Tying the Knot

Last month, my brother married the woman he’s been with for the better part of the past decade.  Rather than a traditional wedding, they opted for a handfasting ceremony without the formal attire.  It was different, but beautiful nonetheless.  What is handfasting you might ask?  Handfasting is a ceremony in which the wedded partners take each others hands while their hands are tied by one or more cords/ribbons, resulting in a literal “tying the knot.”  The term dates back to 16th/17th century Scotland according to Wikipedia.  Although this type of ceremony is usually associated with Pagan or Wiccan culture, it has recently been used more often in secular and even religious weddings.  Despite whatever kind of ritual or ceremony is chosen in a marriage, one thing remains the same: It is a union between two people, two lives; a lifelong commitment to one another that is born out of love, and the willingness to endure the better or worse parts until the end.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about tying the knot.  Not the kind of knot that joins two lives, but rather the kind that separates life from the individual.

“6 to 8 will do just fine;

But if superstition serves,

Loop the knot 13 times.”

That little jingle came to me as I was doing some fact-finding on hangman’s knots.  By now, you’ve probably figured out that the knot I’m referring to is symbolic for hanging, and in this case – suicide.  Unlike the term used for marriage where tying the knot symbolizes the unity between two people, tying the knot in this case symbolizes the path to suicide, and suicide itself – the spiraling slopes of madness, suffocation of life; and ultimately cutting off the lifeblood entirely for a very permanent death.  While suicide in itself is the instantaneous act of finality, the path to it begins at suicidal ideation and eventually reaches a point where acting on those thoughts take place.  Whatever the method may be, they all lead to the dreadful or fantasized irreversible act.  The only exception to the instantaneous part (unless a clumsy person misses their mark, doesn’t jump from high enough, or tied the rope to a beam that doesn’t support their weight), are the pills/poison not taken at a high enough dosage (carbon monoxide aside).  Unless some very lethal toxins are used such as cyanide, arsenic, or belladonna, chances are it will take a very uncomfortable while for the job to be done leaving the window of opportunity open to being saved, unfortunately.  Although the act (if successful) is irreversible, the path from the first thought to the final loop on the knot is one that can be turned away from.

Yes, my mind has been on the subject lately, and not in the best of ways.  I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s not something I want to hide either.  So what’s triggering these thoughts?  Perhaps at seeing the people around me moving forward in their lives, I’ve come to realize how far I’ve fallen, how utterly incompetent I am.  Perhaps I can only see a failure when I look in the mirror, a monster every time I close my eyes.  Maybe I’m tired of waking each morning to the same drab routine, stuck in a heavy haze of an endless daze.  Maybe I can’t seem to feel anything but a deep emptiness that yearns to be filled; one that no amount of alcohol, substances, and other desires of the flesh can satisfy – as they are all empty, temporary illusions of happiness.  It may be that life itself is not worth living, that I don’t belong here, that my existence was a mistake, that I don’t matter.

But I do.

And so do you.

The thoughts come swarming in at our moments of vulnerability, like sharks to the scent of blood.  Caught in the current of the maelstrom, it becomes difficult to break away from the thoughts that continue to pull the mind to ever darker places.  It may be impossible to find the light or a way out from all the chaos, if we keep looking down at the gaping maw of the maelstrom which continues to draw us in.  Look away from that dark place, and there may yet be a glimmer of light, of hope, or even an extended hand ready and willing to pull you out.  Then extend your hand and accept what has been given – hope, help, life.  It’s much easier said than done, as I am still struggling with this.  Before I continue, I’d like to state the obvious – that the causes and thoughts vary widely between person to person, as each individual is unique; and though circumstances may be similar, our headspaces are different.  What may be trivial for some can be life altering for another.  Regardless of the circumstances or the scenarios, one thing remains constant – losing the will to live.

Have I really fallen that far, or am I too busy measuring myself up to other’s standards?  Am I really a failure if I’m the only one who thinks so?  A monster still, if I’ve shown remorse?  Is every day truly as gray as I’ve painted it for myself?  Am I truly consumed with emptiness, when I also have love?  Is my life worth living now that I’ve put things in a different light, having broken my gaze free from the gaping maw of the maelstrom?  Yes it is, but it is usually not so simple.  Even if we can break away our thoughts from that dark place, we are still grounded in reality and all the struggles that come with it.  Thinking in a more positive light won’t make the bills disappear, or add digits to an account balance.  It won’t change the current housing situation, or relationship problems.  It can’t erase the scars of trauma, neglect, or abuse.  It will never change what was, or what is.  But, it is a start to what can be.

