Potions of Life

via Daily Prompt: Elixir                                                 

bar                               coffee

Many would think that with an Irish surname, I would think of alcohol as the Elixir of Life.  It’s more like the Elixir of Like, enough can even transform into the Elixir of Love.  Check out any bar around closing time.  Alcohol is truly transformational in it’s powers.  It is the elixir of bad dancing at weddings and poor decisions on many occasions, often leading to weddings.

There is only one true Elixir of Life, one potion that restores vitality.  We faithful pause daily to receive its blessings, the distilled essence of joy.  The devout show proper respect by preparing and consuming in unadulterated forms.  Other sect have grown up, arguing that it is better to spread the word by any means.  Temples sprout like fast food franchises around the world.  Pause in your day to be thankful for Coffee, The True Elixir of Life.

Not “My color”

via Daily Prompt: Purple

blackeye

If you look in my closet, it’s mostly dark colors.  There are lots of blacks, browns, greens and for variation shades of gray.  I get wild and wear blue some days.  I guess earth tone is an accurate description.  Funny thing is, I wear purple a lot.

I tend to favor the paisley and bull’s eye patterns.  They can stand out really well if you accent them with yellow and green.  It’s eye catching in an otherwise bland wardrobe.  The trick is to wear it as a highlight.  Too much and it takes away from the overall effect and throw people off.  It looks a little creepy.  Makes others uncomfortable.

It’s also neat if you have a good story to explain why you’re wearing the splash of color.  “I walked into a door.” is boring and lacks (excuse me), punch.  Instead, try, “I got caught between a Pilates class and a troop selling Girl Scout cookies”.  And, finally shake it off with a manly laugh.  Next week we will talk about “The Art of Scars”.  Until then, Man Up!

Insanity defined

via Daily Prompt: Meaningless

“Insanity; doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

fish

Are we trying to empty the ocean with a tea cup?  Where do we empty it to?  Do we create a new ocean or empty the first?  Is the effort only to make us feel as if we are accomplishing something?  We create laws for our societies and expect them to change hearts and minds.  We try to be fair to others and treat them as we do our own.  Give.  Protect.  Shelter.  Feed.  Accept.

Why are we still surprised when nothing changes?  Why do we feel betrayed when our efforts aren’t appreciated or worse actively rejected with violence and betrayal.  Why do we continue to make the same gestures over and over?  They are nothing but empty and void before they accomplish anything.

What are we going to do with all the fish?

Ordinary? No such thing

via Daily Prompt: Ordinary

vanilla

I’m a biker.  Two wheels, a motor, usually loud pipes and a rock and roll IPOD.  It helps me keep perspective on life.  You see mine is out of control in almost every way.  No nine to five job, no “Leave it to Beaver” home and family, crazy women abound and crazier friends.  But, nothing ordinary.

Ordinary would mean that I’ve become accustomed to the extraordinary.  The beautiful and amazing can no longer grasp my attention.  The small pleasures in life aren’t as pleasing.  Ask a resident of Flint, Michigan how ordinary a clean glass of water is.  Ask the homeless how ordinary it is to sleep in a warm safe place.

Nope.  Ordinary is as rare as common sense, which makes it extraordinary. Like vanilla ice cream.  If you take the time to think about it, it’s not ordinary.

War

hamas

I was staring at my book shelves trying to be inspired this morning and noticed something.  There are a lot of books about war there.  My Sci-Fi collection is a who’s who of daring do in camouflage, armor and space suits.  For military reference, I have collected most of the major works.  The sections on religion and psychology are to better understand the way groups think.  Economics are a part of war and society.  Even my favorites from the classics have conflict.  All of that is understandable when you consider what I have done for most of my life.

What I don’t have are a lot of self-help books or feel good easy readers.  I’ve tried a couple and even kept “Siddhartha” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” because they are good stories in their own right.  There are no magic pills or philosophies that can cure the world.  Governments can’t give enough to lift everyone out of poverty.  We cannot all embrace the one true god, simply because we can’t agree on how we are supposed to pray to him and what his rules are.  I don’t believe there are any simple answers.  People are to diverse and selfish to have easy answers.

