Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘mental health

Clay Bennett

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I have no words. The artwork and message of Clay Bennett speak for me today.

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2022 at 6:00 am

Great Distraction

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Last night, despite the hefty drama of flashing lightning and booming thunder, Cyndie and I tuned out the horrors of war on the other side of the world and the wild weather locally to immerse ourselves in the opening episodes of a two-year-old streaming television series. It is both intelligent and funny and oh so refreshing.

We have missed another real-time popularity spike of a series that everyone was talking about. It doesn’t matter which one. Our rural connection limitations leave us out of the loop with current events. We have our moments of excited fanaticism after the fact, on our own. The world has already said everything there is to be said about the shows by the time we get around to watching.

We laughed and binged our way through four episodes and only stopped because real life couldn’t be put off any longer. I feel profoundly grateful that artists produce shows like this for our entertainment and enlightenment.

As much as it pains me to know the victims of the ongoing war in the real world don’t have the luxury of taking a break from it all, my health requires I clear my head of the atrocities as often as possible.

We experienced a new tree down across one of our trails yesterday before the big storms had even arrived.

I walked around to get a different angle and discovered the hole created by the toppled trunk was completely full of standing water.

It’s no surprise the dead tree no longer had a firm enough grip on the earth to remain standing.

Feels a little like a metaphor for a lot of aspects of life these days. Too bad our trees can’t take a break and watch a popular streaming television series every so often to escape the hazards of surviving everything the universe dishes up day after day.

I’m on my own today while Cyndie is visiting in the Cities, so I will have to delay further binging until she returns home. I hope to delve into more great distraction as soon as I can talk her into it after she gets back.

It will fuel my reserves of love so I have all the more to beam toward Ukrainians wherever they are in the world or at home under military assault.

It’s a mystery, even as I do it. Thinking of all the people of Ukraine and escaping from endless news about them, both at the same time.

Imagining peace…

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Written by johnwhays

April 13, 2022 at 6:00 am

Complex Threads

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When headspace is getting cluttered by whatever the catastrophe of the day is, it becomes a struggle to maintain a healthy effort toward cultivating daily awareness of the goodness that surrounds me. The innocent joy visible in Delilah’s eyes reveals she isn’t thinking about the ills of war currently happening in Ukraine. I’m not so lucky.

I wish I didn’t have to know about the complexities of what Russia’s Putin will do if he doesn’t get what he wants.

My present concerns about the challenges faced by the people of Ukraine bring up complicated questions I find myself asking about why this deserves any more attention than similar traumas in all the other regions of the world where large populations of civilians have been displaced by lethal conflicts.

Meanwhile, the calamities unfolding every day from the impact of human-driven climate change rage undiminished by any other distractions that succeed in grabbing my attention. How many billion dollars of damage occurred somewhere in the world from flooding rains, wildfires, or wind storms this week?

That doesn’t take anything away from a blissful moment of interaction I was able to experience with Mia yesterday. While a very spring-like snow shower made it look like we were in a snow-globe scene, I wandered up to one of the paddock gates to visit the horses. Mia came up to meet me.

In a rare instance where she didn’t choose to make it a short visit, I found myself looking for ways to give her whatever attention she might desire. After she satisfied herself with facing me and breathing in my smell, she turned around and very obviously waited to see if I would scratch her butt.

How could I resist? While it is true that presenting their butt can be a way a horse shows disrespect or harmful intent, given the circumstances, I read Mia’s behavior as totally benign.

It was snowing and she was wet, plus my reach was limited through the gate, so she received a rather rudimentary scratching. Regardless, she definitely seemed receptive to the attention and followed it up by turning around again to present her mane, which I spotted had quite a dreadlocked snarl.

To my great surprise, she stood patiently while I feebly struggled to make meaningful progress toward detangling the incredibly tight twists of several sections of hair. I did what I could, trying to take advantage of her willingness, but this was a project that needed more than I could provide through a gate amid wet, falling snowflakes.

She decided to present her butt for more attention one last time before I departed from my little impromptu visit.

Before bedtime last night, as I stood at the mirror in the luxury of my bathroom to brush my teeth, I thought about the complexity of my joys and comforts as they contrast with the simultaneous hostility others are suffering.

Somehow, it seems I shouldn’t allow the ills of the world to squelch the goodness I enjoy, but it would be easier to reconcile the dichotomy of the two if my happiness had influence toward easing the difficulties others are forced to endure.

