Posts Tagged ‘change’

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Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.” —Tupac Shakur

 

Parable of River Babies:

One summer in a small village, all the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, which was struggling and crying. It was clear
the baby was on the verge of drowning and facing imminent death if someone did not act swiftly.

Without thinking twice, someone promptly aborts everything to jump into the river and save the baby. Everyone’s heart had been racing in panic and confusion, rush to ensure the baby is safe. Just as things start to calm down, they notice another screaming baby in the river. Again, someone jumps in to pull the baby to safety.

Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river and all the townspeople were pulling them out and the entire village was involved in many tasks of rescue work: pulling the poor children
from the stream, ensuring they were properly fed, clothed, housed, and integrated into life of the village. While not every baby could be saved, the entire village spent all their day trying to save as many as possible. As everyone kept busy in the recovery efforts, two townspeople started to run along the shore of the river.

“Where are you going!?” shouted one of the rescuers, “We need you here to help us save these babies!”

“Don’t you see?” They cried, “If we find out how they are getting into the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown! By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem.”

“But it is too risky,” said the village elders, “It might fail. It is not for us to change the system. And besides, how would we occupy ourselves if we no longer had this to do all day?”

This parable explains the modern industry of human services. Another version would include someone jumping into the river and teaching the babies to swim. While it is fair to say that everyone in this situation is doing their absolute best to fight the problem, real change is only going to happen once we find out the core problem to eliminate more from falling into the river.

Is there some mysterious illness in these children? Had the shoreline been made unsafe by a natural disaster? Was some hateful person throwing them in deliberately? Or was there an even more exhausted village upstream that had been abandoning them out of hopelessness?

Just like with addiction and mental health, we can fix all the presenting symptoms, but there will never be long-lasting change until we can get to the root of the problem. Everyone is innocent and pure at their core.

The “Bad Person” Argument:

“She just pops them out and then we end up paying for them,” complains a clinician during a staffing session at a mental health facility.

“She just does this to get more drugs,” cries another in agreement.

This aforementioned client has just been admitted as mentally unstable and “just pops them out” refers to self-inflicted knife wounds in her abdomen in a desperate attempt to legally obtain
narcotics.

Without any background, experience, or education in this industry, any group of outsiders could unanimously agree that this behavior is not “normal.” But the behavior and actions are not the questions we need to ask in this industry; rather, the question should center around what is leading to this behavior?

Is it a choice? Is she just a bad person?

Would anyone, with a rational mind, “choose” to intentionally penetrate a sharp blade through their midsection just to score some drugs? Does anyone truly believe that jamming a knife in your stomach is the best available option?

This “choice” theory is still largely, and openly, debated in society. Despite the immense volumes of advanced evidence of addiction and mental illness, the stigma survives. The medical and scientific communities have proven these diseases through a plethora of research, studies, brain imaging technology, along with the work of the top neuroscientists in the world. Yet, the public disagrees.

Shall we debate whether or not the earth is round, the rotation, and how it orbits the sun? Shall we debate how fish do not need to be immersed in water to survive and that is their choice?

Why, as a society, can we not accept the overwhelming evidence regarding mental illness and substance abuse? This stigma we create and support is preventing people from receiving their inalienable human rights.

Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable,among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”


Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? Well, stigma destroys life; it doesn’t preserve it by any means. Where is the liberty, or freedom, for those who can not afford treatment
or are a part of a corrupt system of workers with misleading information? How can one pursue anything that resembles happiness when they are putting a knife through their abdomen just to get a pill that makes them feel “normal” for a few hours.

The stigma creates shame and disgrace within each individual. Despite being “created equal and independent,” society trains us how to act, talk, dress, express, behave, think, etc.

And for some of us this doesn’t feel right.

There is a lot of love in the world, but the world doesn’t seem to want everyone to feel this way. The world wants us to pretend. The training that takes place by society is nothing more than putting on a mask to hide ourselves from the world and conform to how others think we should be.

We know there is more to this pretend world in which we are living and we find it privately—with booze, drugs, food (eating disorders), gambling and other compulsive activities that help alter our consciousness momentarily. The rush of the activity or the substance allows us to numb our true feelings, so we don’t have to deal with them—which is what we always wanted.

Then we wake up in the morning and put on our mask before opening the door.

As the case of the woman with multiple stab wounds was being reviewed by these “medical professionals,” it reminded me of the first time I was able to see beyond someone’s mask.

In discussing this topic, more specifically the stigma associated, we always run the risk of being viewed as an apologist or excusing the behaviors of the addict. The behaviors are not being pardoned by any means, but if there was no stigma with substance abuse and mental illness, people would be more willing to ask for help before some of these significant consequences began to surface and this destructive cycle could slowly disintegrate. Because today, asking for help is still largely considered a weakness, whereas the truth is that it is an incredible strength for one to acknowledge that they are in need of the services of another human to help them pursue a life of freedom and happiness.

Seeing Behind the Mask:

The first time we see beyond the mask is done so without a conscious effort – it just happens and we observe. I want to share a story about a woman who has just had her eight children taken away from her for neglect and abandonment. Emotional and physical abuse was a part of the daily routine. The children would be forced to kneel down in prayer before she threatening to beat them if they told anyone she had been drinking.

“It’s just a little cut, get over it!” she once yelled at her two-year-old that recently fell on an empty beer bottle. Unable and unwilling to do anything for the child, the 14-year-old daughter
had to drive the toddler to the ER for surgery.

In another incident, the woman fell and passed out on top of one of the kids. The other seven children all worked together to get her off, preventing the infant from suffocating.

The oldest daughter took care of the children with what she had to offer. She cooked Ramen noodles on the grill in the freezing temperature as it was all they had to eat. The kids rarely attended  school and when they did usually were welcomed to harassment, beatings, ridicule and bullying.

Where was their father during this time?

Well, he was actually a doctor and a well-respected man in the community. But behind closed doors, he was an abusive alcoholic that lashed out daily beatings to his wife. While she was pregnant, he once dragged her across the room with a belt leading to a miscarriage—with the children burying the dead fetus in their back yard.

Around age 40, the father died of a heart attack, leaving the family in the hands of their alcoholic mother and eight children—most of them under the age of 10. This woman was left with a
healthy inheritance, but spent it primarily on booze. And when the money train stopped, the next train that came in was by the state department taking away her children to foster care.

She would call and harass the foster parents, but never took time to see them or get to know them. The kids moved on with their lives not giving her any sympathy as she was the monster who destroyed their childhoods. However, the oldest daughter continued to see beyond the mask. She continued to go back to the house and help her mother. She chose to believe there was more to this monster than what was being presented. In turn, the oldest daughter received the most abuse but continued to care for her and spend her young adulthood showing love.

The drunken woman continued the emotional abuse, creating permanent psychological damage to her daughter—the only one who ever showed her love.

Unknowingly, this unconditional love and compassion of this child is what recovery is all about. People do not need to be kicked when they are down, they need someone to see beyond the behaviors.


They need someone to tell them “you are a good person, but this disease is preventing you from being that beautiful soul. We just need to remove this barrier.”

Because what you will not know is that when this drunken woman was seven years old, she was babysitting her 5-year old brother before watching him get hit by a truck and killed. From this  point on, she was blamed for his death. A 7-year-old does not have the mental capacity to understand this is not true. A 7-year-old cannot tell if Santa Clause is real or not, how are they supposed to know the blame is not true when her parents label her as a killer, irresponsible and bad person? On top of that, both her parents were alcoholics that immigrated from Ireland and faced immense discrimination during the 1920’s on the east coast.

So beyond her mask is a pair of alcoholic parents that were verbally and physically abusive to her. She was blamed for the death of her sibling since she was seven. She married a well-respected man who was loved and adored by the community, only to have this same man beat her within an inch of her life when he comes home from work.

Her husband was glamorized in public, while she was ridiculed. Her upbringing had trained her that you do not mention these things, so she buried it away, put on her mask and turned to alcohol. She began to believe all these things about her to be true, turned people away from her and “chose” booze instead of her kids.

At seven years old, we are innocent. Imagine back to a happy time when you were around that age. Getting ready to do something you love to do (in her case, dance class) and then to watch your 5-year-old brother wander into the street and get hit by a truck and killed. Life changes just like that. And then to be blamed your entire life for this without anyone ever letting you know the truth. Then the trauma continues to come in waves and waves, while others stand by at the dock pointing and ask:

“Well why doesn’t she get out of the ocean? Those waves are too high.”

So she lost her way, but how does the story end? When did she get out of that mess? The popular feel-good stories tell us the incredible journeys of those who overcome, get better and find
their way in the world. How does this one end?

The truth is many of us with mental illness and addiction suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are all lost, but rarely found.

This story is not unique, but unfortunately, the norm in mental health and addiction. We observe and judge the behavior without taking a look beyond the mask. The behavior (mask) is going to stand out.

And the uglier the mask, the longer-lasting impact it will have on us. We treat those with the ugliest masks, the worst. We use it as a guide as to determine the evilness of the person inside.


And until we can consciously look beyond the mask of each person effected by mental health or addiction, the situation will never improve.

I remember this woman’s funeral quite well. Her adult children all arrived from out of town, had not been around for years, but made their grand entrance for the spectacle. You could sense
the anger and negative energy in the room.

“She is going to burn in hell,” was the common theme among these kids who had not seen her in years and never really took a peek behind the mask. They never really knew their own mother. They were all in foster care before they were five years old, but made an appearance at her funeral to wish her well spending eternity in flames.

But the oldest daughter always stuck around, caring for her mother as she watched her slowly drink herself to death. Continuing to care for her mother, no one quite understood what made her return day-after-day and take on the abuse. They questioned her mental stability, courage and strength.

While they thought she was weak and pathetic, they missed out on experiencing the strongest and most courageous person in their lives. This level of unconditional love could not be broken. She did not listen to what others said about her, no one could prevent her from loving this “monster.”

Every day, people would expect her to stop showing up, stop caring, stop loving and stop trying. She saw something no one else saw. And if you haven’t been there before, there are no words in the world that can be said to make you understand. And if you have been there before, no words are needed and you already fully understand everything.

The daughter never heard the words, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry.”