This brings us back to war.  War is not evil.  The effects can be tragic.  The loss of life seems pointless.  Financial cost are ruinous to at least one of the parties.  For all that they are fought by nations, states and religious or political entities only a fraction of the population actually gets involved in the fighting.  Collateral damage means that those near the fighting suffer the same fate as the soldiers.  Lives and homes are ripped away by buzzing clouds of fire and steel, by Generals trying to reduce to overall cost of war.  The perverse logic of combat being the faster you destroy your enemies ability to fight, the less damage you inflict in the long run.

As a world spanning civilization are we slower to go to war than 100 years ago? Would the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have launched a devastating reprisal, holding Saudi Arabia responsible for the actions of it’s citizens?  Probably not, another thing that has changed is our ability to project force around the world.  The decision cycle is dramatically shorter, too.  In the early 1900’s it still took information days to cross the continent.  We didn’t have a standing Army large enough to confront another nation.  Gathering and shipping supplies around the world would have taken, as it did, the mobilization of most of the countries population.  Additionally, the 250,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Marines would have been required to stay there for the duration.  No.  I don’t believe our response would have been the same.

Something about war.  It is cathartic, purging.  The anger and outrage are washed away in the blood and bodies left on the battlefield.  The ultimate punishment delivered to the faceless enemy by shattering a nation.  Now, we even have national remorse and survivors guilt.  PTSD on a massive social scale.  We feel so overwhelmed that we help rebuild their shattered infrastructure.  An extension of the Marshall Plan, to put the people back to work.  What happens is that US contracting companies hire local unskilled labor and only introduce short lived fiscal stimulation that leaves worse behind later.

We want good intentions and self-restraint to be our hallmarks.  Instead it’s like watching the little kids try to gang up on the big kid on the playground.  When the big kid fights back, the protest is against the victim for defending themselves.  Restraint is well and good if it produces results.  In war it only draws out the conflict by allowing the little kids to think they are capable of beating the big kid.  After the fight, the big kid helps the “poor victim” back to his house, only to be berated by Mom.

We should be who we are.  We became a world power and super power by working harder than anyone else.  We have limited friends, unless we pay for them.  We are resented and despised on a global scale.  Pretending anything else isn’t real politic, it is just stupid.

Procrastinating for the Future

pierced

I am supposed to be on my way to the gym, the modern version of labor and fitness, but I got distracted by my thoughts.  It was a simple thing at first.  Just a post about a random event in the news.  A little later, I was skimming Blog posts and found something about losing languages and cultures as the world moves towards a single culture.

Then, I tried to imagine it.  A single unified world, all speaking one language, eating a fusion cuisine that we can only imagine today.  My luck it will turn out to be some formless pap, that looks and tastes like cat food.  With the drift towards sameness, race and ethnicity will become meaningless.  The entire human race will become a Latte colored, medium dark haired, average build, bland copy covering the world.  Individual expression will be reduced to brightly colored shoes or body art.

I’m probably wrong about most of that, but it throws a lot of the news today into perspective.  We are ripping into each other over ignorant, pointless issues like race and skin color.  Language and arbitrary national borders are enough to kill over as we try to protect ourselves from outside danger.  Economics, politics and religion are being used to divide the world instead of unite it.

What’s the point?  In this distant future, when our equally bland colored descendants look back at where they came from and waggle their ears in sad confusion, none of this will matter.  The perspective of time will reduce most of what we do to pointlessness.  A dash of color or spice to dilute to change anything.

plane stunt

The point is it does matter today.  I won’t be here in the distant future, except as a tiny scrap of DNA and recycled atomic particles.  We have to live where and when we are.  It is vanity to assume anything we do will impact that distant future.  I hope someday one of my borderline insane descendants will hit the gym and shave their head before they go do something monumentally stupid.  First, because they still have the choice.  Second, because that little strand of DNA is still around to make the world at least a little interesting.

