The Photo Albums of Our Lives

There’s something about the past couple days that have me building on ideas around opening up to fear and change.

Why do we sometimes choose to freeze others in time?

Why do we sometimes insist that things can’t change because we’re looking at someone with the same lens today as if the past – that moment or those moments in time – were ‘it’?

This got me thinking about our lives as a large photo album. Our photo albums – analog, digital, or in our minds – are full of snapshots from different times and places.

We’re with different people and we’re different people ourselves.

Think about it –

When you look back at those photos – some memories that are fond, others that are not – are you that same person?

Are you the same person you were taking a bath as a toddler as you are today?

Are you the same person you were on that excursion out and about with your family as a teenager exploring new territory and having a blast?

Are you the same person you were when you moved away from home that first time?

Or when you started to establish roots as you grew into the early days of adulthood?

And though it can be hard to think about such changes on a day-to-day basis, as the weeks and months and years start to go by, we may not be giving ourselves – or those closest to us – enough credit for the changes they make as they continue to evolve.

And do we extend the same credit to ourselves for our changes, as well?

What snapshots do we continue to focus on in the photo albums of our lives?

How do they influence the way we see the world, those closest to us, and ourselves?

What new pictures do we plan to take? And what will be our favorite photos moving forward?

Or will we only look back to focus on what was in favor of creating the photos of our future?

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You Are Welcome Here

During a recent talk I heard someone say:

“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

Simple. Warm. Inviting. Inclusive. Open-minded. Accepting.

Sounds like the way I wish others could always treat me.

Sounds like the way I wish I could always treat others.

How would our lives change if we accepted this and made an effort to welcome all those we meet with the same warmth in our time with them – be it a split second, a lifetime, or some amount of time in between?

What Did Your Parents Think…?

Prior to my writing Moustaches and Mental Illness, I had started to share with others – some close, some not – about what it was like to be in, and recover from, depression.

Often labeled as the guy who asks a lot of questions and doesn’t share enough about himself (maybe I love learning about others a bit too much?!), these days I have a lot to share.

And these recent conversations have gone to places I did not expect go, with most of the people I’ve spoken with on this topic.

Moving beyond these one on one or small group conversations, since writing, these surprising conversations have continued, the only difference now is that some people have started to share about their relationship with depression without a prompt.

One friend was quite curious what my parents thought of my depression, and of my “seeing someone” for help.

I knew they were supportive and thought it was good, so I told her as much.

But inside I was thinking that my parents and I had spoken about this over Thanksgiving, which was more than a month ago at this point. And besides, with more than a month to let this knowledge set in and and to already see the change in me over the Christmas/New Year holidays, I was curious to hear what they would say now.

So I asked them.

My Mom went first.

She seemed to feel like something might be up. But she didn’t realize how big of an issue it was.

In classic Mom fashion she was glad that I went for help, got help, and it was helpful.

Simple and straight to the point 🙂

She was also proud of me that I had the presence of mind and courage to talk with someone that did not have an emotional investment. That people generally have a hard time doing this, especially when struggling. This was good, she felt.

My Dad echoed these thoughts and was equally surprised I was so depressed.

He also appreciates how open I have decided to be about this, but felt like writing about this here at Finding My Voice Here was a being a bit too open.

He was concerned that people could easily misunderstand my writing.

And make up their own thoughts.

Because what I wrote was very revealing.

He related a conversation from earlier in the day he had with Mom about the blog post. She had thought that my ultimate hope might be able to help other people.

Dad thought he would have found a different way do this. And probably would have chosen a more private route. Because he  would worry about people feeling sorry for him or getting the wrong idea.

That said, he recently attended a talk on social media where the discussion centered on how easy it can be for others to relate to people who are so open.

And it made him feel that he could be more open to sharing – sharing something on the more personal side that could help others.

Ultimately he just felt bad that he couldn’t have been more available to me. And he wished that I could have been more honest with them about how I was feeling. Though surprised that I was feeling this way, he felt like there were some clues along the way. There were some moments where he felt like there was something going on. That they/he could have helped me through this rough time. Maybe he could have been a little more thoughtful? Could have called a bit more? Wrote a bit more?

