Genie, You’re Out! (or Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams)

BuzP7p0CMAE3_-cI am devastated about the loss of Robin Williams, as are the millions of his fans, and more so by the fact that he took his own life.  Despite all of his money and all of his available resources, depression reached its bony fingers into his life (and dragged him to an untimely death as it certainly has for millions of others.)  Drugs and alcohol are certainly a part of his story, but make no mistake…this is a story about the savage blow of depression.  The pills and booze were only a symptom of this man’s sad demise.  Depression was the death blow.

Anyone who has never suffered from the savage effects of deep depression will find it hard to comprehend his decision to take his own life. Depressed people don’t kill themselves out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t worth living. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is an invisible agony that for many reaches a certain unendurable level where life and death are near equal terrors and death becomes a lesser terror than living.

For those who decide to take their life, they spend their final days and hours in much the same way a trapped person  eventually chooses to jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.  For the depressive suicidal, it’s not the desire of death, it’s the terror of living. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

In this same way, a person who doesn’t suffer the agony of depression will never be able to understand the torments and terrors suffered by those afflicted. Never. Just as depression is an invisible agony, so, too is the understanding of true depression invisible to those who do not suffer it.

We can, and should, have a conversation about depression, but unless you’ve ever stood on a ledge with flames coming closer and closer, you will never truly understand the agonizing decision to jump.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams..your Genie is out.

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I Bark, Therefore, I Am

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I’m not going to yank your leash – it’s been a busy month. A few weeks ago, my humans took me into the scary place with the man in the white coat. You know the place. It’s where everyone gathers around me as I lay on a cold. steel table and they poke and prod. Seems I had something called cancer and my human’s seemed really, really worried and sad. It couldn’t be all that bad, I thought, as the treats seemed to triple recently… but before I could whimper, “let’s get out of this place”, they left me and went away.

Now, I know I’m a brave boy…at least that’s what they told me as they left. But I certainly didn’t feel brave as the man in the white coat took me into the back room and put me into a deep sleep.

I dreamt of all the eight, wonderful, play-packed years I had spent with my humans. I must have chased ten thousand bouncy things in the park, and they always bought me squeaky things to keep me occupied as they went to work each day. I dreamt of the day they rescued me. I had been kept in a breeders cage since birth, and when I was freed, I had seizures brought on by the new flood of attention and love. But as they said, I’m a brave boy, and I was so happy when they took me home to share their kennel with me. Over the next 8 years, I learned to play and cuddle and found my utmost joy in the little humans that would pet me, cooing, “Oooh..he’s so soft!”

I confess, nothing was as much fun as Christmas at my human’s owners house in Grass Valley when I get my new toys and treats! Didn’t much care for the firecracker day each July, but I found my comfort behind Mama’s legs. Oh, how I dreamed some big dog dreams.

When I woke up, the scary man in the white coat was smiling, and there were my humans!! They had come back (as they always do). My tail thumped as I could see how joyful and happy they were! “I got it all,” beamed the white coated man. “It’s was a low grade cancer and I’d be surprised if it comes back,” he said. I don’t know what all the fuss was about, but my humans were no longer sad, and that was all that mattered to me. I’ve got a lot of living, chasing, and loving to do still yet.

As I left the room, I looked back at the white-coated man and gave a little bark. He wasn’t so scary after all, and I felt I owed him a bark of thanks.

 

Living for Today: Necessary Choices in My Emerging Journey – a Reflection by Dennis

Three Roads: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.  Which one will you choose?

Three Roads: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Which One Should I Choose?

The reason most people find themselves stuck in a rut is because they insist on seeing tomorrow as an extension of today, and today as an extension of yesterday.  This has been the most difficult, and necessary, lesson of the past year and a half of my life. My ignorance in adhering to this faulty belief invited me to voluntarily step into mental leg irons that have no key.  It has hobbled me in everything I have striven to achieve, for it is a false assumption and a dangerous one at that. 

