The Notion of Giving Up

I’m in a bit of a crisis, so I’m going to write from my heart. I don’t really know where this will take me, if only to let me vent some of my fears, and find some peace. I recently came to a conclusion about important aspects of my life, and a need to make significant changes. We sometimes are forced to make those decisions only because we have to go on with trying to become who we are meant to be.

I struggle with depression, I have all my life. In different periods I used self destructive measures to deal with my anxiety and the fears that came along with not feeling good about myself. My self confidence has always suffered, and there have been rare times when I could look in a mirror and be happy with what I might see. I find that to be part of the human condition that we all carry around with us. It is ironic, because I know people that will clearly say to me, I don’t understand depression because I have never experienced it, and I find myself walking away, feeling envious. I have to believe though it is true, and they are part of a fortunate lot.

In my life, I have been vulnerable to my own insecurities. There are things that bring me happiness, probably the greatest one I can reveal here, safely enough is the birth of my children. They are truly the most beautiful gift in my life, and I am blessed. My wife has been the caregiver throughout our marriage, and together we raised our children to be wonderful contributors to our society. I am proud of them and feel fortunate that we have been given this miracle of a healthy disposition in our family.

It wasn’t always like that. My own struggles with addiction have weighed heavily on the fabric of my marriage, my relationship with my children and my colleagues and friends. I have been lucky to find a supportive environment that helps me discover stability, but I have to admit, I sometimes need that 24/7 and when a significant moment occurs in my life, I become shaky and wish for negative outcomes, only those that would apply to me, no one else, I would pray would be impacted by my own faults.

This leads me to speak to this current crisis I am experiencing. I have found that my validation that I grew comfortable with for a period in and around nearly two decades has become a bit of a false pretense. I have no regrets, I just believe I have to move forward, and rather than smile at the fear I have when I am around people, I must find peace within my own mind. I think that is a difficult process when fighting with anxiety and depression. I think we tend to connect with those people that understand our moods, our emotions, our challenges. I think those people are important in our lives, and they sometimes come from unique avenues in our world that we choose to live in. I think our fear of losing that can really shake a person up.

I’ve wanted to give up so many times in the last 50 years, it actually has become a rather comical curse for me to carry around. I’m not suggesting humor necessarily as much as I am speaking to the circle of deceit I have left myself living in, rather than foraging forward to find a solution to my fears. I have had occasion where I really did want to check out, and I looked for ways that might be possible. Ironically today, the first thing I thought about when I was experiencing self-defeating ideas is my two children, my son in particular – his vulnerability seems a bit more apparent having suffered through the loss of people he has been close to in his life. I thought of my own impact being parallel to what he has already struggled through and the message that would leave him with being horrific.

Tonight, I read on my twitter feed a person who has pledged 22 days of doing 22 daily pushups to represent support for our military who live in a constant struggle with their own lives. The 22 represents the number of military personnel that take their lives every day. I thought about that and applied it to myself. I have not been in the military, I have not suffered to the degree that so many people around me have. I have only struggled with my own addictions and self-loathing but it really is nothing when placed side by side with someone that has had to endure far more challenge than myself.

So tonight, I am reflecting. I have been forced to move forward. I will not let depression continue to enjoy a stranglehold on my well-being. I experienced something this evening that literally tore me apart and left me feeling sick to my stomach. I will practice humility and grace as I move forward beyond my own self-aggrandizing behavior. I have a responsibility towards a world outside my own rollercoaster of emotion, and I might well jump on board and own myself.

I hope you have been listening, and for those of you that made it this far, I appreciate you. Thanks for coming along on the ride.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

 

In Fields of Memory

Cast eyes upon mellow, a sun streaked sky.

Choose to know a spectacular sunrise

knocking upon lives in a quiet wise

manner speaks to answering only why.

 

Once, while regarding, ponder truth in life

for a people know safety in number

a song, memory, sound to remember

follow the sky, in meaning beyond strife.

 

Walk inside the grains of sand a hot mess

would recognize, altered states of truth.

Lonely participants weakness forsooth

such might be a lifetime enduring stress.

 

A stroll in summer wheat fields may release

Silent nostalgic melody in peace.



© Thom Amundsen 2019

My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

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Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

The Psychology of the Human Condition

The answers exist,

wait, not today,

perhaps later in the evening,

some cathartic moment,

praying for an epiphany.

 

The heart stops and the mind cannot compete

we are a solid lot of indifference

dependent upon the sunlight,

rainbows strike a nerve

coupled by nostalgia or endearment

to a moment,

the moment

when in that circle of compelling delight

we did experience,

did evolve,

would resolve the questions in our mind.

simple logic, sweet emotions,

beyond the scope of tearing down our own

idyllic beauty.

The Gallery

Such is a shadow,

a lonely walk

the energy of a soul

finding their way

his way

her adventure

perhaps his imagination

a painting to lose his mind while trying

desperate measures

the sort of bind that seems attractive

rather than one of ridicule

when the reality of the game

is revealed

in gallery seven,

perhaps it was four

or somewhere in the early afternoon,

she in cloak and dagger

watched him switch postures

giving him some indication

that his trophy

might be her own

quiet diadem

to steal the words of

Emily … (Dickinson) …

he was in his aching manner

subject to

fantasy.

The Will to Fight

Was a day

would a shadow

be a muse

could satisfy,

ever loom

cast a pall

slow remember

with little why.

~

In a breeze

follow desire

beauty is time

lights a fire

when all

around our lives

seem daunting

love does remain.

~

A source indeed

such is freedom

her spirit

waits …

allow a dream

slow to rise

become manifest

a silent utterance.

~

We do contain such is passion

to love, to want, an embrace.

Finding Words

They land in different places now, the words

those stories, passages, telling souls

to reinvent our lives

create some simple serenade

lets our heart breathe less of a sign,

certainly not gasping for air,

just a steady rhythm because we come to know

life is far too short

to allow ourselves to slow the direction

of our dreams.

 

I walked outside this afternoon

breathing in the fragrance of a coming rain,

they always do remind us of a soft gentle horizon

when love might be our simplest guide

rather than the fight,

we choose the current

to travel together

in separate worlds

yet still

together

there will be song.

 

Filling the bird feeder

I knew if quiet

the visit would occur

and in the morning

the melody would play, always,

an endless serenade …


Inspired by ‘Burn’ – Hamilton Soundtrack

Standing On The Edge

The job is done,

there is a light ahead,

a bit of peace,

planning for a soft landing

the harsh reality of this

reason

our own examined purpose

seems less imperative

 

Watching the rains today

falling forever

a reminder of a constant

unlike the streaking sunlight

of a gorgeous spring day,

rains are fallible

they leave a mark,

a damp reminder

of what is what may be

what the afterward might see.

 

Could it be so simple

as watching a spring storm

cover the earth around us

allowing life to grow

when inside

the mind seems to seek

any obstacle to suggest

our lives that matter

are lives of little …

or is it part of some

chemical imbalance

like the heads say,

a reasoning that could be

a wild hair

rather than a logical

synapse that suggests

the true meaning of perfection

is

a quiet response

to the mystique we know to be

the human condition

Watching Jumpers

a bridge

Driving over the bridge

I thought about the edge,

the lives standing on a ledge

wondered til I felt a cringe

 

Thought of all the lives

a beautiful spring day

turning evening anyway

bicyclists, walkers, drives

 

This quiet sense of wonder

overcame my state of mind

only a silent recall, remind

it does put an end to a wander.

 

Driving by again I returned

this time to lights and fear

there was an apparent jumper

bicyclists, walkers, all turned

 

away from the activity, a quiet

like our lives ever hold merit.