We have all seen on social media, television, and maybe our rare interactions with others during these extraordinary times, just how much of a toll social separation has taken. Not just on the economy, small businesses, family dynamics, but also on our social lives. Oh my goodness, what would we have done if COVID-19 happened pre-Facebook? Many would be devastated even more than they already are.
Each of us have developed our own coping mechanisms to deal with this newfound isolation. Me personally, I have spent more time outdoors and on trails than I ever have before. I have enjoyed it! I’ve enjoyed a simpler life; seeing people return to the basic things in life and have no choice but to slow down and just cherish the moment.
While I do yearn for a life of normalcy and seeing things return to normal, I am hoping that we never forget these days that have caused us to stop our daily routine as we knew it. When everything gets back to normal, I hope there are many lessons learned, and people will approach life in a more humble way.
One place I’ve been visiting more than ever, is Moreau Lake State Park, located in South Glens Falls/Gansevoort, NY. Not only does it have a lake that people typically frequent during the summer months, but there are plenty of cabins, rustic campsites, picnic areas, and a lot of hiking trails varying in length.
Just off the highway, it provides a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, as well as a place to center and feed the soul.
Take advantage of the time you have right now, to decide who you will be when all this is over. It’s a perfect time to hit the RESET button!
I have really debated the past couple of days on whether to write this or not. It’s personal and deep, and involves taking a journey down a road that although familiar, isn’t a pleasant one to travel. But I am a traveling man, and not all roads are easy to travel down.
Depression. Depending on who you speak to, you will get different responses regarding this word. Even within the last decade, my own personal thoughts and opinions regarding depression have changed.
Why am I writing this? Don’t I usually choose topics that are a little easier and pleasant to absorb? Yes, but I also dedicate this blog site to impacting those near and far and trying to positively influence those who read it.
This particular topic and blog entry has been on my mind constantly for the past two days. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2016, which led to my early retirement from the United States Air Force after sixteen years active duty. Part of having MS is trouble falling asleep. Because I have trouble sleeping, I was prescribed a sleeping medication recently. This particular medication has caused me to have extremely vivid dreams, none of which have been great dreams.
I will skip the details of the dream I had two mornings ago, but immediately upon waking, I took the contents and overall theme of the dream, as a prompt to write this and hopefully inspire others to share their own stories.
I’m not a doctor, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional. I have zero textbook experience on the subject of depression. What I do have however, is years of hands-on practical knowledge, experience, and coping mechanisms used to deal with this silent killer.
I call depression a silent killer for many reasons. Almost more times than not, those who deal with depression will keep silent about it. For different reasons, they’re ashamed, and don’t want it to become evident to those around them, let alone themselves. These silent victims walk through their daily routines, wearing masks and hiding the pain they feel inside.
I am no stranger to wearing masks. For years, I became an expert at changing them often, and creating different ones for various occasions in life. I have never been one that is talented in the area of hiding facial expressions. Those around me could usually tell how I felt inside by the way I looked on the outside. So I created masks. I portrayed a smile on the outside while my heart and soul screamed on the inside.
Many times over the past years, I’ve talked about silent warriors fighting silent battles, and the battlefield being hidden within the four walls of their home or within their minds. They’re fighting these silent battles in a silent war, and if they make it through the night and into the next day, they’re winning. I’ve talked about this often and it’s so true.
When I was in the military, depression wasn’t something people talked about very much. The perception was there, especially in my career field and carrying a weapon, that any sort of mental or emotional health problem was a career killer. So you ended up having so many kill themselves on the inside to save their careers. With a rise in mental health awareness programs to combat Post Traumatic Stress and Suicide, the stigma has started to be shunned out of most units. Those who were in positions that did nothing but support the stigma mentioned above, have found themselves either getting with the program and following suit with other leaders, or being hidden in places where they will have minimal influence and impact on others. Good!
It’s a hard place to be when you’re standing in a room full of people, only to feel completely and utterly alone. For those who have never been surrounded but feel an intense loneliness and emptiness, it’s hard to fathom. To be surrounded by happiness and light, but feel as though you’re standing in a dark corner, is excruciating. To want nothing more than to break and scream at the top of your lungs, but thinking you can’t because they’re depending on you to be the happy person you always present yourself to be, is nothing short of painful. It’s like being stung over and over by the same bee.
Many think that someone who is depressed is suicidal. Not true at all. Someone could be in such a state of loneliness, sadness, and emotional despair, they don’t want to continue. They lay down at night praying they won’t wake up, unable to fathom another day in pain. But they’re not suicidal. They just want their pain to go away. Imagine the most excruciating toothache. Everything you tried to do to make the pain go away, failed and you’re left walking around with this pain that no one can see but only you can feel. Wouldn’t you do anything, including the removal of the tooth, to make the pain subside?
If you’re reading this and can relate, I’m here to tell you there is hope. I can also tell you that you can think all the happy and positive thoughts in the world, and it isn’t going to work. Why? Because that’s not you and that’s not how you were wired. And you know what else? That is okay!
I started this post by telling you I am not a doctor and have zero professional experience in the case of mental and emotional health. But I have experience, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing this for you today. I’m going to talk about things I’ve done to help in my next entry. It might just save you hundreds of dollars or another long period of pain and darkness. Maybe you won’t have to wear that mask so much. If none of the above, at least you will know that there’s another person fighting alongside you and cheering for your victory.
“One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.”
I, like most people, enjoy traveling. Since my days in the military, I haven’t traveled to a foreign country; but I enjoy traveling within the United States, and even here at home within New York State. I enjoy traveling with my family, but there’s something about traveling alone that really clears the mind and refreshes the soul.