Rather than taking action on suicidal ideation, wouldn’t it be better to take action on life?  Sure, life sucks at times and we all know by now that it isn’t easy, but there are good times that can make the bad worth enduring.  Now, I can’t say be happy and enjoy life just like that.  That’s too unrealistic to do so suddenly.  Rather, come to acceptance with what’s been given – life, and come to acceptance with yourself, scars and all.  Only then will it be possible to find contentment and, dare I say, possibly happiness.  In all honesty, I don’t think it’s possible to do it alone.  I know I can’t.  Loneliness can lead to a point of emptiness, and there’s no better fuel for suicidal ideation than emptiness.  On days where I feel just that, it only takes something as simple as a smile from my child to take away that emptiness.

It feels funny to admit this, but I believe love is the only thing that can take away emptiness, or should I say fill the void where the emptiness resides.  I’m not talking about the kind of love that’s synonymous with sex, or the kind that describes the giddy feelings of butterflies when someone’s been met or the feeling of being “in love ” – that’s attraction, stimulated senses similar to that of hormones if not hormones themselves.  That’s not real love.  Real love is giving without asking for something in return, serving another without self-interest.  Real love is something that takes effort, putting all personal desires aside for the sake of the one(s) you love, and willing to endure whatever hardships may come.  It isn’t easy.  It requires sacrifice.  When that kind of love is reciprocated, it becomes mutual and with a partner, becomes what should be the foundation of marriage.  With my daughter, it’s that love which keeps me going day after day.  That love that takes away the emptiness.  That love that makes the hardest parts of life worth enduring.

With that said, I can safely say that she saves me every day.  Some days can be harder than others, and she can test my patience at times like all kids do.  Putting aside my own self-interests was difficult at first and still can be, but I’ve now found a sort-of balance between hers and mine (Some habits/addictions can be hard to kick).  No matter how deep I fall into the maelstrom of suicidal thoughts, or how intentionally reckless I can be with my own well-being testing fate in the process, or how depressed I get with current circumstances, I always manage to pull through because of that love for her.  She makes me realize that I do matter.  However, I’d be lying if I said she’s the only reason to stay alive, or the only one that can get me through this.  The truth is, there are others – family, friends, even a higher power if you believe, that can help.  Even though I continue to struggle with life’s challenges, and when I find myself staring into the darkness, one step away from going over the edge, it’s the support that I’ve allowed myself to have and love which keeps me from going over that edge.

Suicidal ideation will always be there.  A lurking storm of despair that will pull in anyone who dares to let their mind wander too close.  Though there is a way out of that storm, that storm never really disappears.  It’s easy to fall right back into the vicious current of chaotic thoughts, but if it has been escaped from once, it can be escaped from again.  Taking action on life, and finding that light, help, or hope can really make a difference.  The path from the first thought to the final loop in the knot is one that can be turned away from at any time.  It only takes a choice, and effort to act on it, although this is not easy.  With help and support, and most importantly – love, this struggle doesn’t have to be faced alone.  If none of the above are available, fear not.  Seek and you shall find.  I cannot speak for everyone, as the situation varies widely between person to person.  This is my tale to tell, and it is not over yet.  If you’re reading this and struggling with the dark thoughts of suicide, or tying that final loop into place on the knot, your tale is still being written and doesn’t have to end.  Don’t let someone else have to tell it for you.

Not everyone will agree with what I have to say, or my opinions on the matter, but to each his own.  With my brother’s wedding, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness even though I was happy for him.  While he has been with her for almost the entire past 10 years, it has been over 10 years since I’ve been in a relationship.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to commit, or even tie the knot in that aspect.  Perhaps one day I’ll cross paths with someone who will change that.  My birthday also passed recently, and that put me into low mood for the month.  Another year with nothing to show for my effort (or lack thereof).  You can see now where my thoughts mentioned above came from.  Though my thoughts have been on tying the knot, I’ve chosen not to take action on them.  I’ve chosen to endure the hardship and keep trying for a better situation, no matter how many times I fall or fail.  I won’t be tying the hangman’s knot today, and I’ll be making an effort to refrain from doing so tomorrow, and every day after that.  However, I can’t leave you all without a birthday song.  Please excuse my dark humor.

