Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What do we get?

What's in it for me?  What good is that?  How does this benefit me?

Used appropriately these questions can be a guiding force in our lives.  They can help to place worth on something.  But our views of potential gains and what is valuable have narrowed so much that these questions become more and more self serving year after year.

Quite a few years ago, my 4th son had just passed away and in the aftermath of such a traumatic event I began looking for projects.  Projects also seemed to begin looking for me, whether by divine intervention or simply friendly concern of those around me.  Tina got me a guitar for my birthday that year and I fiddled with it to pass the time.  I could accompany myself on a few simple tunes and even wrote a few things utilizing the few chords I knew how to play.

I did different extra things.  A neighbor had a daughter who wanted to improve her skills for choir and maybe try out for solo and ensemble and I began to help her.  We worked on things once a week and had a family home evening with both families to give her a chance to perform.  She did solo and ensemble.

I, my sister and my mother put together a program of Stephen Foster songs for my mother's McDowell group (a club of local private music teachers who met and performed for each other)  One of those members of that group referred another teenager to me and I had 2 kids to work with. That summer a lady in our neighborhood, we'll call her Super-Mom and I don't use that sarcastically, pulled me aside and asked if I would help her kids singing, she only had enough money to pay me for one so she wondered if they could be taught as a group or alternating so that each had a lesson every four weeks.

I didn't like either proposal, mostly because they were such different ages that  I was afraid of losing the older ones while spending extra time on the younger ones.  once every four weeks didn't seem like a good idea either.

I was singing with my boys one evening, just "Now the Day Is Over,"  we used to sing it at night before they went to bed, and I had a thought.  I would really like my boys to sing more too,  I bet there are more parents out there who would agree.  so I called super mom and said what if we get some more kids and do a little summer camp.  If we get them all singing treble music, two part and unison, the older kids will help the younger kids by setting an example , the younger kids won't require an extraordinary amount of extra time because the older will be working on and singing those same parts.  In a choirthe whole can often be greater than the sum of it's parts giving the children a sense of accomplishment as they succeed together where alone they might not feel good enough.

I made flyers, Super Mom put the word out.  most people came had some connection to Super Mom and that helped our little experiment.

I studied, planned, I knew I didn't know enough but I was working hard at refreshing knowledge or finding places to learn new things so I could be ready.  I knew most of the kids coming, they lived in our neighborhood but I was excited to meet one family who had 3 children that I would see for the first time the first day of class.

Our tiny house had one large room and it served as TV room, living room, through way, entryway etc.  I emptied all but what I needed for class and we got the chairs in there but it was going to be crowded.

Day one parents dropped off and paid and filled out my little registration forms so I knew about allergies and such and could call parents in case of an emergency.  Annoyed at being called Mr. Mair, I told them as they arrived that Mister Tim would be fine.

Then I met 3 of the quietest kids I had seen in a long time.  The two brothers seemed wary,  Not sure if they could trust this stranger with the long hair and beard who was greeting them with a smile.  The oldest did not make eye contact. The middle child remained silent but had an impish look the implied a hidden devious intelligence.  The younger sister I didn't see much of at first she kept hiding behind her mother or her brothers.  Their smiling mother was trying to introduce me to her children and coax them into my house.  I saw her try to talk her youngest (the hiding girl) into going in and assuring her that it would be fine and she would be back in an hour, she was also telling her boys who had been hard at work (and probably play) on their family farm to beat the dirt off their shoes and shirts before they went in..

You could see the look in her eyes and her the apology in her voice that said "I asked them to change before we came but it has been a losing battle."  All the while maintaining her smile and her composure.  The smiling mother to this days in my imagination has a smile on her face.  She is one of the sweetest ladies I've known and I'm glad to continue to call her friend. (What Do We Get?)

The first few weeks went rather well.  3 of the boys in the group had a 3 or 4 note range because they refused to sing in their head voices.  2 of those boys were my new friends.  their sister I'm not sure how she sang since she mostly kept her mouth closed, and when she did it barely opened.  I persisted.  I began to notice that the intelligent devious looking child was shy but that shyness likely stemmed from a speech problem.

Worried that maybe the other kids might be teasing him I asked his mother how he was doing and if there was anything I needed to do to help.  She said the other kids were being very nice and no one had said anything and told me that he was making good progress at school with some one on one help there so just getting him to sing so he could gain a little confidence was fine.  She told me the same about her daughter and I said, oh I hadn't noticed her, she hasn't said boo to me since day one.  I was having a hard time telling if she was even there some times.  She smiled and told me that she takes a while to warm up to people.  I told her about how the older boys were doing and gave her a few ideas about how to help them at home.  I asked her if they liked to imitate police sirens and told her to encourage that since it used the head voice in a way that the boys could accept, and as they learned to use all of their voice better they would begin to have enough control to sing a wider range of pitches.

Smiling Mom and I parted and I tried to think of ways to draw out not just these three but all of the kids.  Slowly we progressed.  We made siren noises.  We imitated Mickey Mouse.  I asked them to make laser sounds and imitate light-sabers and tried to make a game of exploring their voice and little by little everyone became comfortable with each other.  We stood up and I played "their" music, things I heard on Radio Disney, and asked them to find the beat.  We learned to count.  And we became comfortable with each other.

About this time as we completed our class for that week, the parents began to arrive to pick up their children and as my three friends began to leave the youngest one, the hiding girl, ran back and gave me a big hug and said .

"I love you Mr. Tim."

My anxiety prone mind wanted to pull away because I had never done well with touching, but I resisted because I knew it would hurt this little girl's feelings.

All three grew along with the rest of the group and we finished the summer with a performance at the local assisted living center and at a back yard party thrown by one of the parents.  At the former, the devious one tortured the hiding girl just before we went on and she withdrew for the entire performance, despite the silly faces I tried to make to get her to smile, she just stood their scowling and holding her left arm with her right crossed across her chest.  at the latter event Hiding girl returned the favor and the devious one sang but did so with a scowl.  At both concerts, the oldest one watched me, even making eye contact here and there, for each beat and seemed to revel in being the one to come in on time.

