More Ideas for Managing Abnormal Stress Levels (Don’t Pull the Trigger!)

On June 11th, I posted a blog about managing abnormal stress levels. Several folks reached out to me and said that they found it helpful, so I’ve thought of a few new ways that I manage stress and wanted to share them as well. You can check out the first blog, here.

One of the key points in the first blog was recognizing how helpful reading and studying can be in managing stress and mental battles, and I decided to expound on that with my June 20th article titled, “Four Books to Pull You Back From The Brink.” I KNOW those books will help you if you invest the time in them.

Well, I’ve since implemented some new stress control methods in my life and I wanted to continue adding tools to peoples’ kits – so you can read them below:

  1. Spend time in the outdoors. Amanda (My Wife) and I actually have an entirely separate blog on this (The Gypsy and The Bard), and I can’t believe I forgot to mention it during my first edition of this post. Spending time outside in whatever way you prefer is a great way to manage stress. Combine this with the reading suggestion and go read the work of the transcendentalists while relaxing by a private waterfall. It’s sure to restore some energy to your life. You can also incorporate my next tip into this one!
  2. Get an animal. While I always caution against projecting toward humans (IE: Savior Searching), it’s perfectly acceptable to project toward a sweet pupper or other animal. They’re much less likely to disappoint, and you can search for one who has the temperament you need. I just got a little curr, who his gentle enough for my child, but also playful enough for me.
  3. Play an RPG. Don’t knock it til you try it! Playing an RPG, particularly an MMO, is a great way to disconnect from the stresses of your day and unwind a bit. It’s even better if you have friends who will join you. It’s a great way to socialize while also staying away from people – just be sure not to get sucked too far into the cyber realms! As with all things, balance is key.
  4. Blog! Obviously all of you are already doing this, but blogging has really been a great way for me to connect to new people and ideas, and find people who support my own. Thanks for what ya’ll do!

That’s all I have time for today, but I hope some of those tips help! Let me know if they do or if you have any others. Resilience and defiance are how we overcome adversity, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks for managing stress along the way.

More to come, as always.

-TQV

Blogging Milestone #2 (And here’s the value added)

Hello friends,

Today I reached 80 followers! I wanted to post briefly to thank you all for reading along, and summarize what I do for anyone else who might want to join the community.

I love to write, and pursue that in all its forms, but my heart is in revitalizing mental health culture and my destiny is to help the broken find healing. My favorite things to write about are philosophical concepts and self-betterment. Here are 9 of my blogs you may want to read if you have mental struggles, want to be a better person, or want to help someone else who may be struggling:

  1. Radical Authenticity Can Change The World
  2. The Whole Person Concept
  3. The Crux of America’s Mental Health Problem
  4. You CAN’T Regulate Suicide Prevention – Here’s What You CAN Do
  5. Managing Abnormal Stress Levels (Don’t Pull the Trigger!)
  6. Cancer Makes us Whole (Poem)
  7. Our Band-Aid Society
  8. Frozen With Fear (And How Not to Be)
  9. Four Books to Pull You Back from the Brink

If those helped bring you some peace, there are many more you can explore on my page. I also write about the cultural lessons I’ve learned as a blogger, and an example of that is my monthly post entitled, “Everything I’ve Learned About Blogging.”

I have a lot more planned and appreciate anyone following along. Lastly, I want to give props to one of the blogs that I really enjoy following and who has been a great support to me: Go check out Lovelorn, a fellow idealist and philosophical thinker.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who needs some mental health tools, and stay tuned for more on overcoming adversity through an attitude of resilience and defiance!

Thanks again for helping me reach 80 followers.

-TQV

Everything I’ve learned about blogging (June edition)

I shall begin this post with a bit of alliteration for my own amusement:

“Hello, honorable humans.”