Happy birthday to me

Hang myself from a tree

Let the life drain from my

Body and end this misery.

N

Unforgiven

Father’s Day, though it’s already passed us for the year, is a day that makes me quite uncomfortable.  Although I am a father myself, and I do appreciate the thoughts, words, and gifts bestowed upon me that day, it’s not myself as a father that makes me feel that way.  I try to do my best for my daughter, and where others see a “great father,” I can only see my own shortcomings.  We all strive to be the best that we can be for our kids, and do our best to nurture, and guide them into becoming adults, but most importantly ensure they are loved unconditionally no matter their stage in life.  It’s only through love that they can grow to their fullest.  However, that is a discussion for another time.  With Father’s Day, I’m reminded of the baggage I carry.  I’m reminded of the things I’ve done.  I’m reminded that I am still unforgiven.

I grew up with both parents who loved me.  Even though my family didn’t have much money, I knew I was loved because they showed it.  Then came the teenage years, where I started acting up like almost any teen.  However, for reasons I still can’t seem to put my finger on, I was angry.  Very angry.  I don’t remember how it all started, or what may have kicked it off, but I had my spats with my dad getting disciplined in the process.  The more I was disciplined, the angrier I got, thus continuing a destructive cycle.

Shattered glass on the floor;

Finger pointed,

There’s the door;

Open mouthed with

A defiant roar.

It only became worse with time, as I became increasingly defiant.  Many might say that it is just a natural part of being a teenager, as we all go through a similar stage in those years.  Sometime during my early high school years, I was diagnosed with depression and put on medication.  At first it seemed to help, but I later discovered that medication was not the answer for me.  I became increasingly violent, to the point where I was taken away one night.  If not for the medication and self-inflicted wounds on my body, I would have been incarcerated rather than hospitalized.  I had hurt both of my parents more than ever, and I know they still carry the scars from that night.  What still haunts me to this day is how close I came to completely destroying my family.

Flashes of red;

Blood and tears flow as I cried in bed.

What did I do?

Taken in the night with dancing lights of red and blue.

I would not see

The thing I had become, as I looked at the monster looking at me.

My parents visited me during my “stay away from home,” and it was clear they were shaken, yet continued to want the best for me.  They still loved me and sought additional help for me.  When I returned home some time later, there was an uneasy peace.  At least in my head it felt that way.  I was also pulled from my school and sent elsewhere for about a year.  Though it seemed things were gradually starting to get better, they would never be the same.  Of course, I still continued to give not only my parents, but my siblings a hard time.  Then one night, I shattered my family again.

The crack of bone.

A Kingless throne.

The deeds that night,

etched in stone.

When my dad came back from the hospital, I could not look him in the eyes.  What I did was unforgivable.  Even then, he still saw me as his son.  He even went as far as to take me along with my brother and some cousins to see a big movie on opening night later that month.  As excited as I was for this movie, shame hovered over me like an endless cloud.  People could see what I had done, and though they didn’t know it was me, I did.  To this day, I cannot forget his face.

My parents couldn’t be more deserving of a better son, but instead they got me.  Someone who ravaged the family numerous times, and put them through extreme emotional and sometimes physical pain.  The connection is clear that because of my actions, they affected my younger siblings as well in a such a way which has left them “traumatized,” as my mom had put it.  Not only did I hurt my parents, but I was a bad role model and set a very poor example of how a big brother should be for my siblings, effectively being someone they feared rather than someone they could look up to.

The thing is, even though I repeatedly put my parents through hell, they are still there for me to this day.  When I look at my daughter, I can see why that is whereas I didn’t before.  That goes for most of us with children, but there has to be a line drawn at some point as to what is beyond unacceptable behavior.  I’ve crossed that line too many times, yet my parents have continued to show me their generosity, kindness, and love throughout the years since the events I’ve mentioned and those I haven’t.  They have forgiven me for what I’ve done, but I have not.

I’ve created a wound within myself that grew every time I hurt them.  A gaping wound which is endlessly bleeding with the stench of my own blood that permeates the air I breathe making me nauseous and sick.  How can I say I love them when I’ve shown nothing but hostility?  How can I allow myself to make even the slightest skin contact knowing what my prior contact resulted in?  How can I ever repay the damage I have done as the scars I’ve left can never be erased?  Happy Mother’s Day.  Happy Father’s Day.  I’m sorry I almost killed you both.  That makes a great card, don’t you think?  Although Mother’s Day has gotten easier for me, Father’s Day is still one I struggle with.  I still see what I did to him, the image burned into my memory for all eternity, reminding me of my shame that burns brighter than the sun.  How clever, I am the son.  But I am not the light.  I am the wound.  I’ve kept myself at a distance for years now as I feel that I am undeserving, and though I do love them, I don’t know how to say or show it.  They may have forgiven me, but I don’t know if I can or ever will forgive myself.