This summer experiment was only supposed to be a summer thing but it had brought so much joy into our home that we didn't want to stop.  We split the groups into two and got the parents on board with doing it through the school year.  I watched all of the kids grow.  I grew closer to the family of Smiling Mom, Hiding Girl, Devious Boy, and Rhythm Boy, adding Santa Dad and (pre)Missionary brother to my friends list (real life, not Facebook)

The group grew too much for my home, we started a studio, we did theater camps, choir, I began teaching piano and eventually even preschool.  To help keep word of mouth out there I started a community chorus in the evenings.  Through it all this little family was there supporting us and warming our hearts more and more.

"Mister Tim!  I tried out for the choir at school!"

I would counter, "Have you thought about the Music Merit Badge?  I know a counselor?"


"You're lookin' at him."

More days passed instead of a 5 note range they began to be my solid singers, they could hold a part and I would often sit them next to someone who struggled.  Devious boy we found out was not shy at all. he tried out for everything he could.  All three kept surprising us with things they could do.  Hiding girl even tried out for a part in our summer theater camp.  She had the female lead in "The Nightingale" and none of us saw it coming.  I had to make a new group for boys with changing voices since some refused to quit even though they had to sing falsetto all the time.

I had them meet before the other class so I could begin to transition boys into that group a little before I thought their voices might be getting ready to drop.

I drew from my old A capella group days and taught the "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by rote. I had to comp chords with them when they performed it but they were so proud.  It wasn't long before it was its own group and they did a full set of repertoire for each performance.

"Mister Tim!  Our band teacher is asking all the parents to come and play for one song on the final concert.  Would you do it for me?"

"I don't play bass clarinet anymore, I don't even own one.  If I had one I would though."

With in a week or two rhythm boy and devious one showed up with smiles sporting a case that I knew was going to mean I would have to practice, a lot.  They had music, and had even brought me a brand new reed.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that I preferred Tenor sax reeds to the bass clarinet ones mostly for durability.  It didn't take long before I broke it and had to go pick up a few spares.  I found a recording of the piece online and played along at nights after my kids went to bed.  I didn't completely embarrass myself, luckily I wasn't the only bass clarinet there but I WAS the only adult playing it.

On it went.  I was also their counselor for the theater merit badge and for the hiking merit badge.  The latter I thought they'd never make it when after the first one devious boy begged.

"Can I amputate my legs now, just to get the pain to stop?"

But they made it.  I didn't realize the hiking was the last one that Rhythm Boy needed for his Eagle award or that we completed it mere days before he turned 18 and became ineligible.

These people who had become friends were now more like family. (What Do We Get?)

I had seen growth like this in every child that came through my little program.  I had learned that I could teach preschool and not only survive, but thrive.  (What Do We Get?)

That was what hurt so badly when I had to let my program go.  I felt a failure more because I felt like I let those kids down.  (The crippling debt didn't help either)  I was going to miss them. I knew we would keep in touch but it would never be the same.  If I could fail these amazing kids who gave me everything I asked for and more what good was I?  I won't go into where those thoughts took me, I've done that.

1 week after I hit my lowest.  1 week to the day that I scared even myself at how far I had gone into the darkness.  Still unsure if I wasn't still lost someone in the darkness and just didn't know, I was asked to go to church.

"Mister Tim!  Will you come to my Eagle Court of Honor?"

Rhythm Boy(was it man now) made it.  Marching band, Men's choir. Smiling, making eye contact It was awesome. They asked my 4 boys to do the flag ceremony.  It wasn't a big To Do.  But that wasn't Rhythm Man's style.  it was good, and straight to the point.  I was already tearing up when he got his award, and then when he pinned his mother and father to honor them.  I sat at the back of the room beaming and trying not to let people see my eyes watering (allergies, must have been)  When he began to talk about the Mentor Pin and asked me to come up and he pinned it on me, he didn't know what I had been through or how much that not only meant to me, but how much I needed that right then.  I wasn't able to tell myself "You Done Good!" right then.  having one of those boys who had grown into such amazing men, do it for me was a blessing answered.  My allergies got the better of me and I had to wipe both nose and eyes as I sat back down. (What Do We Get?)

A couple months later Devious Boy (man?)...

"Mister Tim!  Can you come to my Eagle Court of Honor?"

Madrigals, Marching band, still auditioning for everything, completely out of his shell.  He made it.  I wasn't ready for this one either.  My own boys would be leaving for the National Jamboree the next morning and I was already emotional.  I really thought with two boys so close together they would have someone else to pin that mentor pin on.  Apparently there had been an argument with both boys deciding to choose for themselves.  Once again I tried to hide the tears in my eyes.  (What Do We Get?)

I really wasn't anything special.  I made tons of mistakes and I had to work hard just to stay ahead of those kids all those years.  When I ask "What Do We Get?"  I'm not just talking about the person doing the teaching, or even the students.  How many other teachers can be given credit for these boys?  Dozens if not more.  "What Do We Get?"  What do we get as a society?  We get men who learn how to achieve.  Women of confidence.  We get a new generation full of grace because we took the time to raise not just their intellectual I.Q. We raise their Athletic I.Q., Cultural I.Q.and Spiritual I.Q. as well.  This benefits us all.  But because we can't gain power over it, we can't gain financially from it, because we don't get to see immediate results, sometimes it is dismissed as nothing.

Today, I got to go help out with one of my favorite organizations, The Salt Lake Choral Artists.  This event was for high school kids.  I will be there tomorrow.  I'm just helping with lunch but I watch and wonder where these kids would be with out their mentors.  They are all there not just to learn from the people I consider mentors but these are choirs from all over the Wasatch Front.  When trying to get support these people , teachers and community arts organizations both wonder where their help is going to come from.  Too many people say, What do I get by helping them?  I don't go to their concerts?  They don't do anything for me?