Complex threads, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

March 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

Painful Loss

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I knew Jennifer to be a precious, congenial, and amiable person, despite the experiences she lived through that drove her to multiple treatments for mental health concerns. Every time I saw her again after long absences, that remarkable dose of her true spark and desire to gain full command of her wellness glowed anew.

My idealistic goal of loving everyone on this earth is not always effortlessly achieved. Jenny was not one of the difficult ones. I loved her as easily as anyone.

It is devastating to have learned that she took her own life this week.

Those of us who knew and loved Jenny are experiencing the pain of losing the sound of her laughter, for good this time. It is we who must now reconcile the mental turmoil of the various roles we played in her life, of opportunities now vanished, hopes tarnished, with the burdens of sudden grief pressing down upon us.

As a person who has enjoyed great success in breaking free of the oppressive mental weight of depression, with all of its distortions of perception and its focus on imagined perils, I suffer deep heartbreak over instances where the interruption and amelioration of the affliction are unsuccessful.

There is debate about whether depression is curable or not, but there is general agreement that it is treatable. Good health requires maintenance, and being treated by professionals for depression can be a project of a lifetime.

In a way, good health habits are a self-directed form of treatment that keeps my depression at bay. It doesn’t feel focused on depression prevention for me because my healthy practices bring so many other rewards beyond just keeping my mind free from the dark dysfunctions that define the affliction.

Put simply, living healthy serves as a vaccination against the ills of depression for me.

It feels important to me to accentuate the time component of dealing with depression and frankly, all other aspects of a journey toward optimal health. I am profoundly moved by the length of time and variety of avenues Jenny navigated in her efforts toward health and well-being.

Good health does not happen in an instant as a result of a momentary desire to be healthy. It is a process that requires firm determination to stay on task for days that become weeks, then months, and ultimately, years. I often point out that a goal of getting healthy should be referenced against the number of months or years we allowed bad habits to weaken our muscles, add excess fat, compromise our livers, overtax our hearts, rob us of needed sleep, and ignore or misinterpret our full range of emotions.

May we always remember the best about loved ones who are no longer with us and seek inspiration from those fond memories for a determination to strive for our own optimal health in a journey that we renew every morning for the rest of our days.

Amen.

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For any occasion involving thoughts of suicide, free 24/7, confidential services are available:

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741).

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One Thing

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Or another. I was thinking about writing “The Thing” for the title of this post in a riff off the idiom, “Here’s the thing.” My software indicated I’d already used that title once before on Relative Something. I try not to reuse titles if possible. Seriously, though, I was thinking, “Here’s the thing…”

Did you know Alec Baldwin hosted a public radio show and podcast interview series by the title, “Here’s the Thing?” I didn’t.

Makes sense though. That’s a great title. I tried a couple other pairs of words and found I’d already used them, too.

I prefer the pattern of holding my titles to two words, but after more than ten years of blogging, it gets hard to come up with a unique pair.

Whether it’s one thing or another, here’s the thing… I never expected that one day, I would live in Wisconsin.

Maybe I should have titled this post, “Never Expected.”

There are innumerable things I never expected to experience in my lifetime. I never expected I would witness stupidity being proudly espoused as publicly as is common in this day and age.

I never expected the burgeoning of private military companies into global powerhouses offering services to nation-states.

I never expected that I would be alive during a years-long global pandemic that would cause the amount of death COVID-19 has, even though I had read books and watched movies about similar biohazardous calamities.

I never expected private companies would create space crafts with reusable propulsion modules that make pinpoint landings on floating platforms in the ocean, especially modules with video capture abilities allowing public viewing of the feat from multiple angles.

I never expected to find out microplastics are everywhere, including inside both animals and humans.

I didn’t expect that so many things imagined for science fiction stories would become realities, ala Star Trek communicators and today’s smartphones. I never imagined that mobile phones would be able to rival cameras to the level of making professional-quality movies.

I remember thinking touch screens would never work. Folding screens? Not possible.

I don’t want to think of how many other things I deem not possible will become reality in my lifetime.

During my technical career in industry, I was on a development team that designed a custom machine for making coated optical discs that the customer boasted would be able to fit an entire volume of encyclopedia for viewing on a computer screen. Even as I worked on the electronics and vacuum chambers of the machine that would make this possible, I struggled to fathom the enormity of digitizing all the information in those books.

I never expected to come to the realization about how much human suffering results from religious conflict when simply loving others solves conflicts, heals wounded souls, and sows peace for all.