There is no storybook ending. The woman died without ever saying goodbye. But, this woman did get what she always desired—to believe she was a good, worthwhile human. She had finally received her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This woman finally felt loved for the first time in her life during the last few years.

While the daughter may not have noticed this new unconditional love was reciprocal, I did notice. And it changed me forever.

I saw it in the mother’s eyes and I know the daughter was right all along.

I know so because the drunk lady is my grandmother. And when I was nine-years-old and visiting, I was begging for a football. It’s all that mattered to me. I had to have it, I was impulsive,
I needed it. Now, remember, my grandmother is this same, nasty old drunk I’ve been talking about for the past few pages, but she saw that I truly needed to have this football.

My grandma saw I needed it and she understood. She didn’t drink that day for the first time in nearly 45 years, because she gave me her last seven dollars to buy that football, which I still
have today.

That was my Grandma. And the oldest daughter was my mother.

I love you Grandma. Mom, you are my hero.


Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution


taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press



A patient of mine from years ago left this note after she committed suicide. I have rewritten it here.

Dear Children- I did not take care of you like children deserve. When other kids were getting ready for school, you were trying to wake me up. You had to walk to the gas station alone,  with change you found scattered around so you could eat. You thought no one loved you and you were bad kids. You missed school and events because you had no one to take you. You got teased at school because you had to wear the same dirty clothes every day. I would be gone for days and you were scared. You would sit up all night wondering what you did wrong. You had no one to teach you anything. You didn’t come home to hugs, love, or even dinner. You never knew what was going to happen. You were never allowed to feel safe in this world. You were so confused when you were taken from me. I remember you screaming for me, with your hands outstretched screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Please don’t let them take Me.!” I saw your hearts break when I walked the other way. Every time the phone rang for the next 10 years you hoped it was me, and you were hurt every time that it wasn’t. I see all the pain you are in. I see the fear, the depression, and the anger. I know the torture I caused in your heart. I know I did this. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Mother- I know the pain I caused you. You had no one to turn to. It was your dream to be a mother and give love. I ruined your only hope in life. I took and took from you. You sat up crying at night begging God to help me. You didn’t know how to help, because no one took care of you. All you ever wanted was a family. You thought that having a family would take all your pain away. You had to work 2 jobs to replace the things I would steal. Everyone judged you for what I had done. I destroyed your self-confidence. You felt like you failed and you had to leave. I see the guilt in your eyes. I have taken your life from you. I am sorry that this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Brother- I stole from you, I took your money, your car, and I took all of our parent’s time. This left you with little time with them. You felt ignored and it hurt you. You withdrew from the world and isolated yourself. You had to grow up way to early. You became scared and isolated. I saw that affected your ability to know boundaries and how to have relationships. I see that is all with you still today. I did all of these things. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Sister- I took all of your toys and hid them. I ruined the toys that you loved the most on purpose. You were just a little girl that wanted love. You didn’t know why I was destroying the family. You saw me and trembled with fear. You couldn’t understand why I stole from mom and dad who had worked so hard. You tried so hard to help. You needed their love to. We missed your dance recitals because I stole the car. Your heart was broken and you didn’t understand how someone you loved so much could do this. You grew up scared. I see your pain, even if you try to hide it. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Father- You wanted to have a normal family. You took me places and to events all the time.  You hated your job, but you still went every single day to support us. No one loved you when you were a child. You never felt love as an adult. You were lonely. You were afraid to come home. Your marriage was hurt by me. You became depressed, so you drank more. I became an embarrassment to you. My issues robbed you of much of your life. I see the disappointment in your eyes. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. I understand.

I know that this is how I will remember you all.

Dear Brother- I remember going to sporting events together, playing outside, and laughing together. I remember the time you were so scared that dad was going to punish you about the mailbox, so I told him it was me. I remember letting you stay at my house after you had nowhere to go because of your drinking. I remember the not so nice things you tried to do to me. You were scared and lonely just like I was, so I never said anything. I remember coming back from treatment and you telling me how I had ruined everyone’s life. I am sorry you forget about the times I protected you. I was in pain when I did these things, but I understand so are you.

Dear Sister-I remember holding you at night when you were afraid. I remember when you made a mistake and Dad started coming after you. I remember jumping up and doing something worse on purpose so he would punish me instead. I remember you calling me your hero. I remember you clinging to me when we were young for protection. I remember taking you to the park to get away, and teaching you how to do hair. I am sorry that you forgot all of that. I am sorry you are in pain. I understand.

Dear Mother- I remember before it got bad, when you would tuck me in and hug me. It was so safe to be with you. I remember your love. I remember trying to make you happy because you would be so sad. I remember when you couldn’t take it anymore and left, I ran down the street looking for you outside for hours. I remember praying to God that you come back. I cried at night in my bed wishing you would just call me. I promised I wouldn’t be bad anymore. I remember when I told you what dad was doing, how your heart broke. I begged God to protect me. I am sorry you forgot all the good, and I am sorry for your pain, and I understand.

Dear Father- I remember the first time you hit me. You bought me candy so I didn’t tell. When I got older, if I didn’t want to get punished I would watch your “special” movies with you. It made you happy. You cried afterwards. I am sorry for whatever happened to you, to create the person I knew. I see you were in pain. I understand.

Dear children. I love you, I did the best I could. You are angels. I just did not know how to love, and I was scared.

I always wondered if anyone noticed…

Did anyone see when Dad was punching me?

Or when he took me into the room to watch “movies” with him?

Did anyone notice me crying when Mom left, because I was afraid what would happen?

Did God hear me?

Did anyone see what those older boys were doing to me?

Or notice I would be gone for hours as a teenager and come home drunk?

Or that I took the blame to protect you from being punished like I was?

Maybe you did, and you forgot. Maybe you thought it was better me than you.

I kept thinking someone would notice and they would do something. But no one ever did. No teachers, classmates, or anyone. No one spoke up. I guess they didn’t see. Or maybe they thought it was none of their business.

Thank you for telling me I was the bad one, and the problem child. I went to treatment and I got to feel better for a little while.

Until I would come back. No one understood why I would do so well, and when I got out of treatment, I would relapse.

I’m sorry you never could make it to family night at treatment because it was “my issue,” Not yours. That you were “fine.”

Maybe now that I am gone, your problems will be gone.

If you find that you are still in pain with me gone, and start to think maybe you were part of the problem, I am sorry for your pain. But it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

Now that you have to look in the mirror, maybe now you can heal. It is the greatest gift I can give to you.

I used to wonder why God would allow such evil, poverty, and sadness on earth.

Then I realized, he is the one that should probably be asking us why WE ALLOW IT.

He gave us all the resources we need to live here equally. We have enough to end poverty, and help each other. He gave us all the tools we need.

We choose this.

We allow this, not God.

I love you all.

Alcoholism and Addiction are family diseases. Not every case is this extreme. However, the addict is usually the one acting out the dysfunction and is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you take the strongest one and heal them, and send them back to the dysfunctional system, it will not work.

If we do not start treating the system, we will continue to have an epidemic.

Will you notice? Will you speak up?

Silence is consent.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

By Irwin Ozborne

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.Dr. Gail Dines

A mother comes home after a stressful day at work with many tiny worries racing through her mind. She pulls in the driveway and opens the garage door to see her 16-year-old daughter hanging from the rooftop, lifeless, dead, from suicide. She was too fat, so she developed an eating disorder, then was too skinny and “sick” and eventually she gives her reason in a note that is summed up with the words, “soon the pain will be gone.”

Who is at fault? The parents, counselors, school, bullies at school? Partially, all of the above are to blame. But the greater culprit that allows this to continue is the media and beauty industry.

There is an old parable that explains of a small town that suddenly notices a baby floating down the river and all the people come together to rescue the child. Soon, they discover another baby and another and another all floating down the river. All of the resources of the community are put together to take care of the babies coming down the river but they can not keep up and can not save everyone. Eventually, someone offers the suggestion, “Let’s go upstream and see who is throwing all the babies in the river, then we can stop the problem at its core.” This is where the beauty industry is to blame.

Beauty in Western society has become a serious illness. In fact, you could call it an epidemic. Young women in America are being poisoned daily by corporations, advertisements, television, school, friends, and even family members. From the time they are young, they are engrained with the message “beauty is everything and everything can be obtained with beauty.”

Eighty-One percent of 10-year-old girls have a fear of being fat! Another study by the University of Central Florida showed that nearly 50% of girls, aged three to six, were already concerned about their weight. Nearly half of all fourth-grade girls have begun dieting. And by the time they reach high school, 90% of girls are dieting, while only 10% are actually overweight. But the fear of being fat is gone by the time they hit 17-years-old, because now more than four out of every five girl are “unhappy” with their body (Ross, 2012).

I saw a post that said “54% of women would rather get hit by a truck than be fat.” I laughed at the exaggerated message only to do more research and found out that it was not as far-fetched as I first believed. Thankfully, I have been unable to find any validity to that number, but some of the online posts about this scare me.

“How big is the truck, LOL?”

“How fast is the truck going? Will I get hurt?”

But, according to Radar Systems, nearly half of adolescent girls would rather have cancer, experience the death of a parent, or a nuclear war instead of getting fat. And these numbers are only dealing with weight. We haven’t even dug into the full beauty epidemic.

Actress and makeup artist Eva Devergilis states that every woman that sits in her chair apologizes for the way they look. This includes all ages, race, body types, weight, etc. Every single woman that comes in to see her apologizes for their looks. Why have we placed such an emphasis on beauty and why have we set the standard so high that nobody can be satisfied?

“Being a model is like winning the genetic lottery…Planning to be a model when you grow up is like planning to win the Powerball,” said professional model Cameron Russel, “and those are not pictures of me. They are constructions made by professional makeup artists, photographers, hairstylists and photoshop.”

The amount of time and money women spend in regards to their appearance is keeping them out of developing into a more complete person. As Jason Whitlock wrote in an article in the Kansas City Star, “How many more young girls out there are aspiring to be Beyoncé as compared to Hillary Clinton?”

Beauty is the main form of currency for women in Western culture. If you have beauty, you can have anything. They can not escape it because it is everywhere – television, internet, social media, etc. Their image is observed everywhere, by everyone, including themselves. This leads to beauty and image as the number one priority in the lives of young women and children.