Now, down to the crux of it: This post will no doubt get long, but I think there’s a lot of value added for ANY blogger. I’ve been developing and testing blogging strategies since I began this blog in May. I’ve learned a lot, and decided to compile it monthly in hopes that it will help others who are aspiring to build their network. I won’t take information away each month, I’ll just highlight new gouge so that people who have already read previously published portions can skip to the good stuff. This time, nothing needs to be in bold because it’s the first iteration. Here are some simple blogging strategies to help develop and expand your readership:

  1. Be predictable. What if I told you that this post about blogging strategies is an example of a blogging strategy? (Pretty obvious, many of you are thinking.) Anyone who has been blogging for long can tell you that a lot of what we do is about “value added,” and someone might follow my blog exclusively because they want to see what lessons I learn in the future that they can then apply. Once they’ve followed, they can decide whether they’re interested in my core mission, which is contributing to the fight on mental health issues. I think it’s nice to have a couple of “repeat posts” scheduled (ones where the theme doesn’t change but additional value can be added with each iteration). To that end, I’ve decided to do this (blogging strategy) and one other on a monthly basis. The other is a free networking opportunity for people to summarize and link to their blog in the comments of my post.
  2. Diversify within the confines of your brand. In addition to the scheduled posts mentioned above, I plan to VLOG once per week (the rules build upon each other, remember to be predictable) and post a song periodically (I don’t really have a schedule planned for that – this isn’t my full time job and I need to make the plan somewhat flexible to account for that. See rule number six.) Since my theme is essentially self-help, I can use different TYPES of posts to diversify within that brand. I write poetry to draw in the poets, music to draw in musicians, blogs to draw in old school bloggers, and VLOGs to attract people who prefer video to text. Figure out how you can impliment that idea for your brand. (As a self awareness point, I really need to get better about graphics/charts/etc.)
  3. Don’t migrate your previous work over all at once. When I first started TQV, I’d already been writing weekly articles on LinkedIn for some time. I decided that, in order to professionalize my portfolio, I wanted them all to be available on the site before I shared the link. Realistically though, few people have 6 hours to go through all of your work. Many will keep up with you if you post consistently, but only a few are going to really delve deep into everything you’ve written all at once. Instead of vomiting your life’s work onto your site, follow rule number four.
  4. Schedule posts! This one is SO SO hard for me because, when I write something I’m proud of, I want to share it to see what you guys and gals think. But if you’ve already posted, it’s much better to schedule it for the next day or so to make sure you have consistent content. If you want to maximize readers from this strategy, follow rule number five.
  5. Time matters. I’m not talking about the time you invest into your blog, though that clearly matters as well. I’m referring to the time of day. Since your blog posts are most visible during the first few hours after you post them, you need to try and learn when people are most likely to be reading. It’s probably not going to be 3AM, depending what time zone you’re in. For me, it’s ended up being early morning or around lunchtime, but be mindful of where your audience is and when they might want to peruse other peoples’ work.
  6. Be forgiving of yourself. As a recent writing friend of mine always says, “Writing is HARD.” It really is. This rule is honestly more important than any of the previous. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack. Remember that you’re doing this because you (presumably) love writing. Don’t push so much that you stop loving it.
  7. Don’t use ad income until you’re ready! I was using it. Totally, I was using it. I’m thinking, “Hell, the amount of time I invest into this thing, I may as well make what I can…” FALSE. I realized that I was spending more on my domain and advertising than I was making from ads. (BY A LONG SHOT). Why would you spend 50-100 bucks on your blog, and then distract new readers for the opportunity to earn a penny or two? My new strategy is to build the network first, and then implement some ad income and affiliate links.
  8. Don’t overthink your brand. People are so huge on branding that, often, bloggers will start multiple domains because they don’t want to break their brand. Your readers are dynamic, REAL human beings. They know you’re multifaceted. Don’t be scared to explore that with them. Or maybe I just get a pass on this one sense I essentially write about what it is to be human? Not sure.
  9. Help your supporters! This can be as simple as liking or commenting on posts, sharing a blog, or, as I learned just today, displaying your recent commenters on your home page. (Go check those people out, man. They consistently support me and I’m so appreciative.)

Okay, thanks for sticking with me so far. In addition to writing what I’ve learned about blogging, I also want to use this space to ask questions that I need help with. If you CAN answer, kindly do. 🙂

  1. Are hashtags still relevant?
  2. Have any of you hit a “wall” with viewers? I haven’t had much new action since I got into the seventies and I’d really like to break the infamous “100” mark.
  3. How important are graphics and photos?
  4. I’ve slowly connected with a few bloggers that are really kindred spirits (Peter, Nida, Cristian, Em, Nadine) …How do you find blogs that REALLY are concerned with the same mission as you? Is it really just being patient and “collecting them” over a period of months?
  5. If any of you would like to take a look at my site and offer any suggestions, I’d appreciate it and will return the favor (though I’m a total rookie, so I may not have much to suggest).

