MARCH 10, 2020: “The Brighter Side Of Grey” …

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TO MY KIDS …

I’m writing this in case I’m gone tomorrow. I’m writing this in case I’ve moved along. There’s something that I hope you’ll remember: That life is not a game, it’s a song. So take the best parts of me, locked away without the keys, and know that I’m forever by your side. When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey. If you’re reading this, I know you’re feeling sorrow. If you’re hearing this, I know you’re probably scared. Just know that all the things you want are borrowed, and all you get to keep is all you’ve shared. So wipe away the tears for me, know that we’ve made history. Remember no one ever really dies.  When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey. {Five Finger Death Punch}

THIS PICTURE. One I sketched in my early 20’s using the literal ashes from both my father’s and His ashtrays. At the time, I had no idea the impact this or any of my 32 Sketches would have on me down the road, yet as I look at them now, I can’t help but notice that although I was in very dark place when they were born, something inside me was distantly hopeful. Still, this one. It begs the younger me to stay focused on the very bright future I couldn’t see through the fog I was in, yet was patiently waiting for and calling to me all the while.

If you know me well, you know that grey is my favorite color, which is evident in my predominately “black and white” or grey artwork. What’s interesting about this one is how poignantly it reflects upon the mental illness I fought so hard to overcome for the better part of my life, and long before it was diagnosed. My illness imprisoned me in the dichotomy of “black and white thinking” and held me for ransom inside the compartmentalized boxes in my mind where I stored all my feelings, pain and trauma. Before I put my disease into remission, I was unable to accept people, situations, emotions, or behaviors as anything other than “good or bad”, “right or wrong”, or “one way or the other”. MY ENTIRE WORLD WAS BLACK AND WHITE AND THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR THE GREY! I had a defensive view of both the positive and negative qualities of myself and everyone else, and there was no way for my broken psyche to allow anything in between to exist in one cohesive space.

How did this happen? The general consensus is that my “splitting” was the result of severe emotional and psychological abuse from my childhood, and I do tend to agree. I was raised in a conditionally based system of reward, praise, affection and acceptance. If I was “good”, I was praised, affirmed and rewarded. If I was “bad”, I was admonished, punished and rejected. They “washed their hands” of me whenever I screwed up or simply failed to follow “the rules” and ZERO was the validation or consideration of my feelings. My mind would “split” as I desperately attempted to shield myself from the constant fear of being abandoned, betrayed or eviscerated by anyone who claimed to love me.

For the record, I do not believe these traumas were visited on me purposely or with the intent to murder my soul, but the trauma was real indeed, as was the effect it had on my damaged psyche. For years in the wake of not only my broken childhood, but as much so in the wake of my own self-inflicted destruction and imprisonment, I felt alone and voiceless, regardless of the people who “appeared” to be standing beside me. At this point it is no longer a secret that I myself attempted suicide on November 8, 1996, but thankfully survived to tell about it.  But I’ve digressed …

Music of all genres has been an integral part of my mental health journey and recovery, but one of my favorite bands, Five Finger Death Punch, has been at the forefront. Their songs have not only helped identify some of my lost and broken feelings, but have also given my former “voiceless self” permission to either cry my feelings to the surface or YELL AND SCREAM THEM OUT LOUD! I’d pre-ordered their new album months ago and had been counting the days until it was released, so I was stoked to finally get to listen to it, starting from the beginning, as I headed out of the house today. Meanwhile, when THIS SONG cued up, I had to pull my car into the breakdown lane on the highway as the words began to cut me in all the most bittersweet ways. I couldn’t stop the tears, or the physical heartache, and I literally couldn’t breathe. It was one of the most cathartic, awful and beautiful moments of my life and it was as if he were singing it to me himself. To me. To her. To Christian. To the very few people he left behind that he truly loved and let into his very private world and who loved him just the same. Someday, when it’s time for her to read “the letter he wrote but never gave her, I will play it for her. Knowing God the way I do, when she’s finally able to receive these most beautiful lyrics of both our lives, in conjunction with the most beautiful words a secretly dying father could have possibly written to his daughter, they will become as significant a part of her healing journey going forward as they have been to mine.

HERE’S THE THING: Grey is not just a color to me. It’s everything in between! It’s the grace I’ve received that is so undeserved, yet given to me anyway by The One who has never loved me with black and white conditions. He “takes the best parts of me and locks them away without the key” and I know He is never far away. He’s the Light that shines ahead of my journey and dilutes the blackness of the abyss into the most beautiful shades of grey. For more than four decades I lived a “black and white life” with no room for the grey I knew I needed so much but didn’t know how to connect with. So, as I look back at this picture now I am filled with the most unbelievable hope, peace, balance and inspiration you can imagine. It reminds me of just how far I’ve come, that it was always supposed to be this way, and there is always a “Brighter Side Of Grey”. I’m not gonna lie … it is now my final wish that when it’s time for me to move along, this is the last song I hear as they wish me well on my final journey.

Them

8 thoughts on “MARCH 10, 2020: “The Brighter Side Of Grey” …”

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