Identity (or Something Like it)

What’s around the corner?

All our lives we as a race or as a people search for our place in this world. Some folks would call this a search for their identity or their purpose in life.

Since people can be broken down into individual compartments of personality traits, emotions, wants, needs and aspirations it is easy to see why we constantly seek  our purpose or our niche in the world.

In High School I took a class in sociology 101. It was an elective course, meaning that it was not a required part of the state dictated curriculum. I had taken the course because I’d had a huge ‘blow-out’ with my drama teacher and quit the drama course as a result. That left me a whole semester with nothing to do. My ‘school mentor’ suggested I try the sociology course to fill the time.

I am glad I did. It gave me a better understanding of my fellow man and introduced me to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

This brilliant chart explained so much of how we interact with one another both as groups and individuals. The entire course helped me to become aware of how people go through life in search of different things at different stages in their lives. Did this course make me an expert? Hardly. But it did help me to understand my fellow-man and how we interacted socially.

Man is in essence a social animal. Constantly wanting to find a place to fit in. Some people find that belonging to a church fulfills that need of belonging and helps them to define who they are and what they believe in, their identity if you will.

Others join different social clubs, a book club, movie club, the rotary, the roundtable  et al. Very few people have the conviction or courage to be their own social group. Someone who does not require other ‘like-minded’ people around them to define them.

But whether you are a social animal or not, we all look for our place in the world. If we did not, why are there so many religions and variations of the same theme the world over?

Our search for identity may lead us to be many people or to join many different groups. Who is to say that this is bad? This search for identity or belonging.

Success is not a sign of identity, nor is failure. These two states of being are too fluid to be permanent states. No one ‘wins’ all the time just as no one ‘loses’ all the time. Success, besides the monetary connotation, is a state of mind, just like failure is.

There are many people in the world who are deemed to be successful by societies standards, yet by their own personal standards these successful people brand themselves failures.

Why?

It all comes back to that lifelong search for self or identity. If we have not found out who we really are and what we truly believe in, we cannot be a success. Each individual has to find their own personal identity. One that has nothing to do with the social aspect of living, but has to do with their own personal journey and their discovery of what they really are.

So until we discover our identity or something like it, we will continue to search. It is in our nature, perhaps even part of our DNA, to walk the path of individual worth and self-awareness.

On the road to nowhere?

It is a challenging journey and sometimes a frustrating one, but it is one we all have to take.

Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce: Freedom Costs a Lot

Everything you thought you had has gone up in flames.

This was actually going to be a post about the rapidly approaching likelihood of insolvency. Insolvency is also known as going bankrupt or ‘going bust.’ But as I stood in the kitchen thinking of how I’d gotten to this stage, I remembered what started the whole shooting match.

It was while having this internal dialogue with myself that I remembered that, despite my current predicament, credit cards have always been good to me. I’ve worked hard all my adult life to get a good credit rating. Credit has allowed me to do and own many things.

My first house, cars, furniture, and when money got very tight, eat. I’ve used them to pay bills so my family didn’t freeze to death in the winter or starve in the summer. I felt like these ‘magical’ cards had saved me more than once from my family getting thrown out into the streets.

I was satisfied that I ran the cards. They did not run me.

Then the late summer of 2010. Things had been ‘over’ for a very long time. I won’t go into the reasons or who might or might not be to blame. The bottom line was simple. We were through.

After one night of staying in the house my ex-wife and I shared together, she stayed God knows where and my daughter stayed with a friend, I packed a couple of bags and left.

Do you have any room? I’ve run away from home.

I went to the closest hotel near my old home. I went into the reception area and asked if they had any vacancies. The lady looked doubtful and  began to check her computer. They did have one room left and unfortunately it would only be for one night.

She smiled at me and asked, “Is your visit for business or pleasure?”

“Neither,” I replied. “I’ve just run away from home and I have no place to stay.”

The reception lady smiled again and said, “Let me see if I can get you some rooms for tomorrow on, then.”

