Friday, October 31, 2014

A Change of Seasons

Fall moves toward winter, and each day is a step toward the next.  This week, I had a good stint on the bike, workouts have been strong, and I've really loved my journey back into the world of guitars.

I have been practicing The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary", one of my favorite songs of all-time.  It is a song that has a tremendous amount of meaning and symbolism for me personally.  As a song, it has some challenging elements for a guy who hasn't picked up a guitar in awhile, but I am able to get it to where you can actually tell what I am playing!  I also have been playing with the intro to the Slash song "Ghost", which makes for a nice exercise in itself.  

The other interesting thing is that I've stumbled upon a few of my own riffs and progressions as I've been getting back into it, which has been a pleasant discovery.  As I told a friend of mine, I do think about music on a deeper level than I did the last time I picked up a guitar, and I think this is an early sign of that as I have an inclination to think about patterns and structure of songs, riffs, and progressions.  I am interested to see where this goes as things evolve.  Perhaps like a writer improves by reading a lot, I can make strides from the dedicated listening to music that I have done over the years.

The past month, with the exception of one day where I poured out a lot of emotive things into one writing session, I have been unable to write.  Just too much of a storm on the inside, but last night I felt the first tingles of a drive to get back at the writing.  Was thinking of the Hellscapes tales I've written, and the ones that are in process for Volume 2, as it is Halloween.   In the state of mind I've been in, opening the gates fully to these dark worlds might result in some interesting twists and material, and might ultimately be a good way for me to get a few things out of me.  I might give it a shot today or this weekend.

Like I've been saying, a day at a time...and maybe the seasons will change.

....and though the heart of what this song is about is far, far away from where I am now, this song really reaches into me and I look forward to getting the guitar playing down on this one:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Motorcycles, Martial Arts, and Music

My last post was quite heavy in tone, which was unavoidable due to the circumstances I'm dealing with.  There is just no way to sugarcoat the kinds of things I am going through, as they are very foundational in nature with me.

Despite the ongoing storms, I wanted to write a few words about some of the things that are helping me get from one day to the next.  While these things might not be everyone's cup of tea, I do feel that they demonstrate how you have to get some things in your life to focus on and drive forward with during a time of interior storms.  I often talk about how you have to keep moving forward, and sometimes that can be an incredibly hard thing to do.  Having a few things to hold onto can definitely make a difference in simply getting up in the morning, getting through a day, and being able to overcome the restlessness to sleep at night.

For me, the process has seen me immerse more fully in one activity that I had already been active in, embrace an all-new activity, and return to another that I had not been active in for many years.  Together, these three very special things have lent me some strength and encouragement to take another step on the road back to finding myself again.

As far as the brand new activity, that would be my journey into the world of motorcycles.  I'm taking it carefully, I didn't just go out and get a big Harley or go forward without a plan.  There is a lot to know about a bike and you have to respect the power and dangers associated with it.  Taking it step by step, I'm learning to ride from some very veteran riders and I'll be doing the safety course to get my full license.  But I already love the feel of riding.  I need to get experience before I take a longer trip and hit a highway, but I can feel what riding has to offer.

There is a real sense of freedom and independence surrounding the riding sensation, feeling the air rushing over you and the power of the motorcycle propelling you forward.  I cannot wait to cruise by river roads and through rural landscapes, as I know it is going to be a very inspiring and invigorating experience.  My current bike is a Suzuki Intruder, a 750, and I have named her Freya after the Norse Goddess who is associated with love and war.  I prefer love over war, but life has its battles, and it is my hope that Freya helps carry me through all of it, thick and thin.

Learning something new definitely gives my mind something to focus on, especially something as downright rockin' and exciting as motorcycles.  While I wish I could be going through this with my heart intact, but learning about motorcycles and how to ride them has definitely given me something to hold onto during this time.

At various points in my life, I have worked out with different martial artists, and even took lessons myself for a good while.  I have the honor of knowing some truly world class ones, including a friend of mine from college who happens to be a supernatural level martial artist with multiple degrees in a number of various systems. From time to time I've been able to gain great insights just from talking with them, much of which has factored into the present.

This past spring I decided to get back into martial arts as a core part of my fitness training.  No need for a gym, and solid martial arts training is comprehensive as it addresses strength, flexibility and cardio quite well.  It's working.  I've gone down 4 jeans sizes since the spring and moving on the 5th now.   The past month I've really accelerated my training and it has been a pillar of strength for me.

Martial arts demands focus and discipline, and gives a channel for negative emotions to be processed in a constructive manner.  I have to admit that doing some routines with Pantera or Slipknot cranking seems to put a little more behind combos, various types of strikes, kicks, and that kind of thing, but the mind does stay centered on the tasks at hand and that is a big reason why its so helpful at this time.

This latest phase into martial arts, what I did was look across the various styles I had been exposed to over the years.  I gleaned the things that really work well for me and the kind of physical abilities I'm best suited for, which are very practical in a real self-defense situation, and bring them together under one roof for my training.  I'm not worried about belts or anything like that, or whether I can do a beautiful head-high spinning kick, I just want to improve more with each day on what I do well, get a little faster, a little stronger, and carry out techniques a little better.  It is solely a personal development path.

Honestly, I've never trained better, but martial arts has given me something I need right now.  It offers a level of focus and discipline that has come in very needed at a period in which most of me feels like I've been snatched up in a cyclone and thrown across the skies.

The past month, I think I've come to understand and appreciate the nature of martial arts better than I ever have, and I know it is a real positive going forward.  It has definitely been another one of the things to hold onto in the battle of trying to get through each day.  While I'm really struggling internally, physically I'm moving better every day, trimming up more, and making wonderful strides that over the course of the year have seen the decreasing jeans sizes.  It offers measurable milestones and goals to shoot for, and gives me something to reach for.  I'm very grateful for that.