If I had said that before I started my little business venture I wouldn't have gained the friends I have, knowledge of skills that I didn't think I had, and despite recent problems with self doubt and anxiety, a confidence that I can draw on to combat that same self doubt and anxiety.  What do I get.   I get kids who are going to grow up not to be great musicians (though a few will)  I get kids who are going to grow up to be good, intelligent, hard-working, thinking citizens.  These same kids will be taking care of me someday when I am infirm.  Music put my wife through college but she is an RN.  Art enriches all of us.  I've even heard stories of medical labs using gaming virtual reality and 3d modeling engines and re-purposing it for medical imaging.

We don't support the Utah Jazz because we think they're gonna let us play, we support it out of a sense of community spirit and love for the game and respect for the talent to play.  We can't bring up kids who respect the arts that way unless we do too.

One last story, a cautionary one maybe but poignant.  The same Piano teacher who I sang for at the McDowell group and referred a student to me complained to me once that one of the most respected members of our community put his children in this teachers program.  It was a struggle for him to get those kids to progress because they didn't come to recitals.  The respected man indicated that he didn't think there was a need.  They wouldn't ever be professional musicians anyway.  He did however go to every sports event that his kids were in.  The chances of making it big in sports, being very similar to music, what message was he sending to his kids who knew that the other students were having recitals.  What are they going to grow to believe?

What Do We Get?

Here are some of my personal favorites that have touched my life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Take a minute and think about the choices you make each day.

Paper or plastic.

Macaroni and cheese or a salad.

Grape jelly or Strawberry Jam.

Most of these choices aren't earth shattering.  Most don't determine your mood or perception.  But most have a preference and choosing poorly can add up.  Being disappointed with the choices can build if you add one on the other and at the end of the day you may feel a little extra tired hopefully not overwhelmed or depressed but it can wear on you.  Usually we don't make ALL bad choices so it really balances out.

What if every time you made a choice it felt like the lesser of two evils swerve and hit a cat, or stay true and his a squirrel.  And as your day progressed your undesirable choices AND your good choices would likely make you much more than grumpy.

Sometimes with anxiety the importance of choices is perceived to be more weighty than it truly is in reality.  Grape Jelly or Strawberry feels like Sophie's choice.  It makes you want to make no choices and wait for the "bad things" to happen on their own.  Then at least you can't blame yourself.  This can be debilitating.  This can make you stay in bed all day.  This can make you hide in your room when the door bell rings.

I had some choices today.  At first they were of the normal sort.  And I don't really think they were wrong choices so I was doing ok.  Then, 11:30 am 7th grade registration. knowing that the 10th grader had to be across town for registration at 12:30 pm.  I arrived late, getting a 12 year-old to move might be akin to moving mountains.

When I saw the line I realized that having transferred him from Quest to Sandridge for 7th grade I had to come in special last week and filled out most of the forms.  I knew I would be stressed if I didn't take care of both.  I knew I was going to be stressed if one messed up the other.
I took a breathe and thought.  "I can deal with Junior high later."

 I had most of it done and due to construction they are waiting on pictures for the ID badges until the 21st.  I left and took the 10th grader and it was an even worse line but I had more to do for him.  They gave us the option of doing pictures and lockers first and then returning to the line and if it was still long that we could do the registration tomorrow.  We did.  We took our time and didn't hurry.  I embarrassed my son a few times like any good father should.  We went back and the line wasn't very long at all.  We finished the one boy and even though it was stressful and I had to be around a lot of people for quite sometimes I found some ways to turn two not so good choices into some non earth shattering choices.

Sometimes it's ok to wait.

Some of what's been going on has needed explaining and some people haven't had access to what I've been saying by way of explanation.  I had severed my link to them in one way or another.

I made it a point today or rather I made the choice to try to make some in roads.  I talked to my mom.  I had been worried, She came over on one of my worst days, when I was curled up in the fetal position in my room when ever someone knocked.  She was persistent and eventually came in.  I couldn't speak to her.  I just laid there staring at her I think I grunted out a one word answer to a few of her questions.  Afterward I kicked myself for treating her that way but I couldn't have explained it to her and now she had become someone I acquainted with anxiety and I was upset. My brother had been part of a similar situation and  though I still text-ed with him, talking to him on the phone was hard.  Since at the time I wasn't leaving the house unless someone was with me and even then only in necessity I didn't have a chance to talk to them.

Today I talked to my mom.  I just wanted her to know I wasn't mad at her or anything that I had just been under a lot of stress.  And she seemed to understand.

I made a few attempts to reconnect with a few Facebook friends, that seemed innocuous enough.

I'm trying to make the choice not to be alone.  I know the benefits are incalculable but it's still trying to find ways to make the decisions that make me anxious seem like what they are, just everyday decisions.

Why yes I would like grape jelly on my peanut butter sandwich!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rock Opera - Pater Noster

It's funny where we get inspiration from.
Last night I rewatched this Youtube video.

Pater Noster - Salt Lake Vocal Artists

Here's the text:

PATER noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

In English:

OUR Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

The music has been stuck in my brain all night.  Pater Noster, just that part of the text would pop into my head at weird moments.  

I thought of a son speaking to his father.  Then it hit me to use that as a starting point for a piece in the Rock Opera.

I wanted a piece for chorus and the character of the lead's son to sing immeditely after the lead dies.  Then it would lead into the final which is a canon where each cast member or group adds their theme until it reaches it's climax and everyone is out on stage. I've written the finale and the son begins it alone with a piano.  I realized with a modification this textual starting point would be good.  I'm going to have to find someone well versed in latin to help because I want the Chorus to sing in latin and the soloist to sing in english.  I wrote this new text and then I plugged it into Google translate just to see what the Latin might look like.

OUR Father, who watches from on high, I always love you, don’t let me cry. I only live to make your dreams come true. Tell me what to say, tell me what to do. You gave me everything and more no matter what life had in store, Please forgive me if I never showed my gratitude or said I love you. You lead our souls with love, you delivered us from war. I love you father. Goodbye, Amen.

