There is Hope, There is Love…

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... on June 4, 2017 by henryconley

In recent years I’ve heard people ponder whether or not they wanted to bring a child into the world with all the hate that exists, or at least voice great concern for what the next generation will face.  I understand the fear, I’m not blind to the current state of the world and can see what a scary place it is.  In fact, this very week as my son and daughter-in-law brought my beautiful grandson, Elias, into this world there were many reminders.  The Manchester attack, last night’s attack in London and oh so many other negative things in the press that one could easily be paralyzed with fear.

A painful reminder of how very real evil is in this world was less than a quarter-mile from the hospital Eli was born in.  As we pulled up last Sunday, I saw a sign that caught my eye, it read Pulse.  Yes, that Pulse, the nightclub were so many beautiful, innocent people were murdered less than a year ago.  I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for the parents who went from the happiest day of their lives to being on lock-down in a building surrounded by police and rescue vehicles.  The rest of their stay had to be tainted by the events taking place a little more than a few football fields away.

IMG_1830
I must admit that while waiting for little Eli to be born, it haunted my thoughts.  I just couldn’t let it go.  What kind of a world was he coming into?

Then Eli came into this world and my thoughts turned to my beautiful grandson.  He took my breath away and I felt a sense of hope.  Then while exchanging texts about my him with a friend, he said something when referring to Eli that really set me straight, “Maybe his generation will get it right…”

Hmm… What a nice way to look at it; “Maybe his generation will get it right”.  Since we have another grandson, Connor, arriving in September, I am inspired to take on this view. After all, I’ve always been a believer in setting up the next generation to be better than the prior.  We need to smother this next generation with hope, love and the knowledge that they can turn things around.

Eli was brought into an extremely loving environment, as will my other grandson, Connor.  In Eli’s case, not only were both parents there every step of the way, but so were both sets of grandparents, and two aunts (one by Facetime several times a day) the other, in-person.  Both families are very close-knit and we’ve come together to form one larger family, the Meyer-Conley clan.  The bond is strong and the love this newborn received and will continue to receive is immeasurable.

IMG_3639

So there is Hope, there is Love, this makes me feel better about our future.  If we do our best to instill good values and let this generation know just how loved they are, perhaps they will be the generation to get it right.  In the meantime, I will do my part to love the stuffing out of Eli and count down the days till Connor arrives.

IMG_1927

We cannot let hate win.

Thank you Bobby for the wise words…

 

 

Advertisements

My Favorite Mother-In-Law…

Posted in The 1990's..., The 2000's, The present..., Those Crazy 1980's... on December 24, 2013 by henryconley

WARNING: This post may not be easy to read, particularly if you have lost someone recently or are dealing with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.  However, it is also a love story and example of how strong love can make us.

Recently, I’ve had many occasions that made me want to eagerly click away on my keyboard, sharing my thoughts and emotions as I’ve done so many times over the past four years.  However, I just haven’t had the energy, even though it’s always a cathartic experience for me.  I even missed my annual “state-of-the-state” birthday address, which has been a consistent part of my celebration for three of the past four years.  Why did I miss it?  As most of my friends know, my lovely wife’s mother passed away the day before my birthday.  So even though I’m a few weeks late, I want to write this entry and instead of my usual birthday entry, I want to write to you about this special woman.

Margaret or Peggy as most knew her was born in pre-World War England in the city of Norwich.  From the few photos we’ve found and the little she spoke of it, those early years appear to have been a happy time.  That is until WWII hit her city.  The air raid sirens sounded on the very first day of the war when she was just shy of 6 years-old and then no less than an additional 1,488 times throughout the following years.  Historians estimate that these ‘events’ (not each siren resulted in an actual air raid) lasted 1,887 hours and 51 minutes.  When put together that totals to 79 entire days.

002

No one knows how many times she was rushed to the bomb shelters, but it left a deep scar on her heart and mind that she rarely spoke of.  One night before Deb and I married she just started freely discussed it with me and mentioned how she often went to bed dressed in her school clothes so if she had to go to the shelter during the night, she would be ready for school the next day.  She shared a few other details of how horrible it was, and then as if catching herself speaking about some forbidden topic, she changed the subject.  Only on rare occasion did a few words slip about the horrors brought on by the war.  However, most of the memories she shared about that time were related to her love of dancing, which was supported by several photos we uncovered recently.

