Self-Improvement

<em>Live a Lot Differently</em>

Live a Lot Differently

I wrote this article over a year ago and shared it with a few people then. It was at the end of 2016 which was a dark year for me fraught with horrible detours and paralyzing emotional pain.

At the time, I had already lost my Dad to cancer, divorced, retired from law enforcement, and attempted to start new at life and reinvent myself.

And…nothing I set out to do worked out in my time frame.

Yet, I am grateful for where I am at in life now and for all the ugly detours I encountered because through it all I learned much about myself; who I am and who I’m not, and the things that matter most in life.

What matters most in life can become lost in the haze of work, bills, schedules, gossip, drama, meetings, and crappy people taking advantage of you or those trying to keep you corralled through fear and guilt.

Rarely do we come up for air, take a breath, and look around at the landscape of our lives to take honest inventory until our mortality knocks.

So, here is a post I want to share and I pray it touches you as it did me when I wrote it…


Bill Watterson, I hope you don’t mind me using your comic to make a point. It just fits. Fits the dimensions for the cover photo. Fits with what has kept me up all night.

It’s 2 am right now. Arrrgh. I can’t sleep.

Hard to train a night owl to be an early bird. I’m trying to change…a lot of things. I hope you’re more successful at change than I am. I fall short of my goals sometimes. It can be frustrating.

I’m house sitting for my friends right now. Beautiful house. Laying in bed, I can gaze out at the stars and wonder. Probably too much wondering that leads to too much wandering through the space between my ears.

My mind thinks of random things like this comic. Then, it thinks of some other things…

***

I was a cop for a long time. Two different departments, same human nature. I worked a lot of night shifts.

One night, my partner and I got a frantic 9-1-1 call. Two roommates arguing, in the middle of the night…of course, it’s in the middle of the night.

Well, one decided he had enough of the arguing, pulled out a large handgun, shoved it into his roommate’s head and said, “I’m going blow your fucking head off!”

Terrorized roommate managed to escape with his head intact.

Now standing on the street in the snow and ice, cold as whatever; he stood in his shorts and waited. He was standing there when we arrived.

My partner was speaking to him on the roadway. I had my rifle out, loaded, and pointed at the house. I’d been through the drill a hundred times before: we will either go in to confront this dude, or he’ll come out to us.

He decided to come out…

Mad, cursing, and waving his hands, he began to stomp right toward us. I shouted for him to stop. Then I saw his left hand.

The red and blue lights from our vehicles danced off of everything. Red and blue sparkles on the trees, the house, the snow, his face…and, his left hand, which held a large, black object.

I screamed, “Drop it, or I’ll shoot!”

He cursed some more as he flung his arms around. He kept walking, now toward me.

You know what’s scary? The power. Society handed me the power to take this man’s life if need be.

I’m a trained professional, honestly, my rifle didn’t waver once. Steady as a rock, I took another deep breath, this was it. One more step and I’m gonna drop this guy.

One more desperate plea. I shouted, but it came out more like a growl. I used a lot of adult language with the added measure of what I was about to do to him without a bump in my pulse. Yes, I was that dead inside.

Amazing…he stopped. He finally dropped…his very large, black cell phone from his left hand.

That man and I would see each other occasionally after that encounter. He never addressed me by my name. He called me sergeant Godzilla. I’m a little guy; probably because I growled at him.

He thanked me several times for not shooting him that night. I am thankful I didn’t either.

Funny, in a mixed-up sort of way, I had the power to take, and give life at that moment.

***

I sit here at 3 am now, watching the waning moon rise over the mountains. Reminds me of another call at the beginning of my career…

A small boy, who hung himself, a suicide. I have no idea what was going on in a ten-year-old’s mind that would cause him to wrap a belt around his neck from his bunk bed. It still baffles me.

I did CPR on that little boy for thirty-two minutes. When you’re a sheriff’s deputy in a rural area, an ambulance can seem to take forever. Your backup can take forever.

For twenty minutes, the mother jumped up and down, beating my back with her fists and screaming, “You’re not doing enough to save my baby!” until my partner arrived on scene and wrapped her up in a bear hug.

I don’t blame her.

I was sore for a few days after that. To this day I still can’t eat certain foods because of that call, heck I didn’t eat much for a week afterward.

Some say I have PTSD, who knows, maybe. I don’t know for sure.

I remember a paramedic pulling me off the boy. I didn’t want him to die. I thought I could save him. I couldn’t.

***

I’ve seen some die…who should have lived. I’ve seen some live…who should have died.

I truly pray you never have to see or experience anything like that…ever!

I wonder, watching the stars tonight, that if we pondered how short of a time we have here if we would live differently.

I know we have bills to pay, food to buy, and all of that. But what is important to you?

Does work come before someone we love? What are our priorities? When is the last time we’ve considered such a question?

We, you, me, and those we love; are all here for a very short time. We just don’t know when that last breath will come. So till then, till that time, please do me a favor?

