Take It Or Leave It

I’m not one to give unsolicited advice, mostly because I hate receiving it. Yet so many people insist on doling it out as if they’re on a mission commissioned by the Almighty Himself to do so. It’s their personal goal in life to tell the rest of us what we should be doing, why we need to do it and how we should be doing it.

Nowadays we call those people narcissists. We used to just call them annoying busybody assholes.

So I try not to be one, because I don’t like them. It can be difficult though, the older you get and the more life experience you acquire, not to share helpful tips with others even when they didn’t ask for it. Aka give unsolicited advice. I find myself stopping myself more and more from doing it so I’m not annoying my son or other younger people who have yet to figure some things out through trial and error, like I did. Like we all do. Like we all should.

Still, it’s great to come across good advice even if you aren’t looking for it, like this article I found over at the NYTimes. Here’s just the section on Life Advice:

The first kind of counsel for your consideration: words of wisdom for almost any life situation.

  • You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution,” Ms. Aulisi noted.
  • “Don’t pickle things.” That line, brought to you by reader Sam Singer’s mother, means: If you have something special, use it now. “Serve daily meals on your good china. Wash your hands with the luxurious soap you received as a housewarming gift. Drink that bottle of amazing wine right away. Don’t save things for future use — because who knows what the future looks like?”
  • “Exercise adds 20 degrees.” For example, “if it’s 28 degrees out and it seems too cold to go running,” Rory Evans wrote, “once you get moving, it’ll feel like it’s 48 degrees. And that, you can handle.”
  • “Touch it once.” According to Christine H., this household hint involves putting something away the first time you pick it up. That way, “you don’t have to waste energy looking at it (and feeling guilty), or letting it get dusty so you have to clean it before putting it away.”
  • “Sleep on his side of the bed.” Mattie Scott heard this advice at her husband’s funeral. “It’s truly the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten,” she notes. “The effect was profoundly comforting, and it greatly lessened the ache of missing his physical presence.”
  • “Things don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Gail Dekker first heard her friend, a wedding coordinator, offer these words to young couples whose emotions were running high. But it works in all kinds of situations, including Ms. Dekker’s house hunt. “My initial reaction was that there was something wrong with every condo I saw. My friend reminded me: A place didn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. She was right.”
  • “Take a breath.” Melissa Fanning heard this from a yoga teacher (“at a corporate retreat about which I remember nothing else”). It wasn’t a yoga instruction; it was a suggestion to pause at stressful moments, to avoid saying or doing something regrettable. “I use this advice every day,” Ms. Fanning wrote. “It has preserved peace, calmed me, and made me appear smarter than I am.”
  • “You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your reaction to them.” Kim Radich uses this advice daily. “For example, when a family member reacted negatively to a situation, I remembered I can’t control their behavior, and I let it roll off my back.”
  • “Just be a gentleman.” Harry Kelly admits that this advice “may sound corny.” But that guidance came from his mother at a heightened emotional moment: as she dropped him off at college shortly after his father had died. “It means not taking advantage of other people and trying to adhere to your moral values,” he wrote. “Her advice has kept me from doing some bad things and encouraged me to do what is right. Best advice ever.”

There’s more, and some of it’s really good! It’s a collection of best advice ever given to the readers.

Some of the best advice, though, comes from our inner voice that we all like to ignore. If we listen closely it’s telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing, when we’re right or wrong, and everything in between. It’s our compass if we can learn to tune out the other voice that pops up and drowns it out.

You know the one that repeats all the negative things your mother ever said to you? Yeah, we have more than one inner voice. The one that’s trying to guide us in a positive way is the one we want to tune into, though, because it really does have our best interest at heart even if it seems like a killjoy.

And it’s more of an intuition or a feeling than an actual voice. The naysayer is usually the loud one we hear chattering away while this one, well it’s somewhere deeper, and nudges us from a quiet place hidden within the recesses of our soul itself. Perhaps it’s our “higher self” even, who knows, all I know is when I listen to it I have pretty good outcomes compared to when I ignore it and try to go at life doing things my own way (which sounds weird I know because that voice IS part of me and no, I’m not schizophrenic, it’s perfectly normal to have internal dialogue(s)).

Don’t let anyone make you feel crazy or weird just because you have internal dialogues or monologues. It really is normal. It only becomes a problem when the voices take on nefarious tones and tell you to do bad things. Or if you begin talking to your toaster. Then you might want to get some help.

Oops, it looks like I just went against my own personal vow not to offer unsolicited advice. Oh well, it’s too late now. Take it or leave it. 😋

Another Case Study in Trauma Driven Genius: Dave Matthews

I don’t think I love any artist more than I do Dave. Like many fans, I didn’t really get into his music until much later. Not that I didn’t know who he (or they) were, I knew a few songs and thought it was okay but not the greatest thing out there. Plus there was a bit of a stereotype of early DMB fans, and I preferred metal anyway.

Until I found their cover of All Along the Watchtower, which blew my mind and made me dig more into their live stuff…

Which is how I learned that they are one of the most talented jam bands to ever grace a stage!! I spent days watching live show after live show, completely in awe at the raw talent. Not just Dave but everyone he plays with. We’ve been huge fans ever since and we’ve been to see them in the Gorge many times, so it’s fair to say we love Dave and co.

Still, it’s hard to not notice that he, too, seems to be one of those creative geniuses who had a really traumatic childhood. He grew up during apartheid in South Africa, his sister was murdered, his father died when he was young, and he struggled over the years with his mental health but seems to have not only come out of it but has developed an interesting life view because of it perhaps.