But beauty is not the problem. It is wonderful and should be admired to some extent.  The real culprit of the beauty epidemic is a three-part problem which is controlled by the corporate America and the media (which subsequently profits off corporate America and has no urgency to report anything that opposes their financial interests). It stems from creating 1) the belief that beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world; 2) this is what beauty looks like; and 3) you do not look like this.

With this system, you will always be stuck at number three. You will constantly be buying products, having surgeries to try to reach the level of beauty defined by corporations. The same corporations, mind you, which are selling you the products. It is a giant marketing scheme. None of it is true.

And women know this. But that is how incredibly powerful the propaganda system works. We know outer beauty is not everything, we know that the images they portray are not possible, but we also know we do not look like that. But at that point, we need to just say “and that is ok.”

  1. Beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world.

You are told that beauty is the most important thing in the world. If you are not beautiful, you are not important, you are not successful, and you really have no value to the world. This message begins with the media, brainwashes everyone valuable in our lives, and trickles into our brains from the time we are young.

The media (television, films, videos, billboards, magazines, movies, music, newspapers, fashion designers, social media, and other internet sites) bombard us with body images throughout the day. Young children spend around six to seven hours per day enamored with these messages (Brown, JD 2002). Chris Downs and Sheila Harrison found that one out of every 3.8 television commercials portrays a message about attractiveness. They went on to state that the average viewer sees about 14 of these messages a day and more than 5,200 advertisements related to attractiveness each year (Downs, 2011).

By the time the average teenage girl in Western society reaches age 18, she has seen nearly 100,000 television advertisements about the importance of attractiveness. This does not include seeing images on the internet, facebook friends, or other media outlets which account for an additional 5,000 plus images per week! (Wiseman, 2012)

  1. This is what beauty looks like.

The same people shoving this message down our throats are the same people defining beauty. This definition is always changing. Look at the images of “beauty” just in the last century and how much the “ideal body image” continues to change. This is not by accident. They want you to continue to strive for an unachievable goal. Therefore, you are always in the quest for more.

A study showed that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment each day. The comparisons damage the minds of nearly all women each day.

And this “ideal image” you see in the media is 23% below that of the average woman in America – 20 years ago this difference was only eight percent. The gap between reality and ideal image is widening by the day, with Vogue’s Gisele Bunchen (5’11, 125 pounds) at 25% below normal body weight.

  1. You do not look like this.

Without directly saying this, this message is implicitly implied. A study showed that observing an image of body image through the media leads women would increase depression and shame while reducing self-esteem and body satisfaction.

And that is the formula they use. Present an image that is unobtainable in which they know will cause women to feel bad and hate how they look. Then repeat the image over and over – as the Hitler propaganda system has proven to work – until they believe it to be true. Then, they will spend their money on your product, watch your programming, and have your surgery.

Oppression only Survives Through Silence

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”Susan B. Anthony

This is the implicit oppression of women in Western society.  For the majority of our country’s history there has been explicit oppression of women, people of color, homosexuals, mentally ill, and basically anybody who is not a white male. This only survives without anyone speaking out. Then comes the implicit, covert oppression which takes place by subliminally putting messages out through the media that one race, gender, or orientation is inferior.

There is a universally accepted concept that “nobody is perfect.” The concept of being perfect means to be without flaw and to hold all desired qualities and characteristics. So here we have the concept of “perfect” in which the beauty industry teaches us is the ultimate goal to happiness and joy, yet we are also constantly reminded that “nobody is perfect.”  Basically, stating that it is impossible to ever achieve this goal. It becomes a never-ending cycle of self-hatred, followed by seeking external pleasure to fill internal voids.

In reality, the opposite is actually true; which is also the antidote to this epidemic. The idea that nobody is perfect is the biggest lie you have ever been told. The truth is that everybody is perfect. To be perfect means to have all the desired qualities and characteristics – but it never says whose desires. If we can change the train of thought to realize that everything about us is already perfect, there would be no more comparison, and trying to be something we are not. Instead, loving what we already possess and loving everything about everyone else.

This is a concept known as unconditional love. It means to love without condition, without judgment, and to accept completely as it is. This means to not complain, question, or have a desire to change, but to accept perfectly as it is in the present moment.

While the concept seems simple, it is quite difficult. In fact, most people spend their lifetimes trying to achieve unconditional love.  In essence, unconditional love is synonymous with enlightenment.  Both refer to removing labels, judgments, and untruths, and seeing the world as it was presented to us through the lens of our true self. It means removing our mask and seeing the world for how it is, without its mask.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein

By Cortland Pfeffer   Photo by Brian Meyer @artbybrianmeyer

Robin Williams didn’t kill himself, stigma killed him. It kills many people like him everyday. Here is how:

STIGMA, that is the reason people do not ask for help. STIGMA is the reason people do not go to the doctor and say I’m depressed, or I’m an addict, or I do not feel things like anyone else. Who wants to say that they feel all these intense emotions?

Especially when you know what the result is likely going to be. When you know likely what will happen is the doctor will likely give you medication. People will tell you to change, or to just feel better.

The issue is we have it backwards, the depressed and mentally ill don’t need to change, society and our culture needs to change.

We, as a society, we do this. This is why people with great talents still kill themselves. Much has been written about Robin Williams; however why do you think he was such a good actor?

I’ll tell you what I think, it is because he got to wear a mask and pretend he was somebody else. That is easy to do when you do not like yourself.

Why don’t they ask for help? STIGMA. Why do people kill themselves? STIGMA. We are all Co responsible for this, and until we take responsibility for our part, things will never change.

A few years ago I was sitting with a patient. I’ll never forget as I watched her as she sat with her hands in her head crying. She was crying like I had never seen anyone cry before. She had just been told by her husband that he was leaving her and he would be taking her child with him. He would be divorcing her if she didn’t “change.” This child was 6 years old at the time.

I remember the look on her face like it was yesterday.She had a look of pain and anguish that I have never seen before. Her lips were shaking. I could see her chin trembling. Her knees were banging into each other as her feet were shuffling back and forth. The tears were coming down her face. They were clear tears, very clear and big tears. Her eyes were squinted and almost closed. Her mouth was leaning towards me as she trembled in fear as if to say to me, “do something, I don’t know what to do.” It took everything I had not to cry. I still cry as I write this.

That day, I did not. I sat and I was there for her. She said to me, “I don’t know what to do. My husband’s going to leave me if I don’t change and I don’t even know what that means.”

She paused as she saw me pause. Looking at me with eyes like a child saying “make me feel better, help my soul, this isn’t fair.” I didn’t save the world this day. However, for this moment, I was able to take away some pain, or teach her how to do this for herself in the future. That is good enough, because that is all we can do. That is how we can cause a mass ripple affect and stop suicides and pain. One moment at a time, every single action and every single moment matters, every single one.

So what I told her was “I know you’re feeling like somebody just hit you in the stomach and you have a dull aching pain that will not go away and you just want to keel over and surrender.” I knew this because I have been there. I spoke from the heart, not from a book.

However in my experience, this kind of pain is a beautiful thing. Why I say that is because in the moments like this in my life, this is when the truth entered me. Rumi says it best in my favorite quote of all time, “The wound is where the light enters you.” There have been times in my life where everything was ripped away. When I lost all the things that I thought that were important. Things like cars, houses, fake friendships and relationships with family members. These were the things I grasped to. I was certain I needed them or I would die. The beautiful thing about adversity is that it will rip away everything, so you can see what really is important. However, I wouldn’t recommend saying that to someone while they are going through this, unless you want to get punched in the face. It is painful, but it is beautiful if you let it be, then it becomes a wonderful gift.

She said “All I want to do lay down and go to bed.”I know she meant forever. The pain she was experiencing was shame. She felt like she was not ok. She had to change. She was sick. Her whole life as she knew it, her husband, her son, and everything she had ever known was going to be taken away from her because she was sick. She then put her hands on her head and cried.

She looked at me and I said to her,
“Sammy, just look at me.”

She put her face up, she stopped crying, her hands stopped shaking, and her chin stopped shaking. I had her attention. She paused, and she looked at me.

I said, “Sammy, there is nothing wrong with you.” She looked at me like this was the first time anyone had ever said that to her in her life. She sobbed and put her head in her hands.

Then she pulled her head back up and said, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”

Her husband was offered talks, education, and all other kinds of resources and ways to find out about her illness. He declined this every time he was offered. He always stated that he had to work or something else.

I said to her “We don’t know that he’s going to leave you. He’s probably stressed out because he has a kid all by himself for the first time and he’s working full time.Maybe he had a bad day.Good days come and go, and bad things come and go. That is life. We try to do our best with what we know at the time. Life flows.”

She shook her head yes. A sign to continue.

Then I said to her, “I’m sure you’ve had hard times before and it didn’t last forever. What you are doing is healthy because you are feeling your feelings. You aren’t running from the pain, you are taking off your mask; you are being strong and healthy. You aren’t cutting, you aren’t drinking and you are not gambling.You are feeling your true feelings and it sucks and it hurts what you are going through. You aren’t blaming anyone, you aren’t telling anyone they have to “change.” You are just being loving and hurting, you are being real.”

I told her a lot that day, but the only thing that really mattered is when I said, “There is nothing wrong with you.” That was the moment of clarity and truth.

I am going to finish her story towards the end of this. I have to talk about something else first.

The reason I tell this story is because of the stigma and how stigma destroys people, and stops the patients who are suffering from asking for help. It prevents people from wanting to get help because they are scared they are going to lose everything. They are scared that people are going to look at them weird and tell them to just get better. Stigma, that’s what it is. People don’t want to ask for help because of STIGMA.

Stigma is created by us. So we are the ones that can end it.

Loud, opinionated, yet uniformed people have power. They assume everybody in psychiatry is faking an illness. That is why we must stop stigma by education, not by hating. If we treat them the way they treat those with mental illness, then we are no different. As Martin Luther King Jr. Said, “Anger does not stop anger, hate does not stop hate. Only love can do that.”

So you look for opportunities to educate and you use them wisely. If we just randomly spout of at the mouth we lose credibility, even if what we are saying is accurate. If we try to reach people that are not ready to hear the truth, we will lose them. When you see an honest opportunity, we must use it, and jump on it. Educate every chance we get. You prepare yourself through reading and knowledge, then you will see more opportunities come, and that’s when you jump at them.