PATER noster, qui spectat ab alto, semper te, ne me flere. Tantum facies tua somnia. Indica mihi quid dixerit, dicite mihi quid faciam. Que omnia et dedistis mihi restare vitae, dictum vel Aufer a me gratia numquam te amo ostendit. Uos animis in amore nos bellum. Te amo Patris. Vale, Amen.

I imagine the chorus singing the text in latin first, then the soloist singing the English text and the chorus singing small bits of the Latin as an accompaniment.  A cello begins the piece and adds counterpoint melody in places and a continuo in others.  An electric guitar will complete the  instrumentation and sometimes solo, sometimes play harmony to the soloist's melody, and sometimes a third counterpoint to the others.  It will finish the piece as a solo.

the begins the finale will begin with the piano.

The Son sings

Father can't be here now, for once I'm on my own.  No one to protect me, I've never been alone.  Do I have what I need to walk the paths I'm shown. Father am I ready to now be on my own.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Consequence (This one worries me to post but part of me feels compelled.....)

The shame of feeling wrong (My mental illness makes me feel wrong so I will use that this whole post)

Being wrong is, wrong, it's so much better to be right.  That sounds totally logical and so simplistic that it answers itself.

For some reason this blog post isn't for me, it is but it is.  When something is wrong with us, that wrong thing is so much a part of us that we can't share it.  It feels shameful.  A part of the being that I am is wrong.  We've seen people go on Dr. Oz or some other show to promote awareness about a problem. To get a dialogue going so people would talk about what is WRONG and get help for it and know there isn't any shame in it.

Let me tell you first that starting this blog was a way for me to start being Okay.  Some of you have read my posts this past week and since this is the first you are hearing from me about this you are concerned about this crisis I'm going through.  I've had a terrible week, yes.  Compared to the whole picture this has been a hiccup, but one that has happened (as it will inevitably do) on my way back up.  Understand, please keep praying about me and please keep rooting for me I have lots to do. but this blog has been about putting that stuff out where I can have a dialogue with myself that I know others will see.  I used to write about my feelings but I kept them in a secret hidden place on my computer and no one knew about them.  Since, no one ever saw it I allowed myself to say all of those nasty things that I was thinking about myself thinking I was getting it all out.  I wasn't however analyzing things that I didn't like and looking for way to improve them if I could or deal with them if I couldn't change them.  I whipped myself with my own words then hid the scars from anyone else.  This blog is about keeping that journal but keeping myself honest because I know my friends would never stand for those awful things to be said about me, even by me.  If this blog has been shocking I apologize, don't read further because the real truth is much more shocking.

Before I say the shocking part.  I want you to know why I feel like I need to.  What I did not realize when I started this blog and threw open to everybody was that I have done the unthinkable.  Even though we seem to feel shame about being wrong I stood up and bared that wrongness to the world, albeit for my own issues and not because I wanted to bring any awareness about it.  Truly I was thinking of myself when I started it.  Since then I have had to open my eyes.  Handfuls of people have contacted me in the past 2 days telling me that they were rooting for me but also revealing their own struggles with wrongness.  I found out a close blood relation was medicated for a very long time for very similar problems to mine. Some people that I was unaware that they could EVER have had problems told me about their struggles.  I won't say anymore because someone else's "Wrongness" is for them to share not me.

I can tell you about what I've been hiding.  It goes much deeper than just the anxiety.  When I closed the music studio last year I was very hurt.  As anyone would be.  You lose something important to you that you've invested so much time in it feels like someone died.  because I was also so anxious and dealing with it was hard I blamed myself, partly, it was rightly so, we see our mistakes so we can fix them and move on.  But I lost confidence in myself which allowed the anxiety the had always been more of an annoying eccentricity to take hold and grow into a monster.

Kind of like the bacteria that causes some forms of strep that already lives inside us and we exist symbiotically with but sometimes a situation can come that allows it to take hold and go into super growth and we get sick.

My quirks began to eat at me and I was too depressed to fight them off.  Then we got a teenager, well he was already there but that thing which clicks in all teenagers that makes them do the exact opposite of what we tell them is good for them turned on and in addition to my other failure I began to feel like a failure as a parent too.

To extend the previous analogy.  I had the flu, the strep seized that opportunity to grow and while I was fighting off the first two I got pneumonia too.

This was my chosen profession. Stay-at home dad was a choice my wife and I made together and I had up until this point reveled in it.  I had up until this point even been good at it.  Tina tries to tell me that I did things that she never could have or would have thought of to solve things.  I don't buy that because she is also an amazing nurturer and would have done things her own way maybe better maybe not but we can't really know.  Still with a grain of salt added to her words I felt that I didn't have to judge myself up against the super moms out there.  I was DAD and I was doing it because I was good at it.

But suddenly nothing I did seemed right.  That's when I kept the journal.  I didn't talk to anyone.  I didn't get help.  I was angry all the time.  I did get to sing with some friends and it was like taking one of those cough syrups with the pain medicine in.  It helped me to cope.  It did however only treat the symptoms not the root. Secretly I had an infection I was hiding deep inside of me and it was slowly poisoning me.

If that's the case though that infection has to come out or it will kill you from inside, and quite literally it almost did.  If you've read up to here this is one more chance to turn around because this is the true part that I've been coming to.  This is the part that I want you to hear so if you are struggling too you don't let it get this bad.  That you get some help, friends, family doctors whatever.

Last April things got to their worst.  One night I argued with my teenager about his grades, and his homework. when we finally separated it was very late at night, and we were both seething mad at each other.  While his anger stayed directed at me like any normal  true-blue american teenager mad at his parents rules, I began to turn it around at the failure dad. I hated myself. I did stop yelling but I was cooking up a scheme.I was so fevered with the infection I had let grow inside of me that I could not see clearly where it was anymore and I pulled out that journal and feverishly wrote the worst of the things.  I cursed myself.  I cussed at myself.  I read all of the things I had been writing and it convinced me...I could see the infection now.  It was me.  You may still turn around, you can guess what happens next but I intend to continue.