Yesterday is a story that has already been told. The book is closed. The lessons, oh dear God, hopefully, learned. No amount of regret can change the ending of a story that is now complete.  How can I ever hope to begin a new chapter if I continue to dwell upon an ending that cannot be altered?  My past has served its only purpose, which was to instruct and to deliver me to today.  My only regret, my biggest regret, is that the lesson came at such a cost to another.

Today is all that truly matters.  Today, I  write the story, big or small, dull or incredible…the words are all there – and it is up to me to arrange them as I see fit.  I am the protagonist.  Only I can determine whether I turn left or right, whether I move forward, stand still or retreat backward.  I have come to the realization that to stand still or move backward is to settle for a weak plot.  Only in moving forward can the inspiring stories be written… and written well.

And what of my tomorrow?  It is nothing more than a blank piece of paper not yet ready for my pen.  If I live with one foot planted in today and the other in tomorrow,  all I will have managed to do is straddle the fence of possibility.  To be stuck on that fence is to surrender half of the possibilities of today.  I have chosen to get off of the fence and plant both feet firmly on the path of “ Now.”   The fallacy of tomorrow is the falsehood that I need to “plan for.”  Plan for what?  All the things I missed today?

This worldview is not clever or unique.  I did not come up with it. Smarter minds than mine have been advocating this for eons. I am just serving as the echo of their wisdom.  If I choose to live fully at this moment which is today, I have no choice but to surrender yesterday to the sweetness of memory, and tomorrow to the providence of faith.

Beginning now, I choose to immerse myself in the wonder and infinite possibility that is today. I do so with the humility to comes from the sacrifices of others who helped me find my way.

Defeated

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Like most people, I am caught in the web of learning  to navigate the constantly changing twists and turns of today’s fluctuating societal ups and downs.  It seems every day someone achieves their dreams while another is blown to bits by a terrorist’s bomb.  I celebrate a birthday with friends at the same time a mother buries her child.  This insidious balance of good and evil renders me near catatonic with a mixture of soaring joy and abysmal despair.  It just doesn’t make sense, and I am completely lost in a world I no longer understand.

The shooting at Sandy Hook and the resulting flood of grief as Death descended on this sleepy community left me in tears and shaking with sorrow.  No sooner had the bodies of these innocent children been pulled from their classrooms then I found myself out shopping for Christmas gifts in anticipation of a joyful family reunion. I watched the mix of loved ones waiting at the finish of the Boston Marathon, full of love and pride as their champions crossed the finish line, suddenly blended with the explosions of hate that laid low the lives of three people, one, a child who now joins the bitter fruit withering on the vine of life, not yet fully blossomed.  I have found that I am incapable of processing this confusing blend of despair and bliss.  My psyche is not wired to route the neurons of my emotions bouncing back and forth within my soul so randomly, and my mental landscape is muddled beyond words.

I am left feeling that I have personally failed in my journey upon this earth, this blue-green marble that spins wildly on a shaky spindle.  I don’t know how to proceed. No sooner than I fall on my knees in prayer that word comes of another senseless act of violence.  Is this how God answers desperate prayers for comfort and understanding?  Am I a fool to think that a simple act of Divine intervention might be suggested amongst all this violent loss of life?  So I stop praying.  God must be a sadistic voyeur for the silence of His absence in all of this is deafening.

My life does not slow down, however, to properly mourn, for no sooner than my heart is laid low by the killing of a dozen Syrian children, then the phone rings and I’m invited to a party celebrating the engagement of my best friend.  What cruel and atrocious mocking of life this all turns out to be.  Where do I find understanding amidst the laughter and the tears?  How do I proceed with any semblance of balance?  I retreat into the only sanctuary where I find an ounce of control: my writing.  But as the words pour out upon the page, my sadness and confusion only becomes more evident.  I start to write of hope and love, and in moments my words become dark and sullen.  I am the world I live in. And like that world, I am confounded  in both mind and body.  My pen stops and weeps uncontrollably.  My writing is exhausted and no longer makes sense.