I want to talk about the most stigmatized illness in mental health. It is the illness that “Sammy” had. We call it a “disorder,” however, I want to try and show you how it is a gift, and not a “disorder.”

I want to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder. This is what they say is the single most difficult mental health diagnosis to treat, and the most difficult illness to have as a patient.

What is said is that those with this illness depend completely on the external enviornment for clues as to what emotion to feel. We say that they are manipulative, they are gamey, and they are attention seeking. We say they want everybody to love them and that they feel like it’s up to everybody else to make them feel good. We say that they don’t know how to feel. They feel intensely connected to everything therefore, affected greatly by everything. We say we need to teach them how to handle emotions. If you ask me, the wrong people are in the role of teacher.

The truth is that science is finding out very quickly that we ALL ARE IN FACT connected. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen, gas, and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.

There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years.This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness became coherent, things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of one’s and zeroes.The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion.

Some people still think that Darwin said evolution was about competition, survival of the fittest.However, that’s just the part that got popularized by people who had a hidden agenda. The truth is he said compassion and cooperation is what is essential. This is truly what he was about.

Every single thing you can see around you. The rocks, the birds, and the trees all are comprised of the same atoms. Just expressed differently.

There is science out there that shows if bees were to go extinct, that humans would not last more than 10 years. This is debatable, however we would suffer greatly, that is for sure. Albert Einstein once said that humans would not last 5 years without bees. One third of our food needs to be pollinated. That is mostly done by bees.

Science has also proved we are all connected in other ways.

Humans and chimps have 90% identical DNA.

Humans and mice have 88% identical DNA.

Humans and cows have 85% identical DNA.

Humans and dogs have 84% identical DNA.

Humans and Zebra Fish have 73% identical DNA.

I could go on and on. My point is, we are all connected. We use our genes differently, express them differently.

Science is figuring out what borderlines and great sages and philosophers have always said. We are all connected. So why is this a disorder again?

What we do is tell the people with this “Disorder” we call BPD, who have always felt connected to everything and everybody. We tell them that they are too emotional. What we are doing is we are telling these people with a gift, the gift of the truth, that they are crazy.

There is a trick that I see, especially in the hospitals. Someone comes in with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is very easy to look at the mood swings and say “It is a chemical issue.” Which is another myth. Chemical imbalances do not exist. The APA admitted this in 2005. It is used as a marketing tool by drug companies.

We then use this to diagnose them with Bipolar Disorder. Then what we can do is give them these “mood stabilizers” or these “antipsychotics,” and they will be sleeping and tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!”

We have chemically restrained them and shut them up because they speak the truth.

Marsha Linehan said they are like 3rd degree burn victims, if you just walk by them you can hurt them. My biggest questions and concern is, why do we call that a disorder? They are the ones that know the truth and we don’t, we lie; we put a mask on them because we do not like what they have to say.

How Borderline personality disorder is developed is very simple. We are all born with an innate temperament which can be on one of many different levels. We can be born not very emotional, slightly emotional, or normal emotional, (whatever that is). Then there is highly emotional and extremely emotional.

Once again, there are studies that prove this. They tested babies when they were first born and followed them. There were babies that cried more when their mothers would leave the room. When they were tickled by a feather they were much more affected by it. These babies grew up and continued to have the same innate temperament. It is something we are born with, like blue or brown eyes.

Temperament alone will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder. We all know emotional people, you know those people who we say “Wow they took that harder than anyone else.” The pain that they feel is intense.

Imagine you are eating a pizza, and you feel it is luke warm. The guy you are eating it with thinks it is burning hot and it is burning his mouth. We don’t understand him, we do not get it, and we roll our eyes and we make jokes and tell him to settle down, “What is wrong with you,” we say.

That is invalidation; we all do that from time to time to each other. That alone does that cause BPD.

Let’s pretend there is a boy named little Johnny. He is a very emotional person or perhaps an extremely emotional person. He has some “weird” instinct and/or intuitiveness where he can feel everything around him in his environment. He is in a family that is perhaps functional or dysfunctional. Regardless, the family and his friends do not understand his emotional states of being. Let’s say little Johnny is very connected to something he finds very important and we don’t understand his attachment. Then one day, he loses this item and he is crying continuously. An invalidating environment forces him to stop. We tell him that it is not OK, we tell him to quit being a baby. What we are really saying to him in other words is to “quit being yourself little Johnny.” Johnny now feels like something is wrong with him and he is not OK. Now he looks to the external environment to tell him how to feel.  He watches for cues on how to feel and how to act because he does not trust himself or his feelings.

Congratulations to society, he now is wearing a mask. The intense feelings are still there, just because they are hidden, does not mean they are gone. In fact this makes it much worse. The emotions are building up over time. He can’t take it so he gambles, he drinks, he cuts, he overeats, he steals, or he becomes hyper sexual to mask the feelings. The behavior depends on what’s most acceptable to his certain environment.

The next step is then the judgments come in about this behavior, the criticisms, and it’s usually from the ones that caused the behavior that are doing the most judging. The original shame about who he is, still is with him. Now he wakes up and he feels worse, he has more guilt and more shame. The intense emotions are worse now, so what does he do again? Well, first he fakes and fakes and fakes until he blows.What they call this in the books is “unrelenting crisis” what I call it is blaming the victim.

We have it backwards; it is hard to see someone go through all this and especially when we do not understand. However, to say “It’s all attention seeking and drama,” is really making it much much worse.

Sometimes the only way anyone understands is if he attempts suicide. This may be the only time he gets reinforced by family. Still no one ever tells him he is OK. What we have done accidentally is told him that he has to be somebody else.

One invalidating moment will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder, it is repeatedly invalidating someone and telling them who they are is not OK is what causes it. We must remember that these are the people that understand life and connections. Instead of validating them, what we do is we drug them up until then they have no behavior, when really they have a gift.

That’s where stigma comes in. Let’s shut them up.They don’t play pretend like the rest of us. They don’t play grown up very well. They just speak the truth so we get them drugged up and we put them in hospitals, and we call them names behind their backs.

What we think of them is something which affects how we treat them. This, in turn, affects the reaction we get. We have made it so that they don’t think they are OK. What we have done is we have tricked them.

The truth is, we are not OK. Another thing we are told is that this is the toughest mental health diagnosis to work with. I was told this before I knew what it was. It would frighten me. The behavior frightened me. When I first started about 20 years ago and I was training in, I was told this was all attention seeking behavior and manipulative. I watched the elder staff roll their eyes so then I started doing it. I thought it was fake and I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to have to dig deep.

We train our mental health professionals that these people are “bad.”

Then it was explained to me this is a trauma disorder. 100% of people with this disorder have suffered trauma. The statistics say 70%, I do not believe that for one second, I am convinced it is 100%.What is a trauma is different to each person. What is a trauma to me may not be a trauma to you. If you are on the top of a ladder when you fall down, it is a lot more painful to fall than if you were only on the first step . I believe that they have powers and they are locked in darkness, like a genie in a bottle.

I am NOT saying this is easy to deal with. I have had relationships with some of them and it is difficult to understand. They are not bad, they have a gift. They know your emotions instinctively and they sense and feel things that we can’t feel. They know how to make people happy, they can read your soul.

In a way they are lucky, and in a way they are not. The way they are not is the way that our society treats them and tells them that it’s not okay.

Back to the story I started with. This patient was crying with her head in her hands and trembling in fear while her husband was about to take her life away because she was sick. How is this justice?

I said “What do you need to change Sammy?” and she said “I don’t know.”

I said for the second time “There is nothing wrong with you.”

I didn’t save her life. A few months later, she killed herself.

However, for that one day she felt she was ok. I know this because she was brighter, and happier.She looked better. She felt ok.

That is all we can do is embrace every moment with each other and make it the best moment possible. In that room, for that day, she felt ok for once in her life. She got better and was discharged in a week.

So to all you Sammy’s out there, and all the Sammy’s I will meet in the future. My message is you are ok, we are not.

She didn’t kill herself, Stigma killed her. This is the same thing that killed Robin Williams. He will get enough attention, the Sammy’s of the world will not.

We will never change the problems of the world until we start embracing diversity and gifts.We have these intuitive, special people and they are invalidated and abused. We continue to abuse and punish them. We need to stop punishing them. I agree, yes , the behaviors are tough. But there is truth in their behavior.There is a truth that sometimes we do not want to deal with.

We have to simply change or reframe the way we see things. See beyond the mask. To do this, sometimes we have to forget all the knowledge we think we think we have.

Sammy, there was nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with us.

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People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

  • Mother Teresa

By Irwin Ozborne contributing writer to TTMO

There are no coincidences in life. A coincidence is defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent connection or significant meaning. Again, these do not exist because all coincidences have meaning which is what Carl Jung defined as a synchronicity.

Synchronicities refer to the law of unity, that we are all linked through our unconscious. There is no separation between you, me, anyone, or anything. Any movement, no matter how small, will eventually be felt by us all.

Every interaction we have with others will trigger a chain reaction that impacts the universe. This can be small interactions that include a friendly smile to the clerk at the gas station, changing her day, which may make her smile at the next person, who treats his clients better, and they go along and feel better and pass along the chain of love to the next. It can also have enormous impacts on the world such as a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 which led to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Once we are aware of synchronicities, we start seeing them every day and with every moment, interaction, and movement. In fact, we see that not only are synchronicities true, but that they exist in every single moment. Everything is a synchronicity; every moment is changing the course of history for the world.

Yesterday, I had one of these that reminded me of how simple this works.

I had plans to meet up with someone at 9:00 p.m., and I was early so I stopped by my local gym to go for a quick 45 minute jog. Cardio has become a form of meditation for me and allows me to clear my mind and come up with new ideas. Currently, I had been struggling with how I can do more to give back to others and make a difference on the world. I was hoping that a quick cardio session would boost some creative juices and give me some ideas.

However, the universe had a greater plan in place. About seven minutes into my jog, the sole of my shoe had started to rip open and I could feel my big toe pressing against the moving rubber of the treadmill. Frustrated, I wanted to “fight through it,” but knew that it would only create much greater pain. I had no choice, but to end my session at this point. I didn’t feel like lifting, so I returned to my car to text my friend and see if we could meet earlier.

