Introspection of Solitude (4/25/2023)
Humans are social creatures and we are not meant to be alone for extensive periods. When you find yourself isolated, time moves differently and sometimes seems strange.
Things from the past, things in the present, what you look for in the future, all converge at one point. Your thoughts can swirl around in your head, and it takes some measure of effort to bring this under control. Veterans with PTSD, like me, experience this very thing, and it’s termed “looping”, where a thought becomes a dominant one and continues to go around and around, like a broken record. I’ve had a friend tell me he experienced this very thing in the midst of the initial pandemic with self-quarantine being imposed. He felt restlessness, and he couldn’t think straight, all the symptoms I’m quite familiar with in my prolonged solitary confinement of nearly 13 years.
The dehumanizing effect of these cruel and unusual circumstances, has taken a lot of energy. In the battles I fight every day and in the myriad struggles I am faced with, I have spent a lot of time with myself, my thoughts, memories, everything spent alone. It takes an immense amount of strength to withstand these prolonged and uncertain circumstances. When people ask how I do it, I cannot say that I truly have an answer. It is from the experiences I have had in my life, my faith as a Christian, my friends, my dreams… it could be any or a combination of these things, I suppose.
In troubling times, I have sat quietly contemplating. I think deeply and reflect on many things. As I was pursuing an engineering degree previously, some have commented I fit the bill. I think about something, and I’m very curious as to how it works, so I want to know more. I like knowing how something works, and I seek answers to complex questions or concepts. There are various forms of solitude and isolation, other than the physical cell I’m in. You might feel alone with a problem you face, how you feel in a crowd, even faced with adversity with a number of things. You may feel oppressed by that solitude, though it is important to remember, in some of the most intense and profound challenges we face, you are alone when facing them. Until you are alone, you cannot know yourself. Perhaps, I should have pursued a philosophy degree.
It was Friedrich Nietzsche that said “those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how’.” When we are alone and suffering in solitude, it is difficult to see outside the moments that pervade those circumstances. Maybe you are struggling to pay bills, have a severe medical diagnosis, or some other situation that you feel is almost too much to bear. You don’t know the ‘why’, and cannot even begin to bear the ‘how’, it is quite an immense challenge to quiet the thoughts of my mind occasionally. The dehumanizing effect of solitary confinement is aggravated by the uncertainty as to whether a death sentence will in fact be carried out.
In Glossip v. Gross, Justice Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) said that “it is well documented that prolonged solitary confinement produces numerous deleterious harms” [576 U.S. 863, 926 (2015)]. He went on to make a reference to a study, which found solitary confinement can cause prisoners to experience “anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control”, among other symptoms [Id.]. In 1890, SCOTUS recognized in their opinion of In re Medley, that “when a prisoner sentenced by a court to death is confined in the penitentiary awaiting the execution of the sentence, one of the most horrible feelings to which he can be subjected during that time is the uncertainty during the whole of it” [134 U.S. 160, 172]. The SCOTUS then was describing a delay of a mere four weeks. Little has changed in the more than 130 years since, except for the duration.
Today, deals are not measured in weeks, but in decades [Glossip, at 926].
As for the conditions on Texas’s death row where I am, conditions have been characterized as “some of the U.S.’s most brutal death row conditions” [Inside Polunsky, Solitary Watch, solitarywatch.org]. About a month ago, one man here on death row sadly lost all hope and hung himself. My thoughts and sincere regards are sent to his loved ones.
A normal person can have all the previously mentioned symptoms, among others, and those who have come here with their own burdens, as I have with PTSD, those symptoms can be exacerbated. In short, many of us here have dealt with a lot in our lives, and continue to have struggles on a daily basis in every moment even. It is no stretch of our imagination to what anyone on the outside may very well be suffering, of which we can empathize with them. Despite having the Doom of Damocles hanging over our heads, some here have immensely strong minds after all we have been through, to maintain a sense of dignity and humanity by sheer will.
In my time here, I contemplate many things and reflect upon processing all those matters.In one of my favorite books Men’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl he states “suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.” He continues, “a person may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish, or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.” Quite profound.
Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, goes on to present a most powerful statement that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: that last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Furthermore, he says “When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I must admit, this is in and of itself no easy feat. Viktor Frankl had every right to be angry at his captors and the people of those countries that supported them, however, he chose an unconventional attitude, which was that of showing grace.