I kept things very brief and left out many details for obvious reasons.  What I shared today is something I have never shared openly before, as it’s been kept buried for the last 15 years.  It’s the tip of the iceberg that weighs me down.  I’m still the black sheep of my family, preferring the cold isolation over the warmth of their embrace.  Perhaps in time I can learn to show affection once again and fully give them an actual embrace for once in my adult life, before it’s too late.

N

Perseverance

About 3 weeks ago I faced a problem that had been slowly building up due to my own negligence.  My car’s check engine light had come on a few months prior and I dismissed it.  I’ve been stuck in a zone, so to speak, and have had little motivation or enthusiasm to do anything outside of my regular routine.  Of course, my regular routine involves my daughter and we do as much as time and money permits us to do, and I do truly enjoy each moment with her.  Outside of that is usually “me” time in which I’ve been wasting countless hours being unproductive.  I was letting myself go, and with that, the proper care and maintenance of my car among other things.  I’ve been feeling lost, and even after all these years, no closer to where it is that I want to be.

In a number of states in the U.S., a smog/emissions check is required and must be passed for a vehicle’s registration to be renewed.  A check engine light usually results in a fail.  With my registration date coming up and a smog test required, I should have addressed the problem much sooner than later, yet money was an issue which always seems to be.  I don’t make much, and sometimes I can be on a tight budget.  The car had just been serviced and I replaced some of the coolant hoses because of a leak, discovering the source in the process, but decided to address it later.  With that stated, I planned ahead to make sure there was enough to pay the bills, and to ensure that my daughter would get a few gifts for Christmas.  Though Christmas is not just about the gifts, almost any parent has a natural instinct to give their best to their children (spoiling aside that is) including presents for occasions like this.  I prioritized the gifts, and pushed back the issue with the car.

Immediately after Christmas, it was back to work and the same went for the New Year, though I had my trouble codes pulled so I could see what needed to be fixed.  Looking at the codes, I could see that 5 out of 7 had to do with the upstream oxygen sensor (O2 sensor).  With a bit of research and how-to videos, I decided to replace it myself and save some money as I wouldn’t be able to afford a mechanic.  I knew it would be difficult to break the torque on that sensor, but little did I know it would give me so much trouble.  So the part was ordered along with a special socket to remove and replace the O2 sensor.  All I had to do was wait a few more days.  The other 2 codes had to do with the mass air flow sensor which was taken care of promptly, with a simple bit of cleaning.  That same week of the new year, my car took a drastic turn for the worse when it would hesitate and not accelerate when my foot was on the pedal.  It would lose all acceleration on the road, slowing down enough to the point where I would obstruct the flow of traffic.  I had barely made it home on Friday night, and with the unreliability of my car, the danger of driving like that, and not to mention the damage it would do to the engine, my car was as good as dead.  My job requires me to have a vehicle, so this put me in a dire situation.  Luckily, the last of the parts I had ordered came in on Saturday afternoon.  By then, it was too dark to begin.  That night before getting started, I had soaked the area with a penetrating oil to help loosen the threads of the sensor that needed to be replaced.

On the first day, my brother came over to help, and we got to work.  After about 30 minutes, it became apparent that this would be extremely challenging.  Not only was the sensor seized up tighter than I thought, but the room to maneuver underneath the car was minimal, even with the car jacked up.  The sensor was at an odd angle, and with the socket/ratchet/breaker bar in place, there was less than 10 inches of room to work with, and even less when the breaker bar was in place as it had no rotary motion.  At last, it seemed like the torque was broken and the sensor would come out.  To my dismay, we had only succeeded in rounding the nut (not too badly at first).  After a few more unsuccessful attempts, we went to the store in his car to get a few tools in helping with the removal including a 22mm deep socket (which I probably should have gotten in the first place, as the car has foreign parts which use metric units as opposed to SAE units) and a curved jaw locking pliers with a torque lock.  The O2 socket came in a “⅞ (22m)” size, and though it states 22mm, it is not a true metric size. The difference between ⅞ of an inch and 22mm is tiny (22.225mm vs 22.0mm), but large enough to cause rounding on a stuck bolt or nut.  Having new tools in hand as well as food in our bellies, we got back to work in trying to remove that damned sensor.  It soon got dark and we called it a day.  The sensor was still seized in place, and no progress had been made aside from rounding the nut that holds the sensor in place.  That night, after he left, I soaked the area once again with a good amount of penetrating oil in the hopes that tomorrow would yield a better result.