Lastly, I’m really starting to feel welcomed and accepted in this dysfunctional culture of awesomeness. I’m realizing that I can just be myself and support the healing of others, and that the world really is ready to accept that as a brand. Thanks for reading all this and following along, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll on the other side of the 100 follower mark.

-TQV

The Tarantella

An original song inspired by a very old dance between mankind and fate. Enjoy!


The first demand she made of me

was to be awakened by fire and pain;

Speaking only in her whispered tones,

Fate seduced me.

She spoke to me of honor then,

and of finding my own way;

Of all the paths less traveled by

which lead into the fray.

Her eyes were fired by my own passions –

my own thoughts fell from her tongue;

On her pale skin I tasted then

the man I had become.

She spoke to me of redemption then,

and finally, of regret…

And with her kiss a brokenness

fell like hair upon my chest.

In a dark room lit by candle light

her silken dress fell to the floor;

Her veil of lies no more disguised

that Fate wanted more.

The last demand she made of me

was my death by my own hand;

Still in that room, her sweet perfume

is almost more than I can stand.

And so, we dance the Tarantella

She beckons, and I refrain…

Only able to deny her charms

because she taught me first to love the pain.

Mistress Tarantella, The Dance with Fate (TQV)

Managing Abnormal Stress Levels (Don’t Pull the Trigger)

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)

The above scripture has always been one of my favorite pieces of literature, and sets well the tone for today’s post. Recently, I was asked by a dear friend, “Damn, man. How do you deal with so much stress?”

As usual, I think the only way to answer the question properly is to “cut the bullshit”. I’m not going to describe everything I’ve been through in my life in this post – I’m writing a full-length book which describes my life and the lessons I’ve learned from it. Instead, let’s use the following as a baseline: You’ve been through something beyond the ordinary, which has invoked the darkest of emotions. You’re so desperate for a break from all the world’s noise that, inwardly, you begin to contemplate whether it’s worth it to carry on. You want to leave the world, but obviously there’s a lot of conflict associated with that decision. You’ve made it past the fear of death and the moral conflict because you’re just too tired to care about that, but there’s still something holding you back from ending your life. Guilt? Honor? A thread of hope that there might be something more to life? Your spouse? Your children? Regardless of what it is – there’s something giving you pause.

How do you manage that level of stress?

Well, first of all, I will state plainly that I lived a very large portion of my life in that state, and ultimately people who are “on the edge” are the truest version of my intended audience as a writer. You can read more about my purpose concerning mental health, here. I spent well over a decade in the conflicted place described above, and if nothing else I did learn to manage it very well. Nobody knew that I was struggling. They all thought I was one of the nicest people they’d ever met, and lighthearted. My burdens were my own (mistake number one, by the way). Anyway, I thought it was high time to compile a list of strategies that might help people who are on the edge in the short-term until I can complete my larger work, which I hope will provide more long-term solutions. So – I hope the below tips will help.

