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. 😄

Till Lindemann, A Case Study in Trauma Driven Genius

I am one of those people that overanalyze everything and I’ve always seen things with a scientific mind because that’s just how my mind works. I love to know how everything works, especially the human psyche, and one subject in particular who has been a favorite to try and dissect is Till Lindemann, the lead singer of Rammstein.

I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I even learned quite a bit of German because of them, but I still haven’t wrapped my head around the complex character that is Herr Lindemann. He has a solo project, which is quite different than Rammstein’s heavy, industrial metal, and it’s not bad at all, it’s just…

Well, it’s a lot more perverted and violent, that’s for sure. 😄

Till has a reputation for being someone who loves to push boundaries and he uses this solo career as an outlet for that, as well as his poetry books, which gives someone like me plenty of material to pour over as I try to figure him out.

Not that R+’s lyrics aren’t darkly perverse, because they are, but in a Grimm’s fairy tale sort of way. I can handle them. In fact, I love them. Lindemann takes things to a whole different level that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, even for ardent Rammstein fans. He has a very dark sense of humor and is brilliant at this, um, art he’s making, but it is pretty extreme.

Here’s a good, somewhat tamer example of his work that is a sort of “rapist’s tango” when you translate and dissect the lyrics. The video is brilliant because as he’s describing how great he is in his ability to “seduce” all the ladies, he’s getting his ass kicked in a Russian prison and it’s actually quite funny.

What’s funny to me is seeing Rammstein fans assume that Till is being abused by the director here, who he’s worked with before, or that he’s in some sort of middle aged, spiraling-out-of-control phase now that he’s older, but I don’t really know what to think. I do know he’s a performance artist above all and this entire thing could be one giant performance art piece.

After all, he is a Berliner and they are known for their weird art.

It’s also intriguing as hell knowing that Till Lindemann grew up behind the Berlin wall, and surely had plenty of traumatic experiences. It’s well known among fans that he’s a cutter and his arms bear the deep scars to prove it. He pours his soul into his work, all of his work, and he’s really quite a popular entertainer in Germany and around the world.

Yet when it comes down to it, him and the other members of the band were all born prisoners of war. They are literally the bastard children of WW2. We can’t fathom what that’s like, nor do we probably want to, but we can empathize with them, especially if we, too, came from challenging childhoods.

Trauma affects us all differently, of course, but the members of Rammstein have all found a way to channel their childhood experiences into their music and it seems to have worked for them. After almost 30 years they are still together, all six of the original band members, and they are selling out stadium after stadium right now as we speak. In fact, they are more popular now than they’ve ever been, which is unheard of for a heavy metal band who have been around since the early 90s. Most bands peak and are playing Indian Casinos if they’re lucky about now.

Or, they never survived to see 30 years in the industry. So many of them never got over their demons and their own childhood trauma got the better of them and we lost them young. Too young at times. It’s mind boggling how many overdosed or committed suicide and left us with nothing but sadness and amazing catalogues of music that keep the rest of us hanging on.

Music, no matter what the type, can be so healing or therapeutic but when you get too attached to the artists themselves, you risk being pulled down into dark rabbit holes with them because as we all know, creativity is often driven by madness.

So perhaps we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get too emotionally attached to the creator, just the creation. Or, we allow ourselves to feel a human bond with our favorite musical geniuses because they, too, are just humans having a human experience, trying to stay afloat in the river of life.

We just can’t let them pull us down with them if that’s where they end up.

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.

Corruptors of Youth

Some of us don’t have a chance for normalcy. I was given my first line of meth by my brother and my first hit on a crack pipe by my best friend’s mom when I was thirteen and as an adult looking back now, it blows my mind and pisses me off when I look back to my early teen years and realize just how many grown people were involved in corrupting the youth back then! Particularly me!

Not just people in their 20s; you expect them to still want to hang out with teenagers, the male ones at least. I’m talking people in their thirties, forties and beyond. Wayyy too old to want to be “friends” with obviously damaged, highly vulnerable fifteen year old girls and boys, you know? And they were always around, supplying the goods or giving a ride to a concert or providing a safe house for us to go party. It seemed like a sport in the 80s to cross boundaries and the adults I knew all seemed completely fixated on themselves and getting either high, drunk or both.

Meth was really taking hold at that time and you could smell it cooking as you walked the streets and neighborhoods of Manteca. The odor was very distinct and I knew it well as I had smelled it up close, having been exposed to drug dealers, manufacturers and all manner of petty and not-so-petty criminals. As a freshman in high school I would walk to school and on the way I could smell at least two or three meth labs.

Our high school was a magnet for all of these middle aged corrupters of youth and usually one would spot me and offer a ride along the way, which I happily took. Hell, my oldest sister was still hitchhiking from town to town like the wannabe hippy she still was even though by the mid 80s we kinda knew that made you a target for a serial killer (and California was breeding as many of those as perverted narcissists it seemed).

We literally didn’t care. All five of us kids had a death wish of sorts, it seemed, we just sought it in slightly different ways. She liked to hook up with as many random strangers as she could because sex was her drug of choice. Meth and weed were mine, just like my older brother who I practically worshiped despite him being one of my worst abusers.

It was easy to overlook the abuse when the convenience of getting your fix meant your drug dealer lived in the same house as you, slept two doors down the hall and didn’t always notice when my sticky fingers dipped into his stash when he wasn’t around. I always tried to get in and out of his bedroom though because it was the scariest corner of the cave to me. His walls were covered in naked people doing all sorts of weird things, his collection of knives and bullets and brass knuckles and all manner of weapons of mass destruction scared me even more, but the smell made it feel like going into a gas chamber. I can still smell it if I try.

The smell was so strong, especially if he had skunk weed, that I knew when he was home regardless of the time of day or night because the moment he cracked the seal to that door, the entire house reeked of weed and teenage boy. This was on top of the overwhelming odor of cigarettes and cat shit which already made our cave smell so pungent!

Still, in a weird way I loved him even though it was just like having Sid from Toy Story as an older brother. Out of the entire clan he was the only one I had fond feelings for, but that was probably because he took me places and hooked me up with lots of drugs. He also had hot friends I enjoyed the company of and a reputation for being a bad ass that I benefited from as his little sister. He wasn’t my only brother, but he was the only one who seemed to enjoy my company as long as I was bringing my friends over to buy dimebags and quarters from him, so I did my best to tolerate his personality “quirks” when they were aimed at me.

Though there was that one unfortunate incident when I had to pull a butcher knife on him after he knocked his pit bull out cold in front of me and then turned and came after me in a fit of rage, but eventually we got past that. Plus, he wasn’t the only one corrupting me whenever he had the chance. My oldest sister, the free-love loving hippy wannabe was also into that, but she didn’t use drugs. Unless you count sex as a drug.

All of them were or should have been old enough to know better. At the age of thirteen, I didn’t realize it was wrong of them but by the time I was an older teen, especially by the time I was married and having my first child just before my 20th birthday, I KNEW what they had done was wrong and I was already determined not to be like them or to tolerate any adults around me wanting to corrupt the youth.