Shark-swim Life

Inspired by a conversation between the characters in the LA’s Finest series I have recently watched, I began thinking of the phenomenon of ever-moving sharks.

Modern mythology suggests that sharks don’t sleep, that they have to move all the time in order to breathe and therefore stay alive. Contrary to that, says Don Vaughan in the article Do Sharks Sleep? while “many types of sharks must keep moving in order to receive life-giving oxygen from the water passing through their gills… some types of sharks are able to remain stationary because they possess special structures called spiracles, which force water through their gills. Some sharks use both spiracles and buccal pumping… in which water is pulled in through the mouth and forced out through the gills by the cheek muscles… Whatever method they use to breathe, sharks are able to engage in periods of deep rest while still but do not fall asleep in the traditional sense. Lacking eyelids, their eyes remain perpetually open, and their pupils still monitor the motion of creatures swimming around them. Sharks that are able to rest while stationary include the whitetip reef shark, the Caribbean reef shark, the nurse shark, the wobbegong, and the lemon shark.”

So, the mythology is wrong, but I will go with the wisdom of the myth anyway, because I am looking into metaphorical sense of the shark example. In order to stay sober in body, I need to be like the ever-swimming shark (without hunting and attacking humans, OK?). I must not stop doing right things and keep myself busy if I want to continue to breathe recovery.

Since the beginning of my sobriety, I was attending AA meetings, and shared, and listened. I did the Twelve Steps, as it was recommended. I chaired meetings a few times. I did service for the home group as putting up chairs and making coffee. I went to recovery houses and detox centres and shared the way of AA with people in treatment. I wrote my personal blog about recovery for over ten years.

I’m not boasting. I have listed here things that I think anyone can do. They are not difficult activities to take action in. The best thing to do is practice these things on a regular basis. It is harder to do these things, perhaps, in the events of the last 365 days when many places are shut down or don’t allow visitors, but there are still Zoom meetings and as I attend those, I am still blogging and connect with recovery through my writing.

On regular basis. I am not saying going to meetings 24/7 (although some people do, and for years). You still have to go to work and spend time with your family, and what not. Yet I keep in mind that I need to be like a shark, constantly moving, being involved in recovery, because to me it is a full-time job – my health and sanity. This is priority.

(image was copied from https://www.nrdc.org/experts/elizabeth-murdock/more-vulnerable-vicious-sharks-need-cites-protection thanks.)

times

There are times when one comes close to doubt reality.

Times when one starts seriously pondering the existence of time beyond the obvious existence of time as in nature of seasons changing.

Times when death doesn’t seem to be much different than life; when death seems to be not just continuation of life after the moment of physical demise of bodily processes, but a constant process that is following life as a being breathes each moment.

Times when the necessity to keep going and doing things different to survival of one’s body and mind is meaningless, for all effort is vain considering the eventual bane of physical life.

Times when even survival of one’s body and mind makes no sense anymore considering eventual and absolute bane of physical life.

Times when breathing is the only thing that seems to be real, for nothing else seems to matter.

Those are the times when I say to myself that wondering about reality of things is what is going to drive me up the wall sooner than I’d know, and persistence of marching through the day today counts as a good reminder of a good effort tomorrow and I have to keep going forward one step at a time because what the fuck else am I going to do today?!

[the image is the segment of the painting by Salvador Dali “Persistence of Memory” 1931 copied from https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79018%5D

of all the demons

Over a month ago I’ve learned that my brother died.

It was taking time to think about what happened and what my brother’s life and death meant to me in all the ways that surrounded them. For weeks I wrote poems and blurbs, but the text below sat on its digital shelf for the whole month until today. Today is the forty days since the day. I guess it is time.

Days prior I was listening to the latest Ghost record Prequelle and while it is a great album as a whole, one song stood out for me. Listening to “See the Light” and thinking of its lines

“But of all the demons I’ve known/None could compare to you

Every day that you feed me with hate/I grow stronger!”

I thought how it related for me, in regards to seeing the world and some people in it.

I was ten years older than my brother Nikki, and yet we still had a great connection and talked about anything in the world every time we had a chance to. He was a special person to me and to our parents. He had light and kindness in him that illuminated us all. Besides all the grief and mental pain that came through me that day and others to come, music that I knew came through too. Some of them were songs I haven’t listened to for years. “See the Light” came too, but this time it related to something different.