As I drove away from the gym, I was receiving about twenty texts and needed to pull over and see what was going on. Through the intersection, there is a Super America gas station on the left and a Walgreens pharmacy on the right. I come here often, and I would say 99 percent of the time I stop for a snack or anything that I always go to the gas station. I had every intent on going to the gas station today, in fact, had my left blinker on and there was a car behind me and it was clear to turn.

Just at this instant, it was if somebody grabbed hold of the wheel because I felt an incredibly strong urge to go to Walgreens suddenly. I switched my blinker to the right side and made a quick, sharp turn into the pharmacy so fast that my tires squealed which was quite embarrassing to say the least.

While I sat in my car responding to texts and in my own world, I continued to ask what I can do to give back and help the world. I grabbed a piece of paper and started making a list of the things I wanted to do to help volunteer, start new projects, or reach out to others. I came up with an incredible list and then just asked, “If only an opportunity would present itself to me.”

Then, opportunity knocked.

Literally, a knock on my passenger side glass startled me and I looked up. As I looked out the window, there was a middle-aged African-American man that had taken a good couple steps back from my car and had both his hands up as if to show me that he had no weapon and that he was not a threat. He had a sincere look of helplessness on his face and I almost wondered what my facial expression looked like to have him jump back a few steps. I rolled down the window and you could see everything in this man’s body language that he was in dire need.

“I am so very sorry,” the man stated with remorse in his eyes, “I really hate to bother you but I am in need of some help.”

“Sure what’s up?” I asked curiously.

“Do you know where Brooklyn Park is?” he asked, “It’s a long ass way from here. I came out here to help some people out and now I’m the one stuck here.”

Just to clarify, Brooklyn Park is a predominately black suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I live in a predominately white suburb about an hour away from this man’s destination. I wasn’t sure what he needed at this time and just kept my window down and waiting for him to continue.

“This is so embarrassing, but I was out here helping someone out and I am just about out of gas,” he said with a shamed look in his face, “I have to make it all the way back to Brooklyn Park and I forgot my wallet. I’m trying to do a good thing and this is what happens. Is there any chance you could help me out?”

“Yeah, let’s go inside and I’ll grab you some cash,” I told him and you could see the life go back into this man’s life. As if hope in humanity had been restored.

As we walked inside to the ATM machine, I felt all eyes were upon us. An elderly couple looked at me in disgust, a middle-aged white man scowled at the man who was in need, one of the younger female workers had fear in her eyes. The woman behind the counter, the only other African-American in the store, gave me a look in her eye which said “you have a kind heart” but her facial expression had a tone as if to say, “but you are being taken advantage of by this guy.”

I gave them man $20 and asked if that would be enough to get him home.

“Thank you so much, you have no idea how embarrassing this is,” he said with a tear in his eye, “I asked a couple people and you wouldn’t believe their response. One man told me, ‘How the HELL does a GROWN-ASS man forget his wallet!’”

“I do it all the time,” I told him, “We’ve all been there. I’d hope someone would do the same for me if I were in your situation.”

He gave me a hug in front of everyone in the store and wished me a happy Fourth of July weekend. I wished him well and went on my way to pick up a few snacks at the store myself.

This is what I call a soul contract. A soul contract is a prearranged contract prior to entering this lifetime that we make with others. We do so in order to teach each other lessons that help us grow. This was part of our plan to meet at this encounter, and the universe works in ways to make sure we meet.

The worn out soles of my tennis shoes led me to another worn out soul asking for help.

But this is not where the soul contracts end, it goes much deeper. We actually have soul contracts with every person we encounter, every single day. There were other soul contracts with each person in that store for us to teach each other lessons.

As I made my way to the counter, the middle-aged man who had previously yelled at the guy asking for help was in front of me. He spent $34.17 that day, mostly on junk food, soda, candy, and unnecessary items.

“I can’t believe you gave that man money,” he tells me in disgust, “You realize he is taking it to the liquor store or a crack house right now.”

“That is not up to me,” I told the man as I looked directly into his eyes that filled with hurt of his own, “I am only responsible for my actions, choices, and behaviors. I am not responsible for the outcome. The man asked for money to get home and I willingly gave him some money. That is all that happened. Nobody knows the outcome, nor do we need to know.”

The man grumbled and threw his hands at me as to say, “The hell with you.” Then he took his bags of junk food and walked out the store continuing to carry with him his bitterness of this entire situation.

I also had a soul contract with this man. He was teaching me of how I have acted in situations in the past. In fact, just thirty minutes ago, worn out soles of my sneakers had ruined my day and I was getting bitter. Everyone we encounter is just a reflection of ourselves, and this man was portraying the way I was acting internally not too long ago. I was letting a minor inconvenience ruin my day. That is the lesson he was providing me. Hopefully, my lesson to him was spreading love. But again, it is not up to me what my lesson is to him. I am not responsible for results.

The woman behind the counter did not even mention the interaction. She just smiled and wished me well after paying for my items. There was a soul contract there too. I do not know the reasons, nor do I need to know. I have no idea how this story ends and probably never will. It brings great inner peace to no longer have the need to attach to outcomes. But it also brings great humility to remember that each person I meet, despite our difference is beliefs, opinions and attitudes, is there to teach me something and help me grow.

There are three main ways to help remember soul contracts and help use them throughout our daily lives. The first one is remembering the story of Brahma. In this tale, Brahma creates the universe and all the people. His friend Maya then asks to play a game in which she cuts Brahma up into millions of pieces and puts a piece of him in every human. She erases his memory so he does not remember, and the game is for him to find himself in every person – or for each of us to find God in each other.

Taking this concept one step deeper, I realize that every person is actually me from a different lifetime. It works on the same level as the story of Brahma. We are all one interconnected being and experiencing the world from different perspectives. When I view the world this way, I see the pain and hurt in others eyes, and see into their soul. I do not know the man’s story that was so angry, but I know that was me from a different lifetime and I am trying to help him grow and flourish.

The third way of thinking of soul contracts, is taking the second concept even one step further. Since we are all God from a different perspective, I think of each person I encounter as an enlightened master and have been put in my path to teach me a lesson. Everyone I meet is enlightened, except for myself. With this perspective, I learn from everyone. The man needing gas, the old couple, the angry man, the scared employee, and the kind woman behind the counter, were all put there to teach me something. I can only hope that I learned the lesson. But if I do not learn the lesson, the soul contracts have stipulations to ensure that we do not move on until we get what we needed to know from that interaction.

Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to go about looking at the world; as if nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” I prefer the latter. I prefer to believe that worn out soles leads me to worn out souls, and that worn out souls will always lead me to greater peace, freedom, and serenity.

americandream

“They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” –George Carlin

The Washington post reported that there was 462 people shot to death by police in the first half of 2015. The author also stated on NPR that all this information is normally something that is voluntarily reported. Police are not required to report these things. The reason the number is so high this year is because the Washington Post is keeping track.

We then see the communities blame each other, the riots, and the protests. We all want a victim and a villain. We all want change. By that, we mean we want the other side to change.

In my over 20 years as a patient and staff member, I have met some interesting, amazing people. These 2 people’s stories who I am about to share had a great impact on me. I became close to both of them. They told me their stories and I learned of them through the chart, family, and getting to know them.

They grew up 45 minutes apart. You would never know it by their stories. Read their stories, and tell me which one is the

“bad guy.”

Jerry was born a few months earlier. His height and weight for a newborn was normal. He had no physical difficulties. He passes all the tests needed. He is cleared as a healthy newborn baby. He is allowed to go home with his parents and his 2 older siblings.

The young couple is unsure of how they will handle this financially. The father did not have a job or an education. The mother worked as a secretary for little money. She worked long hours and she was not home often. When she was home, she was tired and not in the mood to cook for 2 kids and her husband.

The marriage was not well either. Neither of Jerry’s parents had a normal childhood growing up. There was alcohol, and at times there was drugs in the house. The father did not have the skills to be a father, as he was never taught himself. So while the mother was away, Jerry and his brothers were left to fend for themselves.

The first stage in a child’s life, age’s birth to 18 months, is important. It is when the child develops a trust or mistrust of the world. They decide if it is safe, or if it is unsafe.

Jerry was left in his crib most of the first year of his life. He was held and fed. He was given enough to survive. He was changed 2-3 times per day. The family needed to save on diapers and food. The mother was resentful of the father for not working, and she was tired from work. She held Jerry when she had the energy and did the very best she could.

The father was around, but he was beaten severely as a child and did not know how to care for an infant. However, he was the one home. He stayed outside and worked on the car most of the day and drank.

The older siblings, ages 3 and 5, tried to take care of Jerry. But they had no idea how to do this. They were rough with Jerry. They were kids unsupervised, so accidents happened.

Jerry developed severe rashes from not being changed. At one time his brother broke Jerry’s arm at age 1.

The family went to the hospital and the social worker examined Jerry and concluded it was an accident. The second time, she called it in to child protection.

Child protection came out and did a family assessment. The mother was working, the father was attempting to get on social security, and the house was clean. The children were not in “imminent danger.”

The social worker has 45 cases with loads of paperwork on each case because the county cannot afford more social workers. So she gives her card and closes the case.

The siblings were beaten harshly for Jerry’s injury.

At about the same time, in another part of the city, another child is born. His name is Ashton. He is born at a normal weight and height. He passes all the tests and is sent home with his parents as well.

His father was in the army for 10 years and was now working at the Airport as a mechanic. He had served in the War. He was considered a hero to most. Ashton’s mother was a Dentist and she had her own practice in town. They were very involved in the community and a well-respected family by all in the town. Ashton was the only child born to his parents.

Ashton grew up in a home that believed in performance and image. His mother was at work often. Ashton’s father was excited to teach him everything he could. He did not give many hugs or much affection. Ashton was taken to the best day care, and he was placed in the most expensive classes for kids. He was given the best food and the best clothes.

Ashton’s mother loved him, but she really never wanted children. She had grown up in a dysfunctional home and her way of escaping that was by performing. She was very unsure of herself even though she was smart and excelled at everything she did. She was a great mother, but she did not believe herself to be. So she stayed away, almost in fear of ruining her child.