I am caught in a bubble devoid of clarity, floating mindlessly through each demanding day. I cry out,  “Please, someone, pop the bubble!”;  explain this senseless woven tapestry of life so that I can chart my course, so that I can find meaning in this tower of babel.  To God and His perfect plan I say “Fuck You” – this pain is no longer bearable.  I cannot trust the joys I know when lurking behind the next corner is just another tragedy waiting to crush my spirit once more.  I need to get off this see-saw and find shelter.

I can no longer play His celestial game of ping-pong.

For Better or for Worse: I Am a “Dark” Writer

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For better or for worse, I am a dark writer.

It isn’t something I wanted to be as I grew up…it is more something that had to be done to give my inner grief a voice so that the pain and suffering did not overwhelm me. The events of my life have consumed me like maggots feasting on the carcass of a dead child. Have you ever wondered why the best of Irish writers are so dark and depressing? It is because they were flayed by mental anguish  They were compelled by lives lived in abject poverty, disease and general disrepair and despair. Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, …all suffered from severe moral disintegration, from morbid ideations brought about by the unrelenting ugliness that this so called “good life” thrust upon them.

The French poéts maudits; François Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud? These were simple men forced to live their lives outside or against society, awash in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, and violence. They all died pitiful, painful deaths. Or how about the Americans? Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski…each caught up in what life does best…grinding their souls to dust in the absence of any lasting hope until the merciful fist of death grabbed each by the ankle and pulled them under.

You may think I’m just cynical and indulgent…but I tell you, for every ray of sunshine you can conjure, I can show you ten bolts of lightning that rip and destroy. I am glad others have happiness….but I myself was pushed through this veil of insidious despair without my consent, and I’ve learned to navigate life in the absence of hope. And yes, I find some comfort there. It’s what I know.

People are always saying, “try and look on the bright side,” and to them I say, “ Look around you, for fuck’s sake!” There is an ocean of pain, agony, and suffering washing over the majority of the earth’s population…and you think platitudes and sweet rejoinders make a difference when the crows peck the eyes from a dead child who has starved in the Sudan? Or when 20 beautiful innocent children in Sandy Hook have their precious lives snuffed out, or when entire populations are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth for political expediency? Get real. Take off your rose-colored specs and take a deep look around you! Evil flourishes upon a people’s unwillingness to see. They are blinded by their blazing sunshine and forced optimism.

Yes, we live in the same world, but I see the shadows where you see the light. I don’t write this kind of crap because I have something to say…I write it because something which must be said has me to write it. My apologies for the rant…but I get so ill in my gut when people say, “there, there…the world is a beautiful place. Just try harder to be happy.”

The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

The Case Against “Fluff” Pieces on WordPress

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I might safely estimate that well over 80% of the material I have read on WordPress is what we writers might call “fluff” pieces. A “fluff piece” is a news story or pieces of writing which are essentially feel good op-eds.  The writing is meant to be cute, funny, or something like that. For example, if a writer does a story about kittens, it is a “fluff piece”.  Stories about kittens are essentially unimportant (oh, I can hear the hate mail churning!) The writer chose to write about kittens, not because it was important, but because it is cute and may help his/her viewer stats.

Fluff may take on numerous guises.  Aforementioned kittens?  Fluff.  Family travel logs?  Fluff.  Best make-up products on the market?  Fluff.  But to me,  the most offending piece of fluff on the WordPress market today are the countless stories that try desperately to convince the reader that the universe we live in; the planet we inhabit; the relationships we take shelter in – all of these somehow rotate within and upon some essentially pleasing spindle they call “goodness.”  Mostly, this goodness online is ego-defined as some omnipresent benefactor lovingly watching over us, raining upon our precious little heads measures of good fortune, benevolence, and unconditional love.  Yeah…fluff!

You have to travel far and wide into the ether of WordPress to hear an opposing viewpoint to this endless vomiting of “goodness.”  While the writer of such pieces may feel justified because he or she just can’t contain the fact that something made them happy, they have to purposefully put on blinders so as not to disturb their nirvana with snapshots of the truth.  The world is not essentially “good.”  Fluff is fleeting.

