The following series will (eventually) consist of 365 posts written on consecutive days. It is a challenge (and a promise) I made to myself and I intend to keep it.
Why? (Kicking & Screaming)
I have been hiding from my dreams my entire life. I can write, though I have consistently found a reason to stop myself from doing so. I came up with every excuse in the book not to pursue it as anything more than a hobby.
Finally, a couple of years ago, I decided to take the time to publish (you can find my Amazon Author page by clicking here)some things. I always loved horror and existential fiction, so that is where I started. Some of it was good, but there was no consistency to it, and I had begun a spiritual journey that was leading me away from the shock and awe aspect of horror. I struggled with what direction to take and eventually, it just faded into the background of my everyday life.
Now I have decided to write again. I am Thomas Paine, nor do I ever expect to compose the next great American novel. I simply want to write, unrestricted, about the journey I am on. This exercise is meant to drag myself by the hair—kicking and screaming if need be—out of the carefully constructed cave of programmatic bullshit I’ve been hiding in.
If I’m Being Honest
One post every day. No research, no forethought, no rewrites, no plan except to spend 20 minutes being honest every day and putting it out there. Nothing is off-limits: rants, raves, poems, story excerpts, God, politics — Nothing. A good portion of it will be shit, some of it will be good, but all of it will be meaningful.
If you choose to continue on this journey with me I appreciate it. Your time is extremely valuable so If you do not, I understand. Either way, thank you for sharing your time with me for these brief moments.
I’m floating now in the infinite possibilities of the Gray.
The White and the Black are absolute.
The Gray is undefined.
The White and the Black are solid and stoic.
The Gray is permeable, malleable, and forgiving.
The White and the Black are each, individually, stagnant death. The annihilation of both has created the gray and I will no longer be a slave to either.
The Gray is the freedom to exist in Black and White simultaneously. It is love and hate, life and death, joy and sadness, good and evil. It is the thing feared most by the White and the Black—free will. It is the great void of life, unbound by the black and white shackles of our human perception. It is the living spirit of me here, you there, and all the time and space in between. It is the before, the after, and the soon to be…
So much time has passed, and ink spilled, between the moment I escaped the white and began unleashing my soul upon it.
Make no mistake. The white is still there. It beseeches me from behind the veil of pitch black words now scrawled upon it. I cannot hear it. The cacophony of words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that I’ve let loose upon it has—for the moment, at least—drown out the sedate pleas of that crippling complacency from which I escaped.
Between the white that—not so long ago—consumed me, and this moment right now, there lies a smoldering wasteland of venom, and insecurity, and fear, and hatred, and love; all of which lay naked, and unashamed, before you on the previous pages.
That is the Black, and it is just as all-consuming and deceptive as the White…no more, no less.
The Black is, at first, a cold glass of water after a long walk through the white desert. My heart soars at the site of it. There is a longing from the very core of my being. As I near it, there is hesitation because maybe, just maybe, it isn’t really there. Perhaps it’s a mirage created by the mental starvation of looking at nothing but the white for so long. Then I touch it. It’s real, and I can actually feel it in my grasp. Instinct takes over, and the cool hardness of the glass is on my lips before I realize it. Somewhere, deep inside of me, a voice says to slow down…savor it; the next glass is not a given. Before the voice is finished speaking the water is gone. It is traveling through me now…providing the most beautiful, if fleeting, moment of relief. The Black is the thing I most desire…the water after the walk.
Now sated, I relax, and the black takes control. Good and evil are just words scrawled upon a page that speaks to the darkness inside me. I want to believe that some things are sacred, but everything within me is vulnerable. Everything is white or black; written or not written.
Every word I read spreads the poison further. Every paragraph eats a little more of my soul. I am weak in my own truth, and the abandon of the words before me sets me on fire. It sparks a vision of freedom that I will never attain. It taunts my tepid life with the flames of reality. I am weak, and broken, and consumed by the blacks sublime ability to say what I cannot, think what I dare not, and do what I will not.
And then—just as quickly as the words came to consume me—they are gone. I am abandoned, and lost, and floating in the void somewhere between the white and the black.
When I was growing up I was taught to respect three things: Authority, my elders, and myself. Having ‘no respect’ for any given person or situation was a punishable (yes, that was a thing) offense.
It was pretty simple. If an officer or teacher told me to do something I was to do it. If I was addressing someone older than me it was to be by “Mr” or “Ms/Mrs”. If I was going to do or say something I was to first consider if it was the right thing to do based upon the situation and the participants.
Respecting these things was not presented as an option. It was not a pick and choose scenario. It was a written-in-stone edict that I was to follow at all costs. It was the brick and mortar upon which all my other lessons would be set. It was also a basic tenet of the world in which we lived. It may have been taught, and/or, enforced differently by all my friends parents, but it was taught nonetheless.
Respect Is An Obstacle – Or Is It?
Of course, I questioned this way of doing things at the time. In my childish mind I felt that respecting these things always, and in every situation, was in direct opposition to being myself and being able to voice my own opinion. It also put a serious obstacle in the way of being able to get what I wanted, whenever I wanted it. As I grew older I questioned my parents.