When he was thirteen years old, Nikki started having issues unexplainable at that time, but later called anxiety. That soon has been coupled with what the doctors called manic depression. Couple years later the “manic” part has fell aside, and my brother has got his life going through severe anxiety and chronic depression on one side, and normality on the other. When it was in the stage of normality, he travelled to Europe, half the time hitch-hiking with a friend (the very thought of it terrified me, when he told me of it, laughing), studied in math analysis in college, listened to lots of music, and helped our parents with whatever they needed. When it was a storm of crippling depression and anxiety, he stayed in, refused to go out of the house, looked sad and withering, slept into the lunch hour, and although illusory, his worries were many, while his words were little. Eighteen years of that. I cannot even imagine what he really felt that he never gave voice to in conversations with me, as I lived on the other side of the world, or with our parents who he lived with.

Luckily our parents were great people who paid close attention and cared for us the kids, and they took heed regarding Nikki’s new behaviors. He’s seen doctors who put him on some meds, and soon after the list of meds he took started growing, because it turned out his body was largely resistant to most of the meds. Nikki was always a very smart kid so he took responsibility for his well being. He was very punctual and attentive to the effects and dosages, keeping diary of what medications he took and how it worked, or if it didn’t. It took me some time to realize at least a bit what he was dealing with. I did some research on clinical depression and found that Nikki would have to change meds with time and do near-scientific research to make sure things worked well and what to do if it didn’t.

He was the kindest man I knew, and he always made our parents and grandparents hearts melt. He was attentive, and compassionate. His life, however, went like waves hitting the beach. When his mind state was favorable, there were weeks of tranquillity and family fun, him travelling with parents and watching movies, laughing, and visiting relatives. But in the times of chemical imbalance, there were also weeks and sometimes months of shutting down, during which Nikki tirelessly researched what he could do to help himself, unless the anxiety came knocking hard and he would let it all go and walked the apartment like a ghost.

Several months back I started reading book Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson in which she, who suffered from many a mental disorder, described them all and how her life was taking unexpected turns. She said that depression was one of the worst illnesses out there because it basically pushed person to self destruction. It was probably the most honest and crazy book I’ve read about mental health so far. I was thinking of sending it to my brother, but I was late. Nikki went through so much in the last year and a half, including a break-up with a woman he dated and the death of our mother who fought cancer for two years. As his letters showed, he saw no end of his misery and even having all of the loving support of our father who spared nothing to be of assistance to Nikki, dealing with life in his state was becoming too much for my brother. Of all the demons he knew in his 30 years, not one could compare to the one that kept eating him alive on a daily basis. The last straw for him was learning that obtaining medications he required was becoming a serious issue in the country he lived in, his home, his native land.

My demon was alcohol, and it sure was a demon, because it kept changing shapes, growing from little friendly smile of “have one, you’ll feel better” to “you gonna need a sea to drink to deal with all this crap, so learn how to swim!” kind of an attitude. When I found the courage to sober up, I also found perseverance to move steady through the world that seemed to change with menace to my sanity. I struggled with depression, but it was more of what I called “alcohol-induced” variety, and once I stopped poisoning myself with drinking, depression has weakened its grip on me. It still comes back, but it’s hundred times less crippling. Every day that life seems to fill me with hate, or maybe, concern and confusion, I get stronger with the meaning and works of recovery I am living. It’s not only by my own efforts and determination – I know that the community I am part of has my back. We speak the same language, and we are there to help one another, literally.

The way I see it, my brother was not that lucky. Nikki had the most involved assistance and love of our parents, as well as psychiatric and psychological help, and yet he didn’t partake in any community involvement like I did, even though I strongly advised it to him in our conversations. I suppose his illness filled him with doubt, and fear, and confusion to reach out to others. It was probably similar when I proposed for him to create a routine of physical exercises that I was reading about. I told him there was scientific findings supported by tons of research and success stories of those were diagnosed with depression and working out, just a little, but steadily, and it helped them immensely to gain positivity and mental and emotional well-being. Nikki told me he knew of it, and he considered doing it, but he hasn’t, or maybe his level of dedication was not high. I remember feeling angry about that, but the understanding came later. The way depression communicates with your healthy mind is it pushes away all logic and common sense, bringing instead destructive thoughts and breaking up your values and beliefs. Another thing that I recently found out was that his mental condition also had an effect on his body: Nikki lived with muscle spasms that limited his movement, so getting dedicated to making a routine of physical exercises was out of the question for him.

Nikki who was very loyal to his friends started breaking up the connections and staying away from that social life to the point that even the closest ones were shocked to find out what he dealt with, and how his life ended, and why. He was afraid he will be judged. He thought people wouldn’t understand all the pain and difficulties he had to deal with regarding his mental health. He knew this subject had a lot of misunderstanding among people. The kindest person in him didn’t want to drop all of that knowledge on people he cared about.