I gathered my supplies.  I locked myself away from my family, in my room.  I came out once.  Thinking that I would make sure everyone knew that there was an infection in my home and I was going to take care of it I copied those awful untrue things and posted them on Facebook.  It was my goodbye.  Then they would know why and everything would be OK because I had fixed it for them.  Back in my room , I had three bottles in front of me.  I intended to empty the contents of all of them.  At this point I was completely unaware of anything else, of my house, my family, of my friends in choir who were depending on me to perform that night,  the people who were coming to the concert because it was one of the rare ones being held up north near me.  They were all forgotten.  I emptied the first bottle in the manner I intended...

...A tender mercy...

If you aren't religious, if you don't believe in divine intervention you can scoff if you want and think me a fool.  I tell you left to myself I would have emptied the others...I didn't, I felt someone helping me and holding me.  I put them down. the fever itself broke, I was still sick but I could see clearly again.  I began to cry softly.  As I cleared up more I realized what I had done and that what I had done would still have done the job I had intended to do without action.  I felt myself wail.  (I was embarrassed by it. Sorry if this is a weird aside but even this tiny bit of momentary humor I felt was a tender mercy and it calmed me more and made me feel better about something from long before.  I had heard that wail once before come from me. It happened at my son's funeral and I had the same embarrassed thought then too. It sounded like a fake sob like you see of paid mourners on TV.  A real sad person didn't wail like that.  But I finally learned that sometimes it's OK to wail) momentary embarrassment turned to action.  I unlocked my bedroom door and ran into the arms of my wife.  I didn't have time to send my kids away (my only true regret in the moment save what I had done)  I told her everything.  She panicked.

My amazing RN wife panicked and worried that having to deal with strangers about my mental health issues would cause me anxiety.  She wanted me to purge.   This is humorous, as a child I hated to vomit.  I hated it so bad I taught myself not to.  I prided myself in my self control.  However I had learned how to control it so well that even if I needed to I couldn't.  It was involuntary now.  Ipecac syrup.  Nope, super dad had seen that it had expired and thrown it out a few years back and couldn't replace it because the stores don't carry it anymore.  Which also meant what was in my stomach was still potent.  I agreed to try to gag myself, no luck.  Failed.  I even let my wife try.  Still that helping hand was there and I had some reason left, I have to go to the hospital.  I can only learn to deal with this and the consequences if I live to do so and I have to go.  She knew I was right.  Good friends already were watching for me.  One contacted my brother.

"Have you seen what Tim posted?"

I didn't know about the conversations, my wife was driving me to the emergency room.  I was realizing that I had to deal with my first consequence, the choir.  I did it all by text.  I couldn't have done it any other way at the time.  I told two people.  I let slip a little too much to one of them but I wasn't as worried about him as the other him.  Our director.  I didn't want to let him down.  All I could say was that I was going to the ER and that it was something I ate.  It wasn't really a lie and it was the most I could get out.  By the time we pulled into the parking lot I was starting to feel a little groggy. Not too much but I was worried.  From here on out  the hand was there but the chemicals would make me less and less aware and it was up to me to fight to keep hold of it.

I have tried to spare some of the details and will skip ahead a little faster.  The next 4 or 5 or 6 hours, I'm not really sure, were a blur of anxiety about slipping away, the taste of charcoal, and worrying about that poor security guard they called to the nurses station that they wouldn't seem to let go and they just kept making him wait.  I kept thinking he must be bored.

"Why wouldn't the nurses acknowledge him?"

From my bed I could see the poor fellow had rushed to respond to their call only to be kept waiting.

I focused on him because when I looked away the room moved and I thought. "Maybe it was the room?Maybe it was something in the room...  No it was the room"  My jaw hurt, "It hurts because you can't close it.  Better use all your muscle, Okay maybe you could close it, I hope I didn't break any fillings slamming my jaw closed so fast."

Eventually the scary stopped.  I fought.  I won.  I began to be clear.  I realized the room was moving only in the same way that it moved when you were dizzy (the memory of this made my recent turn with the youngest on the teacups at Lagoon not as pleasant as it should have been since this past year all those push-up have made me strong enough to spin it faster than I can handle).  The movement in the room was just the movement of the clock.  Finally I was clear enough to realize the poor security guard (he had to have been 21 at the oldest) was doing his urgent job the whole time.  He was watching me.  Keeping me safe from me.  He didn't know that he was doing it in more ways than he could have understood.  He was put there so he could see me, but in choosing to be where I could see him he helped to save me.   My wife's touch beside me, the pain in my teeth as they slammed down, and my worry about the poor forgotten security guard pulled me through.  The doctor confirmed that I had made it through the scary time with out the complications with my heart and breathing that they were watching for and I was out of the woods.

Stupid as it sounds I looked at the clock and thought, if I can deal with the inevitable mental health worker that's on his or her way in next, and get this darn IV out.....

"When did that get there?"

If I can deal with that I could still get home and get my tuxedo and make it just in time for the concert.  I really wanted to be there.  I hated this consequence too. In actuality my time estimates were pretty spot on but I realized by then that I needed to rest.  Real rest, not fitful scary rest.

We talked. we came up with our plan.  I promised not to keep secret ranting journals anymore.  I repeatedly asked my children for forgiveness, especially the teenager who I knew would be blaming himself.  I discussed with my family whether I should still go on tour with the choir and they told me I should.  We planned.  I could see the future again.  Not a lot of it yet.  But seeing a future was a huge leap forward.  I learned my amazing friends and family and their conversations had succeeded in penetrating my secure Facebook account and removing the awful things I put there.

I reminded myself to hide my passwords from the teenager better since it was his help that allowed the merciful hack.  Now I have to type a password in whenever the screensaver comes on.  Consequence.

I learned that some of my fellow choir members had guessed most of what happened.  One confided their own struggles in me and it was that person I leaned on for that tour.  I hope I wasn't too much of a burden.  they've become like a sibling to me. Consequence.

