip was bumper to bumper traffic for miles all day, and continuing late into the night. Needless to say, getting everything done each day was a monumental task.

One of the guys I worked for there was a list-keeper. Everything he needed to do was on a list. It wasn’t always the neatest looking lists, but it worked for him. He kept everything in Steno pads. And he always seemed to have everything crossed off his list at the end of the day, for the most part. I was impressed with his ability to get it all done, but also not happy with myself for never finishing my list and always having to move things to the next day. I was a great manager, but for some reason, I could never cross everything off my list.

I finally asked him one day, “How do you get it all done? You have a page full of stuff, the same as me, but you get a lot more of it done than I do.” His reply changed my life. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but his words certainly have stayed with me for more 20 years. It was so simple. I still use his strategy today. He said, “When I get something done, I add it to my list and check it off.” Mind blown. Eyes opened. Life changed. The philosophy of that simple idea is amazingly deep.

He would start his list with what was important to be accomplished. It might only be a small handful of things. As he would get things done throughout the day, he would add those things to his list. Since those things were already done, as he added him to the list, he would check them off. That’s brilliant. Do you realize how much stuff we actually get done in a day? If you made a list, you would know. And if you knew how much you do get done, maybe you wouldn’t beat yourself up for not completing your to-do list, a list that might be unrealistic to begin with.

As 2017 draws to a close, I look back on the year and I know I did not even come close to getting all the things done that I wanted to this year. If I had made a list at the beginning of the year of all the things I wanted to get done in 2017, that list would still need some work, or the year would need to be extended. But I won’t lament or lose any sleep about not finishing my hypothetical list. I will, however, be happy with what I did accomplish, even if some of it is trivial or perhaps less productive in the big picture of life as I see it. I still got a lot done this year. I survived. And that is a rather huge accomplishment in and of itself in some respects.

I finish this year broke, but none of my bills are behind. Except my student loans, which will likely never get paid. I didn’t get much done this year on the novel I’m writing, but I estimate that I wrote about 30,000 words to my blog in 2017. Neither of those endeavors pay the bills. I really just want to make a living as a writer, but I like the job I have and the people I work with. I’m not where I want to be in life, but I am certainly not where I was a short while ago, which is a good thing. I didn’t finish everything on my list for 2017, but I am pretty happy with what I did get done, including the less important things I added to the list as I went along.

My friends, do not make an overwhelming list for yourself that you cannot finish. Once you start moving things to the next day, it becomes easier and easier to keep doing that. You will never get it done that way. Pick a few things that are important. As you move throughout your day, week, or year, add to your list the other, less important things you get done and check them off. You’ll be surprised by how much you really get done, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Happy New Year to you all. May 2018 be a year of checking off the important things on our lists and realizing how important the things not on the list are that we get done as well.

Thanks for stopping by this year. Hope to see you in 2018. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Wired Differently

Way back in high school, what seems like a thousand years ago now, I was on the wrestling team. I enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it. Two-time regional champion in my weight class. In the largest tournament I ever wrestled in, with over sixty schools represented, I took third. Not too shabby. And my senior year at the state tournament, I lost by one point in overtime to the guy that would go on to win the state title in my weight class.

At the beginning of one wrestling season, one of the football coaches made some of the football players go out for the wrestling team. I think officially, it was strongly encouraged to those players, but they knew they had to go to wrestling practice if the coach told them to. About a week later, they were all gone except for one or two guys. Most of them couldn’t do it. Coach Downey ran a grueling wrestling practice, mostly on the mats in the cafeteria, but sometimes running stairs in our three-story main building on campus. If someone puked while running, he kept going, and the rest of us simply ran around it, lap after lap. Up three flights, down the long hallway, down three flights, and back. And again. For a couple hours. I guess this is my proof that wrestlers are tougher than football players.

Although… I went out for football in junior high school (yeah, I know it’s called middle school now, and whatever, I don’t understand why they changed it). I lasted one practice when I decided it wasn’t for me. Not having become very athletic by that time, my young body was in shock at what it was having to do. I lacked the talent, desire, and commitment it would have taken to be on the football team. So, maybe football players are tougher.

OR, perhaps, we are all just wired differently. Conditioned differently. Have different goals and strengths. Different talents. Some of those guys that couldn’t make it on the wrestling team were a force to be reckoned with on the football field. Brute strength and hard hits. And while I would have likely gotten run over by them on their field, they were no match for me on the wrestling mat. I had balance, technique, and leverage. That’s what I brought to the table that they could not compete with.

The hardest thing I’m working on in my life right now is realizing that we are different from each other, in more than just our physical abilities. Mentally, we have different strengths and weaknesses. We each react to situations differently. I know that some people can’t relate to what I go through, especially when the depression gets ahold of me or my PTSD symptoms show themselves. And, on the same token, I don’t understand some of the things other people go through. I have to catch myself once in a while so I don’t say out loud, “Get over it,” or “Why do you let that bother you?” or “It’s not that hard.” And I know people think that about me as well. And I understand.

We’re not just different from each other, we, ourselves, also become different. Age, trauma, and stress transform us on a daily basis. Even though I try very hard to not show it, I am my own worst critic about the person I have become. I ask myself all the time, “Why does this bother you?” I reminisce about all the things I used to be able to do physically, long hours of physical labor or running a half marathon. Or even passing an army physical fitness test. None of that used to be hard. I tell myself to get over it, but it’s not that easy. That’s usually when the depression flares up.

I’m not wired like I used to be. And I’m not able to recondition myself to be the old me. Not physically, not mentally. I’ve said before that the physical issues I brought back from Afghanistan contributed to my mental collapse. And to be honest, if I could just get the army to take responsibility for those issues, that would be a huge weight off my back. And what absolutely kills me is that at one time in the life I used to live, again what feels like a thousand years ago, much of what makes me “crazy” now barely phased me back then.