Most of the local traveling I do is during the months when snow and ice isn’t slowing me down and limiting me to distance. I enjoy driving up into the Adirondack Mountains, taking a scenic drive along Lake Champlain into Ticonderoga, along the back roads of Saratoga and Washington Counties, and occasionally crossing the border into neighboring Vermont. If it’s a nice cool day, I enjoy the windows down and breathing in the country air.
Many probably come to this site because they’re looking for travel photos and a blog about traveling to different destinations. Oh, but a man or woman can be a traveler, even if they never board a plane. You can be quite the extensive traveler and never leave your own home. Destinations don’t always have to be places that flash across a screen in an airport, or cities and towns printed on a sign on the side of a highway. They don’t have to be white, sandy beaches or snowcapped mountains.
I travel on a weekly basis and seldom leave my local area. Sometimes the most worthwhile trips are the ones where I’m alone. Many of my greatest trips where I discover the most, are done without leaving my house.
Like Thomas Jefferson stated, one who journey’s alone spends more time reflecting. I spend a lot of time in thought; thinking about the present and also the things to come. While I believe I have no control over tomorrow, I am convinced there are things I can do to help shape it. I can do my best this very moment to live a decent life, to love those around me, to be kind to both stranger and friend, show compassion, be humble, and more.
What is, a “traveling man?” In my case, it’s a person who is always exploring; not just the world around them, but also within themselves. It’s a person who is always moving forward, never desiring to go backwards and having to retrace their steps. It’s a person who is on a constant journey to be better tomorrow than they are today.
There are things in this life that divide us and destroy us. In this entry I want to talk about something I’m all too familiar with, as I am sure many of you are as well. Lies.
As a child and growing up, I was always told the Bible verse that states the truth will set you free. I was punished as a child for lying and told that if I had only been honest, the punishment would have been much lighter. Sure, there would still be a punishment, but maybe there would be a little redemption due to my honesty.
I learned as an adult what my parents were trying to teach me about. The small lies about stealing a cookie or getting out of bed to play with toys when I should have been sleeping, are on a much grander scale as an adult. The lies as an adult carry much harsher penalties and there’s always so much more at stake.
I recall in a previous relationship I had, the amount of lies I was told. Each lie, as you know, compounded into another lie until eventually it snowballed out of control and there were so many lies just to bury the one simple lie in the beginning. There were so many lies that it became hard, even to the author, to determine where the truth ended and the lies began. For such people as this, their life ends up becoming one big lie. They lose the truth of themselves because they’ve had to fake things for so long.
Lies don’t just hurt the person telling them. Lies hurt the person on the receiving end as well. Lies sometimes have a ripple effect and can hurt people as the snowball rolls downhill out of control.
I know all this probably sounds simple, but if it is, why have you and I been hurt so much over a three letter word? If lying didn’t cost so much, why is the devil himself called, “the father of lies?” If lies didn’t sting so bad or have such hefty consequences, why are there broken families all over the world, because of something that started as a lie? If lying was the just thing to do, why are we punished as children for doing just that?
Lies destroy and lies divide. If you’re caught in that web and you’re struggling to get free, just start by telling the truth. It may mean you have to swallow your pride a bit, and others might be angry or hurt. But please stop the cycle before someone is destroyed.
There is something about this time of year. Here in the Northeast and in many other parts of America, the green grass is or has already turned a shade of brown, while the hills and forests were set ablaze with the awesome spectacular of autumn. Snow has made its appearance but has not yet blanketed the earth, while the nights have turned bitterly cold. Shorts, for most people, have been neatly folded in a drawer, while jackets and gloves have been hung by the door. We’ve searched for the ice scraper and once again are thankful for the remote starters in our vehicles. Yes, it’s that time of year.
While nature continues its course and life gives way unto death, something else tends to happen this time of year that seems to renew life and hope. While the outdoors becomes frigidly cold and the ground becomes harder, it seems this time of year always softens the hearts of mankind and we become a bit more sensitive to those around us. Things we may have been blind to for most of the other months throughout the year, seem to become painstakingly obvious to us in our daily travels. We notice the homeless individual standing on a corner, shivering and praying for warmth tonight. Many Americans in a couple of weeks will demonstrate this emotion they feel by going to homeless shelters and food pantries nearby to serve Thanksgiving meals. We remember those who are close to us and the family members who will be missing from the table on Thanksgiving Day. We remember the person fighting an illness or disease, knowing this holiday season may very likely be their last. We are reminded of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, serving abroad and away from family and the comforts of home. It is without a doubt that our hearts become more sensitive to the needs of others around us during this time of year.
I don’t have an explanation for why this happens. Maybe it’s because while many of us take time to reflect on our blessings in life, we become more in tune with those who may not be as fortunate. Social media will be flooded in the next month with ways and opportunities to give to people and our communities, as well as others around the world. Men and women around the world will hear the ringing of a bell next to a red bucket at store entrances. Our hearts will become softer and some will be broken for others.
I end this with a question. No, maybe more of a challenge. This holiday season, what will you do in the service of a stranger? Will you stop for the homeless person, shivering and alone, on the street corner or in the park? Will you drop an extra dollar into the red bucket? Will you make that phone call to a family member that is long overdue? Will you reach out to the friend, who for the first time in many years, will spend this holiday season alone? Take advantage of this time of year, listen to what your heart is telling you to do, and move on it. For whatever reason this time of year inspires so many to go beyond themselves and reach out to others, be thankful for it and use it to impact someone else.
I always enjoy hearing from others who read my posts and gain something from it. Please feel free to leave a comment, share, subscribe, follow me on this journey. Thank you for taking the time to read these simple words.