005

Sometime in her early teenage years, her mother and her were moved to an American base in Germany where her soon to be step-father was stationed.  Along with her twin step-sisters, they moved to the US shortly after and according to her, she quickly lost the word ‘step’ and they were now a family unit.  Mom, dad and three sisters…

009

Fast-forward to 1984… During that summer I met her daughter and if not for Peggy, we might not have had a second date.  When I took out Deb the first time, I was not looking for a long-term relationship.  We had a great night, but I had no idea what would come of it.  A few nights later, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to spend a night off from work.  Rather quickly, I realized I wanted to take Deb out to the movies, so I went by their pizza place to see if she was there.  Her mom informed me she had just left but told me to have a seat and she would try to reach her.  In those pre-cell phone days, it wasn’t always an easy task.  She could reach Deb but left a message at home telling her I was there.  As we waited, we chatted, laughed and formed a real bond.  Before you know it, well over an hour had passed when Deb walked back into the restaurant.  She wandered back by chance as she had been out and about.  She hadn’t even gotten the message.  I said goodbye to my new friend and off I went with her daughter.  If she had not been so engaging and fun, I may not have waited for Deb (as I said, I wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship yet) and may have moved on.  Probably not as Deb was already embedded in my mind, but I can tell you that the conversation I had with her mom and the ease with which we spent time together, set the scene for our relationship.  We spent countless nights playing board games with her mom in those early years and had many laughs.  A trust was built that played a key role in her later years.

In those early years, I quickly learned that Peggy loved all things shiny, glitzy or that actually lit up.  If it lit up and played music, it was a double win in her book.  The beautiful thing was that although her love of shiny things extended to jewelry, the actual value didn’t matter.  Costume jewelry, plastic light up necklaces or a real diamond all gave her an equal amount of joy.

On April 23rd, 1988, Deb became my wife and Peg, my mother-in-law.  She (and Deb’s dad) saw that our wedding was the event of a lifetime and it was a celebration of our families joining.  Soon there were no dividing lines marking where my family ended and Deb’s began.  Both families spent the holidays and special occasions together.  It became a running joke that I was her favorite son-in-law (I was her only son-in-law) and she was my favorite mother-in-law.  It may have been a joke, but it carried a lot of affection.  Oh by the way, her love of light-up things was even present at our wedding; with our full approval and excitement, Deb’s bouquet and all the flowers on the head table had tiny, intricate lights woven in.  It was spectacular and very rare back in 1988.  We loved it.  (Note: Per her wishes, she was buried in the dress she wore to our wedding)
026

As the years went on, she began to change.  She went from a fun-loving outgoing lady to one that was afraid of her own shadow.  She was so claustrophobic, that even nail polish could be too much at times.  Was this a remnant of those nights in the shelters?  We often wondered, but could not find answers.  In hindsight, we now know that Alzheimer’s disease was starting to grab hold of her.  The change was slow at first, with her becoming forgetful but hiding it well.  It took years for us to realize she was having major memory lapses.  It was only three and a half years or so ago that we started to suspect Alzheimer’s was the cause, but now suspect it plagued her for well over a decade.

If I had to draw a line in the sand to mark the beginning of her decline, it would be her final visit home to Norwich, England.  She often went there and would stay as long as a month some times.  If she could find an excuse to stay longer, she would take it.  Something happened that scared her during that trip.  Was it the return of a childhood memory and the truth behind the horrors she had faced or perhaps seen?  Was it not recognizing her old hometown?  Or perhaps, not remembering how to get from point A to Point B?  We will never know, but she changed and was never the same.  She came home weeks early blaming volcanic activity that was threatening air travel across Europe, but in the past that would have simply made for a great excuse to stay longer.  Not that time though.  Instead, she came home afraid and showing more severe signs of the disease.

A major problem in getter her diagnosed was that she outright refused to go the doctors.  She always had.  That and taking pills were strictly off limits for her.  It took well over a year or consulting with doctors and the Alzheimer’s Association to finally find a way of tricking her into going.  The details don’t matter as to how we did it, but as her “favorite son-in-law” I hated having to trick her.  However, I was by her side for that first appointment and then with her at the Neurologist as she diagnosed my “favorite mother-in-law” with Alzheimer’s.  During that visit she was struggling with the memory test and half-jokingly asked me to help her with the answers.  I laughed and told her I couldn’t help her.  I couldn’t help her.  That sums up the diagnosis of a disease like this.  I couldn’t help her make it go away.  I could only try to comfort her and along with my wife and father-in-law (and the rest of the family) and be there for her.  So that’s what we did.

At times the Alzheimer’s worked to our advantage.  She forgot she disliked doctors and even forgot she hated taking pills on occasions.  She would even ride in an elevator; something she refused to do the entire time I knew her.  It was certainly not an even trade for losing one’s memory, but a small blessing in some ways.

The true point of no return occurred April 14, 2013.  While entering her home she tripped and fell, breaking her hip.  By the time we visited with her after surgery on April 15, the end had begun.  That afternoon we watched the television in her room in pure horror as the events at the Boston Marathon were played out.  At some point she woke and was confused, which can certainly be expected after surgery.  Shortly after that, she refused the meal they brought her.  She would never eat an entire meal again.  As she went through rehabilitation for her hip her body healed rather quickly, but not her mind.  In the early days of her almost eight month hunger strike, we thought it would pass.  She would begin to eat, regain strength and perhaps some of her faculties.