In an interview with Rolling Stone he says:

Death is often a major focal point of your songwriting, partly because so many people close to you — your father, your sister, childhood friends — have had untimely deaths.
I find it much more surprising that death is not part of the conversation at all. I guess as a culture we’ve grown to admire youth and the naive wonder of youth as somehow better than the wrinkles and wisdom that come with age, and that somehow there’s a fault in accepting mortality. That is fucking stupid. Not to say that death isn’t shocking, but if there wasn’t death, life would be fucking useless. We’d be bored to tears. Mortality makes it so much more spectacular. That’s the thing we should talk about more than the delusions of grandeur that come along in the afterlife. What an utter waste of time. But I guess it’s more comforting if you think there’s this Santa Claus in the sky who’s waiting to make us happy, or if we haven’t been good, he’s not going to give us any presents. God has no plan. It’s simpler to think that we’ll go to heaven or hell when we die. To me, that seems like a way to avoid living.

At what point in your life did you formulate your ideas about death?
If anything, I think of the times I contemplated suicide.

When was that?
It comes and goes. I don’t know that it will ever end. When things inside your head get kind of crazy, and you go, “OK, let’s go through the list of options.” And suicide was one of them. I’ve never indulged in it where I was sitting, snot pouring out of my nose, tears pouring down my face, saying, “This is it. Fuck it. I’m gone.”

What’s the closest you ever came?
Just thinking about ways, which I don’t think is uncommon. But I’ve had a few doctors tell me that it’s not necessarily that common.

Did you come up with a method?
The idea of throwing yourself off a bridge, but I’m afraid of heights. I thought about a gunshot, but it’s so violent and messy. Gassing oneself is kind of peaceful.

When was this?
In my late teens, early twenties. What turned me away was something a friend of mine said, someone I used to wait tables with. Her name was Carter, and she was a wonderful girl. She told me that my death was done the minute I was born. It’s the only guarantee, the only thing that you know is gonna happen. What’s the point in hastening it? Why not stick around, if for nothing else than for curiosity?

It can be shocking to read one of your favorite artists talk so casually about death and offing themselves and even detail how they thought of doing it but it’s also comforting to know we are really just all the same at the end of the day. Dave has just mastered channeling his trauma into his creative arts and like Till Lindemann, who I posted about in my last post, he also paints and acts and does a lot of performance art. He’s so much more than just the leader of DMB.

He’s pretty inspirational but again, you know what they say about meeting your heroes. It’s easy to read a few lines or watch a concert and see a movie clip where Dave’s being silly and goofy and it’s another thing to realize that like so many artists, he probably has his darker moments too and I bet he slips into places he’d rather not go to just like the rest of us while assuring the world that everything is fine and dandy.

You just never know. Yet there’s something genuine feeling about Dave and I do hope he truly has conquered his demons, which are some of the same ones we all fight in life. Of course he has millions of dollars and millions of adoring fans plus a lot of close friends and family to help keep him going. I do think that helps. 😄

Why the name?

I named this blog “Scattered Among the Leaves” because it’s the working title I have for a book I keep starting and then stopping. I figure this will get me at least motivated to pick it back up and maybe, you know, actually finish it.

I love fall, too, and I love the autumn leaves and how it feels to walk among them as they blow about on a warm afternoon. It’s one of those things I can recall fondly from childhood, so I cling to it because to be honest, there aren’t many good memories for me from that period in my life. I struggled to find happiness for years after I left the nest, too, and only now do I feel content and whole.

Less scattered, if that makes sense.

I do like to share how I got from there to here and sometimes I wonder myself. Often when I’m out on the dog sled, in the middle of the quiet winter magic, I feel like there has to be a cosmic hand at play here. How did I come through it all to find myself living a life I couldn’t have even dreamed for myself?

There was a time when I didn’t believe I deserved anything good in life let alone that I’d even live to be the age I am now. Yet here I am, and I’m so very happy to have made it to the other side.

The Gift of Staying Present

I honestly don’t know how the young people today grow up without mental health issues. It boggles my mind when people see the statistics getting worse with each generation and scratch their heads, wondering why everyone seems to be slowly going mad, but I guess it’s easier to do that than to face reality. We live in a crazy, effed up world. Humans have been and still are the most vile creatures on the planet, if they so choose to be and the natural world itself wants to kill us at every turn.

You have to be extremely resilient and strong willed to not let it at least get you mildly anxious or depressed.

Of course some people are wired differently and seem to sail through anything unscathed, a smile on their face and a spring in their step. You almost feel embarrassed when they’re around because it just shows how much you can’t handle life since this person over here has been through just as much adversity, if not more, yet still finds happiness and contentment.

Or do they?

Every so often we’ll read of the suicide that no one saw coming. They were always happy-go-lucky and had a charmed life. You know, then that whole ‘you can’t read a book by its cover’ thing gets thrown around and we all realize that none of us are immune. None.

It’s like we’re in a game of who can survive the longest without giving up, and so far I feel like I’m doing pretty well. When old habits kick back in or even just negative thoughts linger a bit too long, I throw myself back into my work. Which for me is being a full time husky wrangler and part time blogger.

I’m making videos for my husband’s YouTube channels now, and that’s rewarding not to mention time consuming. Not to mention attention consuming, which is good to keep your mind wandering back in time to relive things you want to forget and can’t change anyway.

Healing from abuse means rewiring how your brain works because we can get stuck in a loop, always worrying about the past and afraid for the future things to come. Being in the moment is a gift we can give ourselves but it takes practice. I still haven’t mastered it, but I do pretty well these days.

Something else I did to help myself was EMDR but I did it at home, online during the lockdowns. There are a few videos out there you can find, but you have to really put the work in. It does help, though.