This was when they taught me that it was okay to question anything and everything as long as I did so with respect and positive intent. My father taught me that respect for these things did not have to mean I agreed with them. It only meant that they needed to be given the benefit of the doubt and, if need be, challenged with respect and tact.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not and old man grousing about the way we were. I’m not lamenting the missed opportunity to be called Mr by my neighbors children the way their parents were by me. I am just trying to call attention to the glaring lack of respect that we, as a nation, currently suffer from.
Respect Is A Foreign Concept
The concept of respect is foreign to us as a people now. We have forgotten the lesson we learned and, in so doing, failed to pass it on to our children. We run roughshod now in our never ending quest to get what we want, when we want it. Our actions and words are put forth as if nothing, and no one, else mattered. We do not consider the situation or the other people affected by it. We simply lash out on Facebook or twitter like petulant children demanding our desires.
Social Media Eliminates The Need For Respect
Every problem we face as a county today is a direct result of this missing edict coupled with the ease of opinion sharing provided by social media. We form our ideas and opinions without respect, and then spread them to the masses. Once unleashed they are feasted upon, digested, and regurgitated ad infinitum. We do not respect authority. We do not respect our elders. We do not respect ourselves.
The result is the creation of entire movements based upon, and geared towards, the individuals right to have their every desire sated regardless of how it affects anyone else. We want to do and say as we please with no repercussions. Anyone that gets in the way of that is fodder for the social media masses. Facts no longer matter because no one respects themselves, or others, enough to check them before hopping on the bandwagon.
Respect Is A Two-Way Street
I assure you there is a better way. Everything and everyone can, and should, be questioned. The questions, respectfully asked, allow us to move forward, and be better as a nation and a people. Lack of respect is a killer of that process. It fosters hatred and unleashes vitriol. It sends valid points to wither and die upon deaf ears. You see respect, as I recall, is a two way street. If I put forth an opinion without respect for the intended audience I cannot logically expect a respectful reply. No matter how valid my point disdain and disrespect are the only possible return.
Panic attacks are like the first blustery wind of an unexpected storm. They come from nowhere, with no warning, and no indication of how long they will last, or how severe they will be. It can happen anywhere, or anytime. You can be in the worst of moods, or the best—it does not matter.
When it happens it is like somebody flicked the lights off and then used the cover of darkness to punch you in the gut. I understand that’s an odd analogy, but it is exactly how it feels.
Wrong Without Warning
Imagine you are moving along through your day and (without warning) everything is suddenly wrong. You can’t move forward. You can’t move backward. All you can do is stand there and wonder what happened. You feel nauseous because you cannot put your finger on it, and you know the people around you can see something is wrong. You know that someone will ask you if you are okay—and you will say “yes”. You are not, but it does not matter because you couldn’t explain what was wrong if you wanted to.
The feeling of helplessness is vicious and feeds upon itself. Your heart rate increases, palms start to sweat, your chest tightens up, and a little voice in the back of your head tells you that you’re having a heart attack. The rational side of you says you’re not, but the truth is there’s no way to be sure. The lack of certainty sends your thoughts spinning. Should you go to the hospital? If it is a heart attack would you make it in time? If it’s not will the doctor’s laugh at you? Does your daughter know how much you love her? Will she be okay when you’re gone?
Each thought cripples you a little more. It’s a cascade of irrationality fueled by the reality that all of the things you are thinking—while maybe not true in this exact moment—are completely plausible possibilities. People die of sudden, massive, heart attacks every day. Why not you? Why not today?
My Panic, Not Yours
This is what a panic attack usually feels like to me. If you see me standing stuck in a moment this is what’s going on in my head. I do not know if it is the same for everyone. For me the attacks vary by degrees—sometimes they are small and last seconds, other times they are massive and consume my day. They were less severe when I was younger, and have grown exponentially over the past couple of years.
Oddly enough, the heart attack scenario represents the best case for me. Arguing with myself whether or not I am having a heart attack is at least tangible. Sometimes, the attacks do not present a reason for attacking. Sometimes they are just a sudden onset of terror and an inexplicable surety that everything is not okay. There is no discernible cause—just a hopelessly empty feeling and sudden desire to be anywhere other than where I am. I have left family events, work, even dates when one of these empty moments struck. I have had times when even the company of the person I love most in this world—my daughter—was not enough to make me feel anything other than lost.
Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble
I do not exist in a bubble. I deal with these panic attacks much like you might deal with a sinus infection or a broken arm. I adjust and power through it. If you know me then you have most definitely spoken to me while I was in the midst of one of them. Ninety percent of the time you will never know. The other ten percent? Those are the times when I inexplicably disappear. Maybe I told you the truth. Maybe I made up an excuse. Either way, it was necessary to remove myself from whatever situation I was in and deal with the darkness that had descended upon me.
I am grateful that I understand what is happening now. Like so many others I suffered for years in silence. Now that I know it is real I can deal with it. One of the ways I deal with it is by writing. If you are dealing with the panic attacks please share how you deal with them below if you are so inclined. If you need someone to talk to but do not want to do it publicly you can reach out to me at email@example.com. I cannot give you answers, but I can listen—and sometimes that helps.