That is where Ashton’s father came in, he took charge. He set the rules and the way things would be. He was the general. This comforted Ashton’s mother and made her feel safe. It also made Ashton’s father feel very important and powerful.

Ashton did not get much more hugs and affection than Jerry. However, it appeared on the outside that he did. In fact, he may have gotten less. He was always with some “expert” on some sort of child care. Jerry at least had his misguided siblings holding him.

Now they are toddlers. They are both learning to build self-esteem and autonomy. Learning new skills and right from wrong. When a child fails here, they can feel shame and develop low self-esteem. A child can also start to gain confidence at this point.

Jerry is growing up in the same home. It has gotten worse. He is older now, he can walk and talk. His brothers often use him as a toy. His father has gotten on disability so he has money. It is being spent on alcohol as he sits with his friends and drinks all day. There is rotten food in the refrigerator that the children eat during the day. They often only eat once per day. They go outside on their own and come dangerously close to accidents all the time. It somehow never happens.

Jerry follows his brothers around and is beaten a lot. He is teased, and no one is really there to protect him. No one is there to encourage him to try new things or to teach him. He sometimes watches TV, but often his father is watching a sporting event. Jerry watches sports. His dad will at times reach over and hug him when his father’s team is winning. Jerry loves this.

Jerry’s mother will come home and the fighting will start. It is getting pretty bad. The father beats the mother in front of the children when she argues or complains that nothing is done. The children run and scream. If they are too loud, they get hit as well. They learn to hide downstairs in the filth and dog feces.

The kids get sick but are not taken to the doctor, there is no health insurance. Now there is an added fear of the social services being involved. The older kids are in school and Jerry’s mother gets them off in the morning. They look decent enough that it is not worth it to the teachers to do anything. The teachers in Jerry’s school have 40 kids in a classroom. Many are worse off than Jerry’s family. There is nowhere to put these children if social services takes them away. Jerry’s brothers slip under the radar. No visible unexplainable bruises, they are clean, and not starving. So no one pays attention.

Jerry sits at home with his father. Jerry has accidents and his father will hit him very hard at times. Jerry is 3 and has no idea what he did wrong. Or what he should do. He learns to stay away and not speak up.

Around the same time, Ashton’s life has continued. His father is teaching him right from wrong and he is pounding his beliefs into Ashton. “We” are the “good” guys. “They” are the “bad” guys. He tells Ashton when they watch the news. He points to criminals on TV and tells Ashton “they are the bad guys. We have to protect people.”

He buys Ashton his army toys and his police uniform and toy guns. When Ashton plays along, he gets hugs and high fives from his dad. He is accepted, so Ashton now knows this is what he does to get attention. So he does it. He is rewarded for this.

When Ashton’s mother sees him crying, she will go to give him love. Ashton’s father steps in and ridicules her. She is insecure and does not believe in herself. So she listens and stays away. She hears Ashton’s dad spanking him extra hard for things that Ashton knows nothing about, but she sits off to the side. She goes to work and performs. That is how she has always coped.

Ashton’s parents are well regarded. Ashton is beginning soccer and tee ball. He gets special coaches and teachers to make him the best. He is taught all the time how to succeed. He must keep up the family image. When he does well, it is fun times. If he fails, not so much. If he cries about failing, that is worse. Then there is punishment.

The children continue to grow up. Now in preschool and kindergarten. This is the time children begin to copy adults and start to create play. They begin to experiment with what they think it means to be an adult. This is when the exploring begins and the “why” questions happen. The child may start to feel guilt over natural desires and goals.

Jerry goes to preschool and kindergarten and is a very rough kid. He is very sensitive as well. His feelings are hurt easily. But he knows not to show that by crying or speaking up.

However, it is acceptable to show anger in his family. His dad shows it often. So Jerry hits and kicks. It is what has happened to him his whole life, and so when he punches back he is sometimes rewarded. His dad has the boys have boxing matches for his own entertainment.

Jerry’s mother is withdrawn and depressed at this point. It is a complete disaster in their house. She does not care. Once every so often, she still stands up to Jerry’s dad. She will get the wrench, the belt, and it is getting worse.

Jerry and his brothers have learned to hit and kick their mom when she does not serve them as well. It is what they do now. “Get me my pop.” If she does not get it for the boys, she is hit and punched by her own son’s. This increases her withdrawal. She gets them to school and that is about all they see of her.

They get good enough grades to pass and fly under the radar. At conferences, the kids will get a beating if there is a bad report. The teacher knows that if she tells the parents, that these kids settle down for a while and that makes it easier on her. She has bigger problems in her classroom. So she threatens to tell Jerry’s parents if he is “bad.” Jerry learns to hide even more.

Ashton goes to the best preschools and kindergarten. He stands out and performs well. He is advanced, not because of his intellect, but because of all the training his parents have put him through so it appears that way. Ashton is told he is the best now by the teachers, the parents, and everyone. He is the star. He begins to tell the other kids how to act if they want to be “the good guys.”

He no longer does it for affection, he knows it as his truth. He does cry for his mother at times, but that is fading. She comes less and less. She will sneak him an Ice Cream and some hugs at times. She is spending more time at work.

Ashton’s father does not allow tears. Or talk of emotion. He studies and takes his classes and the family does their public appearances. They see family for a while, but never too often. You cannot keep up this image for too long before it cracks, so they make quick exits.

They prefer to send out emails and cards speaking of accomplishments and vacations. We “don’t have problems.” They say. “It is great. “

They have the image. Truthfully, there is not fighting in their house. Ashton’s mother is not home enough to fight, and she is too fearful and insecure to fight. So there is not fighting, but there also is no love.

The children begin to grow. They are now school age. They are learning new skills and knowledge. This is when the friends begin to have a major influence. A child can develop inferiority at this stage and low self-esteem if they have unresolved feelings of inadequacy.

Jerry is not allowed to have friends over at his house. He does not want them over either. Jerry goes over to his friends’ houses all the time. He is avoiding beatings by his father and his brothers. Jerry being gone gives his family one less mouth to feed and less problem.

Jerry’s mom eventually leaves in the middle of the night and no one knows where she went. Jerry gets the brunt of this for a couple years. He is the most caring, so he is the target. He begins to stay at friends’ houses more and more. There is older kids at his friends and they begin to introduce drinking, sex, and drugs to Jerry. He loves it. He feels at peace for the first time in his life. He finally is free. He begins to do this every day. He is bright enough to pass his classes.

Ashton is going to a private school. He has a little more competition than he or his father would like. His father gets on all the school boards and makes sure Ashton makes all the sports teams. Ashton starts to have a hard time, and other children are able to beat him at academics and sports. His father becomes angry. He demands Ashton practices more, and they hire more coaches. Ashton’s mother is told to work more in order to pay for the extra training. Ashton is starting to learn how to cheat to win. As if he wins, his father is happy.

He performs well and learns to cheat well. His father gives him accolades. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, you have to beat the bad guys for the good of the world. And we are the good guys.”

His father teaches him about the “scum bags” and the “losers,” and how they need to be locked up and put away. Ashton is ridiculed by his father if he does not have friends.

Ashton goes to all the family events to hear his father and mother talk about how amazing he is. This gives him purpose. Ashton sees another kid cheating on a test and reports him. He is awarded at school and at home for stopping this awful behavior. He is told he is a hero for stopping it.

The kids go to high school. They are developing their own identity.

Jerry is a full blown drug addict. He skips school and eventually drops out. He is sensitive so the girls like him, until he hits them of course. That is what he does. He drinks and uses for that peaceful feeling. Jerry cannot find a job. His drug issues land him in court a few times.

Jerry moves from place to place. Eventually he is placed on social security like his father was. He has a girl that stays with him for a while. She becomes pregnant.

They have a child and Jerry changes. Jerry loves his little boy with all of his heart. He hugs him and kisses him and he doesn’t care what people think.

He cannot beat his addiction on his own. Jerry still gets frustrated and has no idea how to deal with things. He hits his girlfriend often. She stays for the child, and because she sees how much love is still in Jerry’s heart. They are on support. They live in a subsidy. A one bedroom apartment.

Jerry starts seeking help, he goes to psychiatrist and although he misses appointments much of the time. He is trying. He has some brain injuries from his childhood that make things harder for him.

One night, Jerry comes home and his girlfriend is crying holding their child. Someone broke in to the house and stole the food stamps and money. Jerrys son is crying uncontrollably. Jerry does not know what to do. He screams at his son and his girlfriend to stop crying. She yells at him that if he wasn’t out partying and had a job this wouldn’t happen. Jerry is about to cry. All the shame and inadequacy comes back. He doesn’t want to hit anyone. He leaves the apartment. He is scared, he feels like a failure. He has no confidence or self-esteem, and he has no idea how to deal with emotions. He leaves in anger, he has to find out what happened. He has to provide for his son. He has to make this right.

As Ashton goes to high school, he fades as the academic all-star and sports star. He begins to lose his whole identity. He knows that when he serves a “justice to the community,” he is applauded and rewarded and at least not ridiculed. He sees kids having fun, partying, and skipping class and he makes sure they are found out. He begins to tell on his own friends.

Ashton will go to the parties, go to the events and fit in. Then he goes right to his father and the principal. This gives Ashton accolades and self-worth. He starts to get excited, and feel superior, as if he is above them and is able to deceive them. He is motivated to catch anyone who crosses him or anyone who makes him look bad.

Ashton graduated high school with a 3.4. He got decent ACT scores. He did not get accepted in to the best colleges so his father was greatly disappointed. So Ashton stopped applying out of fear. He told his father he was applying, but he wasn’t.

When Ashton’s father finds this out he tells him to leave and that he is on his own. He needs to find his own way and learn to struggle and to be a man. Ashton is heartbroken. His mother tries to hug him, Ashton’s father stops it. At this point, Ashton resents his mother so much for not helping him, he doesn’t care. Ashton has no idea where to go or what to do.

Eventually he is sleeping in his car, and surviving eating ramen noodles. He has no money. Eventually Ashton goes in to community college and it is easy for him. He is drawn to becoming the law, because that is “who he is.”

He is a child that has been taught this. In his mind he is sure who is right and who is wrong, who is bad and who is good. This is for him. He thrives and graduates in 3 years with a degree in criminal justice.

