Fighting Depression

I have had chronic depression for some years now, and since I’ve entered my golden years, I find my depression has worsened.  These are the reasons:

1.  In retirement I find nothing to look forward to.

2.  I lack a sense of purpose  and meaning.

3.  I’m bored.

I have perhaps ten more years of productive life, and I will not spend it like this.  Life should be meaningful, challenging and joyful.  I am determined to resume full enjoyment of my life, but I need to figure out how to do that.

Band Practice

ImageSundays are for band practice.  I play bass and it is my main passion in life now that I’m over the hill.  I want to play it well, at a professional level.  Here I am playing at the annual Beatles Tribute at the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto, California, on September 18, 2013.

Other creative endeavors include writing (hence this journal) and Photoshopping, or digital art.  I love to create images, whether by drawing them outright or by combining and editing photos off the web.

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Fall: a Time for Brisk Weather and Contemplation

Fall 2013I love fall, a time when the weather suddenly chills and the nights grow long, and I find myself contemplating my life and what it means.

Right now I feel an indefinable angst.  I am in retirement and bored, looking to find new goals and purposes for my life.  I am not satisfied with this existence, where every day is the same as the one before.  I remember an old song from the late 1960’s, “Is That All There Is?”  The singer describes various life experiences, noting that something seems to be missing, that the experience — be it a fire, a circus, or love — is ultimately unfulfilling.  Life is therefore only a series of disappointments.

I don’t like the song.  I don’t like its cynicism.  It implies that life has an obligation to provide us with fulfillment and meaning without any effort on our part.  To a large extent, life is what you make it.  Life is a canvas, you are the artist.  Paint something!  Only you can provide meaning and purpose for your life.  If you wait for some outside agency to provide it for you, you may end up singing “Is That All There Is?”:

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

Beyond and Back: Bio’s Television Series on the Near Death Experience

Ever since I read Dr. Raymond Moody’s book “Life After Life,” I have been fascinated with the Near Death Experience, or NDE.  NDE’s have happened to many thousands of people and these experiences display common characteristics that repeat over and over, from person to person.

One of my favorite television shows is on the Biography Channel, “I Survived…Beyond and Back.”  It is shown on Sundays in the evening.  It presents three NDE’s at a time from three different people who experienced clinical death.  Here are some of the common themes:

1.  A person experiences clinical death due to an accident, heart attack or other cause.  Almost immediately they experience leaving their physical body.  The find themselves looking down on their unconscious body, of floating around just like a ghost.  At the same time they feel utterly at peace, completely unafraid.

2.  Shortly, they see a very bright light moving towards them.  It is unusually beautiful and seems to convey a sense of complete and unconditional love.

3.  They see loved ones who have passed away before them.  These loved ones look better than they ever did before — young, healthy and fit.  Handsome men and beautiful women.  It’s as if these persons have somehow been republished into their greatest possible self.

4.  One of these persons suddenly tells the NDE voyager that “It’s not your time, you have to go back.”  The NDE person says that he doesn’t want to go back, that he loves it in this place and wants to stay.  However, it’s not his call.  The loved one then places his hands on the NDE person’s shoulders and pushes him or her backwards.  The NDE person then falls back into his body.

5.  Re-entering the physical body is described as very unpleasant.  One man said it was like being forced to put on some soiled and dirty clothes.  Another said it felt like he was being forced through a screen mesh.  The body is now seen as very confining, very small, crowded and uncomfortable.

You can explain it away until you’re blue in the face:  I believe in the afterlife.  The NDE for me is all the proof I need.

You can watch some of Bio’s most recent episodes online at this link.

A Little Kid Sees His Dead Grandma

A good friend recently related what is probably a common story.  It was about his young nephew, a five year old boy at the time.  One morning the little boy got up and told his father that grandma had died in the night.  She had come to him in a dream and told him that she had died, that it didn’t hurt, that she was all right, and there was no reason to worry or be upset about her.

The boy’s father (my friend’s brother) was angry and scolded the little boy for telling such an outrageous, offensive story.  He asked the little boy to take it back, but the little boy wouldn’t do it.  He saw what he saw.

The kid’s father tried calling grandma (what better way to disprove his son’s wild story), but the phone just rang and rang.  Finally, the father decided to drive over to grandma’s and check on her.

He arrived at grandma’s house, let himself in with a key, and found grandma sitting in a love seat, wrapped in a towel as if she had just stepped out of the shower.  She was dead, apparently of a heart attack.

Welcome Me Back!

I haven’t posted in two years!  Sorry about that.  I have updated my info so I can be reached by email now — at gwcpa1 “at” gmail.com.

My older brother is a believing Christian and was giving me a hard time about my sinful open mind and I got tired of fighting with him about it.

The truth is this:  I am not a Christian, nor am I a member of any organized religion.   I am not, however, an atheist — not even close.  I am enamored with Carl J. Jung’s approach to God and the afterlife (if one exists), which was to learn as much as he could through personal experience.  More about that later.

In the next few days I will attempt to update the format and theme of this blog so that they are more pleasing and effective.

A Path to Success: Robert Ringer’s “Chip Away” Method

As you can see from my prior two posts, I’m going after a deferred dream with a passion:  to become a proficient jazz bass player.   When facing a major challenge, it is easy to get discouraged and quit before you start.  There’s so much to do and so much to learn!  Where do you start?  What do you do first?

When I restarted my music project, I remembered some words of wisdom from Robert Ringer, one of my favorite pop philosophers.  Ringer says that he accomplishes projects using the “chip away” method.  Using this method you don’t worry about how much there is to do, you just make a start.  Then you just concentrate on one small facet at a time.  It’s like a sculptor sculpting a masterpiece in marble.  You just chip away a little at a time.  Eventually the statue begins to emerge from the big block of rock.  Chip away long enough and the project will be finished.

I find that the chip away method may start slowly, but it doesn’t continue that way.  Once you start making progress your enthusiasm grows and your speed increases.  The project takes on a life of its own. 

Three weeks ago I decided that one of the reasons I didn’t want to practice my bass was because of the strings.  They were too thick and hurt too much to press down.  So I made a deal with myself:  ordering new strings would be the official kickoff of my music project.  I ordered some medium gauge strings and a tool for turning the keys quickly so I could replace the strings with less effort and do it more quickly.   The strings arrived in less than a week and I installed them on my bass.

Once the new strings had stretched enough to stay in tune (it takes about three days), I committed to practicing 15 minutes a day.  That was about all I could take before my hands got tired and my fingertips got sore.   After a week, however, my strength had improved noticeably and my fingers had become hardened and calloused.  Now I am practicing about an hour a day, usually in two shifts, a half hour in the morning and a half hour before bedtime.  In two weeks of practice I have made noticeable strides.  I’m enthused now and music has become my greatest interest outside of work.

The chip away method works.  Don’t worry about how much you have to do, just focus on how much you can do right now and make a start.  A major goal can be divided into many smaller goals; let one of these be sufficient for the day and the rest can wait their turn.

You may surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.