A lifespan.

Each of us has that one teacher who showed us the valuable difference between just going to school and loving the idea of education itself.

Who taught us excellence over mediocrity, passion over passivity and the fine art of learning how to learn for ourselves instead of regurgitating yet another someone’s thoughts and convictions.

Who soothed our painful rejections at the hands of bullies, listened to our deepest revelations after hours, and was in every front row of every event to cheer us on to victory.

Who after our school days were over when life learning was just beginning, kept in touch with invitations to their own family dinners as if you always belonged at their table and insisted you call them by their first name as awkward as it seemed.

Much older now with faded memories and eternities in view, by pure serendipity they come back into your life once again, and again you’re the student thankful for so many differences she made in your life that she will never fully understand but for which she is fully responsible.

And now the most sincere words I can muster are thank you, Mrs. Nimmo. May God give you the rest you have earned. We will all miss you.

unsolicited

For 15 years as a psychotherapist, I was paid handsomely for providing observations about my patients’ behavior, thinking, reasoning, communication and relational styles. Subsequently, I helped them to successfully navigate each toward a more adaptable, functional way of living. Because they were patients, I gently operated under assumption that their willingness to follow my lead was implicit. After all, they sought me, not vice versa. When they were less willing, therapy included a brief detour into deliberate discussions which helped them to ask me for what I was hired to provide. Success usually followed and at the end of treatment, they were empowered, believing they, for the most part, were their own guide out of the dark and into the light. That exact outcome made my work a joy.

Since those days, encountering acquaintances, friends and people I loved, I knew I could not be their therapists and, indeed, was not. I merely sifted my clinical impressions of each through an undetectable, internal mental health sieve and kept and continued only with those who had best friendship potential. Neither they nor my process was ever perfect, but with the exception of friends acquired during my drug days (which are 11 years in the past on Sunday) the method has saved me much heartache and failed efforts trying to fix anyone who hasn’t asked for it. It was fair to me and it was fair to them. It seemed to work.

My present struggle is with the few exceptions–the ones who slipped through and continue in my life–to whom I cannot and will not offer unsolicited yet well-meaning suggestions and opinions but who yet have maintained some presence nonetheless. My social circle today is the smallest it has ever been for this extrovert and the prospect of discontinuing even one relationship I’ve allowed in would represent a significant percentage loss from the whole of them. But as I get older, being accepted is less important so I keep a safe distance. The quantity of people in my life is far less important than the quality of the people I allow to remain.

Still, it’s the hardest thing, to say indirect goodbyes through my absence and lack of perseverance in a relationship I might have once counted as a keeper. However, it’s often the change most necessary for our survival that is the most difficult to effect. Still, abandonment of the least healthy of these makes one just that much closer to loneliness.

I’ve been to therapy myself and in doing so, discovered not only how my addiction was killing me but also how it had utterly destroyed relationships I once treasured. Sobriety. Don’t leave home without it.

year 11

Satan delivers terrible gifts.

After years without more than a thought about using, on the eve of my 11th year of sobriety, I just woke from a slew of degrading drug dreams from when I did unimaginable things on Meth like it was dejá vu on steroids. Still so tired, I’m thankfully awake and even moreso thankful to God for the rescue. Kids, don’t do drugs. If they don’t kill you, later on the memories will still try.

DOOMSCROLLING

Up, doom scrolling, scanning headlines and all the social informant platforms of our digital age, and I wonder if living now, exposed to so much more bad news and events clamoring for our attention, is the price we pay for being well informed?

Light speed exposure to constant reports of tragedy, hardship, pain and suffering makes us all realize that life on this big blue ball is both deadly and tragic.

Certainly, it has always been, however, without the internet, we were largely protected from that reality growing up, allowing more time and headroom in our young existence to play, dream, hope and be happy in ways today’s children will never know.

Contribution.

When I’m gone, don’t remember me, remember what I’ve left behind.

The most important instances captured in history books are rarely about the person by name but the changes they made to effect upon others while they were here and when they are long gone.

Remembering a dead man is uninspiring but remembrance of his life work is.

A meaningful life is never about attribution but contribution.

Celibation.

[Last time I posted this, a friend commented “Well written, I am going on 2 years of celibacy. The thoughts expressed in this post are similar to mine. First time I’ve seen anyone write something along the same line. Thanks for sharing.” I believe others who have chosen a celibate existence need to know they aren’t alone.]

I’ve been celibate since 2011, and the further I get from sex, the better I understand love.

It was a choice I made when I got off drugs and a choice I make still today, “celibating” my 11th year.

Not much is written about celibacy. In this sexually-slathered world, it’s not a very popular subject. It alienates, labels and renders one less than desirable by many who still regard sex as a plaything —an inalienable right to exercise freely, frequently, and with anyone they choose without much regard for its significance or consequence beyond being a driven, primal, self-indulgent pleasure.

To be honest, I’ve had more sexual partners in my lifetime than I care to remember. Many I choose not to remember, most I can’t, and in hindsight, all I regret except for the union of love that produced my three wonderful children. And that was many, many years ago.

There’s a huge difference between mere resistance to sexual temptation and a conscious choice of celibacy. The first one spends hours fending off attacks of urges while the other refuses to wage the war. One is a choice to be in constant turmoil while the other is a constant choice of dignity and self preservation. No engagement. No frustration. Little preoccupation with momentary pleasures.

Most men find it an incomprehensible option to be celibate. Culture has made great strides over recent decades not only to make open, multi-partnered sexuality the “normal” way of life and to banish or render odd those who believe and choose differently.