After he is in the program, his father begins to help him out again. Ashton is now waiting to become a police officer. His father uses his influence to get Ashton a job right away, which is rare for police. Usually they want people with life experience. Ashton, at age 21 is now a police officer.

Now in reality, their lives never crossed. However, this is a very likely scenario if they ever did:

On this night that Jerry has gone out after he has been robbed, Ashton is working the street.

Jerry sees a pizza man walking alone. Jerry runs after the pizza man and demands he hands it over to him. Jerry steals the pizza and in his anger he kicks and punches the pizza man. He is bringing this back to his family.

Ashton gets the call. He arrives on the scene and talks to the pizza man and knows he has to bust this “creep.”

He spots Jerry and chases him down. Jerry has the pizza in one hand and his pants are falling off. He has to get home. He reaches down in his pants to pull them up, as it’s the only pair of pants he owns.

Ashton knows this is his chance. Jerry is not going to get away. BAM!

Jerry is dead. Ashton has killed him.

This is how a police shooting happens.

Now Jerry is dead and his community is enraged. They are protesting, they are against the police force and riots ensue. They set fires. Eventually police are being attacked.

Ashton’s community is giving each other high fives, saying “no one steals in our neighborhoods. No one. We got him.”

They think it’s great that a “bad” guy was caught. Over a pizza.

There is a tape of the incident. Ashton is arrested and charged with murder. His community is outraged. His father is embarrassed and his mother is devastated.

Ashton is found guilty and is sentenced to 25 years in prison.

His family abandons him. He is alone. He is an embarrassment, and he has a very hard time in jail. He is beaten and attacked routinely. He spends most of his life in jail.

Jerry is dead. His girlfriend becomes involved in drugs and Jerry’s son grows up in a worse environment than he did.

What happened to the real Jerry is he did rob a pizza man and beat him that night. That is a part of his record. He now is in prison, for multiple drug offenses and never sees or speaks to his son.

What happened to the real Ashton is he has been to treatment multiple times, he is no longer on the police force. He lives alone and drinks daily with no contact with his family.

Both destroyed. It does not always end happy. There are many others like them out there suffering.

The crisis divides us by race. But what if I told you Jerry was white, and Ashton was black? Would that change your mind on who is the victim here?

What if I told you they both were black? Or they both were white?

Would that change your mind?

I do not need to tell you what race they were, because it doesn’t matter. This is more than a race issue.

This is an inequality, poverty, abuse, and a mask issue.

What happens is the system tells you how to behave, who to like, and what is acceptable. They tell you to get married and have certain cars and houses. They tell you what you need to be, they create many masks.

Then you do all the stuff the mask makers tell you to do, and we are all walking around depressed and don’t know why.

It is because it is their dream, not ours.

Then when a crisis happens, it creates an “us vs them” issue, when it is in fact a “we” issue.

Those that are profiting off the mask sit by, keep making money, keep creating masks, and are slipping away while we all fight against each other.

You know how to stop them? Stop fighting each other and start loving and accepting each other. Then the mask makers will go away.

But we need a villain, a “bad” guy. We have to take “sides.” There has to be a “right” and a “wrong.”

We are taught that as kids. It is all over the cartoons. Batman punching the “bad” guys.

What if there is no such thing as “good” guys, or “bad” guys? What if we were all in this together?

This is one story, but behind each crisis there is a story that holds the truth.

However, we choose not to look behind the mask, we choose not to look at the real issues, and we choose not to look in the mirror.

That is partially because of the images shown to us over and over again. The images enrage us and creates a false story that gets us to take sides. The same people showing us these images are profiting off of our masks. How do they profit? Well they get higher ratings, and they can charge more for commercial time then.

Until we start to love and accept each other, this will never change.

We all are responsible for Jerry and for Ashton. How many times a day do we see a child struggling, or a family hurting, and look the other way? How many kids are starving throughout the world while we eat double cheeseburgers in excess?

Then a crisis happens and we react and blame each other. Which only breeds more hate, more violence.

Maybe they both were victims. Of all of us. Of society. Of the masks.

There is a solution.

It is simply to look in the mirror, and remember who you truly are, and dedicate yourself to love that day.

It is not just up to the families. How many people came across these kids and had the chance to be the one to love them in their lives? We cannot fix these broken systems over night, but we can give love to someone who needs it.

One person giving either of them unconditional love and acceptance, would have changed this whole story.

They both were chasing love their whole lives. Jerry to get rid of the shame and pain and feel like he is a good dad. Ashton was chasing love by getting the “bad” guys. It was not even real love they were chasing. They had that within them, no one ever showed either of them. They chased the false love and masks passed on to them.

It is time to stop making people chase after false love, and give them real love.

saving-drowning-man

“Sometimes our inability to control our instincts gives us a level of courage we don’t normally have.” -Jason Whitlock

We all try to hide ourselves with the mask, even if we do not know we are doing it. However, there are times that we cannot hide our true nature. It is usually in a crisis or a moment when our instincts take over. The true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Usually, it is a beautiful thing to witness. It is like seeing a picture of love. It is a rare occurrence. I was thinking of this example the other day and decided it might be a good moment in my life to share.

The courtroom was full. The custody battle has been long and complicated. Judge Harrington has heard this go on in his courtroom for months. Everyone was finally done presenting their cases and the evidence. It was full of emotion but silent. Judge Harrington is to address the court and the hundreds of people that are there with an emotional, vested interest.

He stands up and says “Tom, you are the mother’s father, you have been here for every single event in the courtroom. You have come to all the conferences and meetings. You have missed work for this, you are a dedicated man. What is your opinion on what should happen with the child?”

What? He is asking Tom what he thinks. He is the Judge and he is asking Tom what Tom thinks? Tom was the father of “Ally” who is the mother. “Ally” was his only daughter. He has one grandchild, and that was Kayla. He has been a large part of Kayla’s life up to this point. Kayla is the child in question here, she is 5 years old. Kayla and “Ally” live close to Tom, Kayla goes fishing with him, and she knows him so well. She hugs Grandpa Tom every time she sees him. He loves having Kayla around, she brings life to everyplace she is, like most 5 year old little girls.

Tom and his daughter “Ally,” have a great relationship. She has gotten involved in drugs recently, and he is trying to help her. He has always been a loving father. When “Ally” was young, she was emotionally abandoned by her mother, who never wanted children. So Tom raised her most of his life and was a loving, caring man. He was not perfect, as none of us are, but his heart was pure.

Is this why the Judge was asking him? I didn’t know. I did not like it. I was the one on the other side. I wanted my daughter and had been waiting my whole life for this moment. Her mother, “Ally,” was a full blown drug addict, and had been failing drug test after drug test. This should be a slam dunk. I was very upset that the Judge was asking Tom this.

I yelled at the Judge, “What the hell is this Bull****, why is it up to him? Why are you even asking him?” My heart was trembling in fear. I was shaking, I was sweating and nervous. I looked back at my mother and her lower lip was quivering. My father was standing in silence. All my siblings were looking. We were all so young. Ages from 16-24. No one had been in a situation like this.

Judge Harrington said “I suggest you settle down or you will be held in contempt of court, do you even know what that is young man?”

My lawyer had me leave the room. He said, “It may be best if you are not here for this, you are too emotional and you will be perceived in a poor manner.”

I am thinking to myself, “What the heck is going on here. I am not the one addicted to drugs. I am the one trying to go to school, I am recovering for my daughter.” My daughter was gone for years in Florida, then she had come back. I had started to get better and prepare for this. Now it seemed everything was falling apart right before my eyes. “I am going to lose this thing now,” is all I could think.

After doing the right thing, after going through the pain of losing Kayla, then getting her back in my life. Then I dedicate myself to bettering myself to become a good father. I tried to help her mother “Ally,” get into treatment, and still after this I am still going to lose her again? My heart was broken and I was in distress. The anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, embarrassment, and everything from my past was all coming up, and making me look to Judge Harrington like an out of control emotional kid. I had already lost her, my child, once, and I had thought forever. Now this second chance was being taken from me is what I felt.

Why was I so afraid of him asking Tom? Well in the beginning, I was good friends with Tom. But I was also a 17 year old punk that got his 16 year old daughter pregnant. We then fought for years. I said some horrible things to him and was rude and a jerk to him. He was the same to me. He did not like me and it was clear. Now he was going to decide my fate? How is this justice?

When “Ally” came back to the Midwest, and was getting involved in drugs. I was not trying to take the child away. This got Tom to respect me a little bit and earn a little trust. I was trying to get her in to treatment. I was trying to help. However, when you are not healthy yourself, and you are trying to help someone it is much like if a surgeon is bleeding while they are doing surgery. You are trying to help, but really you end up just injecting your own poison into that person.

I had no idea about addiction, mental health or anything. Yet here I was trying to understand it all and help someone who was a full blown meth addict and shooting up daily. I couldn’t understand why someone would leave their child for weeks at a time. I couldn’t understand why someone would say they wanted treatment then ditch out when they realized the cops were not after them anymore. I didn’t understand why someone would keep using after all the consequences. I didn’t know who this person was that was neglecting, and abusing my daughter.

The “Ally” I knew was a caring, and loving person who had been abandoned basically by her mother emotionally her whole life. Then her mother left for Florida when she found out her 16 year old daughter, “Ally” was pregnant. “Ally” was abused in many ways as a child, physically, emotionally, and sexually. But her heart was pure. I could not understand this person she had become. I was trying to help her. We all were. However it was not going well, and speaking for myself only, I was making it worse and I did not realize it at the time.

Tom was surprised that I was not coming down and just trying to get custody. We started to talk, we bonded as we tried to help “Ally” together for the child. Tom loved his daughter “Ally” and was a great father. We were so frustrated, she was calling everyone names, bringing up everyone else’s dirty laundry. We didn’t understand. Tom saw me prevent her from being arrested. Eventually, I had given up and we were now in this long drawn out custody dispute.

It got to a point that I bailed “Ally” out of jail once, and Tom had become mad at me for helping her too much. Everyone really was doing their best but we were all brining our own stuff into this situation and the years of mistrust and fear and anger were all present.

As I look back now, I realize we were all fighting because we all wanted to love this child. If you take away the fear, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions, we could have solved this ourselves. But here we were in a recess at court after my blowup in the courtroom with the Judge asking Tom of all people what he thinks. This was it, I was the crazy one. This was all going to be taken away and I knew it.

