The happiest time in my life was the year before I went to Iraq. I was down one day and decided that I had enough of being lonely and depressed. I knew a friend that was teaching martial arts. I had taken class with him a couple of times before but I never stuck to it.
Anyway, I looked him up and he was teaching a class at one of our elementary schools for free. He had a good job and didn't need money. He still made money when the kid's parents bought martial arts gear. He got fifty percent off of the merchandise but most parents bought a uniform and nothing else and since they sold at twenty five dollars a piece, he didn't make much.
Anyway, I started taking the class and moved up through the belts pretty fast. Eventually he asked me if I wanted to be his assistant. I was a little apprehensive because my self esteem wasn't too high yet, but I accepted. We leased a building on the town square in my city. We left the elementary school and started having classes there. We got up to thirty student at our max and was having classes four days a week.
Not only was I teaching martial arts but I was also involved in some things with my unit. I am in the National Guard, have been for fourteen years. I was participating in a program the schools thought up called the junior guard. I took in the trouble students from the high school, put a uniform on them, and taught them "basic training" things. I was kind and didn't really yell at them. It was bittersweet. I didn't ask them to do anything, I told them what to do but I did it with a certain humor and charm. I worked with them once a week and twice a week I would go to the high school and tutor them.
The funny thing was I made ten dollars a week teaching martial arts. We made some money but the bills were high so it wasn't much. Allen, my instructor, made a little more than me but it wasn't much. I was driving a Ford Tempo that I gave three hundred dollars for. It had one break that worked out of the four. If I parked it on a hill I had a gallon jug in the back that I had to prop behind the shifter to keep it from going out of gear and rolling backwards. I made about two hundred dollars a month with the National Guard but I spent it on insurance and put the rest into the school. I made nothing for working with the kids, except the payment of love.
One day last year I was listening to the radio and I heard an interesting concept. It was called the 100 item challenge and it was created by Dave Bruno. The premise was to try to get down to where you have 100 items. I don't remember the specifics of it but that really doesn't matter, I just liked the idea of it. Clutter and color is hard on the eyes and your mental health. Sometimes when we have clutter in our house we feel disconnected with the outside world. Even when you are inside you are outside. Your body may be present in the house but your soul is connected to everything in this universe. Think about it like this: When you are in a bright room you feel like your soul is inside you and that is the extent of it's reach. How is that possible when a single light bulb can light up a room. To give you a visual think about a candle. A candle shines brightest when it is place in a completely dark place.
I have an challenge, (experiment) of my own. Take one day, just one day, and turn off all your lights. Unplug your TV and all electronics. Pretty much leave your house void of light as much as possible. You can light candles or use cole oil lamps. I did this once. I shut myself in the bedroom and wrote by the light of a cole oil lamp. That was some of the best writing that I ever did. I take advantage of this as much as possible. I only use as much light as needed. I don't turn on the lights if there is any sun coming through the windows. There is a therapeutic effect to being in complete darkness. That is why the brain signals for you to sleep when you are in darkness. It has to do with your circadian rhythm. You get no benefit from artificial light, only sunlight. Do you think it is better to have sight or insight?
I already did most of the things that I talked about. I never realize it until some thought triggers it. I have never had more then 100 items in my life, and I most likely never will. I noticed this when me and my wife split up. I gathered my things in the middle of the living room floor. The pile was not impressive. I fit it all in the back of our van.
When I got out of treatment last year I gave away almost everything I had, which wasn't . I didn't understand why, I just did it. I don't like money either, never have. If I needed money for say, a car payment, I would go out looking for a job. I would impress them and they would hire me. I didn't notice it until recently but I always worked until I had the money I needed and then I would quit. I have likely had over fifty jobs.
I live with my mom now. I have been here since me and my wife split up. I am not homeless like my hitch hiking buddy, but I am not far from it. I have always lived with somebody. Even when I was married I didn't pay the bills, my wife did. I gave her the money I made, minus gas money and some essentials. So in a sense I lived with her as well. I have been writing these theories about fighting depression, and realizing all this was a huge milestone in doing that. I have not had a bad day since about two weeks ago. That may not seem like a big deal but that is the longest I have went without cycling into either mania or depression since I was teaching martial arts. I have started working with the high school and middle school junior guard program again. I have a P.O.S. car in the driveway that needs a starter. I don't need the car bad enough to get a job that I will end up quitting after a week but I will likely fix it when I get my taxes or something.
People often wonder what I have that they don't. What I have is everything that I need out of life. I don't want that promotion, or that awesome career. I don't want that fancy car, or that degree. I don't WANT anything because I have what I NEED.
I am not saying that everyone should do this. It may seem like a depressing life to others and I am ok with that. I will be getting money from the military once I get medically retired in about seven or eight months. I will likely move out on my own, not sure. I have to make the decision at the end of if I want to manage my own money or let someone else do it, not sure about that either. I don't think that I will stay anywhere for long. I think I will travel and stay in hotels or temporarily with people (women) I meet.
The point of this was to get you to think. I don't suspect that many can live like I do and be truly happy but you can take steps towards making your life more simple. When you have a simple life your stress will go away. A bright cluttered room is loud. Use a lamp and shut out that blinding ceiling fan that holds four lights. This doesn't just work with the items in your house. You have to think simple too. Don't want anything. Be reactive instead of proactive. Take what you need and use the rest to help somebody.
If you don't see this life as a straight line that ends you may see it as a series of cycles that never end. A short one might be a day. The sun rises and the sun sets and the sun rises and so on... A big one might be the cycle of addiction. use, recovery, relapse, use, recovery, relapse and so on. It comes down to the mind's capacity to learn, how quick it can complete the list of cycles for this life, and how quick it can turn knowledge into wisdom. When the mind experiences a positive event, let's call this love, a cycle starts. That cycle will not end until the mind experiences a negative event, let's call this fear, that is greater than the love. And that cycle will not end until the mind experiences a love that is greater than the fear, and so on. I won't explain how this cycle has repeated and taken many forms throughout this planet's life. I also won't explain how more and more minds die these days without completing their last cycle of turning fear into love.
Take as long as you want to complete the cycles and know that if you haven't completed them by the time you die, you may do them again and it gets easier every time. Whether you saw this as love or fear it doesn't matter, it still started a cycle so enjoy your growth. The next time you are afraid try to look for the love that will complete that cycle. The next time you feel love brace yourself for the pain that is going to complete that cycle. There is no stopping either one.
Am I normal or is everyone else? I will leave you with a few cycles:
Addiction and recovery (fear and love)
War and peace (fear and love)
Control and faith (fear and love)
Anger and compassion (fear and love)
Powerless and powerful (fear and love)
Notice the cycles and let the flow
Try to find faith and give up control
To answer your ? I would rather have someone who offers me a shoulder to help me push. How it would be nice to be a kid again and not have any fears!
God put this man in the right place at the right time for you. There is a lot we can learn from people in all walks of life.
It's great you are teaching and tutoring kids. It's very special to them and it sound rewarding for you. I suspect all of this exercise and the good feelings you are getting working with these kids is really helping you mentally.
I believe too, if you have a simple life your stress will go away. Depending on a persons circumstance, i.e. job, kids, plays a role in making this happen.
I can't function in clutter. A mess and unorgaization really effects me. Thinking simple is important and also challenging to do.
I think your analogy of the cycle process is very good. Much to think about. Great post.