I never expected so many of you to read the words I write.

Here’s the thing, overcoming depression opens a world of possibilities.

This I know: It’s always one thing or another, whether you expect it or not.

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Depth Perception

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Whether it’s a movie or a particular song, or sometimes a tragedy reported on the news, messages with impact can hit us in the gut. I watched a program last night that touched a personal nerve in its depiction of a powerful memory I have about my experience of depression. It involves the illogical behavior of pushing someone away when what you actually want is just the opposite.

I would shun connection when all I wanted was to be connected. It’s dysfunctional, to say the least.

The healthy alternative to that involves reaching an authenticity that brings behavior and desires into renewed alignment. Say what you mean, mean what you say, then act that way.

It is a function of becoming perceptive to the full depth of what we are truly feeling. Learning to be entirely honest with ourselves and observant enough to direct our thoughts toward a healthy interpretation of reality.

There is also a valuable component of becoming aware to avoid fabricating perceptions that lack any evidence of truth. Don’t make shit up.

I am happy to proclaim the incalculable reward of profound joy and blessed peace of mind available to a person who learns how to treat their depression and do away with dysfunctional thinking. I owe a debt of gratitude to the medical community that contributed to my recovery over two decades ago.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered the depth of our chickens’ disdain for carrots after tossing them some mixed vegetable leftovers.

A little while later there wasn’t a single scrap of anything other than carrots remaining. I suppose the overnight scrounging critters will be happy to clean up after them.

We’ve noticed that the processed chicken feed we put out gets passed over by pretty much all the wild birds along with our chickens in favor of anything else we make available. The chickens LOVE the cracked corn and mealworm snacks, so there is never any of that left lying around, but leftover or spilled chicken feed even gets passed over by the overnight scavengers like raccoons, stray cats, possums, and a fox that have shown up on the trail cam.

I had no idea they would have such a discerning palate.

I should give them more credit for the depth of their perceptions.

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Coping Mechanisms

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A speedy recovery from a day of dramatic events involves more than time alone. Humans can be very inventive about devising ways of coping with stress. Health professionals might commonly recommend meditation, exercise, or soothing music. Non-professionals might lobby for mind-altering substances, shopping sprees, or aggressive video games.

I am never shy about flaunting the marvels of forest bathing.

Most people agree that caring for pets brings on a wealth of mental health benefits. We have a fair share of creatures relying on us for sustenance, with chickens being greatest in number. Cyndie has figured out the trick to renewing their interest in venturing from the coop during the days.

While I pushed to let them figure out for themselves that they can walk the packed snow pathways to get to the dry earth under the barn overhang, Cyndie preferred to provide them a straw surface on which to tread.

They liked Cyndie’s plan much better than mine.

We’ve figured out a way to help the chickens cope with snow. The wimps.

As for my interest in controlling the amount of sugar in my diet, it is forever challenged by my passion for other carbs. Yesterday, Cyndie decided to cope with her residual stress by baking seven loaves of bread

There goes my diet.

Four of those loaves are breakfast bread. Enough said.

I’ll cope just fine.

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Written by johnwhays

January 8, 2021 at 7:00 am

Allowing Happiness

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We did it! We have arrived at the last day of 2020, bowing respectively for the sad number of others for whom the year would become their last.

There you have it, right there in the opening lines, my perpetual dilemma. It is time to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, but how can we celebrate in the depths of this disastrous pandemic? How did the people of downtown Nashville celebrate Christmas when the morning dawned with a terrorizing suicide bombing?

It’s not easy. But I’ve come to value the challenge of allowing for happiness amid a world of sorrow. Doing so is more worthy than the alternative of not cultivating joy simply because of all the things that continue to be wrong in the world.

I weep for those who are in pain, poverty-stricken, devoid of love, homeless, country-less, hungry, lost, forsaken, oppressed, unjustly imprisoned, or ill of health. Would that there comes a time when all people are free of the worst of possible situations.

It is reality that for every grand success of accomplishment worthy of celebration throughout history, someone, somewhere, was simultaneously suffering. For far too long in my life, I couldn’t reconcile the complicated mental gymnastics of untangling the two opposite realities that coexisted.

It has taken me a lot of practice to reach a place where I feel okay about allowing myself to be happy in the midst of an unhappy world. I don’t have any concise trick to offer toward how I achieve this milestone. I would say the primary factor is probably my developing a tenacity to repeatedly remind myself I am allowed to feel happy. Our happiness doesn’t automatically devalue the sorrow of others.