In a way, this was perplexing to me, in how a man unjustly wronged, did not wish to react with such righteous indignation. We may think “eye for an eye”, as an old testament Bible passage says, and one that is greatly misinterpreted. It was a good Jewish friend of mine, Cantor Michael, who told me of what childhood TV personality Fred Rogers himself said in the wake of 9/11, going on the air to say that we each must do our part to help with “tikkun olam” – the rabbinical term meaning “repairing the world”. Even more, knowing that Fred Rogers, more well known as Mr. Rogers, was a card carrying Republican, opposed the death penalty, and said in response to his beliefs about it, what kind of message would we be sending to our children? He is right, of course.
Still, there are a multitude of things I meditate about concerning all of this. I remember my fourteen leadership traits and principles from the Marines, and I sit down and write them out, some of which are justice, judgment, courage, and knowledge. I even take it to actual meditation sitting in the lotus position, doing yoga, exercising, or pacing my 6 ft. by 10 ft. cell. I even seek out matters of faith being a Christian, and speak with others of different faiths or religions on the various matters of our lives. I have friends that are Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Odinist, Buddhist, and a number of others. I notice that the thread of the high standards we pursue, whether by a Divine or higher power, sterling morals and just ideals, is set above in a realm of perfection because we are imperfect. We look to a higher realm or being, as a guiding light, so we may continue to reach higher and better ways to what is right, and what we can aspire to.
As I have sat contemplating some of these things, I realize there are reasons and times for everything. It is imperative that we acquire great knowledge and wisdom, to know these seasons and times for every matter, in which we are faced with. A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time for war, and a time for peace. To understand takes experience, by which you gain insight, which then is the beginning of the knowledge that leads to wisdom. There are those who are very educated and experienced, yet have no insight or wisdom. It gives quite a dichotomy. All this is said to provide some measure of context, as to what I wish to say, so let me get to it then.
Many of you may be suffering with something and you feel quite alone with whatever it is. And, indeed, physical prisons may not be the only “prison” that exists, and there are other forms. A lovely woman who has come to be known as my English Mom, tells me about a woman she visits with, of whom deals with a terrible rare disease, called Motor Neuron Disease (I hope I spelled that correctly, sometimes my wonderful English Mom does not write so clearly in the hammock!). It’s where the nerves begin to shut down in the body, leading to someone eventually becoming quadriplegic, and perhaps something further. I’m not clear on the whole of the disease myself, just the little I was told. Suffice is to say, this woman is now confined to a wheelchair with how it has progressed, and I can very much imagine what it is like for her tears and struggling faith, in asking that powerful question we all do in such times. We ask God, the higher power, anyone or anything: “Why?” There are so many I think of in regards to that very powerful question.
I would like to share an amazing analogy that a very dear friend of mine had shared of what we experience and endure in life and how it is, we as Christians, try and place these matters into a different perspective of the bigger picture. It is understandable, many may not be Christian or any other faith, but hope you stay with me in what I wish to convey. It has been a very long time since my friend told me this, so I hope I get it mostly right. It went something like this:
There was a silversmith that someone visited because they wanted to understand the reference of how God refines us like silver. There are many references to this in scripture. So, the believer asked the silversmith questions as he was purifying the silver to be worked with. As he got his tools and crucible, he put it in the fire. The believer asked if the smith would simply set it there and leave it. The smith replied that he has to keep his “hand” on it, as in with his gloves and tools, and he holds it in the hottest part of the fire. The believer asks the smith how long he has to do this. He says, that he can’t do it too long or it will be ruined, but not too little or it will not be purified. The most amazing part of it came for me at the end of this exchange. The believer asked the final important question, “how do you know when it is purified?” The silversmith replied “oh, that’s easy. I can see my image reflected in it.”
Many people in the Bible, and many of us have been through a lot in life, some of us suffered unimaginably. Whatever your belief, we all try to make sense of what happens, and we keep asking when there is no discernable answer. I don’t have those answers, and we can’t always reach those in the depths of suffering. There are moments I feel ungrounded, I guess you could say, with the battles I fight every day. I believe that whether someone or something intended it for harm towards us, if that is the case, there is something greater that intends that very thing for good, and by having faith in that, may give us some measure of peace.