Despite her best efforts, the town I lived in and it’s surrounding area did not have one spare room open. Not in that particular branch anyway. I went into my room and took advantage of the internet service and immediately started my search for a place to live.

What followed was a whirlwind of a week that involved work, looking for and finding hotels that had vacancies and moving from one hotel to the next. My daughter joined me and we shared rooms for just over two weeks. We stayed in some very nice places and some not so nice places. Regardless of the nice factor of the hotel rooms, they all had one thing in common. They were expensive.

I never learned why the hotels in my area were so full those two weeks in September of 2010. There really is nothing of consequence for folks to flock here to see. I’m still baffled by the whole thing.

I took the credit cards with me as my soon-to-be-ex-wife had money at her disposal, I did not. I told her that I would take responsibility for the money already owed on the cards. My first big mistake. The money owed was soon joined by the costs of hotel rooms, food, petrol and replacing things I no longer had access to. On top of that, the internet that was so vital for my search of a more permanent place to stay was quite expensive.

Someone was definitely looking out for me and my daughter though. Because I found a flat to live in about the midway point of my fleeing my previous life. So after two weeks I had my first new home.

Please don’t watch the video all the way through, I only put it up because I couldn’t find a picture of my first new home.

While I was working, finding a flat, moving and trying to ‘carry on regardless’ I found myself going through the motions in a sort of fugue state. Above everything else, I had to be there for our daughter who was still attending university and needed to move again.

The items I needed all came out of the credit cards. Cash for my deposit and the first and last month’s rent. The eight new tyres that I needed to replace because the ‘flat fairy’ visited me often that first year. Paying for items I needed replaced because, apart from the electric items, my clothes, books, dvds, and some files, the only other thing I left with was the existing debt on the cards.

Credit cards also paid for my divorce, easily the least expensive thing I had to purchase that year.

I further added to my scarily increasing mountain of debt by going back to America for the first time in 21 years. My daughter and I both needed the break and there were family members that she had never met. Plus the last time that we were there she was all of nine months old and didn’t remember the family she had met.

Eating a childhood favourite, shaved ice aka ‘the snow cone.’ En-route to my parent’s farm.

The added allure of ‘going home‘ included seeing my son, who I had not seen since 1996 and this was the first chance he had to meet his sister.

Of course while we were there the cards took a further hammering. Motel rooms, Silver Dollar City, and Dallas helped to increase my debt.

Everything spent was worth it. For the first time ever, I had both of my ‘kid’s’ together and it was, sadly, very brief but so satisfying. We came back home and settled back into our new life.

The flat which was so comfy for one person, started getting claustrophobic for two. A mate at work mentioned a house that was for rent and we took it. More expense for the card as I had to use them to make another deposit.

But we now had a garden (that’s yard if you’re from the other side of the pond) and more importantly room!

Our new gardens first snow.

While all this was going on, my daughter and I continued our ‘normal’ life. Work and living. We both still are a little shell shocked by the divorce. We are also trying to come to grips with a few mental and personal issues.

We both suffer from trust issues. We’re both also trying to find out who we are again. It seems that in the shuffle we’ve lost a bit of ourselves.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find all of what we’ve lost or misplaced. But apart from the ups and downs of everyday life, we are still looking.

You can rebuild your life after having 25 years of your life suddenly changed forever and gone in the blink of an eye.

I will say the the journey of self discovery is not over yet. For me or my daughter. The journey so far has been painful, sad, unfocused and sometimes fun.

I stayed in a situation that was miserable for all concerned for far too long. Mainly because of money. I didn’t think it was financially affordable to leave a bad relationship. I now know that you can do it. It has for me been costly, too costly for right now. But I’ll hang in there and get hold of the right people to help me out of the mess I’ve inadvertently gotten myself into.

It seems I was right about it not being financially possible. I did find out though that it’s not about the money or the debt you find yourself trying to manage. It’s not even about the money mess that you wind up in. It’s about escaping and finding your freedom and you. And of course about straightening up the debt.