  1. Compartmentalize in a healthy way. We can’t just tuck everything away and not think about it until we explode. That is not healthy compartmentalization. But what you CAN do is to process trauma or pain in doses. You simply hold whatever is hurting you on the edge of your consciousness. You acknowledge that it is there and you acknowledge how you’re feeling, but you don’t let it overwhelm you. This is about focus, mental discipline, and self-control. When you’re in a place that dark you can actually practice this through meditation. Close your eyes, and let whatever feeling makes you panic ALMOST overwhelm you. And then push it back. Continue this process until you know how much you can allow yourself to process before it becomes white noise that you’re desperate to escape. Focus on processing the pain slowly without getting to that point. Don’t suppress, just digest slowly. (In my own mind, I have called this process “funneling.” You can’t just continue to absorb emotion indefinitely. You have to breath it in and breath it out. Let it go and accept it in a balanced way.)
  2. Focus on solutions. Most people who get to the point of contemplating death are doing so because they are dissatisfied with life. Meaning there’s an actual reason – it’s not just some chemical imbalance. So…Why are you dissatisfied with life? That might not always be an easy question to answer, and SOLVING the problem might be even tougher. But most consequences we perceive that come from solving our dissatisfaction are far less grave than death. If you need to get out of an unhealthy relationship, forgive yourself, or escape a life controlled by debt, there are ways to do all of those things. Come up with a strategy. Ask a friend. Focus on the solution.
  3. READ. I’m dead-ass serious. For nearly a decade I struggled with overwhelming emotions without ever doing this, and one of the greatest breakthroughs I made was that studying can absolutely help process trauma. The fact that people from different cultures even within American use synonyms to describe similar ailments or ideas is a theme in my writing, and whether you refer to them as “demons,” or “mental illnesses,” or “struggles,” or any variation, I think most of us can agree that wanting to die is some sort of illness associated with the mind or spirit. Studying meditation, spirituality, or even reading fiction works (FANTASY!!!) can DEFINITELY help us to elevate and heal our minds and souls.
  4. Live authentically and use your inner voice. For the longest time I was addicted to thinking I was alone in the world. “Nobody understood me.” Well, no shit, Sherlock! When you don’t tell anyone how you’re feeling, you can’t really expect them to know telepathically. Have at least one person in your life that you can tell ANYTHING to. Whether in person or in writing. Be honest with yourself and others and you’ll find the people who you were meant to live life with.
  5. Sleep!!!! Seriously, if you feel like you should die but haven’t slept 8 hours straight for as long as you can remember, start here. Go to bed.
  6. Be careful of projecting and of BAD habits. Real peace comes from within. It’s tempting to hope someone or something will solve all of your problems, and it’s good to find help, but this “on the edge” moment is not a good time for drinking, fighting, smoking, etc. Be careful of how much you “need” other people, but don’t be scared to lean on support networks. Contrarily to detrimental habits, it could be the PERFECT time to start a GOOD habit: working out, mechanics (get a project, like my 96′ Jeep XJ!), or (my personal favorite) writing.

I hope that a couple of those are helpful for anyone who needs them in the short-term. I’ll write more as time allows and I’m trying my best to finish my book for everyone.

Much love,

TQV

Music the Healer (Video)

Hello friends 🙂

I recently shared some of my progress in playing Native American flute, and people really seemed to enjoy it. I thought you guys might also enjoy some of my lyrical writing. I have a lot of original songs on my Youtube Channel – music can be a great healer. Work is keeping me really busy this week, so I thought I’d share some of my historic work. (As a blogging note, using historic work of many kinds seems to be a great way to maintain consistency and reach new followers. It’s hard not to seem rushed sometimes, but most of us are busy and I’ve found my readers to be very understanding and still appreciate the opportunity to be inspired and contemplate new ideas.)

I’m not really a great guitarist by any means, but I do enjoy the instrument very much.

My blog is all about overcoming adversity, and music is a great way to do that.

Much Love, and more to come (as always),

-TQV

The Provocation Generation

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for over a decade and a half, I’m still relatively new to leveraging social media in the endeavor. Doing so involves understanding how to communicate with the human collective, rather than with a single person or small group like most of us are accustomed to. The good news is that, once I get people to the point of reading my articles, they have generally found them impactful or at least moderately entertaining. The bad news?

The bad news is what it takes to get them there.

My most successful article thus far (mind you that I’m still working on a relatively small scale) was entitled, “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD.” Doesn’t that seem a bit…provocative? Well, that’s the crux of my position.

In our world of extremes, people expect to be offended (or to defend an idea that others would find offensive) before they are willing to engage in discourse.

It can be seen all around us, in every facet of life. An author can’t write about religion without either attacking it or accepting it wholeheartedly. You’re either defending atheism or attempting to prove that God absolutely exists. You can’t write about politics without incorporating images of dead fetuses (on the conservative side), or of young immigrants in tears (on the liberal side). In addressing generational gaps, it’s always either a “lazy millennial” or a “close-minded baby-boomer.”

What happened to the 80 percent of people in the middle – the ones capable of having a reasonable conversation without resorting to violent rhetoric and posturing? How have we let the outliers become our socially acceptable norm, and how to we return to a world of reason?