I’m not sure what your belief is, and mine is found in the Bible, the belief of God through His Son, Jesus. Regardless of belief, I have many times where I have to go within myself, to the inner world I have only begun to discover there, to find a balance that I seek whenever things are uncertain.
At times, I must go to a place to be still and quiet, I take deep, slow breaths, and when feeling uncertain, I look within. In the negative feelings I may feel at times in frustrations and disappointments, I have a focus I look to in calming the storm that can sometimes rage in my heart, because I have faith in knowing there is someone who can calm it, and in the end, gives me strength and confidence when I may not have it. We are all human, no one is perfect.
Whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, whatever your beliefs, you may not find the answers to the big questions to what you suffer or go through. However, if you can do it, have faith that you can make it through to the next moment, and stay in the present with what is happening, then you can make it to the next moment, and the one after that. You will find strength within yourself to carry on one step at a time. You will still have bad days, you will still be anxious, you will still have challenges, but you will have your head up because your focus is higher on something greater than the place you were. And, just maybe, find a measure of peace and joy. I believe it’s possible, for all of you.
Five Finger Death Punch – “A Little Bit Off”
Quotes to Think About:
“The child of a king
shall be silent and wise
And bold in battle as well;
Bravely and gladly a person shall go,
Till the day of their death is come.”
(Havamal, Stanza 15, Poetic Edda)
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.“
(Matthew 6:34, Bible, NIV)
Drawing by John Thuesen (06/18/2022)
Birthday Fun With a Friend
by John Thuesen (03/09/2022)
I think, it’s that time,
that time to rhyme.
We’re imagining fun for someone’s special day,
we won’t have a care, come what may.
There will be few rules and all the latitude,
we’ll do it with a devil may cry attitude.
Everyone’s invited, family and friends, even the guy we pester,
because we certainly can’t forget that old dude, Sylvester!
We have a busy schedule and we’ll have lots of fun we hope,
it’s gonna get physical, this shit is gonna be dope!
We’re gonna run, we’re gonna skate, we’re gonna drive,
pedal to the metal, it’s gonna be live!
No one sitting down and being stumps,
we’re kicking this off with some bungee jumps!
Some may have cold feet, be afraid of heights and get woozy,
that’s their bad, we’ll push them off with “watch that first step, it’s a doozy!”
Now that we got the blood flowing, it’s time for friendly competition,
it’s time to see who’s the better, that’s our mission!
We’ll take turns choosing the game and sport,
take your pick, you can choose: field, rink or court.
We have five games, win or lose,
on each of our turns, we better be smart, whatever we choose.
Ladies first, and you ask if I’m “down for tennis”,
“Of course”, I say, “I’m game like nobody’s business.”
We each have a strategy, and you’ll see,
I’m coming out talking like McEnroe and looking like Agassi.
As games go by, it’s clear you’re the better on the match set,
cool and confident, you hit with finesse and I dive for the ball ending up in the net.
Twirling your racket, looking smug you say “Gee guy, that was quite a fall”,
I retort, “I think it’s time for some good old American football.”
Your tenacity surprises me from kickoff and we fight for every inch.
But, I’m not worried, I’ve got something up my sleeve and works in a pinch.
Alas, for you it’s fourth and long, only to be turned over on down to get much worse,
because now I’ve got the ball, I turn on the jets and get in the endzone stat,
I spike it and gloat “I bet your fuckin’ Eagles couldn’t do that!”
“It’s now your turn to pick”, I say, “what’ll it be girly?”
You answer, “let’s take it to the green for gold, you know how to play surely?”
Arriving on the course, it’s sunny, warm and nice,
you tee off with a smooth drive, as for me it’s a slice.
Your ball landed in a great spot to hit,
whereas mine landed in the damn sandpit!
I stare at my prospect in fury, bit my lip and try not to cuss,
with club on your shoulder, you strut by and my hair you muss.
As you wait for me to make it to the hole after umpteen hits,
you remark, “hey, I think we’ll call you ‘the farmer’, look at all those divots!”
“Alright”, I say, “This time you’ll have to bring it on,
because we’re raising the stakes and taking this to the octagon.”
You fight how you want, you can kick, you can punch, whatever you’re wishin’,
whatever it is, you better be good, or you’ll end up in submission.