The second day came, but the morning brought rain which prevented me from getting started right away.  There was no cover in the area where the car was parked, and nowhere else to move it where it could be lifted to perform the work on it.  After the rain ceased and most of the surface water had seeped into the ground, I went back to work under the car.  The O2 sensor would still not budge after various techniques and numerous attempts.  Rather, it seemed to round out even more with every attempt.  With the registration due date coming up in just a few days, the smog check requirement that’s required for it, not to mention the unreliability of my car (my job requires me to have a vehicle) on top of everything else that was on my mind, the stress was pushing me to a breaking point.  I felt like giving up on my attempts and taking the car into an auto repair shop where someone else could handle “my problem.”  For a mechanic at an auto shop, it’s likely that my problem was an easy fix.  For me, this felt like defeat.  Attempting to fix a problem and failing.  Failing like I always seem to do.  It’s become almost expected.  I’ll reach for something and fall short.  Every time.  The years have come and gone, yet here I am.  Still stuck in the same place having made no progress to get to where I want to be, and what I want for my daughter.  Falling short enough times, I start to wonder why even bother trying.  So, I sat on my toolbox and started calling a few shops in the area to ask for a quote on the service that was needed.  I realized that if my car didn’t run, it would also need to be towed which would result in additional costs that I couldn’t afford.  I felt defeated.

Having just about given up, I sat there on my toolbox feeling helpless and hopeless.  Inside of me was brief raging storm of frustration, anger, sadness, and a number of other emotions which slowly faded into a cold aura of despair.  Why bother?  There was a bridge just down the road, and I could walk there easily.  There would be no more car trouble, no more worrying about work, about money and bills, no more stress, no more loneliness.  I would find peace of mind.  Then I remembered my daughter’s doctor appointment approaching in almost an hour from that time.  I had been selfish, thinking only of my own problems.  This task needed to get done, not for myself, but for her.  Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the locking pliers (even though I had tried them at one point) and slid back under my car.  It took a few minutes to get the torque on the pliers right, where they could get a grip without sliding or messing up the nut even further, as well as having the correct position where they grabbed the nut evenly.  

As I finally had it set right, the sound of light footsteps approached from behind.  My daughter had come to pick up some medical records for her doctor’s appointment, as her mother waited in her car in the driveway.  The sound of her voice was a gentle caress to my weary heart.  Immediately, I was uplifted.  Though the pliers had just been positioned, I couldn’t keep her waiting.  I slid back out to see her and embrace her before getting what she needed, and seeing her off with her mother.  There was still some time to spare before the appointment, so back under the car I went to give those pliers a push.  The nut turned.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Did that nut finally move?  I had to release the pliers, reposition them, and squeeze down once again, as the room to move was very small.  With another push, the nut turned once again.  It had finally budged!  A wave of relief washed over me as this troublesome piece was now unstuck.  However, I needed to leave soon to get to my daughter’s appointment as there were some questions to ask and information to share with her doctor.  Her well-being comes before anything else.  Now that the sensor was unstuck, I could breathe easy.  I set all the tools aside, so they wouldn’t be laying out in the open, and changed my wet t-shirt before heading out in a borrowed car.  Less than 2 hours later, I was back underneath the car pulling out the old sensor, and screwing in the new one with a flashlight on hand as it had gotten dark.  This is where the O2 socket came in handy, as I tightened the sensor in place.  Once that was finished, I ran the wire along the previous path before connecting the harness.  At last, it was done.  After 2 days of trying to break the torque, and months of an illuminated check engine light, a new sensor was finally in place.  Hopefully, this meant that my car would run, and the check engine light would be cleared so it could pass the smog test.  Before taking it out for a test drive, I wanted to install the new spark plugs that I had purchased since it was about time anyway (and because it may have been a partial cause for the hesitation when accelerating), but it had gotten dark.  I would get to it in the morning, and at that time I just wanted to shower and rest.