I am struggling quite a bit lately with self-criticization (and yes, that’s a word, I just looked it up to make sure, consider it your word of the day). I am depressed more often than usual and it’s becoming harder and harder to work through. As a high school athlete, I looked forward to getting pushed to my limits. I wanted to know what I could handle and how I measured up to others. It made me better. I don’t enjoying being pushed to my limits anymore. Especially mentally. And I reach my physical limits after just a few hours on my feet at work. And I hate it. But I’ll bet if Coach Downey barked at me to run stairs, I probably would, until it killed me. You know, since wrestlers are tougher than football players I would have to. LOL.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by this week. I hope you got something from this. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Chapter 6 Complete

This week I finished chapter 6 of the book I’m writing. This process is taking much longer than I anticipated when I started a little more than a year and a half ago. The first four chapters seemed to flow effortlessly. Then life, writer’s block, work, and occasional laziness with my writing project each took turns keeping me from the keyboard. I started this project in February 2016. I feel like I should be further along by now. To be honest, I thought I would be done and on my second novel at this point.

I seem to lack the discipline in using my time wisely to write like I had in the beginning of this project. My motivation I once had is not as consistent as it once was. I come up with some wonderful “writing” in my head most days while I’m at work or hanging out with my kids, but I fail to follow through by putting the words down. I’ve probably written two or three books in my head in the last year. But, for the most part, I still make time to write to my blog weekly. That is something important to me because I made it part of my personal therapy after coming out of the lowest point in my life a couple years ago.

Sometimes I go back through my blog posts and read again what I was going through at a particular time. For some of the posts, I see the title and can recall everything about the piece I wrote. For a few of them, I need to read every word again to remember what was going on in my head. I find some of my posts still very powerful. Some of them remind me the dark place I was once at in my life. Some of them remind me of victories or progress I have made. Many of them make me smile. And there’s a couple of them that are just bad writing. But in keeping with my effort to post weekly, that will happen sometimes. (That might be happening now since I didn’t really have anything prepared!)

I did have more I wanted to write this week, but sometimes life dictates how much I get done here. And that’s ok. I’m living life and sometimes that means I don’t get to write as much as I would like. I do need to be more aware of that, when life really does slow me down, and not just use it as an excuse sometimes when I’m staying up until one in the morning watching reruns on television. In my defense, sometimes that’s my only time to decompress and relax.

I don’t know if my book will ever be published, assuming I finish it. I have already looked at some options. All the traditional publishers want a finished product. I don’t think vanity publishing will be the way to go. There are some self-publishing options online that are interesting. But I’ve always envisioned my work being printed. I guess I need to finish it first. I’m about half way done. I WILL get started on chapter 7 this coming week. Stay tuned for more updates. And thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Previously posted excerpts from my book:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/23/448/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/09/17/2nd-excerpt-from-my-book/

 

Abstract

I fell asleep thinking about you, hoping to see you in my dreams. You didn’t show. But that’s ok, I know you’re busy. I should shave my beard since that’s what derailed the last dream and turned it into a nightmare. Even the smallest ripple can turn into a tsunami that engulfs my slumber when my dreams start to go sideways. And once it starts, there’s no stopping it.

I enjoyed a couple of naps this week. I’ve hired a nap coach so I can get better at it. I hope to turn pro at it one day. I wonder what the pay is for a napper at the top of his game. Could it be classified as a sport and what would the scoring system entail? And would the TV commentators whisper into the microphone, “Oh my gosh! He nailed it! Look at his form.” Regardless, I’m sure everyone who gets a nap is a winner. I think we should all explore this.

I’ve been wondering some things. What do the constellations look like from somewhere else in the galaxy? Or even outside the galaxy? Would Orion’s Belt become Orion’s Suspenders? Or perhaps the Big Dipper looks like a bottle of wine from opposite of where we are. Maybe a giant bottle of chardonnay? And we’ll need a colossal size bottle of booze in less than 4 billion years when the Andromeda Galaxy comes crashing into ours. That’s going to be one hell of a party. I should put a reminder in my phone for it.

Today feels like Friday. But, in fact, it is Saturday. I wrote this on Wednesday. You figure it out. Days of the week mean very little to me anymore.

I used to believe in Santa Claus. I’m trying to believe in myself again. I do believe in Jesus, so I got that going for me. But of those three, the only one I really talk to anymore on a regular basis is Me. You should hear the arguments I have with Me. But I am very happy that no one can see what’s going on inside my head at any given time. If you could, you would either be extremely entertained or terribly horrified. At least that how it works for me, having this front row seat to it.

Sometimes I have memories that I’m not sure are really mine. I don’t know how they got in my head; nonetheless, they are here. But I’m not convinced they belong to me. If you are missing some of your memories, please have your people call my people and we’ll work something out. Otherwise, the ones that go unclaimed will be put on craigslist.

I’ve had green tea in Japan, hot tea in England, chai tea in Iraq. As a southerner, you would think that I drink sweet tea. I don’t much care for it. But I like beer. The chai tea in Iraq was the best. But the grits were horrible. They definitely weren’t southern. And don’t get me started on the so-called red beans and rice they served us in Afghanistan. Not even close. Not. Even. Close.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Law of Diminishing Return is real. And the best way to counter it is to go backwards, then it can only get better. Read the previous two sentences again. It’s not confusing, it’ll come to you sooner or later.

Today’s crazy abstractness was brought to you by the number Twelve and the color known as Purple. I hope you enjoyed something a little different from me this week. I sure enjoyed writing it. Good day, God bless.

Dave