Not Quite 12 Steps (Addicted part II)

PTSD2At my worst, I was a basket case.  A rolling chassis with bits and pieces still hanging off and a bunch of pieces in a plastic bucket.  Probably an old five gallon pickle bucket with grease on the side.  I remember the absolute fear that would hit me when anyone asked me what was wrong.  “No!  I’m not ready!  I can’t even think about that.” How can you explain to someone what it’s like to hold the hand of another man while they died, from a wound they took following your orders?  Looking down the sights at a living person who is nothing more than a target.  It’s not even math anymore, at that point it’s just survival.

In the early stages of my counseling, I found a book by Dr. Abraham Twerski, “Addictive Thinking” (Hazelton Press, 1990).  It was on a discount rack in the mall and I just wanted something to read.  It turned into a personal guide to recovery.  As I read, there were constant points where I saw my own life in the pages.  Making excuses for my actions, trying to hide what I was doing from others, binging on rage and violence, shame and remorse in the aftermath.  There were even co-dependents and facilitators, family and friends who helped me make excuses.

The excuse, “no one else understands”, let me continue to associate with other PTSD Addicts.  There was comfort in their presence.  There is a real feeling of belonging and safety with others who had “been there”.  The same as with high risk behavior, it fed the disease.  Self-medicating out of a bottle or popping pain pills that some got hooked on after an injury.  Anything to numb the pain and let us pretend to be normal.  Denial is still denial, no matter how you dress it up.

How can there be a problem if I’m still able to function in society?  Sure, there are some rough spots.  Relationships are destroyed, but that happens to everyone.  New job?  Just a change of scenery, they didn’t like me being gone for a year, either.  Uncontrolled emotions.  Not a problem.  I can deal.

Step 1.  Admit that there is a problem.

That was the hardest part.  Like most addicts, it took a situation and moment of clarity, waking up with your belly on fire, head pounding, feeling your body dying from the abuse you’ve poured into it.  Admitting weakness, injury or not being strong enough is anathema to most soldiers.

Step 2.  Commit to the change every day.

You are going to have tough days and episodes no matter what you do.  Be prepared for them and dedicate yourself to getting better every day, some times every hour.

Step 3.   Be honest about what PTSD means and what it has done to you, your life and those who share your life.

Most of the people who love you haven’t been to war or shared the trauma, they can’t understand.  It is also true that they won’t have a chance to understand unless you try to explain.  Apologies are probably in order as well.  You’ve been through hell and put them through the hell of watching you suffer.

Step 4. Live the changed life.

You are trying to reprogram your brain.  It won’t happen over night or in the first few years.  You will have PTSD for the rest of your life.  The only way to avoid relapse is to change those things that are your personal triggers.

Step 5 (?).  Get help.

You can’t do this by yourself.  Find someone who you can trust and talk to.  It doesn’t have to be a professional but it does have t be someone who is committed to the process.  Another plus to professionals is detachment.  Your significant other can be easily hurt by what you say and do.  It is important that you be able to vent sometimes, more often in the early stages than the later ones.

Step 6.  Use the tools.

It’s stupid to try to tough it out unless you have to.  I don’t recommend meds because your body tends to adapt.  On top of that, you can’t reset your brain chemistry if you keep artificially adjusting it.  As a short term assist, they work to give you a break, room to catch your breath.  Not every therapy will work for you.  If you honestly try something and it doesn’t work, go to the next one.

There is so much more.  Faith.  Friends.  Catharsis.  Practicing trust and love.

For those who don’t fight this daily, pass it on.  There are 22 Veterans who lose the fight everyday and choose suicide.  That’s a little less than one an hour, almost a quarter of the daily suicide rate in the U.S. alone.

Help them keep fighting.