Soon she was back in the comfort of her own home and we hoped this would help her.  It did not.  The confusion grew and she continued to refuse any type of food.  Some days she would not even drink anything.  We visited daily and did our best to try to encourage her to eat.  From that point in late April, communication with her was hit or miss.  She would start a sentence, but stop mid-way through and say never mind.  The fragments she did say seemed (at that point in April and May) to return to her final trip to England.  She would state how she should never have come here (she was safe in her own home) and didn’t know how she was going to get home.  Of course, not all in one sentence; just fragments ending with “never mind”.  I suspect that at this point in her decline she still knew what she was saying wasn’t correct, and on occasion her comments indicated this.

As spring turned into summer, no real improvement came for her.  There would be moments and sometimes days of a somewhat clear state of mind, but she still refused food.  The doctors said to offer all types of food and drink, but she wasn’t having it.  When asked why she would not eat, her reply often was that “they told her she should not eat”.  Who was this “they” that gave such advice?  We tried and tried to find out what was going on to no avail.  Was she remembering her childhood in the shelters when food was rationed?  We don’t even know that she experienced that, but it sounded plausible.  Whoever “they” were, real people from the past or simply voices in her head, “they” were persistent and she repeated their instructions whenever asked.  How do you fight an enemy that only exists in another person’s mind or memories?  We learned we couldn’t.  Her disease had short circuited the part of her brain that should have let hunger overpower imaginary voices.  (I need to mention that a feeding tube was not an option.  Her Living Will was quite clear on this.)

Fall approached and so did another defining point, a massive infection.  She was hospitalized and given antibiotics that required her transfer to a nursing home while she finished the regiment.  We had been discussing hospice care for some time, but my father-in-law wanted to wait.  Now the waiting was over.  So many doctors, nurses, case workers and staff at the nursing home reassured him it was a good idea that we finally had a meeting with them in early September, while she was still at the nursing home.

I cannot say enough good things about the hospice workers.  That very first meeting lasted almost two hours and all our questions we answered.  My father-in-law felt comfortable with the decision to enter her into the care of the hospice workers.  Then he made the bravest, least selfish decision I have possibly ever had the honor of seeing first-hand.  Honoring a promise made years ago that she would not be put into a nursing home, he stated he wanted her to come home.  So that Saturday in September, we moved her back home and started meeting all the members of the hospice staff that would be visiting.  We were told she most likely would pass within three weeks based on her condition. Hospice quickly had her anxiety medicine turning into a strong liquid compound that required only a small dose be squirted into the side of her mouth to be effective.  Finally, she began to have a calmer demeanor.  However, “they” continued to win the battle and she did not eat other than a mouthful here and there.

She was never alone.  Her husband of 59 years stuck by her side literally by lying in bed with her for hours on end during the daytime watching television.  Despite the fact that her restless nights would surely mean no sleep for him, he still shared a bed with her and did his best to comfort her.  Deb and I stopped by daily and her son came home as many weekends as he could.  Everyone did their best to see that she had plenty of company.

The three week window came and went without any major developments.  As October passed, she became confined to her bed and was moved to a chair on rare occasion.  “Death is imminent”, was the prognosis repeated over and over.  While I sat with her one October afternoon, she was quite upset and I asked her why.  My suspicions were finally confirmed as she looked at me and said “I have to get to the shelter, but I can’t”.  She was trapped in a childhood nightmare.  Now, let me be clear about the fact that we were very careful to NEVER discuss our suspicions or say anything in front her that could trigger these memories.  In our non-medical, non-scientific opinions it made sense.  We had watched as any recent memories became erased and seen how she hardly ever recognized us in her final months.  Yet the longer you had known her, the more likely she was to remember you.  For example, in the middle of a bad spell she recognized her sister whom she had known most of her life, but no one else.  Additionally, when asked about things from several decades earlier she could recall things details, but not remember what occurred five minutes previous.

November came and Deb, my daughter and me travelled to our son’s wedding in Florida and the Bahamas, with much nervousness.  By the time we left she was completely confined to her bed and barely ever spoke.  Midway through our trip we were told again that her death was imminent and we came home a week early.  She was strong and held on though.  They told us we needed to tell her it was okay to let go.  My father-in-law, bless his soul, could not do this.  He had been with her 24/7 (literally) for three months and didn’t complain once.  He said he just couldn’t be the one to tell her that.  I tried.  Once.  Only once.  While I was alone with her, I looked into her eyes and told her it was okay to let go and move on.  Although she no longer spoke with any regularity, she made her reply clearly known by shaking her head no, quite emphatically.  I asked her if she was afraid to and she rolled her eyes and made a face that I fully understood as an “Oh please” as she shook her head no again.  I don’t know why she wasn’t ready, but she wasn’t.  She had been literally skin and bones for weeks (I don’t say this casually, it is the horrific truth and an example of what this disease can do to a person), yet she felt it wasn’t time yet. Death could not have her until she was ready.