I started this because I thought I had to, because I was worried for some of you, my friends, who had your own struggles.  I am realizing at this moment, that you are the security guard.  I had to focus on you to get through this but I needed to say it.  I am feeling a calmness that I haven't felt for such a long time.  I realize in this very moment the biggest anxiety I've been holding on to.  Someone finding out my secret.  That somehow you would discern what I had done, and judge me for it because I hadn't been able to explain it to you.  I know now you wouldn't.  But I needed to have the journey in explaining.

Lastly.  Now that I have said that,  you can understand me when I say I've been meeting regularly with my Stake President.  Consequence.

He asks me to tell him each time about a tender mercy that I've noticed.  I'm not sure how I will describe this one.  As a missionary we were counseled not to go into our own past transgressions.  It can take you down a dark road.  Some said it killed the spirit.  But sometimes we were still compelled to share.

I've said lastly and I haven't gotten to that point yet have I?

I saw only one set of footprints in the sand that day,  one thing I did know,  they weren't mine.  There were tender mercies strewn through out it all.  My friends.  The security guard.  The pain in my teeth, the strong warm and still, gentle, touch of my eternal companion at my side.  The presence that held me and guided me and made me put down the bottle and begin to fight for my life.  That moment when I realized it had always been OK to wail if the situation truly called for it.   If the emotion couldn't get out any other way.

If you want to call me a fool for believing, you may.  For the first time in a very long time because I have been too afraid of talking to people to do so.  I testify in the tender mercies of the atonement of Christ.  I testify now to you that he is real and he loves us.  No matter how many times you fall.  The atonement is continuous. He doesn't just give it to you once.  It's there.  If you like the parable of the bicycle.  Understand, He isn't taking you to the store to buy it.  He owns all of the bikes.  He has them ready for you.  Whether you bring Him a penny or a thousand dollars or the sweat of your brow.  I you think you lost the bike after obtaining it.  It's still there.

He owns the atonement and it's there for us.  Each of us. This is my testimony.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rock Opera - Dramatis Personae

I'm going to do something positive with this blog too.

I need somewhere to organize my thoughts and figure things out but here's something on the lighter side of that.  Some know that I've been working on a rock opera.  So I'm gonna post some stuff about that here.  it's weird and only loosely based on Greek mythology I change it whenever I feel like it.  Here are some characters from it.

Mercury Rising - The Opera

Dramatis Personae

Herman Mercury - Youthful guitarist, thief and eventually flies through the skies in a Lead Zeppelin of his own design delivering messages between the Eternals of the Sea, Eternals of Heaven’s Hills, and the Eternals of the Underland.  He loves greatly but never wins in love instead he guides others to love and through life.  Herman is strong and quick despite his portly appearance.  Herman dies trying to return through the back door to the overland while crossing the river Styx at the end of a lightning like railgun because Zed mistakes him for Haven.  The opera begins at his funeral.

Haven - Demon Lord of The Underland.  He generally receives souls to his realm and judges them through the gate at Akron, Oh.  He has abandoned his post to chase after the lovely Penelope.  He is cursed when in the mortal realm to drink the blood of the living, passing this curse on to them.  His Younger brother Zed believes he is doing this to raise an army against him.  Haven tries as he may to not bite, and hence curse, Penelope, he succumbs.  In her fear for becoming a vampire as well she takes a stake to her own heart. Haven uses his power over the dead to resurrect her but she has forgotten their love.  Soon they court and fall in love again and the cycle repeats.

Zed - Rules from a high airy tower at the top of Heaven’s Hills among the clouds.   He is afraid that his older brother wants what he has.  He sends Herman to force Haven to leave the mortal girl and abandon his death army who Zed hopes to claim for himself.   Haven is indifferent to Zed and only wants to love the girl Penelope.  There’s nowhere in heaven or sea or on the earth for his undead minions so he has Herman lead them, along with the now dead and soon to be resurrected Kora, across the River styx (The Back door) into the Underland while he leads Zed on a chase to the gate at Akron, OH.

Paul - Not seen in this story, He’s a sailor and the brother of Zed and Haven.  He is part of the reality TV show, “Try to catch as much crab as I do without dying you stupid mortals”

Diana - One of Herman’s many loves and the mother of his son Hermon.  She like the others leaves him and he vows to never love again.

Salma - Hermon’s teenage girlfriend and the two are highschool sweethearts.  No one believes their love is true but Herman, who encourages them to marry.

Hermon - The son of Herman and Diana and loves Salma.  see above.

Penelope - Love of Haven.  Thought to be the love child of Zed and Demi Moore.

Ok if people didn't think I was crazy before I'm sure they do now.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday, No Monday No Cry

My nephew came to stay last night.  I thought it would make me freak out to have him here but he's been a rather pleasant presence and I wasn't anymore anxious to have him here than I used to be when house guest came over before things got bad.  He's staying again tonight.  He and my oldest are working on a dirt moving project at the yard my son has been taking care of all summer.

I didn't sleep last night.  I wrote my last blog post in the wee hours of the morning.  Lack of sleep hit me today at around 1 PM.

I was able to get out of the house before that.  Mostly just to take the teenager to cross country.  I still jump when the phone rings.  My primary care physician called with a referral for me so I can get in.  Tina's going to make the appointment and go with me the first time so I don't back out.

Some of what's been so hard is holding it all in and my last blog post took a lot out of me but it has helped me to be more stable.

I've let the boys play lots of Rockband 3 on the Xbox these past few days.  More than I would usually do but it makes me smile to hear them knowing all the words to "Jukebox Hero" and "Crazy Train" oh and they are quickly learning "Rosanna".  Boy number 2 is able to play many of the songs on medium difficulty in pro-mode and keep up even with the pedals and the symbols.  Tina is really quite good too.

I decided to make a list of things that make me afraid or anxious and some of them started back when I was a kid.