Imagine, if you can, the amount of sitcom time spent on the subject of sex. Imagine the number of stories and exposés about the sexual foibles of otherwise good men and women. Imagine the volume of time, the countless pages, the vastness of entire industries spent on sexual pursuits and libido-lifting messages, telling us it’s just as healthy a way to stay in shape as aerobic exercise. No, it’s not your imagination. Since the 60s, it’s reality. Truth is, sex has become the replacement of an important need by an urgent one.

I don’t watch much TV, largely because of its stupidifying effect on the masses. I do watch movies though. Lots of movies. And even there, I see how unentertaining most plot lines might be without the sex factor. The general malaise about and lack of creativity within media is largely due to the potency of the sex factor able to arouse and stimulate single-minded misled people climaxing in applause for an on screen violation of what might have otherwise been a potentially creative story. But with sex shoved down the throats of the masses (pun partially intended) as if we were all malnourished hookers, we’ve learned to hunger for it like the rush of a smoking bowl of meth.

As a social consolation, those who promote free sexuality have successfully fended off attacks by seasoning their stimulating appeals with “love, romance and intimacy” as if to give added value to what they are really selling. Eroticism is now much wider in its appeal, equating being sexual with someone—or anyone for that matter—quite the “special” thing. Special with this one, special with that one, and each special encounter so meaningful in its own way.

But sex is not the highest form of love. Not by a long shot.

Humanity’s lie has been to suggest that sexual union with another is the most intimate expression of love in the world. As a celibate man, I believe nothing could be further from the truth.

To obey the greatest commandment to love one another is a far cry from indulging in a passionate roll in the hay with them. Loving acts have staying power while sex quickly goes…well…flaccid.

Celibacy creates a vacuum for eminently more important things.

The years I have spent without losing small pieces of my soul to random sexual partners has opened my eyes to greater forms of love I might have otherwise never known existed. When I stopped seeking pleasure, a vacuum was created inside of me and I began seeking to fill it with true love. Not a person. Not another. Love.

Big difference.

Storge, philia, agape. Go ahead. Look them up. Affection, friendship, unconditional love. These alternate kinds of love always get the shaft from sex promoters, yet they are the kinds of love expressions that make you cry at commercials, weep at songs and experience the joy of the spirit of a sports team with an incredibly moving back story. They are the kinds of loves you remember over and over again, long after that casual fling left your bed for home.

Perhaps one day I’ll rediscover that eros kind of love again and my celibate days will be over. But I’ve found that my freed mind is now capable of deep thought that births deeper experiences of love and compassion and a preoccupation with things that last much longer than an orgasmic minute. And when I do find it, I’ll have learned to respect it with much more dignity than I ever did before.

And if I never do, I will nonetheless have learned to love as a celibate man, and by then I should be a pretty good at it, because the further I get from sex, the better I understand love.

Home Depot

A young man was commuting to all the departments around the store to say his goodbyes and to share what he’d learned from the particularly seasoned adults who’d taken him under wing while he was employed there. It was his last day before moving to Texas for college. While shopping, it happened I was close enough to hear a few of these encounters, each of which had brought his coworkers to tears. His sincerely thankful spirit was so overwhelming, even listening from a distance, I got a lump in my throat at how he articulated specific fond memories of their work together. He left his trail of gratitude behind from hardware to appliances to gardening. I learned a few things myself yesterday:-Renewed hope in today’s youth. -Home Depot’s incalculable loss. -Somewhere in Texas, this boy is gonna change a lotta lives.-I’d like to meet his parents.

Rome is burning.

I’m neither a poor man, nor a man of wealth, but as I feel this gripping economic pinch becoming a grope, surely poorer earners are all but asphyxiated by the inflationary prices of everything. I see it in senior clients down to one meal a day, pawning possessions to pay monthly rent increases, working families using up savings and losing financial ground faster than they can make it up. Everyone is cutting here and there but can only do it so long until price increases compound and there’s nothing left to cut anymore. More people are homeless now than ever before, most for the first time ever. In my job, the stories arrive firsthand at our door and we help in all ways we are able, but for many, it’s not enough to preserve even the most basic of human rights and needs. Anxiety, depression and mental health problems create fertile grounds for reemerging addictions and ways of coping that offer no hope whatsoever. Some things need to change and soon. Use your vote for change.While Rome was burning, Nero was merely an impulsive tyrant home in his villa doing nothing.That’s not an option anymore.

in decline.

Having a serious medical disorder isn’t always apparent to others because of how hard you must work to compensate for the symptoms and appear normal. They don’t see the private sufferings and painful episodes you hide from public eyes or know how hard it eventually becomes to hold both the symptoms and yourself all together. The more difficult it is to manage moving parts of a disease, the simpler it becomes to just decline invitations and offer creative reasons for why you stayed home. Your world gets smaller through clever excuses and normal is an all too formidable and lesser goal.The whole syndrome plays over and over, worsening for years on repeat until you, yourself, begin believing the lie that this is actually what spending your best life is supposed to be: a big inauthentic outward smile to mask the inward grimacing. It’s not living your best life.It’s just trying to appear to be living while you’re actually dying inside.

Timeless loyalty.

His entire existence is an utter void of understanding the comings, goings and absences of his only love apart from that moment.

To him, no explanation of time exists gazing out the window for hours on end.

His only hope is a vague awareness that routine of a return exists somewhere in the future.

So on that promise, he remains forever vigilant and alert for that first familiar sound or sign: a key in the door, that affirms his hope and turns it into a wildly wagging tail.