More than 5/8ths of the world’s population live in impoverished and violent conditions, whether that violence is nature driven or man-made.  To them, this vaporous concept of “life is good” is like a fleeting but violent wind that passes over them and cuts them sharply to the bone.  They are as aware of the “goodness” showered upon the fortunate few as we are willfully ignorant of their pain and suffering.

If you are fortunate enough to own a computer and have the luxury of spending your free time posting online, chances are these people live in the periphery of your vision.  You only glimpse them briefly on sensationalized news channels that can be quickly turned over to a “fluff” program like American Idol.  It just “feels better” not to notice.  Don’t lie…we have all been guilty of looking away to ease our conscience.

Yet there they are…the majority of the earth’s population starving, dying of treatable disease, buried to their necks in the fire-ant-ridden blazing sands of poverty and violence as the majority of us munch away on cheese-laden nachos while watching the Super Bowl.  It just feels better not to notice.  We need the “fluff” in our lives with which to stuff our ears and block out the infernal screams of our dying brothers and sisters.   By the way, if the term “brothers and sisters” offend, I’ve made my case.

You need proof?  Admit it.  Most of those who started reading this post have surfed to another WordPress freshly-pressed site about kittens, or dating advice, or how-to-be happy sites because, well…it simply “feels better.”  We need our goodness fix.  We need our fluff.  The only people who will read this through to the end are the artists and poets who understand that life is anything but benevolent and “good.”  They recognize, in their works, the crush of human apathy and indifference toward the brutal suffering of the “least” of our brethren.  They know because they don’t run from suffering…they run toward it.  Not to shun it, but to embrace it and evolve as human beings.

It appears the editorial staff of WordPress is complicit in the spewing of “fluff” when you consider that poets and artists are freshly-pressed much, much less than the feel-good article writers.  You won’t read this on WordPress because it feels “bad.” It probably isn’t a conscious decision on their part; it’s basic fluff survival 101: who wants to read depressing shit?  It just doesn’t sell!

The artists and poets of WordPress may be less visible, but they are there.  Shame on WordPress for making them enter in the dark and through the back door.  They struggle in vain to instruct a worldview that is ultimately a call to action.  They use their words to scatter the razor-toothed rats that gnaw on the emaciated bones of the poor, the hungry, the murdered masses. Poets and artists know there is goodness out there…they truly do. They see “goodness” descend upon the more fortunate, while the bulk of humanity suffers in despair and agonizing isolation.  They just refuse to wear the blinders.

For myself, I no longer really give a damn about this fleeting goodness. I’ve been shot, stabbed, robbed, and violated in a thousand ways that more than fill one lifetime of despair. And yes, in case you’ve ever read my writing, I have buried my grief and pain in ample cups of amber absolution and beneath the press of fentanyl patches.  I, too, am a coward. If there is goodness in my life, it is only there to mock the other 99.9% of my existence so far. I’m not happy, that is true. But I’d rather spend eternity locked in the pages of Baudelaire and Rimbaud than spend another minute reading about your “kittens.”

Perhaps that’s why most of my postings are poems.  Poetry allows a writer to scream invectives to an unjust, unhearing, apathetic God (who, in my opinion, is the ultimate piece of “fluff)  I’ve seen others (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Iraq, the Sudan comes to mind) who have seen their human potential snuffed out by either extreme violence, (human against human) or natural disaster (famine, floods, disease).  I’ve seen the children of Syria and Libya and Somalia, and, well…spin the globe and press your finger upon it.  It will almost certainly stop at one of these hellholes devoid of human compassion.  The majority of the world’s populations are simply ground to dust by the merciless millstone of life.