He appreciated how keenly aware and in touch with my feelings I am these days. But questioned if I could do that with everybody? Or even wondered when one can do that with anybody?

But I told them – and him – how I wished I could have known. I wished I could have told them. The point is, I couldn’t. I had no idea. What I thought and what I felt was masking what was ultimately underneath. And that’s not something I was able to access without help from someone impartial, from the outside.

He responded that he has always stressed the importance of anticipation. And how he’s quite good at this. How could he not have anticipated this?

Again, I said, there was nothing he could have done other than to be himself. And wherever we are today, however we got to today, we’re better for it because we’re together and talking about it now.

This is a new era of openness for me.

I now have access to thoughts and feelings that I did not have before, even though I thought I was a pretty honest, open, thoughtful, and emotional person before my time south of the clouds.

But this goes beyond depression.

Because, as I think about it in this moment, this wasn’t something like, Oh, MCK is so expressive and emotionally open.

Enter depression, stage left.

MCK is depressed for X period of time.

Depression leaves, stage right.

MCK is back to being the guy he used to be.

The depression, despite the challenges it brought, actually turned into a catalyst for me to grow.

It enabled me to move into a new stage in my emotional life and relationships with others, especially those closest to me.

Granted, the activation energy for this catalyst was more than I ever could have imagined. And I had to put in a serious amount of work to release myself from its grasp.

But it’s been worth it.

Because nothing ever truly worth achieving is easy. And in the wake of the greatest struggle can come the sweetest of rewards.

And in this new era of openness, one of the best rewards to date has been reaching a whole new level in my relationship with the people who gave me life.

My parents from the start have provided me (and my sister) with an incredible home and upbringing. They are wonderful teachers and advocates for the both of us. Instilled in us values of hard work, in making a difference in the lives of others, and the importance of contributing to our communities. I could not be more thankful for all the ways they have supported me and continued to support me.

And although I thought I had a very good relationship with each of them before, through sharing these most intimate struggles with them – we’ve put on the table the good, the bad, and the ugly – I feel even closer to them. For this I am so grateful.

None of us are perfect beings. We all have our faults and flaws.

And for all the faults and flaws I struggled with over the past few years, the faults and flaws I was most unable to accept in others were because of the faults and flaws I was unable to accept within myself.

Once I was able to be honest with and accept myself, I had the strength and courage to be extra honest with and accepting of others.

What about you?

What are the faults and flaws of others that you find yourself struggling with the most?

And beyond the frustrations you feel when dealing with them, what do these frustrations tell you about yourself?

And let’s even assume that there’s no need to accept the faults and flaws in yourself in order to accept the faults and flaws in others.

What if you just decided to accept someone for who they are – faults and flaws and all? How might your relationship with them change? How about your relationship with yourself?

Ripe for Resolution

you're_a_real_south_carolina_peach

This is not a new year’s resolution. This is just the right time.

As I’ve just gotten my “new endeavor” underway (i.e. my 60-day writing challenge), today I got to thinking about how many new endeavors are actually new.

It’s a little bit embarrassing to say this out loud, but I’ve been “working” on becoming a daily writer for the better part of two years.

I write every day. Many of us write every day.

But it wasn’t until my 21-day writing challenge last month that I made the day-in-day-out commitment to focus my practice.

I wrote every day, twice a day, to someone about something that mattered.

None of it was new, in fact much of it was old stuff. I just chose to look at and approach it in a new way.

It was incredible how it opened me up to parts of myself that I had not reached through regular verbal communication.

And it enabled me to find clarity within myself through the articulation of thoughts and feelings that I have not been able to articulate in a long time, if ever.

So while I don’t think new year’s resolutions work for me, I’m all for resolutions in general.

I do think they work provided the time is right – or ripe – to be resolute about something.

Speaking of peaches – did you know most varieties are only ripe for about 2 weeks?

Could that be just the right amount of time to make some progress on something ripe that matters to you?

2014 has been a hard year. It has also been the best year of my life.