Call the one you love and tell them you love them. Carve out some time, out of your day, your evening, your life, and give it to the ones you love.

Hug your One and look them in the eyes and tell them, “I love you.”

Kiss them. Make passionate love to them.

If you find yourself alone. Hug yourself, tell yourself you’re worth it. Tell yourself, “I love you.” And someday very soon, you’ll find someone to love…who will honor you, and adore you.

I believe this.

It’s time for bed now. I’m gonna give myself a hug. Tell myself, “I love you.”

And gaze out at the stars and pray that none of us miss another opportunity to love.


Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Life Hack, Living Better, PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement
What to do with Failure?

What to do with Failure?

Failure.

It’s a term that is as difficult to define as success.

After doing some minor research, every dictionary I looked at — 10 to be precise — Failure means the lack of success, or unsuccessful.

It can also mean to cease functioning. Think of your heart,  or your vehicle.

It’s easy to associate Failure in an absolute way when we think of heart failure.

I tend to think in terms of right and wrong, hard defined boundaries, and statistical data that shows me what’s what…hence Failure is perceived as a hard and fast consequence to every little thing I do, or think.

But ceasing to operate properly—e.g. a heart attack because it stopped pumping life—which is absolute, the lack of success can be abstract.

The definition gets cloudy and gray.

It has a lot to do with how we view success.

For me, staying out of debt is a level of success.

Yet, there are times when I feel like a failure because I didn’t do this or that just right, or why the hell did I say this or do that?

I can be rocking it in one area in life and yet, feel like such a turd.

It’s as if I know what success is in my mind or on paper, like reaching a goal, but for some reason when (not if) I make a mistake, or worse, DO NOT meet some sort of internal expectation, BAM!…I exclaim to myself, “I am a failure!”

Then, I spend an inordinate amount of time raking myself over the coals with self-inflicted anxiety, worry, and frustration—which keeps me awake at night with reruns of my “failures” of the past, which steals precious rest for tomorrow and sets me back emotionally going into a new day.

Once that happens, it turns into a vicious cycle.

I hate cycles that seem to suck the life out of me and leave me feeling like an absolute idiot.

So, to break the chain of events that ultimately lead to a downward spiral, until I finally crash in despair, I’ve incorporated a few things that help me place failure, success, and even life in a far better perspective than ever before.

  • Accept I’m human. I know that sounds simple, but until I realized that I’m not perfect, and never will be, I labored under the worse taskmaster in my mind: Perfectionism. I never allowed myself wiggle room to be human.
  • Lower my expectations. I have high expectations. Not just of my performance at work, in business, or professional, but with life—how it works…er, how it should work. Timelines I have for myself, expectations, as to when success should happen…NEVER lines up with reality. That goes for about everything else in life.
  • Reflect, but don’t hold onto emotions. When you discover you’ve forgotten something so simple—like “where’s my sunglasses?!”…”Um, they’re on top of your head, Honey.”—you can feel so stupid. Then, for me, the self-beating begins…”Ugh. If I wasn’t so stupid. So forgetful, such a failure!”

I find that being able to reflect without holding the heat of the emotion at that moment, is far less nerve wracking. Reflect is what a mirror does, it bounces the image off of it. The opposite occurs with a glass pane where it soaks up and retains the heat of the sun. When I stumble, I reflect how I did so, and then come up with a plan that will circumvent that issue next time. When I reflect, I usually discover that I’m not being mindful of the situation before me, I’m not in the present, and thus, I forget things I shouldn’t.

  • Treat myself better…with dignity and respect. This is hard. I have tortured myself because once the heat strikes me of my self-imposed failures and I retain that heat, I become more frustrated and do something stupid to myself: hit a wall, throw a tool (once it cost me a new window in my garage), beat myself up in the gym, and even deny myself sleep until I can work the problem out—usually by fretting myself to the point of exhaustion.

Someone shared with me that when we come to this place where we feel like we’ve failed, to treat ourselves like a small child on the side of the roadway that is lost. We don’t yell at the child for getting lost, we soothe her crying and fears with soft words, gather her up with compassionate arms, and help her find home again.

  • Be grateful. I have found that I can NOT be angry at myself when I practice gratitude. Just the other day, I was upset with myself for forgetting somethings and that turned into a pity party. I felt the heat under the skin with anger and the knot in my gut. I shifted my focus after some reflection into the matter and took a deep breath. I was outside and noticed the birds chirping, the leaves beginning to bud out, then other things like how grateful I am to be alive and have love in my life. It changed my outlook within a few minutes.

***

Instead of screaming at myself, I remind myself I’m human, I’m not perfect, and then I reflect on what went wrong and how can do better next time.

The reflection has helped with coming up with a battle plan for the next day and if I don’t quite hit the mark, I look at the progress I did make and am grateful for it.

If anything, I’m grateful that I’m no longer spending precious time and energy freaking out over things, like being a failure.

 


Photo by Fathromi Ramdlon

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Life Hack, Reinvention, Self-Improvement