As a child:

  1. When on a sleepover, when we would go outside to play I couldn't go back in the house even if I had to use the bathroom unless someone who lived there was with me.  If my friends wouldn't go I would go around to the front of the house and ring the bell.  I had to have permission before I could go in.  My friends who noticed thought I was weird.  As I got older I was able to stop doing this but it never stopped making me anxious.
  2. I didn't like people to hear me using the toilet.  I would and still often do turn on the water.  If I'm at a public restroom I will go in if I can't possibly make it, I"m less anxious in dirty gas station bathrooms because I can lock everyone else out.
  3. I used to babysit for neighbors.   The parents would always say I could eat whatever was in the fridge or the cupboards.  I never did.  I would imagine them running out or thinking I was a pig or something.  I either brought my own meal or ate nothing even if I was expected to prepare a meal for and feed the child I was watching.
As a teen:
  1. I hated the school bathrooms so badly that I would avoid them if at all possible.  If I had to void my bladder I would go into a stall if available.  If my friends were there I would try to time my trip so I would either go before or after they were there if I had to use a urinal.  If I had to have a BM I wouldn't go at all.  I was afraid of a lot of things.  being heard, smelled, running out of TP.  I began to have one BM a day, right after the evening meal, with all of the after school things I was involved in it was the only time of day that I could pretty much guarantee that I would be home before scouts and young men's activities started etc.  I hated to be teased about it but I couldn't explain why it was such a problem for me.
  2. Dating was hard.  I had a hard time talking to girls that I liked unless I was acting like a clown. more and more this became my defense mechanism.  The problem was I was still not very quick witted.  So I was just as embarrassed that most of my jokes didn't land.  
  3. When I did finally ask a girl out I tried to arrange the asking so that I was either in a group, singing a doo-wop song etc, or I would plan it so that I didn't even have to be there.  A puzzle or something would ask for me.  Since this was normal for High school it was real easy to do.  Once asked though I became even less serious around the girl.  Joking more and more and sometimes inappropriately, or out of context.  I grasped for any words that popped into my head it would often become a funny non sequitur but it was not intentional at all.  I also didn't like to go out on a date with a as large of a group as possible.  This was very apparent to a lot of friends.  I made a couple of friends miserable when I forced them to ask girls to cotillion so I didn't have to go alone but they had a lot of hard finals coming up and didn't want to go.
  4. I had a few girlfriends in high school and early college.  After a few months of dating  I became uncomfortable.  I had a hard time reciprocating affection.  Even though their affection was often demonstrated, I worried that I was misreading them and I had it all wrong and the a hand hold or a kiss would be unwelcome.  when I began to start worrying enough about it I would start thinking "Well it's time to break up"  If I couldn't ask a girl out in person, or hold her hand, how was I gonna have a serious talk about breaking up.  I couldn't ever be serious around this person anyway.  I would start worrying about it a lot and once I did, I couldn't talk to to the girlfriend at all.  After a few weeks of that my silence had done the breaking up and not only did I not have a girlfriend I would have lost a friend as well.  I caused a few hurt feelings this way.  Not because I'm such an amazing catch but the manner in which I handled things had to be a blow to someones ego.

Okay.  That's a big enough list for now.  I need to do something else because my stomach is hurting writing this.  Even now  I can see the idea of having to go and talk to a therapist is causing me such angst that I'm trying to write these things down that I know I'm going to be asked about when I go.  If I script it out I think I can talk about it.  I'm sure I will become comfortable with whoever I see after a few visits and it won't be so bad.  I'm not trying to bag on myself with these posts, just trying to find things that bother me. so I can figure out where to start to fix it.

Last night's blog post released a lot of tension but this one is making it worse.  So this is all for now.  I think I'll post this one.  If I can handle it being on Facebook then maybe I can get used to talking to a stranger about it.  Granted my Facebook isn't so upsetting to me the past few days.  I"m sure some of my friends are upset because I un-friend-ed them but I had to get my friend list down by half for some reason to feel ok.
It's so weird.  Hope that isn't permanent.  No it's not going to be.  I'm deciding right now.  I'm not going to let this get to me.  It may take awhile but I'm going to feel normal again.  

On my shelf I have a few trophies,

On my shelf I have a few trophies, some from little league baseball and soccer.  Though not a gifted athlete I had the good fortune to play on teams that had good athletes and a few of those trophies are from championships.

The one trophy I am most proud of and most anxious about is one that says...

Outstanding Male Vocal
Coral Mair

First, I should explain that as a boy I idolized my father and tried for a time when I was five to go by my middle name "Coral" because that was my dad's name.  I even brought up to parents the idea that they legally change my name to Coral John Mair Jr.  So when I went off to SUU for a year I decided to go by my middle name.  No one there was the wiser and it was fun.  I am proud of it.

I had the chance to sing a lot that year at SUU and after a lead role in the Music Departments production of Amelia Goes To The Ball, I received a lot of praise and recognition.  Most people didn't realize it then but I was beginning to burn out.  I jumped into the music department with both feet.  2 choirs, marching band, concert band, the opera.  Outside of the department I also participated in Sigma Gamma Chi as a pledge and during that time was volunteered to lead a group to sing in the Campus Gong Show and compete in the Mister SUU mock-pageant.  I love performing.  I love music but I began to be afraid of not being good enough.

One day the ballots were passed around one of my many music classes for the departmental awards.  I was horrified to see my name on the list.  I made no secret of the fact that I did not deserve the honor it should go to someone who had studied longer, a junior or senior, not a freshman.  I actually campaigned against myself with what little time I had that day.  After turning my own sheet in, my vote cast for a junior who had a dark, baritone voice with a lot of maturity, I saw my friend, fellow chorister, former drum major, senior,and the bass singer from the opera, Geoff Anderson.  I told him right away if he hadn't turned his sheet in to make sure not to vote for me for Male Vocal. 

He said he did turn it in and he had voted for me and that everybody he knew was voting for me as well.  SUU had such a small department that pretty much everyone he knew was everyone I had been campaigning to not vote for me.

I said, "Why?  That should go to a more seasoned soloist a junior or senior."  

He told me that it didn't say anything about how much the singer contributed to the department over years, it didn't say who spent the most time in the practice rooms, it was for the OUTSTANDING MALE VOCAL.  I was the one who provided it that year in his opinion and apparently the rest of the department agreed (including the professors, who also got a vote).