I sat alone in a room at the courthouse. I refused to talk to everyone. I was alone. This was one of those points in my life that I realized I really have no control over anything what so ever. It was not a painful thing. Well, at first it was frustrating, I could not talk my way out of anything, I could not throw a fit and get my way, and I could not manipulate. I could not take Kayla and run, I would be in jail then. This was completely out of my hands, I had no control. The funny thing is, we never do. We only think we do. Control is a human illusion.

This was one of my first forced third steps. Forced to surrender. I would forget it later, but also go back to it throughout my life when it was needed. I was receiving a painful gift. I got on my knees and I cried, first about how unfair it was, then about how mad I was, then about what I was going to do if things didn’t go my way. Then when all the garbage was out, it was just tears. Crying and hoping for the best. I was hoping that the best happens and just trusting that if I am a good guy and my intentions are pure and I do it with love in my heart that it will turn out ok. I surrendered that day. I was not mad, instead all the anxiety, fear and negative emotions were gone. What I felt was a freedom I had not felt before. I realized that I was allowed to love my daughter regardless of where I was or who she was with. No one could take that from me. This was not going to be the end. No one can take my heart or my soul. I felt an immense freedom.

I was calm and came back to the courtroom. I apologized to the Judge. The Judge continued, “Before we were interrupted by the outburst, I had asked Tom what he thought. Tom, where do you think Kayla should be. With you, with the uncles, or the mother or the father, what is your opinion?”

Tom stood up, everyone was looking at him, He had tears in his eyes, and his voice was shaking. This was a large man, he works on the railroads and has his whole life and loved life. His voice trembling as the courtroom was in silence, he said, “She should be with her father.”

Whoa, that was me. This man could have said his daughter “Ally”, and believed he could get her help. He could have said his son, the uncle, or himself. He did not. To stand up in a courtroom and say something like that when it held so much weight was one of the most amazing acts of unselfishness I have ever seen. This was true love. He had no idea if I would ever let them see Kayla again if I had custody. We had a rough history which was getting better. He knew this could be the end of his family and ever seeing his only grandchild. He still said what he thought was best for her.

Because of this I was granted custody. There are times that we cannot hide our true nature, we all try to hide ourselves with the mask, but at times, the true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Tom’s true character is that of one of the best most amazing people in the world. He is pure. He is real.

Why did the Judge care about what Tom thought so much? I was told this story after the fact. When Tom and the Judge were 6 years old. The judge was drowning in a lake. No one was around. Tom was the kid that pulled him out of the water and saved him. Tom had shown his true character before to this judge, so he knew he would get the truth. It was a small town, they grew up together.

Kayla still to this day, goes and sees Grandpa Tom all the time. He has been a major part of her life since that day. Tom and I used to talk a lot until “Ally” got out of prison. When ”Ally” went to prison, Tom saw Kayla every other weekend and summers and talked all the time. He was able to keep their family involved for when “Ally” eventually got out of prison.

The rest of the story is for another day.

Thank you Tom for showing me what love and unselfishness looks like.

Thank you Judge Harrington for showing me to treat everyone with kindness at all times, you never know when the tide will turn. To love each other always.

Thank you that day for forcing me to surrender my will for a moment, so I would have that to go back on later in my life when it was needed.

Thank you crisis. You helped awaken me.

On this day, I saw what real love was.

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“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

If you take an onion and cut it as close to the roots as possible, without cutting the roots, it can grow larger and larger every time. We are like this, we grow and become wiser and more loving by giving away what we get, as long as we keep the roots. This is a lesson I never believed to be true, I thought how can you gain more by giving things away? I thought I needed to keep it all to myself. That is what we are taught. This is the story of the day I realized I was much like an onion.

These toasts and things are common at weddings. They are also common at graduations and other special occasions. It is so bizarre to me that we only talk like this about each other at these rare times and usually when heavy alcohol is involved. Then we forget. We forget to tell each other how we truly feel. We are afraid, or embarrassed.

Dave grabbed his drink and stood up. Everyone listened as Dave spoke. “I remember one time, we were playing video games when we were kids, and it was so important for Bob to have the best team, that he went and bought a 12 pack of mountain dew and stayed up all night creating this master team so he could beat us. He always wanted to win, ever since he was a kid. But when he was done, then he worked on everyone else’s team.”

Everyone laughed and hollered. It was a great toast. After the laughing was done. Dave continued, “Bob is amazing, he is a rare person, and I love him and am lucky to have grown up with him. There was a time that I was driving without a license and crashed. He didn’t think twice, he jumped in the driver’s seat and pushed me aside and took the blame for the accident.”

Then after that, all of a sudden Jacob stood up, this was unexpected. He taps his glass and says. “Bob, Bob, Bob, he loves borrowing other people’s cigarettes.” Everyone knows this to be true and has a good laugh. Jacob continues, “But what Bob never bragged about was the time he had only 5 dollars left and gave it to me because he knew I was struggling. He never told anyone. He is kind and a humble man.”

Then Brian stood up and held up his glass. This was turning into something rare for us. Brian was not one to speak in front of a group like this, Brian says, “Bob and his heart. When I was in the middle of my addiction to heroin, Bob came and got me and drove me 6 hours in the middle of the night to treatment. Then I ditched it. He still came the next time I called. He missed work, and family time. He just took the heat. I love you Bob.” That one got everyone’s attention. People were getting emotional. Brian recovered from addiction, but none of us knew that part of it. It was starting to seem like Bob did a lot of things for all of us. We all had these stories. Brian’s was very strong because we all had pretty much given up on him, well, except Bob. We had wondered how he had finally beaten the addiction, I guess Bob had given him what I call “psychological life support.”

Danny stood up now. “I hate Bob. He makes us all look bad.” That was how Danny was. He then got serious, which is very out of character for Danny, and he said, “I got kicked out of my parents’ house and Bob came and got me every day, and he drove me to work for a month. Never asked for anything.” We all were surprised, we thought they hated each other but dealt with each other. They were kind of the arch rivals in our group that were always fighting.

Jim stood up and said. “I don’t have a story like any of you. However, I’ve seen Bob with opportunities to be unfaithful, and he was not. His loyalty, it really is something that changed me. In a hot tub, with women all over him, he left to go to his ex-fiancés house and be with their kid. They were no longer together at the time, and she was seeing other people. But he did not care. His love is strong. He is probably embarrassed by me even telling this story, but I think it tells you all you ever need to know about Bob.”

So I am sitting there, thinking about them saying these things. I am hearing words describe Bob, like humble, kind, caring, loyal, considerate, and unselfish to name a few. Wow, we all liked being around him all the time. I never had heard these things before. I felt like I should say something. I sat at the corner. This had become a moment that we were all speaking of our relationships. It was my turn it seemed.

I stood up. I said, “Bob is amazing. I remember one time we were walking in the city at night. There was a homeless man and Bob gave him his shirt and jacket. Bob went and got another one for himself. Everyone else was mocking the old homeless guy. But Bob made sure no one was watching. He did not do this for show, he means it. All heart.” Everyone agreed.

But listening to all this about Bob was hitting me hard. So I decided to say more.

“I was just wondering if anyone has ever said any of this to Bob’s face. Because I have not. I do not know why either. This feels good.” Is what I said.

Dave said, “No. I have never said this any of it. Why? I do not know.” Everyone else shook their heads in agreement. It was sad to hear that, everyone had the same look on their face. Why not? Why haven’t we?

Well, in this case, it was not Bob’s wedding, it was not a graduation either. Bob had died at the age of 26 about a week prior to this. He was in a boating accident. We all were just at the funeral 2 days ago, and no one mentioned a thing. Everyone was in shock. His best friend was Joe. Joe would later take his own life. He was emotional and crying and kissed Bob as he lay in his casket. No one else said a thing. I think we were all in complete shock. This was 15 years ago, I was 24. You do not expect things like this to happen when you are 24 and you are thinking you are invincible.

A couple days later, as we sat at this restaurant, just sharing stories, we were having his real funeral. This lasted until 5 the next morning. I sat that day, when it was over, thinking to myself if I ever see something positive about someone I am going to tell them. At first when I did this my face would get all red, sometimes I would tear up and my voice would crackle. Then I started to see the impact it had on me, and on others. I was growing more each time I gave more away. Much like the onion.

It doesn’t work if it is not genuine. But when it is genuine, it is amazing. It is almost like I get more out of it than the people receiving it. The more I give away, it seems the more I get given to me. By that I mean love. If I give it away completely, it seems that I get more placed in my heart.

I think people believe that it takes away from them if they give it away. They may think it will be scary or they will be rejected, but if it is pure, it is amazing. If it is a manipulation, and you have a hidden agenda, it does not feel the same. It has to be real. Even if the person already knows it to be true, it is good for them to hear it. I remember when I started doing this, my brother said, “I wish I could talk to people like that.” I said “you can.”

Anyone can do this if they want to. Try it. That is the key to growth, is doing things that you are uncomfortable with. If you only do things you are already good at and are strong in, you will never truly grow. That is fine if you are satisfied with the way things are, but if you want to grow, the way is by doing things that are hard or uncomfortable.

Imagine it is raining outside, and everyone has a bucket, if you try to keep all your water to yourself, and hold the bucket close to your chest, you will not get very much. If you take your bucket and start pouring what water you have into other peoples cups, someone is going to say, “Hey get that person a bigger bucket.” You will start to see more opportunities come, and you are never depleted. As weird as that may seem, it is true, the more you give, the more you get. Our minds do not think that way. Because we were trained otherwise.

Removing the outer layers of the onion brings tears. In fact, it can be so painful, people publish articles as to how to get to the core of the onion without the tears including cutting under water, wearing goggles, or freezing the onion first. Similarly, we freeze or emotional feelings with things such as alcohol or drugs for an easier way to get to our core. Freezing vegetables, or feelings, similarly creates changes in texture and we lose the natural flavor.

This was what came of Big Bob’s death to me. Some people look at me weird, which is ok. I do not want to leave love left unsaid or undone when I go, I want to leave it here in the world. So it can keep being passed on forever. That will stay forever, regardless of where my body goes.

I hope Bob heard us that night. He never did when he was alive.