On the morning of the 3rd day, I woke early and after getting my daughter ready for school, proceeded to change the spark plugs.  Though I was relieved at having a new O2 sensor in place, I was still apprehensive about my car being able to run.  Doubt and fear kept gnawing at my mind.  Once the last of the spark plugs were changed, I went to start the car.  The moment of truth was here at last as I put my key in the ignition and turned it.  Click click click click click.  The car would not start.  Had all my work been in vain?  Trying to hide my frustration and fear, I told my daughter that it would be OK and that we would simply walk to her school which is not far.  Luckily for her, she was offered a ride by my sister which got her there on time, something which she was concerned about.  That left me to focus on the car.  With a quick test using a multimeter, it was clear that the battery didn’t have enough charge to start the car.  Having sat in the driveway for the past 3 and a half days, the battery had discharged enough that it would not turn over.  I went back inside now wondering if it was more than just the battery, and whether or not something else like the starter or alternator needed to be fixed or replaced.  Before long, sleep overcame me as I drifted off with uneasiness.  The stress of the situation had infiltrated my dreams with doubt and fear now running rampant throughout my mind.  I do not remember how long I slept, but that it was restless as I drifted in and out of consciousness between one bad dream to another.  It took a few minutes to clear my head after waking up, before reaching out to some friends in the area asking for a jump.  A response came back not long after from a friend who would be able to help me.  A short time later, we pushed my car out of the driveway and into the street, parking it in front of his car.  Once the jump cables were in place and his car had been running for a few minutes, the moment of truth was here yet again as I sat in my car ready to turn the key.  The sound of my car’s engine turning over was the sound of accomplishment for me, as I listened closely to the purr of the engine.  I thanked him as we disconnected the jump cables and closed our hoods, before he left.  Though my car had started, I wasn’t out of the woods just yet.

With a new problem (weak battery) on my hands, and possible other problems that may have contributed to that, it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet.  The car still needed to pass the smog test, and I needed to see if my vehicle’s hesitation was gone.  Having just been jumped, I drove down my street listening and feeling carefully for any signs of hesitation or unwelcome noises, before turning around and heading towards the battery center where the battery was purchased.  On the freeway, I was careful not to push the car too hard as I didn’t want to run the risk of damaging the car even further if I had missed something, or if something else had gone wrong.  As the car came to a stop at the off ramp, I saw white smoke coming out from under the hood.  I drove one more block before pulling over as the smoke had started coming out heavily enough to block my view.  With the risk of a fire heavily outweighing the risk of needing another jump, I pulled over onto a side street, turned off the car, and opened the hood to vent the smoke and see where it was coming from.  In the location where the O2 sensor had been installed, right below the exhaust manifold, smoke was billowing out.  Had I broken something?  Was there a leak somewhere?  Had I failed yet again?  What more could go wrong, no, I dare not tempt and challenge fate with that question.  With nothing to do but wait, I sat on the curb a few paces away from the car to avoid the toxic fumes.  I searched for possible causes on my phone as I waited for the smoke to clear.  Remembering that I had soaked the area numerous times with a penetrating oil, I searched for other cases similar to mine, and found that it was indeed the residual penetrating oil being burned off from the heat of the exhaust.  The only thing to do now would be to run the car until it had all burned off and the smoke ceased.  Once the smoke was down to a few wisps, I continued on toward the battery center.  There, I found that my battery was still good to my relief, but discharged.  They took my battery for a deep charge while I used a loaned battery that was provided for a couple of days.  With the hour growing late, and the smoke from the residual penetrating oil starting to subside, I decided to put a few more miles on my car before taking it for the smog test the next day.

Day 4 had arrived and my car was running once again, seemingly with no more issues, but it was too soon to tell.  It would still need to pass the smog test in order for my registration to be renewed.  After taking my daughter to school, I took the car for another drive to reach at least 20 miles on the odometer since the loaned battery had been installed.  If the check engine light did not come on by then, that would mean the O2 sensor replacement had been a success.  When the odometer ticked past the 20 mile mark with no check engine light coming on, I felt another wave of relief, but there was still one more obstacle to overcome.  By then, it was the middle of the week and I had not gone to work.  It wasn’t because of my car, but because the workload for that week was so small that it would only take a day to complete.  The extra time off had given me the opportunity to finally address the issues on my car, but also meant that I wasn’t getting paid.  Another issue that adds to the burden of problems weighing me down.  At the smog test center, I couldn’t help but think that somehow my car would fail.  The doubt and fear in my mind were back at it again.  Smog tests don’t take long, but this one seemed to drag on forever as I waited nervously with the fear of failure.  At last, it was completed and my car had passed!  Another weight had been lifted from my shoulders as the stress of the entire situation crumbled away.  My car passed the smog test, its registration would be renewed, and it was running properly once again!  This was a huge accomplishment for me, and a huge relief from the worry, doubt, fear, and stress that had taken hold of me in the past week.  This challenge was finally over, but many more still lie ahead.