The challenge is this: authors make money when people read their work. They make more when people engage, comment, and share. Culturally, we now HAVE to use provocative language in order to coax complacent people to simply click the hyperlink.

So, how do we fix it?

As journalists, writers, and others who sort of “steer” human culture, we have to learn to use extreme language to coax people back toward reasonable thought. We have to provoke them toward acceptance, and anger them toward open-mindedness. It’s the ultimate challenge in persuasive writing.

“Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” was really just an article about learning to accept the situation, culture, and beliefs of people who are different than we are, but the title stung enough to make a few people who didn’t give a shit about me feel the urge to click. And once they clicked, they were in my world. I could use powerful imagery and wordsmithing to coax them toward a thought they, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. I could weave a story that would lead them into considering the root of one of our world’s major problems.


Any thoughts from other “Guides of the Human Terrain” would be most appreciated.

People are still reasonable. We just have to remind them how to communicate reasonably, and that’s a multi-generational endeavor.

-TQV



The Crux of America’s Mental Health Problem

I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.

W…w…w…dot.

TheQuietVisionary.com

As I did so, I felt a bit burnt out. More than that though, I felt the weight of conviction and a rebellious sense of purpose in a world that tells me I don’t have one, or that I can’t have one, or that I’m not qualified to achieve it. That I’m not qualified to achieve my purpose.

You see, I already know what my purpose is. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt the strong urge to help others. To advocate for the broken, mistreated, or misunderstood. To heal them, show them how they should be treated, and to understand them. It’s all been inspired by my journey to to heal myself, to find those who treat me with kindness, or to find the people I can be understood by.

And they’re out there. You’re out there. It’s just such a complex problem to digest and address with a tone of victory.

The Quiet Visionary. Maybe I’m being too quiet – I’ve never been one to self promote, and I always feel like advocating for my own skills and purpose is too proud a thing to do. I think that a lot of people who can heal our world feel the same. But I couldn’t just start typing after I entered my web-address – there was another step before I got to my present screen. I had to click one more link.

“My Site.”

And that’s what this is, right? My site. My blog. My space. My voice.

Mental health awareness is such a huge issue that almost everyone from almost every walk has to at least acknowledge it. Which one of you doesn’t know a person who has ended their life early, or tried to? Which one of you hasn’t thought about doing it yourself at some point, but refused because of faith, honor, love, or fear? How many more could be reading this if they hadn’t already lost that battle?

Fuck mental health awareness. We’re already aware of it.

The problem is that so many people who could honestly contribute to the healing of our country are held back from doing so by misconceptions that have existed for FAR too long. I’m held back from doing so. And that’s not a complaint or a pity party, it’s a challenge. So many people survive adversity and come out on the other side with a story to tell, only to be warned that they shouldn’t tell it.

It’s too private. It’s too shameful. It’s too real. You’re not educated enough. It’s too late to become educated enough – you have a family now. You have responsibilities and bills and all you can do is keep working your life away in a desperate grind to stay afloat.

Nah, man. It’s time to challenge that.

Every single day people are literally choosing to blow their brains out or hang themselves in their own “living” rooms because the way we are treating mental illness is NOT working. NARCAN is now available over the counter, because people choose to run to drugs where a more obvious solution is absent. Almost every veteran I meet has been diagnosed with PTSD, because our nation would rather throw money and mind-numbing drugs at problems than to see them properly addressed. Many within my own circle will judge the stance I’m taking because people should just “turn to God.” I believe that God gave us the tools to overcome adversity together, and it’s not always enough to just project the things that pain us into the sky and be freed of them.

Most of the people you engage with beyond the surface level are proud to share with you conditions which replace their own names in illustrating the adversity they’ve overcome. You’re not a person – you’re a person battling depression. You’re a person battling bulimia, anxiety, PTSD, or anorexia. You’re a person battling. As if anyone out there is not battling.

You’re so thankful when you finally find someone else who is battling the same disease that you are…perhaps they can understand you. Disease, when written regarding mental health, is a word created by other people to monetize issues that have been faced since the dawn of humanity. The truth? The truth is that mental diseases and spiritual brokenness are the same damned thing. Honestly, at this point – with suicide rates skyrocketed and diagnosis at an all-time high – what’s the harm in trying a different approach?