So, until I  get out of this mess, I’ll continue rebuilding. And along the way I’ll find out new and forgotten things about myself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some discovering to do.

To infinity and beyond!

Let’s Make Hay While the Sun Shines, Baby.

=

seasonal affective disorder
seasonal affective disorder (Photo credit: Evil Erin)

I first heard about SAD years ago. Seasonal Affective Disorder was ‘discovered’ and named in 1984 by  Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health. It affects quite a large number of people in the United States alone.

It is also known as the winter blues, winter depression, summer depression, summer blues and seasonal depression. Call it any name you like, it all boils down to the same definition. Lack of sunshine just pure dee depresses the crap out of some folks.

I know how they feel.

When the sun is shining, even if said sun is raising the temperature through the rafters, I feel great. I have more:  energy, positive thoughts, creative thinking, and optimism than should be allowed to any one individual. I can sense, even before my eyes see it, that the sun is shining.

In the morning, before I’ve cracked open one heavy eyelid, I know that the sun is shining. I leap out of bed. Galvanized by the thought of all that bright shiny light. I’ll fling my shorts on, all the better to get some colour on those albino legs, and wrestle a short sleeved shirt on. Racing down stairs, I scoop flip-flops on my bare feet and rush out to open the shed.

Before I’ve even unlocked the back door, I’m making plans for all the things that need dry, sun shiny weather in order to be accomplished. Cutting the grass, doing the laundry, washing the car and, most importantly, getting out the lawn chairs and wiping off the garden table.

If my daughter is up, we’ll both gulp down some toast and Marmite and set up the power leads from the garden shed for our laptops. I will then find that book I want to finish reading or I will have to help my daughter find the sun screen. Quite possibly, if we have run out, I will go down to the Metro and pick up some fruit and Pimms for a lovely alcoholic treat later in the day.

Marmite and Vegemite have a distinctive dark c...
Marmite and Vegemite have a distinctive dark colour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am always ‘reborn’ on sunny days. Unfortunately in England, sunny days are rare. In fact I would say with firm conviction that they are in danger of becoming extinct. Full days of sun shine are becoming as difficult to find as a Snow Leopard.

We are learning to become content with a few hours of the invigorating rays of sun that beam down on our grateful heads. My energy level goes up and down like and out-of-control bungee jumper. One moment, my mood and outlook on life is in the stratosphere, then the clouds move in and thwart the suns rays and I plummet back down to earth with a thud. My bungee cord of elation has snapped and hurled me earthward viciously.

I suppose I could get one of those ‘light-boxes’ that are prescribed to those poor souls that suffer from SAD. But for me, it’s not the answer to my sunshine dilemma. I could move countries, somewhere where the sun doesn’t make a reservation only to cancel it at the last minute. But that would require money that I do not possess or have the ability to borrow from anyone.

I guess I’ll have to learn to live with it and figure out how to cope with the horrible weather that prefers clouds  and miserable wet, humid days that magically and frustratingly clear away as night settles in.

I’d write a bit more about it, but the clouds have just rolled in and my interest level in anything has dropped into negative figures. My mood is as deflated as that football and just as bouncy.

World cup England
World cup England (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The Wonderful World of Blogging

Back in 2010 I started my first blog. I wrote a minute post and published it. I then ignored it for almost exactly one year.

I quite literally had forgotten all about it.  I had so many other things going on in my life that I didn’t have time to post to a blog.

I was a literal ‘babe in the woods’ when it came to the wonderful world of blogging.  There were loads of things I didn’t know, except that my daughter hated doing them for her university course. She much preferred the pdf format for her uni work and the blog’s for her own thoughts.

In my mind, since she directed so much vitriol towards the required blogs, I decided that they must be terrible time consuming things best left alone. That belief combined with my own personal version of the Queen’s annus horribilis meant that my blogging days were to be postponed for quite a while.