It ate him alive, but he fought. My father told me several days ago that Nikki was the strongest and courageous man. I can see that now. What I originally saw as his inaction to connect with others who could help him and other ways to improve his mental health was more of inability due to serious complications of his illness. While in hate to the blackness I grew stronger, Nikki’s mind and spirit and body were being corrupted in the way all supports he has received couldn’t alleviate the pain of constant invasion that had no face, no logic, and no mercy.

I believe my brother died as a warrior who’s grown exhausted of fighting. He wanted peace for himself and love for others. It seems he has grown to think his ill existence was a burden to us. There was no way he saw he could heal in any ways this world could provide. All who knew him will miss this amazing man who gave a lot of light, and I will miss him as a kid who made me feel better and hopeful in his presence. I wish he could have more hope for himself in spite of any demons possible.

I miss him terribly, all of our years together and apart, the conversations, serious and silly, trips and games, all the complete and shattered. This pain is only the beginning, and I fear how it will be from here on, but I believe Nikki is not in pain anymore, and it makes me relieved. Rest in Joy, brother.

(the image was copied from https://www.liveabout.com/visions-at-the-hour-of-death-2594543 and messed around with by me. thank you.)

in adults’ clothing

We are all adults here, I heard her say,

Nope, not all, I know so.

Some of us are, yes.

Codes of conducts are ours to follow,

Objective judgement,

Laughter at our own imperfections.

Yet some are children wearing adult human disguise

Thinking it’s us who are all messed up.

They don’t seem to know

What is respect yet they tattoo that word on their arms.

To them general rules don’t apply

And yet the rules they create make it seem

They are unaware of responsibilities for the responsible

Unless it serves their expectations.

Their mistakes are always someone else’s fault.

And still we are not all adults.

Some of us are crazies in kids clothing

Which is the way it should be…

But only in our minds in our night time dreams that never come true.

Unless we talk or write about it, like I do now.

(the image of Chiildren, a project I quite like, alas it was short lived, was copied from https://chiildren.bandcamp.com/ check ’em out.)

laugh it off

“Laugh at yourself before anyone else can.” Elisa Maxwell.

Laughter is important. Let me say it again. Laughter is important. It reduces stress and some pain, and it makes you feel better in the moment. We have to laugh, or we’ll go nuts, I think.

 Laughter at yourself is even more important. I could be full of some self-righteous crap that will not go out any other way than laughing it out when I realized I messed up and it makes me a non-perfect creature. Somehow realizing not being perfect can be quite healing. Well, maybe, every once in a while.

(the image was copied from The Far Side through Facebook)

Trains and Geese

Looking at the world one cannot help but wonder, said somebody famous. Sometimes that wonder is positively amazing. Some other times it is less great, for it is more of a realization of progressively lacking understanding of life as one gets older. “I can’t understand this world,” as the war hero in Burnt by the Sun movie said, “it’s some kind of trains with geese.”

The world tends to scare me much lately, way more than before. Maybe because I learn more of it now, and because of what I know, I fail to understand why things have to be so complicated to make things easier.

What do we do to get through the fear of things we know are going to eat us alive? We put down the straw mattress to cushion the fall. Everyone has to do their part to save some disappointment from the chaos of imperfect world that is probably not going to change for the better. I go every day thinking I’m on a mission, whatever it is. That keeps some apathy at bay and brings in some vigor to the pace. That way the trains and geese don’t bother me. I just know that I have to do my part and clean my side of the street, no matter who the president is or what other virus is out.

Halloween is over, and it is a new year (if you, like me, believe in the ancient European tradition that after Samhain fires it was the new year). Lets hope it will be the year that makes more sense.

(the image was copied from https://pixels.com/featured/train-chasing-canada-goose-steve-boyko.html. amazing job and thank you!)

The Dead Help the Living

One cannot gain knowledge

Out of nothing.

We have to be in contact with someone

Or something

To acknowledge things.

Even inspiration doesn’t just get born

In your head

As if planted by the power

Of however brilliant your mind is.

That’s what I believe, anyway:

Those who have gone before us

Have passed knowledge to us.

Even if we don’t know how.

Even if we didn’t know them.

Even if we didn’t originally see it

And only now get a glimpse of it.

The dead bring the spark of wisdom

That can illuminate our lives.

If we allow it

We can learn from the mistakes of the past,

And not just our own.

That is great wisdom in itself.

(the image was copied from https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/390335492690632561/ thank you.)

A Trick and a Half

Quitting drinking or using – easy. You stop taking the substances and that’s it. You can quit twenty times a day.