The hospice nurse worked on assuring her that everyone would be looked after and taken care of once she was gone.  We all continued to comfort her as she lost control of her arms and they flailed about any time she tried to move them (again, I apologize if this is disturbing, but I want the ugly face of this disease exposed for those that haven’t experienced it).  December came and winter approached.  Her winter approached as well.  On December fourth, our daily visit found her breathing irregularly and her focus pretty much gone.  After reading all the materials hospice had provided, I was sure that the end would come within 48 hours.  We told my father-in-law to call us if he saw any change that raised his concern.  He seemed to know the end was near, but still wanted to hold on.

In the early hours of December 5th, everyone in my house was awoken by a loud banging noise that stopped as quickly as it had started.  Deb jumped up and sat on the side of our bed to listen, after hearing no further noises she laid back down.  Brittany had the same experience.  I wasn’t sure what had happened, but knew I was awoken by something.  Within minutes, the phone rang.  We knew why.  My favorite mother-in-law had just passed.  My father-in-law said he had known she was a short time earlier, as he had heard he labored breathing.  Then he had woken up, gone to the bathroom and when he returned, noticed she was silent and called us right away.  Before I go any further, let me say that I will make no claims as to what made the noises that woke us, but I will say I am thankful for the fact it happened because we were all awake and somewhat clear-headed already.  This made it much easier to rush over to their home.

Upon arriving there, I went in and checked on her.  When no one else was in the room, I put my hand under her nose to see if she was breathing at all.  She was not, but she did look at peace.  More at peace than I had seen her in a long time.  She died with dignity in the comfort of her own bed thanks to a loving husband, supportive family and the unbelievable support provided by the people from Beacon Hospice.

We waited for the on-call nurse from hospice to come.  My daughter and her boyfriend arrived first, about five minutes behind us.  We all gathered in the front room and continued to wait.  When the nurse arrived he was shaking.  It was his first call so he had never done this before.  In a moment of brief levity that my favorite mother-in-law would have surely appreciated, as the nurse leaned over her taking her vital signs his cell phone went off blaring “The Cupid Shuffle” at top volume.  Lesson learned… when verifying if someone is deceased; make sure your phone is on silent.  When he was done and had made a call to the funeral home, he quickly left.  Poor guy…

Soon the gentlemen from the funeral home arrived and after a few minutes we all watched as they drove away with her.  All my father-in-law could say was “poor girl, she never did nothing to deserve this”.  Truer words could not have been spoken.  Alzheimer’s steals so much from its victims before ultimately stealing their very life.  No one deserves that fate.  No one should be tricked by their own mind that starving to death is the only option.  It’s an awful death.  She was strong though and did not go easy.  It took just 10 days shy of eight long months for the infamous “they” to win.  Almost eight months without food and very little drink.  Doesn’t seem like one could survive that, but she did.

I will miss my favorite mother-in-law and the holidays will be very bittersweet as they were four short years ago when my great aunt passed on Christmas day.  Terrible time to experience such loss, but surrounded by family, we will be fine.  She will be present in every shiny light or glitzy decoration.

In closing, let me bring up a few things… One, Alzheimer’s is an evil, evil disease that I pray we learn more about soon and find a real cure.  Two, hospice workers rock!  Without them we could not have made it through the past several months.  My last point is almost as sad as the disease that took my mother-in-law’s life; we are too quick to forget the children of war.  Personally, I never stopped to think about what it must have been like to live in England during the Nazi bombings.  I’ve heard all the well-deserved praise for those that fought against the Nazi regime, we even call the Americans that made sacrifices to support the war effort “The Greatest Generation”.  I don’t disagree with that at all, but think it should be broadened.  We need to give special recognition to those children that grew up under such horrifying circumstances, yet carried on.  Unfortunately, I think many of them are/were like my mother-in-law and never really spoke much about it.  They never got the help or right psychological tools to deal with what they had experienced, and move on.  I firmly believe she suffered from post-traumatic-stress syndrome that went unchecked and untreated all these years.

So as you gather this holiday season, think about the families dealing with Alzheimer’s, cancer or other horrible disease and say a pray for them.  Then take a moment and add another prayer for the children of war.  All of those, that after watching their cities burn and experiencing more death than anyone (never mind a child) should, still have the courage to get up and move forward and live their lives.

004

“It is this way for each of us
We all need to be held, at least twice
Once upon the day we are born
And once more when we leave this life…”

Lost Christmas Eve Narration – Trans Siberian Orchestra

068

As American as apple pie, but always a proud Brit at heart…

Beware of Vultures… Secondary Evils Following the Marathon Tragedy

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... with tags , , , on April 16, 2013 by henryconley

Here we are again… Another American tragedy and as we try to grieve as a nation, certain factions feel they have the right to spew hate and/or ludicrous accusations against our own government.  Whereas it may be their “right” to do so, it doesn’t make it any less disgusting.  In particular, I am referring to two particular situations; the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) and a conspiracy theorist that interrupted one of yesterday’s news conferences.