We go a few rounds, before you say “come on, little man, you want some more?!”
I reply “Cobra Kai said sweep the leg, little lady, but Mr. Miyagi said sand the floor!”
With my acknowledgment, we have one more go, and I’m seemingly in a plight,
because its getting fierce and becoming one hell of a fight.
You push the assault, your kicks and punches around,
but as you draw near, my plan is revealed, and you end up a pretzel on the ground.
“Okay girly”, I say, “it’s been a good bout,
but you’re not going anywhere, so you better tap out.”
The match ends, as I emerge the victor,
though the hit to your pride, makes your indomitable will the stricter.
I smirk and say “well, little missy, it’s two to two,
it’s last game, your pick, what else is there for you to do?”
“That does it!”, you rage, “you shouldn’t have a got cocky,
I’m taking your ass to the ice, the last game is hockey!”
You exercise wisdom with your history as a right-winger,
and this last game is about to be a zinger!
We clothe ourselves in helmet, skates and pad, it’s gonna be war,
no one quite expects what exactly is in store.
Standing ready to face off, my inexperience is plain, our movement quick,
I go for the puck, but you hit me with your stick.
Like a blur, you skate ahead to score,
with the crowd as witness, they all roar.
So graceful are you, and clear all the skill I lack,
because with one fast move, you have me on my back.
I lay there knowing no trick for me avails,
as you take off a glove, examine and buff your nails.
Waiting and sure of yourself, you stare down and gloat,
I slowly collect myself to get up, muttering under my breath “fucking showboat”.
You’ve proven that you’re worthy – to the letter,
you’ve won the competition, you’re the better.
“You’re welcome to try again if you like”, you say,
you smile as I reply “I just let you win for your special day”.
With perfect sportswoman-like conduct, you welcome me “any time for another crack”.
Jovially I say “You’re damn right, like Arnold, I’ll be back”.
Though it’s done, we’re battered, bruised and beaten,
it’s not over, until we’ve had some fine eatin’.
The fun hasn’t stopped and no one looks forlorn,
because on this day, a special person was born.
We’re taking this to La Casa De La Rosa, and everyone’s getting a bottle of Sangria,
we’ve got a fine person to toast, a “Happy Birthday”, to my good friend, Sophia.”
After returning home from the war in Iraq, I started to have nightmares frequently, and as much as every night. Of course, they were something that I did not talk about, like many combat veterans, for many reasons. The first being others don’t really understand it. When I came to where I am currently, I still had the frequent nightmares from war, experiencing all kinds of things I did while in Iraq, some were of things there I didn’t experience.
It was not long, before I came across a book someone told me about here, which was “Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self” by Robert Waggoner. The guy who told me about the book explained to me what it was about in a brief synopsis. I didn’t have anything to read at the time, so I took him up on the offer to read it.
When reading the book, I was intrigued about the concept of becoming lucid or aware in one’s own dream, where you basically take control of your focus and what you do in the dream, not necessarily controlling the dream yourself. There is a clear difference between a dream that is vivid or “feels real” and one that is lucid. The analogy that Robert Waggoner uses on page 17 of his book, is this:
“No sailor controls the sea. Only a foolish sailor would say such a thing. Similarly, no lucid dreamer controls the dream. Like a sailor on the sea, we lucid dreamers direct our perceptual awareness within the larger state of dreaming.”
As I read on through the book, I learned the techniques along the way, the ones written in the appendices, keeping a log and the rest of it. I did start to recall my dreams, however brief or strange – some can be quite strange! It took me nearly two weeks, but on my twelfth night, I finally met with success of a lucid dream. Some many achieve success in a shorter or longer period of time, and it may be a short or long dream. Whatever it is or how it happens, you become quite excited about this novelty.
One woman I spoke with about it, didn’t really know what it was, but she actually wanted to give it a try, so I told her what to do. Later on, she told me she had one that very night, and she simply walked down some stairs, all the while being so very exhilarated in relaying the dream she had to me. The surprise was that it actually was something that someone could do.