I still look at it and think that It shouldn't have been me.  That thought had a huge impact on my decision to transfer to Weber State after I returned home from my mission.  That thought was a big reason why I preferred to sing in the Concert Choir while I was there.  I only tried out for Chamber Choir once and I did so mostly on the encouragement of a friend who was auditioning as well.  I didn't practice hard for the audition nor did I try to sing my best when I sang for Dr. Henderson either.  

I'm even more petrified of not being good enough now.  Most of my Friends from Salt Lake Vocal Artists don't know the fear I had of joining that group.  Of having to acclimate myself to a new social setting.  Of being afraid of not being good enough.  Of fearing to be noticed when I made a mistake.  I would become ill before a rehearsal.  I had headaches.  My bowels would stop working correctly.  I made it through because of the sheer enjoyment of the music.  When we were actually singing,  I could be at peace, as long as we were singing I had to control my breathing.  The music would flow over me and calm me.  In part it's what started helping me to cope.

When I lost my business and started also being the father of a teenager, those challenges began to make my fears spread to more and more parts of my life.  Singing with the Vocal Artists became my life raft.  But only if we were in the group.

I auditioned for a musical.  I nearly backed out before call backs.  The Musical was Sweeney Todd, I was cast as the Judge.  A big role.  I used my son's learning disability as an excuse to back out before rehearsals began.  The Vocal artists were planning tours that I really didn't have the money to go on so I didn't sign up that fall.  By January my wife said we'd make it work so I could go because at least she recognized how much I needed the group.  I was afraid to go but the music was enough to calm me so I could handle it.

Dr. Allred pulled me aside one night and asked if I would look over a solo in one of the pieces, it was very small and at that time none of his regular soloists were committed for the Bulgaria/Turkey tour.

My response was something like, "...oh I don't know...I haven't done a serious solo for years.....Well yeah I guess I will look at it....."  I paraphrase but you can get the gist.

Certainly if I had done the asking and that was the response I got, I would have been worried.  Luckily for me and for the choir one of the regulars agreed to go soon after.  I learned the part just in case but was confident I wouldn't be called on to do it.

A few weeks later I received an email, asking me to be the Bass section leader for the tour group.  I began to write a reply saying no but my wife was reading over my shoulder and made me say yes.  Every sectional was like when I first joined Vocal Artists.  I would feel like I was going to be sick, I would have a headache,  I acted confused, I leaned heavily on the other members of the sectional to help me.  We made it there.  The tour was wonderful.  Of course I'm glad I went. 

I attended the conducting workshop put on by the Choral Artists organization and taught by our conductor, who intimidates me.  Anyone I look up to and respect does, it's not their fault it's my issue.  I had headaches all that week.  Every class, for me, was worse that watching a week long marathon of slasher movies.

 I asked a few people from the group to look at some compositions I had written.  I sent the request for one by Facebook message and afterward I stayed in bed for a whole day thinking I had made the worst mistake of my life.  That I had done something truly embarrassing or that would be considered to be such a horrible imposition that I had ruined my friendship with that person forever. When they finally responded, it helped to calm me down that they were very gracious and said they would look at some things for me when they had time.  I was just so glad I hadn't lost a friend.  I still haven't given the manuscripts to that person.  I have a feeling that unless I get control of this problem I never will.  Just asking for the favor from someone I respected made me think I was going to die.

I have always planned to return to college when my children were all in school but since my income is not one we intend to rely on I also do not want to go into debt to do so as we are already still paying off lots of debt from the failed business.

I have thought of many ways to pay for college but I thought if I got a part-time job and took just a class at a time for the next little while I could handle it.  This past Thursday I typed up my resume, groomed, dressed,  and tried to convince myself to go to a career fair in Salt Lake.  When one little thing went wrong just before I was to leave, I lost control of it all again.  I have been mostly in bed since.  I deactivated my Facebook account because I was afraid to have anyone read any of my posts or anything about me.  I haven't been able to answer the phone, unless it's my wife or kids, for days.  I can't answer the door.  Everything makes me afraid.  Even writing this.  I'm debating right now deleting this and never letting anyone see it.

If you're reading it then I overcame it for now.

I realize now that I haven't just had a bad year but there's something else wrong with me.  The bad year has just magnified it.  Brought it bubbling to the surface.  Made it so that fear that I've kept hidden so well, (I bet most of you didn't know I had it or that it was this bad) that fear, can be recognized for as being the root of a lot of my problems even the depression.

I typed everything I was afraid of into Google and overwhelmingly they seem to match Social Anxiety Disorder.  Maybe it's not,  I'm going to make an appointment to find out.  I'm not gonna let my friends and more importantly, my family, my wife and kids, see me like this anymore.  I want to remember what it was like when I was headstrong and a bit cocky and loved to stand up and sing solos all the time.  I want to be able to sleep at night because I wasn't laying in bed all day, because I feel safe there.  I want to get out and run again and workout again.  I want to get a part-time job.  I want to go back to school.   I REALLY want to take private voice lessons again. 

I don't want my wife to have to be my personal secretary because I'm afraid of talking on the phone, afraid of leaving a voice mail and even afraid of listening to a voice mail.

Until then, understand if I don't respond to a phone call.  Every time I get one there's a little war going on inside me, the one that wants to pick up because your are a friend or family, and the deep dread of having to carry on a conversation.  I do better with texts or emails, but I may not be able to respond to those either.
Leave a voice-mail if you must, understand that I will mostly likely have to read the Google translation of it and it helps if you use your best diction if not at least the results are sometimes amusing.  If you see my car in the driveway and want to stop by you can try, but right now, I can't answer the door.  I might be okay if my kids are there to answer but know that even if I come to the door I'm crawling out of my skin, even if I carry-on a conversation  I'm positive I'm going to throw up the whole time, even though I never do.

I figured out I have a problem but only just recently and haven't seen anybody yet for it.  I don't have the coping skills yet.  Please be patient with me.