The WBC is nothing more than a hate group and needs to be recognized as just that.  They can claim to be a church, but by most legal definitions they are a hate group.  Why they haven’t been officially recognized as one is beyond me.  Their use of social media yesterday was once again pure evil.  I’m not going to rehash how I feel about them as I’ve written about them several times, but I will say that if they follow through on their threat to picket the funerals, I will do my best to join any peaceful demonstration/human shield efforts that take place.  I call on everyone in the area to do the same if this occurs.  Hopefully they will be stopped before they even arrive as they were by many groups in December, when they planned on invading Newton.

Conspiracy theorists… Let me start off by saying that I firmly believe that conspiracy theories can serve a purpose and have a place in our society.  Challenging the “official” version of major events can sometime bring about healthy dialogue and lead to a better understanding of what occurred.  However, with that said, everything is not a conspiracy and no matter what the circumstances, there is a place and time for this kind of rhetoric.  During a press conference to help bring the scarred city of Boston (and the world) up-to-date on a still unraveling tragedy is not that time and not that place.

During one of last night’s news conferences a very misguided, self-centered, self-serving and selfish person asked an extremely inappropriate question: “Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote homeland security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?”  Really???  I heard this live and was mortified and enraged.  For those that are not aware, a false flag attack is when a nation either infiltrates or allows an attack on its own people and shifts the blame to another country or group to help them further their own agenda.  So, in essence this person was asking if the government had just bombed their own innocent citizens.  He insinuated that our government had just murdered and maimed to help take our civil liberties.  Again, I must ask… really???  First, no matter what twisted thoughts you may have regarding a tragic event, to interrupt a vital source of information for all the concerned families and citizens is simply not right.  How can you claim to be “fighting for the truth and for the citizens of this country” as this person insinuates and go and throw this kind of hurtful speech (in the form of a question) when we are all hurting so badly?  If you ever had any credibility (which is questionable to begin with), you’ve lost it.  He had no time to gather any evidence or reasons valid enough to justify the interruption.  He made claims about drills occurring for just such a situation in Boston as if this helps prove his point.  When in reality conducting such an exercise or drill would be only responsible and prudent.

Cities and towns around this great nation conduct drills based on scenarios that could occur within their jurisdiction.  Ever since Oklahoma City in 1995 (if not before that with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993), bombings have entered into part of disaster preparedness plans.  You’d be hard pressed to find an adult that hasn’t considered the possibility of an attack at a major sporting event.  That’s why there is often an extra security presence and it is a comfort to the average person.  I have feared for events like the Boston Marathon because of the size of the area the event takes place.  This person made statements insinuating that the presence of police and bomb sniffing dogs would have caught this and prevented it if this wasn’t an inside job.  What a naïve thing to state.  The kind of devices used were small, portable and easily hidden.  I’m sure the evidence will show that they were placed there shortly before they exploded and with a crowd that large, it’s not surprising that someone was able to sneak them in.

I was very shocked and saddened to learn that this individual was a local person who at one point wrestled on the local independent circuit.  To see that I shared many Facebook friends with him upset me.  I don’t want to walk in the same circles as a person like this.  I can only hope that people will separate themselves from him or at least, challenge his behavior.  It was inappropriate and disgusting.

For the many conspiracy theorists out there; I don’t want you to stop questioning things when they don’t seem right.  That’s a freedom we enjoy in this country and as I said before, this challenging can lead to healthy dialogue at times.  What I do ask is that you use prudence in the selection of your “quests for the truth” and show respect in the timing of your challenges.  Making baseless, hurtful accusations via “questions” at a press conference when a crisis is still underway is simply wrong.  This person has hurt your cause.  Everything that goes wrong is not a conspiracy and he is not a hero as some on his Facebook have claimed.  It was not gutsy or brave.  It was a cowardly, selfish act.  To use that forum to throw out a half-baked theory just hurts the victims, their families and every citizen of this nation.  This is why I haven’t used the individual’s name.  I will not help him stroke his ego and promote his misguided cause.

In closing, my prayers and thoughts continue to go out to everyone affected by this horrible act.  I hope and pray justice will be served.  I’m proud of all the people who ran into the smoke (instead of away from it) to help the fallen.  That’s what we do hear in New England and across this nation.  We pull together and do what we can to help in time of crisis.

God bless and Peace…

Be careful what you wish for…lol

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... with tags , , on April 1, 2013 by henryconley

“Be careful what you wish for you might just get it…” Pearls of wisdom I guess.  I recently posted about dreams and letting go of them.  One of the things I mentioned was regretting that my children have no memory of the only time they had come to one of my concerts.  I not so secretly longed to experience that one last time in front of the kids.  I wanted to be like either one of the successful rock musicians I have the pleasure of knowing or heck, one I don’t know.  That’s been bouncing around in my head a lot since I posted about it.

