Tag Archives: self

My Way

It occurs to me that discipline is really fidelity to a way of life.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. We have looked at ten and leave one more for August. July is devoted to Discipline.

When I think of discipline as rigorous obedience to rules, particularly as daily routine, I judge myself undisciplined. Oh, sure, I was sometimes a disciplined athlete and soldier, but I really dislike routine–even though I accept the value of routine in stress management. Routine is not my way.

What is my way?

I still have some materials from a greenhouse I bought forty years ago. I save stuff. For years I have been viewing this as a shortcoming, a lack of discipline in organization. Lately I have seen it differently.

I grew up poor, even though I didn’t really know it until I was in high school. My parents married during the depression and had five kids before Pearl Harbor followed by this early Baby Boomer. Waste was a sin although they didn’t call it that. We just didn’t do it.

I am a disciplined eater. There is very seldom anything left on my plate. “Take all you can eat, but eat all you take.” We were poor but not hungry because we lived on a farm. We grew and hunted our food. Somehow, when you produce your own food through sweat and discipline, it becomes too valuable to waste. That is the way my family lived and a way I call mine.

I am embarrassed to throw out food. It shames me.

I give things away. From time to time I force myself to go through the anguish of choosing what to keep, what to discard, what to sell, and what to donate. I hate those decisions even though the process is liberating.

In reflection this week, I admitted I learned this from my father. If we needed a board, we went to a stack of boards between the chicken house and the tractor shed. If we needed a link of chain, we searched the tractor shed or the garage. If we wanted worms for fishing, we dug them. When I needed training halters for my show calves, I braided them from used baler twine from our hay or straw. When my mother wanted to make me a bat boy uniform for my uncle’s softball team, she searched scraps of material and discarded clothes, cut them down, and sewed it.

A few weeks ago, I pulled a beautiful rock out of the woods to make a rock garden for Nancy. I found out a length of pipe I had bought for a project and not used. It was along side a shed waiting. I also made a stone boat of sorts with a plastic sheet I bought to drag deer but never used. I had them because I saved them, you know, just in case I might need them someday. That is my way and I am true to it.

It is not hoarding; it is recognizing potential utility in things and refusing to discard them. It is not organized; it is messy. But, it is ultimately pragmatic, and I am tired of being apologetic. I am not undisciplined. I am true to my way, and my way works for me just as it worked for my family.

My mother was disciplined in the garden, and I share that way. I like a productive garden, and I prefer to keep it free of weeds. It is a sense of pride, accomplishment, and independence to harvest my own food, but I also plant for the utility of beauty. I cannot garden without fond memories of my mother.

My father took care of both crops and livestock. While he did not fuss over appearances, he took great lengths to keep them healthy, and he never allowed animals to suffer. In animal husbandry, he was devoted and disciplined. Whenever I get to help on my brother’s farm where we grew up, I remember my father’s way. It is my way, now.

What is your way? Deep down inside, back to your pre-trauma self, do you find tracks of fidelity to a way of life that is disciplined in your own way?

Happy Tracking!

Joyous Gift

If I were a drummer boy, I would play for you.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.” (Isabel Currier)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

You and I are separated, but it is in my heart to connect with you, with others. I find this very curious—like it is in our DNA. I have studied a lot of genetics, because I seek to know how the universe works, and the genesis of life seemed central at the time. The focus of my studies has shifted.

I have not studied the drum for a long time although I have a wonderful elk-hide gift from a friend that I play for spiritual purposes. I have studied a bit of guitar, harmonica, keyboard, and even voice. Music is not my gift to you.

My ego demands that I find my gift that I may share it with others. I have searched a lifetime for it but all I have found is a few tracks.

Words are tracks.

Ernest Hemingway said something about writing being easy, that all one has to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. He bled to death.

I do not write because I am in love with words or particularly gifted in playing them, nor do I wish to bleed to death. I write mostly because I can’t seem to help it. I need to write if only to find out what I think about how the universe works. I choose to share it with you.

That is not easy for a shy person with a touch of PTSD. But, then, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a gift to you, would it?

My gift is my art, and that is all I am to share. My medium is ideas. I move ideas around until I find some structure that pleases, amuses, or teaches me. Sometimes I stumble upon one that does all three and I simply have to share my joy.

“Life is self-controlled chemistry.” is such a structure. I built that sentence many years ago to challenge Advanced Biology students to design a philosophy of Biology.

Define self.

We are each individual, separated from one another in specific ways. Our individuality defines life. It is sacred. And yet, we strive to connect to others. Because we know, deep down inside our selves, that the connection is also sacred. It is spirit.

Trauma breaks something inside us so that we no longer connect well with others. Our individual survival depends upon our separation from others who would end our lives. Forever. And ever.

Still, we need others. We need connection. For combat veterans, we understand connection because our lives depended upon our brothers and/or sisters. But, they all went away to their own lives lived very separately.

Shy men who do not connect well with others can jump right into conversation with other men. Vietnam veterans talk to other Vietnam veterans. Oh, sure, there is a vetting process, but combat veterans understand that other combat veterans understand what the protected can never know. We need each other and we understand that.

Writing words is not my gift to you. Sharing my thoughts and feelings so that we might understand each other is all I offer this Christmas Eve. It is my hope that I can define self in a way that celebrates rather than denigrates the gift that is individuality, that defines life. It is my hope that I can help others who suffer directly or indirectly from Post Traumatic Stress to accept themselves, the sacred individuality, the blessed ego, the gift that finds joy only in being shared.

It is there, that gift, inside each of us, as unique as the freckles on our faces or the prints of our fingers. Track it, find it, and share it.

Have a joyous season—Merry Christmas, if you please—or any other reason to celebrate giving.

Happy Tracking.