How could something so small give me so much trouble?  One little sensor that made me want to give up completely, not just with the task on hand at the time, but on life itself.  Then again, I do struggle with the latter more often than most realize.  It was a small problem, a small challenge when looking at the big picture of things, but isn’t that what life is about?  The small things.  Yes, the big events in life play a large part in who we are, but it’s the small things that consistently shape us.  The choices we make, and the challenges we face each day can range from trivial to significant depending on our state of mind, and the importance of the situation.  Granted, the larger hurdles are more difficult to face.  Loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one to name a few, can be extremely hard to face, let alone overcome.  But it can be done!  With the small things it’s much easier to face and overcome at first, but when we become burdened with so many, it can weigh us down.  Take a grain of rice for example.  Alone, it weighs almost nothing.  Fill a sack with the grains and there will be a noticeable difference.  Multiply that, and eventually the combined weight will be too much for one person to bear.  The small things add up, and life constantly throws more at us.  Each day brings us new challenges of every shape and size that add to our existing burdens, from something that might seem as simple as getting up in the morning, to life altering events.  When facing these challenges, it’s important to persevere.  As difficult as they can be, and as long as they can last, one can only overcome if they don’t give up.  Granted, the outcome may not be what we want, but that’s life.  The important thing is that we face these challenges and keep moving forward, even if we are thrown off-balance, set back, or knocked down.

We can’t always do it alone though, as some challenges will prove too much for one person.  That’s why we need support, whether it’s a close friend, family member, or even a higher power.  I was lucky, or blessed in having my brother help, a car to borrow, and a friend to give me a jump, not to mention my daughter who gave me motivation when I was getting to my lowest point.  Sadly, not everyone can say they have someone to call on.  That doesn’t mean no one is there, because someone is always there.  Though I struggle with my faith, and wouldn’t use a religious label on myself, I do believe in God, and I believe He is always there.  Whether you believe or not is up to you, but when facing difficult times, it doesn’t hurt to call out.  When I was under my car, I would pray, “Please God, let this work,” and had no luck for 2 days.  Eventually, my perseverance paid off when the sensor came out.  Whether it was the simple physics of enough force, penetrating oil, or a divine touch that finally allowed me to succeed, the fact remains that I did succeed by not giving up.  What I went through probably seems trivial to some, as others have it far worse, but the underlying action of getting through and persevering in any case is what matters.

There are still many challenges and hurdles that lie before me.  A week after I had succeeded in fixing the car, I received a phone call and learned that my direct manager had been let go due to the company restructuring some of its teams.  Aside from the lousy hours I’ve started off with this year, my job is now at risk of being cut or eliminated altogether.  This means I need to be prepared by searching for something else, and even if my job is secure, I still need something that can provide the financial means to get out of this rut that I’ve been stuck in.  Something to get me back on my feet and provide certain necessities and financial security that to my shame, I have not been able to procure for my daughter.  Among other challenges, my phone took a turn for the worse with horizontal translucent grey lines that run across the screen, which isn’t important at the moment, but it’s where I do most of my writing/typing.  My car still needs a little work and maintenance, which will be taken care of as soon as time and money permit.  I will continue to provide the best that I can for my daughter with what I have.  The search for a new job will begin, but the DUI on record will limit my options.  Readjusting to a new schedule will prove difficult, but can be done.  To be honest, I’m scared of what the future holds and what lies ahead, but I know I’ll get through it because I’ll persevere.  I look forward to the day where I can “go to bed” on an actual bed, and not worry about what the next day may bring, but rather be ready to take on the next day’s challenges.