This Friday, I’ll be taking my lovely wife to see Brett Michaels.  Thoughts of “So why can’t I be more like him?” playfully danced around in my head even though I know my “Rock Star Card” expired a long time ago (I think it was a counterfeit card to start with…lol).  What a ballsy thing for me to think, but oops… I wished to be more like him.  Stupid move on my part, I should have been more specific.  When I walk into the show Friday night I will now have more in common with him.  As of this morning’s diagnosis, I am officially a diabetic just like Brett.  Hey God, that’s not what I meant…  Now all of this was written very tongue in cheek.  Thankfully, my situation is not as severe as his, but it did make for a really ironic twist on how things have been going lately.

I’ll deal with this and do all I can to sway things in my favor.  Just another challenge to face and that’s just what I’ll do.  I do have to wonder why my family has to constantly be tested though.  It was just be nice to enjoy so peace of mind for at least a little while.

Well, it’s time to go do my homework.  Lots of reading to do on this disease.  The more you know about your enemy, the better you can fight it.  Heck, this new adventure may make for some interesting entries to this blog.  Who knows…

Peace.

Truly inspiring…

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... with tags , , , on March 24, 2013 by henryconley

Last night I was sitting in my office (at home, not work) and looking some inspiration.  As you can tell from my last post, I am again at a crossroad and trying to figure out what I should do next towards achieving at least one of my dreams.  Cutting a few loose was an effort to refocus my goals and make them more achievable.  Oh, and yes it was part pity-party.  Sorry, but sometimes I need to throw my emotions out there.  I tend to wear them on my sleeve, which of course isn’t always the best, but it’s just who I am.

So, back to last night… While I sat and thought about it I skimmed through my Facebook news feed.  I noticed a video was there for about the sixth time this week.  Another “inspirational” clip that everyone “MUST” watch.  I don’t always watch clips like this because they are often a bit cheesy, but then again at times I’m the king of cheesy things.  So I watched it.  I watched it in complete awe.  I watched as this man stood onstage and told a story I could relate to.  It took a while for me to realize it was spoken-word poetry.  The ease he recited every line told me they were part of him, not just something he memorized.  I was blown away.

The piece was essentially an anti-bullying message, but it went much deeper and even helped me understand some of the reasons I felt a need to cut loose some of my dreams.  He stated that people even called his dreams names, like “stupid”.  Now I am paraphrasing, but the concept of dropping dreams because what other people say about them hit home.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have people telling me my dreams are stupid to my face anymore, but the scars of a younger version of me do come to the surface.  The current version of me has put all of my dreams and aspirations out for viewing, criticizing and even the laughter they may bring some people when they read them.  I thought I didn’t care how people would react and in general I don’t, but there is a part of that younger me who still fears what people will think or say about those dreams.  I think many of my stalled projects may have come to a halt out of the fear that I’d be laughed at if I failed.

After watching that video last night, I feel a bit more inspired.  I don’t know what I will put my energies towards, but I will attempt to relaunch one of my many projects.  I owe a lot to Shane Koyczan.  His poetry and performance deeply touched me.  I hope you’ll take the time to look him up and watch a few of his pieces.  I’ve included the clip I watched last night below, but he has many others on YouTube that are equally as inspiring…

Dreams are for sleep…

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... with tags , , , on March 22, 2013 by henryconley

When do you stop chasing a dream? Conventional wisdom would most likely tell us “when it becomes impractical”, or something along those lines. I’ve always felt that since it’s a dream, conventional wisdom and practicality don’t need to play into your chasing a dream. Yes, as adults we need to know when a dream should be sidelined while reality is dealt with and then pulled out again at a later date, but does a dream need to die? Until recently, I always answered “NO!!!”, with extreme and guttural intensity. I had shelved many dreams over the years and came back to them when reality didn’t get in the way. I honestly believed that in some form or fashion I would achieve at least some of them. Now I’m starting to think they need to die and set me free…

Anyone that knows me or has simply read my blog, knows that I feel I’ve achieved my most important dream of having a wonderful family. With a beautiful wife and two wonderful children, I am certainly a blessed man and now I’m starting to realize that to expect anything else would be greedy. I’m learning that not all dreams come true and we need to just accept that.

Again, if you know me or have read my blog you know I’ve suffered with a desire to be in the limelight my whole life. Why? Well, I really can’t answer that as I have no clue, but it’s been there as long as I can remember. It’s not something I can explain. Why do I crave the satisfaction of having an audience for my thoughts and actions? Couldn’t tell you if I wanted to. I can however, tell you it’s not because I think I deserve or that I am better than anyone else. In fact, I usually rate myself only a notch or two above a garden slug. Relax, that’s a joke. I don’t think that poorly of myself, but rest assured I don’t consider better than most humans. Definitely above those who willingly bring harm to others, but not above your average good-willed person. Do I have low self-esteem and need that boost? After the last couple of sentences one might think so, but I don’t think that’s the case. If I didn’t have a healthy self-esteem I could not do the job I do at home or at work.