Staying sober, now that’s a trick and a half.

AA says how to do it is HOW does it. Honesty (with self), Open-mindedness, and Willingness. I always want to add to it Positivity. As the other three, positivity is to be learned, not simply acquired.

All of us, I assume, don’t want to let distress of the great world mess our own world and how we prefer to have things done. Not many people know how do deal with usual stress when they are healthy. Anxiety and ever lingering worries happen to all. Now, when you are on path of recovery from substances, you are hardly healthy. And anxiety grows as you learn to abstain and live without harmful stuff that you used to rely on to keep in better spirits and overcome obstacles, while to trying to behave in a socially acceptable way.

Quitting and recovering on ones own is not a good idea, as I’ve learned with my own skin. I tried. It didn’t work nicely at all. Besides not having anyone to talk to about what I was going through, I also allowed myself to do the role of calling myself on my own bullshit. Big mistake. Add to it that I didn’t really know what I was dealing with and had no working plan. Mission failed at start.

Those days, my mind was a haunted house.

(the image above is cute, not weird, but you get the idea) Old memories and ghosts of life that didn’t go too well, it seemed, those kept coming often, if not all the time. Resentments kept crawling in legions out of the shadowed corners when I least expected them. I was lucky my physical health wasn’t much compromised, yet still I was treading on a black ice. I didn’t see the danger of swimming alone, so to say, not seeing but only imagining the course.

After plenty of attempts of swimming alone, I had to ask for help. I’ve quit drinking, yes, but I stayed not drinking without resentments of not drinking. I managed to stay and keep positive, because I’ve allowed myself to be honest with myself, not reject ideas without looking at them first, and oh, was I ever willing to keep going forward. It worked and still works. There is still stress, still tricks, because I consider life itself as a one big riddle with a perpetual bag of tricks tucked in its armpit. Those won’t run out, as far as I can see. But now I’ve got a plan, and not imaginary. I know what works and I do that, and I don’t swim alone anymore.

(the image was copied from https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/371617406723139066/?autologin=true thank you.)

The Weakening

businessman-kettle-head-steam-pulled-out-lid-vector-hand-drawn-pop-art-illustration-70388152I watched this in Mr. Mercedes series (Season 2, episode one) last night. Bill Hodges speaking at a funeral of his long-time friend and police partner who died from a heart attack: “He hasn’t talked of his weaknesses and his heart problems. He was all police. At this job we are trained to not show weakness. So, we don’t talk about it. If we did, maybe some of us were still alive.”

There is a strong connection in the idea of that segment to something I saw once on the mental health unit I worked on:

“What was the bravest thing you’ve asked for?”

“Help.”

There is even stronger connection in that idea to what I’ve recently been reading about grief and loss. One of the main ideas in the book (Grief Recovery Handbook by J.W. James and R. Friedman) is that people in the western society are constantly misinformed about grieving and letting go of loss they’ve experienced. Major myths that humans learn over and over through generations is that you grieve alone, and if it doesn’t help, you replace pain with something else and you don’t cry around others. Asking for help, therefore, is not welcomed. People progress through life carrying their pain, not knowing how to deal with it, collecting more pain and loss on their path, leading a life of a kettle that is constantly on fire while there is no way to let steam out.

I’ve met a lot of them kettle people when I worked in the recovery houses and overnight shelters. They wouldn’t talk of their issues that brought them that low, because they were taught not to bother others, not to show their weaknesses, not to cry in front of others, not to deal with emotions. Imagine their kettles going into overdrive and beyond!

In a society where you are taught not to ask for help, showing vulnerability seems to be considered a crime. In a reality full of subjective ideas, myths, and prejudices, asking for help is indeed the bravest thing a person can do. In the same glorious reality, to follow up with finding out more what’s behind those cold eyes and world of hurt can probably earn you your own crest and a Viking funeral.

Yet we are not there yet.


the image was copied from https://www.dreamstime.com/illustration/kettle-head.html thank you.

the first minute of waking up early

earlyFirst minute of waking up early

Is the time when I know I am OK.

Even if I have to go to work,

Or walk the dog

Or do things I don’t want to, either now, or today,

I am here sober and healthy and the day may be good

If I think of it so.

The trip of to the washroom to use toilet and brush teeth.

When I’m half done with the brush, the minute is gone

Yet I have already done so much to be ready

For the day,

And although I may not know it,

In the space right behind my eyes

I am grateful to be up and going

In this world still moderately still and silent.


the image was copied form http://www.successfulbydesign.com/how-to-wake-up-early-2/ thanks.