I may not have a master’s degree, or a doctorate (though I hope to find the means to add those tools to my kit), but I think I have an even more valuable tool. MY story. I can help the broken to heal, because I’ve healed from being broken.

Anyone who scoffs at this post or the language in it hasn’t been in the place I’m talking about. But SO many have. And SO many are still there, and hiding it. Military leaders. CEO’s. Waitresses and strippers and whores and soldiers and children and happily married men and women and preachers and teachers and cooks and druggies and the homeless population that we try SO hard not to see. None of them is more important to me than the rest, and none of them has less potential than another. They all just need an advocate. Someone to give them the time of day, an open ear that won’t judge and can offer advice based off of practical experience, not some text book.

That’s the crux of what America’s mental health issue is, and it’s also the key mission of The Quiet Visionary. People don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a therapist who tells them only that they’re “intellectualizing their emotions” and lacks any hint of empathy or compassion. If that sounds like a story based on experience it’s because it IS. The one time I sought professional help, I found someone who was professionally disconnected from the world’s problems. Someone who lacked the experience to relate to the world’s darkness. People bound by a code of ethics that prevents true connection or understanding, people who seek to drag the broken into the light without understanding why they haven’t been there in the first place.

Humanity is not a shameful experience. Real answers do exist. Cut yourself some slack. Pain is not something to be hidden. It’s something to be shared that others might better avoid it.

I may not have a degree like they say I should. And now, well into adulthood with a wife and child of my own, I’ve found myself thus far incapable of dropping everything to return to school. Sure, education is a great enhancement for tools forged by hard experience. By what use is a tool adorned with jewels if it’s never been forged in fire and quenched into its most durable form?

Better a plain and humble sword that was made properly than a jeweled one made of softest metal.

I can help you climb out of the pit. I know the path. I’ve been there before. And I’m working so hard for you, behind the scenes. Processing my story into something digestible. Not something to cling to, but something to learn from. And not because I’m better than you or because I’ve been through more, but because it is simply my purpose to do so. To change the broken stigma of mental health “awareness,” and give folks who are in pain actual solutions to their problems.

But every advocate needs an advocate. Help me build my platform so I can help those who are in the dark to understand the darkness, and thus overcome it.

You will hear more from me. If you need help, reach out to me anytime. It doesn’t matter who you are or how we’re related. I see the world’s hidden pains. The only real solution is unconditional love. Whatever happened to unconditional love?

-TQV

A Wedding Speech

I recently had a very magical wedding ceremony with my wife (who I legally married in January) at the Grand Canyon. My best friend (a historian) officiated the wedding, using concepts from the middle ages and ancient Latin language, and it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I’m forever grateful to all involved, and wanted to share the words I wrote for my wife. What’s the point in freelancing if you can’t express thoughts from your personal life while doing so, and use the work to honor those you love? A few of the day’s photos are included below the text.

“Steven recently asked me if I had anything that I wanted to say during this ceremony, and I realized that there is a huge difference between “Not having anything to say,” and “not having to say anything.” Since that time, I decided to write a full-length speech about not having to say anything.
 
If you know me well, you know that public speaking and crowds are my greatest fears, and I chose to say these words not because they needed to be said – I know that this moment is as sacred to Amanda as it is to me, and nothing could change that. I chose to say them despite knowing that I’d probably get emotional because this without a doubt the single most sacred moment I’ll ever live through, and I want to honor it with authenticity and vulnerability by sharing it with all of you.  

Since the moment I met Amanda, she has always understood me and accepted me for who I am – accepted how I came to be this way. That may sound like some innocent, puppy-love statement, but the truth of the matter is that life and its lessons will always leave scars behind. You’ll rarely meet a person of compassion who hasn’t been denied it, or a person who advocates for others who hasn’t been beaten down by them.  

From the outside, the world sees a couple that met during a college field trip and returned the following year to take the plunge. They see pretty Instagram pictures and read adventurous blogs about hiking and the outdoors. They see love. And there is an indescribable amount of that shared between us, or I wouldn’t be standing here. But there’s so much more than that. 