“Persevere in the face of adversity, and you will emerge victorious” – Unknown*


Author’s Note:

This turned out to be longer than I anticipated, so I’ll cut to the chase here.  Originally, I had a piece about the chains of doubt and all in the works for a January post, but life happened.  For whatever reason, I decided to share my story and keep it raw and real as opposed to my regular writings.  It took me longer than I would have thought to get this posted here, as my mind has been somewhat scattered lately while I try to figure out my next step.  Please excuse any errors in my grammar, and thank you for taking the time to read this!

*As for the quote at the end, that particular phrase came to mind and when I searched for the name of whomever coined that phrase, I found nothing.  Because there are many similar quotes about perseverance and adversity, I used unknown so as not to take credit if it is indeed another’s work.

N

Update: October 3, 2018

This month will mark the 1 year anniversary since creating my blog, and I do have to admit that I didn’t expect to make it this far.  However, I am glad that I did.  I would like to share a little about my posting as well as a few things on the future of this blog.

I haven’t posted as much content this year as I had hoped to when I first started.  At that time, I had the goal of 1 – 2 posts a week.  As the demands of life continued to pull my attention away, so did my doubt and at times, my will.  With that, posting became less frequent.  It wasn’t so much not knowing what to write, but not finding the time to sit and do so.  Even when the time was there, stress occupied my mind and I was not able to calm the chaotic thoughts that ran through my head.  There were also many days where I just didn’t feel like it, as I had lost the will to do anything.  Doubt was also another factor, as I doubt myself far too much.  Doubt has killed many potential pieces, not only after they were written, but before I even started.  Because of this, I thought that perhaps I would eventually stop posting altogether and this blog would die.  That wasn’t the case, as I continued to write when able, and posted, however far apart they were.  Which brings us here.

I wish that I could say posting will be more frequent, but the reality is that it’ll likely be about the same as this past year.  Now, I’m not a great writer, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be even slightly good…  But writing helps me relieve a lot of stress, and express the things I would otherwise not know how to.  With that said, I will continue to write and post (hopefully more frequently in the future), so this blog is not going to die anytime soon!

 

Photos are another area I will be working on.  I am an amateur at best when it comes to photography.  I don’t own a nice camera, as I cannot afford one right now.  All the photos I have taken have been on my phone, and most of my posting has been done from it as well.  Once I can get some extra money, I may invest in a camera as well as a laptop, as typing on the phone can be tedious.  I never thought of myself as a photographer, and had never considered it.  Aside from shots of an interesting place or a nice view, I hadn’t considered taking photos to share with people or purely for the sake of capturing that image.  Sometimes the scene or the photos will inspire a writing piece, other times the piece will inspire a photo.  With that, my interest has sparked.  I hope to capture the feeling that my writing pieces invoke in the form of photos, as well as the hidden beauty in an otherwise dreary shot.

Up until now, I’ve done almost everything on my phone, photo editing included.  Earlier this week, I made the startling discovery that the watermark app I had been using was lowering the resolution of my shots almost 4x.  I have these images available for personal use (if anyone actually likes them) in the Photo Gallery page on my blog.  While the original resolution isn’t the greatest, I still want to provide the best quality that I can.  Period.  So in the coming days/weeks, I will be re-uploading my photos at their original quality, to their respective posts and the Photo Gallery page.  As for the watermark, I will no longer be using an app, but instead apply my own handwriting using GIMP (thank goodness for freeware!) to these and all future photos for a more personalized touch!

In time I would like to expand my blog and eventually get my own domain name, not to mention publish better content.  My stuff isn’t exactly the greatest, so I’ll have room to improve.  That will come later though.  For now, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who’s supported me thus far.  I don’t have a large audience which is fine, but I do appreciate anyone and everyone who’s taken the time to read the things I’ve posted, and those who have offered encouraging words.

Thank you very much!

N

Update: January 11, 2018

I wanted to start off the new year with fresh content, instead of posting something I had written prior to 1/1/18.  However, the start of this year has been busier than expected for me and I have been dealing with issues that I mentioned in my previous post.  I need to get my affairs and legal matters in order (on top of my daily duties).  Plus, I took some time away from everything.

With that said, I do have some things that I am currently working on, but not yet ready to post.  You’ve probably noticed that I don’t usually post these kinds of posts because frankly, I don’t like talking about myself (saying I, me, etc), and the purpose of my blog is for writings.  Yet, this is the longest gap between posts that I’ve published here.  I figured I should at least give the few of you who actually like my stuff an update on, well, stuff.  It may be a couple of days to a couple of weeks before you’ll see a new post.

N

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