Maybe there is a trick. I would say it has to do with love. There I go again about loving others. If I am cultivating love for all people, my joy is not callously disregarding others who are hurting. I can feel their pain while experiencing my happiness. We are complex organisms, able to do more than one thing at a time.

We can celebrate the end of a difficult year, feel joy for our blessings, revel in the mysterious greatness of the universe, bask in the love of family and friends, and spread love to those who aren’t feeling it.

Bring on the new year. May it provide oodles and oodles more happiness for all!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2020 at 7:00 am

Embracing Compassion

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When the day comes that somebody asks you which side you are on between love and hate, how will your choices align?

Seeking to become a more compassionate person is not rocket science. Learning to open our minds to concepts beyond our comprehension takes a little practice, but since we start practicing the expansion of our understanding from the moment we are born, it is something we know how to do.

Unless something stifles our progress or we let ourselves forget that we can do it.

Compassion: | kəmˈpaSHən | noun sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

If parents raise their children with compassion, demonstrate compassion for others, and nurture the art of practicing the expansion of understanding, generations of more loving people will multiply.

We all do better when we all do better.  – Paul Wellstone

There was a time in my life when I felt an unwarranted level of confidence about the way I perceived the world around me, and it involved a lot less grey areas than I am inclined to accept today. There was also a time when I could read small print without glasses. My understanding has expanded and continues to expand.

Sometimes, I find myself unable to understand things I see about the way people behave and the messages they convey, but I strive to become open minded enough to choose to love them as best as I can muster. That effort is a work in progress at times, I’ll admit, but the desire to be more compassionate endures.

Last night, Cyndie and I stumbled onto the CBS broadcast of “Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make Change,” a benefit concert of music crossing multiple genres that radiated compassion and love. The pandemic and renewed push for social justice in the face of repeated police violence against people of color are igniting an energy momentum that deserves to burst forth with a new level of compassion throughout the world.

I hope people will choose to join the side of love.

Too many are facing hunger every day. The world needs more love and compassion.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

More Thanksgiving

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During the three-day-weekend following Thanksgiving, we enjoyed leftover turkey sandwiches and some spectacular creamy turkey with wild rice soup that Cyndie whipped up from the remains of our feast. Saturday night, we were both looking for a change. A scrumptious homemade pizza from scratch more than fit the bill.

By the middle of the afternoon yesterday, neither of us had an appetite, let alone a craving for what to do for our Sunday dinner. I suggested we wait until either of us got hunger pangs and then we could revisit our options. Before we reached that point, Cyndie happened to notice we still had all the side dishes left over from the holiday meal that we shouldn’t let go to waste.

That made the decision for us.

When all the goodness was heated up and heaped on plates, it became the only thing I could possibly have wanted. It was a Thanksgiving feast all over again.

I am even more thankful than ever for all the blessings we enjoy.

  • For the culinary skills Cyndie employs daily to feed me better than I will ever deserve.
  • For our home and a warm bed.
  • The companionship of all our animals.
  • Family and friends who love us and make us proud.
  • Entertainers who work every day to bring laughter into the world.
  • That most people understand the risks of the pandemic and take healthy precautions.
  • That the majority of people in the world are good and would help others in need.
  • I have a job that gives me access to health insurance.
  • That the NFL football team I stopped watching yesterday didn’t quit when I did.
  • Jigsaw puzzles, a fireplace, books to read, and my lifetime collection of music to listen to.
  • That I saved 100% by not buying anything from much-hyped sales “bargains” over the entire weekend.
  • A car that safely makes my long commute tolerable.
  • Monday mornings, that make a prior weekend seem that much more precious.

Okay, I admit it. I turned off the game when the punt was fumbled. I had a puzzle to finish. Imagine my surprise when the score was flashed on an update of games later in the afternoon.

If you are reading this from beyond the Minnesota region, just disregard that part. It’s not really important.

Honestly, yesterday was a pretty dreary day for me. I suspect a large part of it was the harsh reality that the long weekend was ending and a return to the workweek was getting closer by the minute. The stark contrast of weather from the sun and warmth of Saturday to cold, cloudy, and windy Sunday didn’t help, either.

Ending on a high note of feasting in continued thankfulness is a pretty good way to break that spell.

Here’s to not letting a single dreary day become anything more than a temporary affliction and making a point to pay frequent attention to things we can be thankful for each and every day.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2020 at 7:00 am