Those 21 November days of writing brought me great clarity in heart and mind.

While I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I started, I was ripe for resolution in that moment.

And, as a result, I started and ended 2014 in radically different mindset.

After a month of digesting those thoughts, I’m eager to see where this 60 day cycle will take me.

But this isn’t only about me. What about you?

What have you been waiting for that’s ripe for resolution?

What have you been hoping will happen next?

And how do you move that mindset from hope to make it happen?

What is that one thing – that one step – you can do or take today to move forward that hope?

Think of where you’ll be in a few days when you take a step each day.

The time is right, so why not start today?

Then continue tomorrow. And we’ll see where we’re at the day after, okay?

Need a hand? Take mine. We can take a walk forward together.

—–

Today’s image is more delicious than usual because when I think of ripe, I think about my favorite fruit.

And I don’t think of apples from New York or oranges from Florida, I think of peaches from South Carolina.

The photo linked me to an interesting episode of All Things Considered on NPR, Sweet Lessons from a South Carolina Peach Professor.

There were too many good quotes from this interview, but I love when Clemson University peach specialist, Desmond Layne advised us, “To pick a perfect peach, obviously you need to pick it off the tree yourself.”

And aside from giving credit for the picture above (courtesy of iStockphoto.com), do listen to those sweet lessons from Desmond Layne. I could practically see him fall down, blown away by the flavor of the Winblo he bit into.

But maybe you’d prefer a visual aid. If so, see below.

Have you had a piece of fruit that dripped off your elbows lately?

Astronomy (on Tap) is Out of This World

Last Monday I went to find something new at the Astronomy on Tap event at Bar. Also, some pizza.

I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, jokes and puns abound, and just how relate-able the entire evening was to even the most average of minds (*ahem*, like mine).

Beyond funny questions people like Michael Faison will ask his students like, “How many martinis could you make from this cloud?” I had two major takeaways that I’d like to remember.

1) We are not who we were yesterday. The same is true of our interests and understanding of the world. (Michael Faison)

The world is always changing, as are we. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. No matter how big or small, old or young. And to keep this in context, the youngsters out there (in the star world, that is) are 1-2 million years old. Wow. And speaking of…

2) Stars cluster when young and spread out when they age. (Jonathan Foster)

This got me thinking – perhaps we humans are not so different from our starry counterparts. We do practically the same thing in our young – we are clustered, spending time with larger groups of people. And as we age, we spread out.

Do you feel the same way?

If you’re interested in a little bit more of a synopsis of the evening, take a look at this article from the New Haven Independent or AstroOnTapCT on Twitter.

And a thanks to Steph LaMassa for putting together such an interesting and accessible event for people who are well out of their league when it comes to things out of this world.

—–

No photo today. I already made a nice little faux-pas on Twitter when I mixed up Astronomy and Astrology. If you’re not quite sure of the difference, take a 2 minute look here.

Though the quick story – Astronomy is about things that are out of this world. Astrology is about those things that are out of this world and how they affect us on Earth.

Honest Liars and the Psychology of Self-Deception

We all know that honesty is the best policy. So when was the last time you were honest with yourself?

It’s a rare moment when I don’t feel like talking or engaging with anyone or anything.

Today was a bit too full-on. I came home thinking I was ready to call it a day.

And so, I thought I’d watch a short video as I headed towards dreamland.

Best mistake I made this week.

Honest Liars – the psychology of self-deception a TEDxUNLV talk by Dr. Cortney S. Warren was 13 minutes well spent, that really got me thinking for the better part of an hour.

Dr. Warren flawlessly delivers content that is not so easy to hear.

And if we’re willing to engage with what she has to say, rather than assume she’s talking about people other than ourselves, there are some powerful messages to consider and grapple with.

I might go back to list all the great lines at some point down the road, but in the interim, here are two good ones:

“Not changing when confronted with the truth is a choice.”

“When we admit who we really are, we have the opportunity to change.”

Don’t wait another moment. Watch this yourself.

And then, if time allows, I’d take a spin through Dr. Warren’s website choosehonesty.com.