Our family had been going through some incredibly stressful days/months/years and the inevitable divorce followed. 2010 was a year of running, rushing and realization. It was also a time of starting over.

I spent so much time trying to re-establish myself that I forgot that I also needed to get back in touch with myself. I had completely lost track of who I was and what I like doing. It had gotten to the point that when I looked in the mirror to shave in the morning, I would say, “Hello stranger,” to the shell-shocked face that looked back at me.

So it took me a year to remember that I had started the damn thing. I decided that I would do a minimum of one post per day. I had wanted to be a writer before I’d ever dreamed of doing anything else. I felt that this was a good way to get back into practise.

And before you could say, “Bob’s your uncle,” I was mixing my metaphors with the best of them. I also discovered that when you added something to your blog it was called a post. I still think of them as articles, I can blame Journalism 101 back in the 70’s for that one.

It has been therapeutic, this blogging business. It has helped me get back in touch with my inner child, my raved imagination and most importantly with myself. I am still a bit rusty. Like Dorothy‘s Tin Man, I’ve needed a spot of oil now and again to get those rusty brain cells working in a smoother fashion.

It has also allowed me to ‘vent my spleen’ about things that irritate me and it helps me to take strolls down memory lane.

I’ve also learned that reading other writer’s words of wisdom, wit, opinions and thoughts has opened up a plethora of worlds, cultures and ideology that I otherwise might never have known existed.

I have also learned that if I am writing about something factual, I have to do all the required research before I post the dog-gone thing.

There is one other thing that I’ve found, an almost invaluable tool that I am convinced not everyone uses. At least not as much as I do.

Spell-check.

Fear…Is An Animal

Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia...
Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia Kiswahili: Tembo katika mbuga la burudani Etosha, Namibia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fear is an animal that can disrupt your life, your well being, your calm. It can be many different kinds of animals.

It is an elephant stampeding through your mind. Wreaking havoc with your normal, everyday routine thinking patterns. It stomps any calm, or peaceful thoughts flat. Rational thought flees from this rampaging beast and cowers, unable to move and unable to fight.

English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the midd...
English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the middle of a war dance jump. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can also be a ferret. Ferrets are used to hunt rats and rabbits, and just like their real hunting prowess, dig into your mind and seek out rational thought. This type of fear, is just as debilitating as the elephant but with different side-effects.

With the elephant you are so immobilized that you cannot think. With the ferret you try to escape the weasley, oily attack. You try to ignore the needle-like teeth and sharp claws that are attacking your normal thoughts.

It can also be a snake.  Twisting and gliding through your thoughts, it hisses and strikes at the rational processes of your brain. Sometimes hitting, sometimes not. The snake is the easiest to live with. However, you spend so much time avoiding the strikes that, again, you are practically immobilized. You can function, but in a reduced capacity.

It can also be a species you have never seen before. The unkown animal can cause a temporary paralysis of the brain. This, however, is temporary. Immediately following the initial paralysis is adrenaline. This floods your system and makes everything seemingly slow down.

While this ‘Matrix-like’ slow motion is occurring, your brain is busy trying to identify this unknown animal. Trying to figure out if the “fight or flight” option is necessary here. But you’d better be quick. For adrenaline with all the ‘superman’ like qualities that it can bestow, is fleeting.

Fear can also be a lion. This is ‘everyday’ fear. The fear we can control or even conquer. Lions can be tamed, overpowered and even killed. All these actions can take a long time. Especially if you are trying to kill the fear.

Most of us face the lion daily. We have become adroit at waving the chair, cracking the whip. Controlling the lion, pushing it back, making it open it’s mouth so we can have a closer look. Because if we can see better, we have a greater chance of controlling it.

When fear attacks our normally rational thought process, we react or we freeze. Whether the attack is prefaced with a trumpet call, an ominous hissing, a roar or complete silence we all react the same.

While I have been typing this post, I have been fighting the lion, looking out for the snake and praying that the elephant doesn’t show up.

Don’t forget to practice with your whip and chair.