To play onstage in front of a sold-out audience night after night, make that movie, documentary or TV show that moved people; to have written that play that made someone stop and think or perhaps write that novel that was a real page-turner. All dreams I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I have so many stories in my head I’d love to share. Stand in front of a crowd and perform a one man show, telling stories the way it use to be done. That’s another.

My imagination and ability to remember almost my entire life (yes I even have memories from the crib) is a blessing and a curse. I can keep myself entertained for hours on end just day-dreaming. The movies in my head are better to me than any in the theaters. The memories, a great documentary of my life. However, that imagination made me believe I could bring these stories to life and those memories won’t let me forget how good it felt to bask in even a sliver of the limelight I’ve craved. Why is this a curse? Well, because I just can’t make those dreams a reality. The good Lord knows I’ve tried. A few years ago, I honestly thought I was going to make at least some of them happen. I felt a re-birth of sorts around my 45th birthday and began to work towards making some of them come true. Then reality struck again… and again… and again… You get the point and I will spare you the details, but I will say that my life was and still is consumed with simply staying above water. Dreams are for sleep right now.

So what does all this mean? It means it is time to start letting go. I’ve gone through life with a big bouquet of balloons tied around my wrist. A balloon for every dream. Now I need to start cutting some of them away and deal with my reality. The odds of me taking the stage behind my drums before a sold-out crowd has diminished with every birthday. My children only saw me onstage with one of my bands once. It was a great outdoor Earth Day concert in front of a crowd of thousands as we shared the bill with the Goo Goo Dolls, Four Non-Blondes and many others (it was the early nineties if you couldn’t tell). Unfortunately, neither of my children remember it because they were very young (apparently I did not pass on the blessing and curse of remembering almost every minute of your life). Now I accept (not happily) that they will never see that side of me. Yeah kids, there was a time when I could at least fake the whole ‘rock star’ thing well enough to play to some pretty big crowds. One less balloon to carry…

Most of the other balloons are being set free as well. They feel more like a weight these days. Yes, I wish they would have come true (Oh God, I wish they had), but now they just haunt me like ghosts from my past. Failures that no one would know happened if I didn’t spill my guts in this blog from time to time, but I am always aware of them. So I’ll let some of those float away as well.

You could accuse me of feeling a bit sorry for myself and you would be right, but I’m entitled to at least that much. If you don’t like my public memorial for my lost dreams you can close your browser or go to another website. Doing this in my beloved blog is my way of letting go. It’s symbolic for me as this blog was born out of that rebirth a few years ago, but as you can see I don’t even get to write here that often anymore. I’m not going to cut that balloon loose just yet though. Writing doesn’t seem to have an expiration date like some of my other dreams, but for now there is no great novel or memoir in the works. Not enough hours in the day and not enough strength in my tired soul.

I won’t let go of all my dreams. I’d be completely lost without at least a few, but I’m tired and worn down right now and need to focus on reality. Not so sure how good of a job I’m doing at real life these days, so I can’t justify chasing my dreams for the time being. So the remaining dreams will be safely tucked away for now.

In closing, there’s a song by Jason Walker that kind of sums up this pity-party/memorial service for lost dreams. The song is called, Down, and I’ve included a video with the lyrics to it. Now, it’s not all a feel-bad thing either. There’s a couple of lines that sum up why I’ll always circle back to those dreams; rock star, author, movie-maker, storyteller…

“Not ready to let go
‘Cause then I’ll never know
What could be missing”

So now I think I’ll listen to the song one more time, sip a root beer (or perhaps a Shirley Temple) and say goodbye to a few old friends and goodnight to a few others. I guess dreams are for sleep after all. Well, at least for now…

My Dark Passenger…

Posted in Ramblings..., The present... with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by henryconley

On the Showtime series Dexter, the main character (Dexter Morgan) is a serial killer that refers to the part of him which makes him kill as his ‘dark passenger’.   In one episode, he makes the following comment about the topic:

My dark passenger is like a trapped coal miner, always tapping; always letting me know it’s in there, still alive.”

This quote hits home as  yes, I too have a dark passenger.  Wait!!! Before you go calling the authorities, let me explain.  My dark passenger does not make me want to kill or even bring harm to anyone.  Not at all.  My dark passenger is a different kind of monster.  One that eats away at me and can make the world around me a terrifying place.  It’s name is Anxiety and it too is always there like a trapped miner, tapping and letting me know it’s in there alive.

When you suffer from a chemical imbalance which triggers irrational anxiety (as many, many people do), your world becomes unnecessarily complex and scary.  I’ve written about this topic before, but feel the need to again.

For someone who does not suffer this fate, I think it is almost impossible to understand its grasp and impact on one’s life.  You see, this monster, dark passenger or whatever you want to call it, goes against logic.  I am a logical person.  In fact, my career has called for logical, sound thinking and risk analysis for over two decades.  I can apply logic and risk assessment skills to complex problems without breaking a sweat.  However, my dark passenger doesn’t believe in logic.  It fights against it.