I am happy for those of you who believe the illusion that “evil” is the transitory state of humanity and that “good” is the true, permanent human blessing. WordPress appears to exist so that you can dine on a steady diet of “fluff.”  I just don’t see that wide-eyed gorging of “feel good” backed up by facts.  I’ll continue reading your fluff because people like me are more in need of a laugh than just about anybody. I just can’t join you at that particular ”hallelujah” table.  Enjoy the fruits of this “goodness”, but never forget that even more of your brethren have never known such feel-good promise in their lives…and “fluff” just won’t fill distended bellies or bind up the bleeding wounds.

Looking for Work? 8 Side-Gigs That Actually Make Money

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If you’re stuck in an unemployment situation and are strapped for cash, all hope isn’t lost. There are plenty of short-term ways to make money and supplement your income while job searching. And who knows? Maybe one of these smaller gigs will bloom into a full-time occupation.

Plenty of unemployed Americans take on side gigs or other short-term positions to supplement their income during tough economic times. But half the task is finding the opportunities.

Here are eight strategies for quick money making:

1. Help out! Everyone needs a hand once in awhile. Pack up someone’s house, do yard work, run errands, make small deliveries, do grocery shopping, or take on any other task people often don’t have time for. Sites like TaskRabbit help people to find personal assistant work in their neighborhood or community, and Gigwalk is a popular option for people looking to get assigned jobs from companies that need real-world data or market research.

2. Earn cash from your car. Anyone with a car can help out their community by moving heavy objects, running errands, providing carpooling, etc. For example, I have a friend who bought a pickup truck for an affordable $1,500. He makes $300 a day picking up couches and other furniture that won’t normally fit in a car. TaskRabbit (mentioned above), Craigslist, and startups like Lyft can help you make money from your car.

3. Write. Being unemployed is tough, and job searching in itself can be a full-time job. But if you balance your day correctly, you may have time to squeeze in freelance work in between job search efforts. If you can write, pitch pieces to newspapers, magazines, or blogs that pay. Just remember to agree on monetary compensation prior to completing any work.

4. Be a babysitter or nanny. Watching children is a task that will always be needed somewhere. Pay for a nanny varies from state to state, but the average income of a live-in nanny is $250 to $850 per week. Sites like Nannyjobs.netCare.comNannys4Hire, andenannysource.com can hook you up with families in need of childcare. While nannies are considered family employees, babysitters are independent contractors. Sites like Care.com,SitterCity.com, or babysittingjobs.com can get you in touch with babysitting jobs in your area.

5. Try pet sitting or dog walking. Plenty of people need help taking care of their pets. Dog walkers can make anywhere from $10 to $30 per 30 minute walk, but the rate is usually negotiable and depends on a variety of factors, like whether or not you took it to a dog park.Dogwalker.com can hook you up with dog walking opportunities, and Care.com also offers resources for pet sitting and related efforts. DogVacay is another great resource for people looking to board dogs–participants set their own rates, and many make up to $200 a week.

6. Take care of the elderly. Here’s an area where plenty of families are looking for affordable and reliable aid. Help families take care of elderly relatives by taking up caregiving jobs in the home. Sites like HomeInsteadTheCaringSpace, and SeniorCare.net can hook you up with opportunities.

7. Create or sell what you don’t need. Plenty of people make money selling old clothes, used electronics, books, furniture, kitchenware, or other items they no longer need. Sites likeEtsy allow anyone to create and sell their own homemade products–clothing, accessories, art, and household items are especially popular on the site. eBay is another popular option for selling unwanted or used items, and Craigslist is great for selling locally.

8. Promote other people’s products. Plenty of people have blogs these days, but few consider offering advertising space to others. Sell advertising space on your personal website or blog, or try ClickbankAmazon Associates, and Red Lemon Club, or any other place with affiliate programs to sell or promote products on behalf of others.

Being unemployed is a job in itself — it requires patience and strategic thinking. While you should never neglect your job search, try these eight tips for making money on the side so you don’t burnout in the meantime.

About Dennis McHale: 

Writer and Author, FreeLance Columnist .Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, currently working on his two books, “The Winter Bites My Bones” (www.dlmchale.com) and “Echoes Across Time”