Last, but not least, I have picked up the guitar again.  I was in rock bands during late grade school and high school, and played the guitar for years.  Yet after college I really drifted away from it.  It is very odd, as I've grown to love music, especially hard rock and metal, more and more over the years. I can say without question that I have a true passion for music.  It is a constant friend and ally to me and has been a tremendous medicine for me at this time.  I even worked around the world of music for some years doing show promoting and band booking.  Looking back, it kind of mystifies me as to why I set the guitars in their cases and left them there.  But there's no better time than now to get moving again.

The impetus came from some conversations with a friend of mine who has been great to me at this time and happens to be a very creative individual, very musically oriented too.  He caused me to realize that I'd like to have that part of me back, and perhaps go forward with it.  There was no reason not to, and the thought of it really called to me.

Just taking my two main guitars out of their cases felt so good.  I've gotten in all the things I need to get underway, from new picks, to new guitar cables, an effects processor, and a few new sets of strings.  I will need to work at it to get my chops back up, but I'm rarin' to go and very excited.  A couple of the first songs I dabbled with were AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock" and "Back in Black".  Yes, I'm looking to finding my way to rockin' again and being back.

All the new fancy stuff like online tablature software that you can play along with is definitely new turf for me since the old days!  I felt like a cat in a sushi bar looking through the tablature catalogs containing all my favorite songs.  Already earmarking some Def Leppard, Slash, The Cult, and much more!

I'm also feeling an interest in coming up with some original material in the future.  I'm curious to see what kinds of things I can come up with, as I know I think deeper about music than I ever did when I played guitar heavily so many years ago.

As with martial arts, I think I have a much more matured attitude about practice and drilling, and I don't think it will be all that long before I get into the flow of it.  Like martial arts, guitar will offer its own sets of milestones and goals, bringing along with it a regular sense of achievement.  I think that's a big plus at a time when my confidence had been shattered.

These three pursuits have given my mind something to focus on during a very difficult time.  All of these pursuits involve journeys of their own, with learning, training, milestones and all of the dynamics that come with those kinds of things.  As such, each of them offers something to strive for, things to celebrate, and a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction.

While none of these things can truly heal the kind of deep wounds I'm dealing with, they can help me endure, and I think it is very important for people who are going through terrible storms to do everything they can to not become inert.  The small positives I glean from martial arts, motorcycles, and music really do make a big difference in getting through each day.  If you are going through interior storms, find the things like this that work for you and hold onto them with all you've got.  They can help you to keep moving forward.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

One Cold Day

What do you do, when it took all that you have to scrape together and pick the pieces up to move forward in 2014 and a storm you never saw coming breaks right over you?  The kind of storm that wipes away all the things you'd struggled to regain in the year?

I don't really have the answers for that.

I had hoped with all my heart to get back to blogging here, with news of an upswing year, a year that finally brought some sunshine after several years in shadow filled with all kinds of struggles, strife, and watching my own family get whittled down one by one until it is just me and my sister left. Almost 8 years running with cloud-filled skies.

Again and again, I picked myself up and moved forward, hoping that the clouds would break and the sun would come through.  I can't begin to describe how much harder that got each time, only those who have been hit with a cascade of heartache/sorrow can understand what I'm talking about here.  Sometimes, people really do get more than they are able to handle.

The worst of it is that for a time, it truly, really did look like the answer to a deep prayer had come and I finally got the miracle I've always sought.  The situation is one that I have to leave largely private, and please respect that, but it is still something I have to find a way to work through.  But suffice it to say that I saw a world of sunshine just ahead, at last, and also made some profound discoveries about myself that both surprised me and brought me the hope of even more joy.  What I wanted was irrefutably a wonderful, good thing, it was right, and it was what I truly needed.

Then one cold day in September, everything was shattered, in a way that was unfair, ugly, and wrong.  But that's how life goes for some of us.  I find myself falling, stumbling, and entirely unable to get myself righted.  I'm not defeated, I'm still here, still trying, still doing everything I can to move forward.  But truly, everything has reduced to a day to day battle, one where I cannot see even a day ahead.

It has been a very lonely time.  When you go through these kinds of things, most folks that you know pull back, and even people I talked to daily have vanished into the winds.  At this time, only one person has been in touch daily, a friend that I think truly understands this kind of time and how hard it is.  So for the most part I've been left with the uphill climb of trying to find a way to regroup by myself.  Not the easiest thing in the world when the only people you see in person from day to day are mostly store clerks and the like.

It is a very serious time, the kind of thing where you look at your very foundations, where you wonder why you do what you do, and even whether you want to continue doing it.  A time like this shakes your faith, your confidence, and everything about you.

I know I cannot return to the status quo.  The thought alone brings great distress.  Something has to give, has to change.  But I just don't really know what.

And there is where I am.

I have had music with me all throughout this time, with some songs capturing what it is like, and others bolstering.

For now, I'll put one of the ones that really nails what it is like.  Lacuna Coil's One Cold Day from Broken Crown Halo.   These lyrics really get it right.  It's been a long, cold day.

" Sometimes the sun shines cold
The road is lonely as I walk alone
In the sky the clouds are racing fast
It's becoming so cold outside

Time has come, time has come
And the clouds gather above me
And the clouds gather above me

As I stand in the rain of this cold day
Tears are the words when I cannot confess the pain
Time will heal
But I don't want to feel

Sometimes it's hard to let go
It's hard to move along the scars of life
Memories are blooming in the gloom
As I'm feeling so cold inside"