I’m going to bring back an analogy that I’ve used before to help explain.  If something happens which triggers a normal, healthy fear/concern reaction like a broken sump pump in your basement which threatens to flood your cellar, a ‘faucet’ is turned on which releases certain chemicals in the brain that tell us there is a threat and we react accordingly.  Once the crisis has passed and the threat has been taken care of (in this case, the pump is replaced and a backup is installed and even the ground is cleared of all valuable items.), the average person’s brain would turn off the faucet.  Appropriate measures have been taken and there is no longer an imminent threat.  As the chemical flow stops, you are able to move on to other things and your thoughts are no longer consistently based on the welfare of your sump pump.  For someone suffering from an anxiety disorder, the ‘faucet’ stays on.  The logical side of the person’s brain assures them that all the proper measures have been taken and all is well, but because of that ‘stuck faucet’, a residual sense of anxiety remains.  It is unrelenting and can result in obsessive behavior like checking the pump over and over again.  This cycle can go on for weeks and months if not treated.

When a person without an anxiety disorder hears the above example, they either think it’s silly or crazy.  Granted, on the surface it does appear so, but the person suffering from this is responding to the same chemical reaction that has evolved in us and is crucial to our survival.  That chemical reaction keeps us alive and well when it is working properly.  If when facing situations that threaten our well-being or the well-being of our family and possessions, that chemical reaction makes sure we know we need to respond.  Since those same chemicals and part of our brains are at work in the mind of the person with the anxiety disorder, their reaction and need to address their worries is just as real as when the real crisis still existed.

I’ve lived through the above example and it ultimately let me to get help with my anxiety disorder.  With the help of the right medications, things have been brought back into check… most of the time.  Like that miner in the quote, it’s always their threatening to take over my mind.  Most days I can quiet my dark passenger and move on.  However, if I’ve been going through a stressful time and things have built up, it can break out, disrupt my thoughts and sense of well-being.

During an episode I will feel a sense of doom and gloom despite my logical brain telling me all is okay.  It’s hard to explain and most people would never know I’m going through an episode.  I can still function at work and home without showing too many outward signs.  After all, we must keep our dark passengers secret and tucked away, right?  Why?  Because our society is cruel and judgmental.  We fear that if we expose our disorder to the light of day it won’t go away, but instead expose us to people judging and labeling us as crazy.  I can tell you, I am quite sane.  My mother had me tested (a little Big Bang Theory humor there).  I am at times deliberately immature, silly and even odd, but that is by choice.  If you are too normal, life is boring.  Like a recent meme I saw so perfectly stated; “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine“.   So, yes I may be a bit odd or eccentric, but rest assured, I am quite sane.

Why do I share this and expose myself to potential ridicule, or risk having someone think this makes me weak?  I share this (again) because people need to understand that this is a real condition and it is treatable.  Those that experience what I have, should seek help.  Like I said, it doesn’t mean you are crazy or weak.  I think I am a very strong person.  I could (but won’t) share stories of the very real threats my family has faced in recent years and how I was perfectly capable of taking the lead against something that could have done great damage to us.  My disorder (when an episode occurs, which is rare now that I have gotten help) is a very private one.  I suffer and in many cases do not even tell my wife.  Not because she would not support me, it’s just that hard habits die-hard and since this dark passenger has been with me as long as I can remember (even as young as four or five years old), I spent too many years keeping my pain on the inside.  No one should do that.

For those of you who live with or are friends with someone suffering from an anxiety disorder; do not tell them they worry too much or that they are being silly.  Do not play the logic card either.  We are painfully aware that our worries and anxieties are going against logic.  Well, let me step back… you can try to logic things out with us or tell us everything is going to be alright, everyone needs to hear that, but understand that we can’t turn the anxiety off.  Just like a diabetic can’t just tell themselves to stop producing too much sugar, we can’t just simply stop the anxiety.  So be patient and understanding.  Be there for us without judging the validity of our concerns, we’re already doing that over and over again.

In closing, if you are suffering like I have in the past, please get help.  You’ll thank yourself for doing so, trust me.  For those around us, love us and be patient.  Remember, we are not crazy, silly or worry-warts.  We have a condition and it is not our fault.  My hope is that if more people speak out about their experiences with an anxiety condition and its good friend the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), we can bring this out of the shadows.  I’d love to make my dark passenger less of a dark passenger and more of just an over protective friend.

I hope my sharing this has been helpful.  Peace my friends!

Footnote:  The incident that made me decide to write about this topic again is quite ironic.  I’ve used the faucet analogy for well over a decade now and yesterday a pipe connected to one of our faucets burst and began flooding the house.  Thankfully, my daughter’s boyfriend had come by to take out her puppy.  He heard it burst and shut off the water without any real damage.  This started an episode for me, but not as intense as if I was not being treated for anxiety.  With the help of my lovely wife, I am taming my dark passenger and despite problems getting a plumber I am turning that internal faucet off as well.