What the world doesn’t see are the things we’ve overcome together, and the things we have yet to. They don’t see a medic who wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming from nightmares that torture the mind but paralyze the body. They don’t see a man clinging to the hope that there’s still goodness in the world, and kindness. And they don’t see the days where I lose that hope and plummet into a darkness that I have to scratch and claw my way out of. 

Yes, I’m a gentleman and I can be charming. Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful and wicked smart. Yes, we’re ferociously loyal to one another. But there’s a negative to balance every positive, destruction balances creation, and yin balances yang. I used to have so much noise in my head, and it doesn’t matter to me if anyone here can relate to that. When I’m in the presence of the person I trust the most in this great and terrible world, the noise goes away. I try to be aware of projecting, not to be too dependent, and not to cling to the comfort she gives my soul, but I always end up losing that fight and just appreciating the fact that she’s there and chose to love me back. And I think the thing that makes that okay is that she somehow feels the exact same way about me. 

We’re two humans who were so sick of the world that we were just about ready to move on to the next one, but instead, God – the universe – whatever synonym you choose to use…”The powers that be” decided to grant us the mercy of each other. Of friendship. Of a life where your inner voice becomes the outer one, and you know that your person would follow you into the pits of hell, but that they won’t have to because you met in those pits, where you’d each learned to survive alone, and together, were resurrected.Persuasive writing, empathy, and intuition have always been strengths of mine, and I have to say that it’s been utterly refreshing not to have to convince, explain or justify anything to Amanda. Any emotions this speech has invoked are baseline compared to what each of us see when we simply look at each other. Our connection has been so organic and natural since day one – a connection fostered by living in a tent for the first three months of our relationship. Unconditional love is an increasingly rare gift – but that’s what we have for each other.

On the surface, I’m the emotional one. I choose to wear my feelings openly, on occasion, to prove that the human experience is not a shameful thing, but one of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than the moments when I can connect to her emotions, though. To her spirit. To a thing that is so well sheltered because the world is such a cruel place. And it’s not that I break down walls to get to it, it’s that she trusts me enough to break them down for me. I promise that, until my last breath, I will dedicate every tool that I have to making her world one of beauty, and comfort, and trust. Thank you all for being here to witness our enlightenment – our Nirvana. For two souls that have been tormented by their lifelong separation have at last been reunited into one.”

Futility

Open your eyes just for a while to see the truth

That so many young people have lost their youth

Not just to war, but to the memories that follow

Leave your heart feeling hollow cause it’s a hard pill to swallow

And now as time passes and wars come to end

We all know that another one is about to begin

And men in suits that sit behind mahogany desks

Will sign papers in blood to send our brothers to their deaths

They’ll stand in line to sign away their lives to fight

Because they’ll always believe in fighting for what’s right

And if they die, it’s fine, because it’s for a better tomorrow

And that fact makes it worthwhile to make

memories that are hard to swallow

And if I fall

Pick up my gun

Fight my fight

Until the fight is won

And if I die

Take care of my son

And never tell my family

Bout the things I’ve done

Cause if they see

The blood we spilled

All the freedoms they enjoy won’t seem so real

And if I cry

The tears are for you

Stay safe up there and I’ll see you soon.

It was so hot

But your eyes were so cold

As your skin turned white

And we said goodbye

They say we’re heroes

We say it’s a lie

Heroes don’t watch as their brothers lose their lives

So keep watching T.V. for a glamorized version of war

While we keep popping pills and drinking our fill ‘til we can’t remember it no more

And every day when we put on out uniforms

We’ll remember and pray for every single life that’s gone

And I thank God it wasn’t mine, that my family is still beside me That I can still pick up my son as he stares up wide eyed at me

And for the son whose dad is gone, your dad’s the true hero

For every battle won, there’s a son without a father

A mother all alone who’s still trying to raise their daughter

It might not be pleasant, but maybe for a day

We can all stop and think about the soldiers in their graves

And to all my brothers and sisters – my family in arms

Just do your best to keep on fighting and to stay away from harm

And if there comes a day when you’ve had all you can take

Just go home, you’re not alone, and yes, you’re still brave

Just take a break…so you don’t break

Don’t ever accept the fate of an early grave.

If we die in battle, it’s a price we sometimes pay

But don’t ever let the memories take your life away

We’re all here, so fight the fear and live another day