In a short time I achieved success, and, eventually some mastery over what I did. One big thing I was able to do, was get the nightmares to stop with it. Once in a while, I am not able to stop the dream, and I have not yet found out what meaning they potentially hold. However, the result has been a positive one so far, and it is something of a skill of sorts, in which I wonder if some research could be done to maybe teach other combat veterans to take control of their dreams, if needed, so they may have a peaceful night’s rest. Perhaps, they may even come to enjoy it as I do, and come across some very interesting, intriguing, even very unexpected dreams.
I read the book by Robert Waggoner, but had to give it back, which was over a decade ago, and my practice took a backseat with some things that I had become busy with. Eventually, a couple of men wanted to interview me for a project, and one of them took a real interest after hearing me mention lucid dreaming and we spoke about that. We have all remained in touch, and the old chap (he’s an Englishman) who was interested in lucid dreaming asked if he could have the book sent to me, and I told him how to do it, via a third party vendor, such as Amazon. That was about a year ago, so I picked up my practice again.
It came about June of 2021, or some time around then, that I had a peculiar dream that I became lucid in. During the dream I entered a house and walked into the living room. I noticed some friends of mine sleeping on the couches there, which brought me to realize I was dreaming. I tell them all to wake up, and go to one and tell her to tell me something. As she is wiping her eyes from just waking up, I realize that I have never spoken with her ever, so I look around and see a TV or computer screen and go over to it. I take hold of the screen on both sides and speak to the dream, saying “tell me something important or give me an important word”. Looking at the screen, letters begin appearing until the word “Julad” is spelled. I wake up, write the notes down of the dream and go back to sleep.
When I wake up in the morning, I get my usual cup of coffee to start my day and pick up the notes I wrote down. I look at the word “Julad” and wonder the importance of that, or its just gibberish. I have a Langenscheidt German dictionary, from learning it, so I look to see if there is an entry for it. Flipping the pages to the J’s, I look for J-U-L, seeing the one and only entry for the German word “Juli”, which is simply July in English. No luck here. So I write a few friends who ask about my dreams, or mention the word that seemingly remained a mystery.
Well, I write the old English chap I mentioned, who lives in Germany, and he tells me, that he did some searching and it may be a name a bit comparable to Juan or Jude. Hmmm. I say to myself “okay” and put it to the back of my mind again, remaining busy with my routine, working with the things I had planned for my days.
One day, I am responding to a letter from this Jewish Cantor, Michael Zoosman, I write, and we write about matters in general, his family story, he – and another woman – tell me about Judaism, and among other things, he also tells me words in Hebrew. At the end of the letter, I wrote a postscript that went something like this:
“P.S. By the way, I wanted to ask you, would the word ‘Julad’ mean anything to you by chance?”
It was quite a random thing to ask, and I wasn’t expecting him to actually tell me anything at all, but what could it hurt, so I asked.
Recently, I did hear back from my friend, and he has something for me in the postscript on what I asked him, and this is what he wrote:
“P.S. You asked me about the word ‘julad’. If my assumption is correct that you are referring to the Hebrew word that is translated like that, then I believe it means ‘was born’. I hope that helps!”
Well, it does not necessarily make things any clearer, and it appears that “Julad” was not gibberish after all. I have no idea how I was given a Hebrew – of all things – word in my dream, since I don’t even know the language and never saw the word before. I learned Spanish in high school and was somewhat fluent, speaking a lot with a Hispanic man that worked on a ranch with me, but forgot it all from not using it. I started learning German on my own here, and know bits of Italian and French, but not much at all. I told one of my German friends, and she confirms it is a Hebrew word as well. She is really excited about it too.
This is what I will say, as I did earlier. It is certainly very interesting, intriguing, and very unexpected to have only seen the word “Julad” in my dream for the first time, and nowhere since, except being told by my Jewish friend. There are many questions and theories that could be given, but this is something I will leave open to interpretation, leaving it for the reader to decide what they will. You can be equally intrigued, say it is only a dream, or simply say I am absolutely bonkers! It’s up to you.
To learn more about the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and its conferences and publications, including the journal Dreaming, visit: https://asdreams.org.
To view the current issue of The Lucid Dream Exchange and submit lucid dream accounts, articles, questions, or comments, visit: https://dreaminglucid.com.
To contact Robert Waggoner, visit his website: https://lucidadvice.com
To contact me, you can send me something by Jpay or regular mail:
1) Jpay – https://jpay.com
2) Physical address, as follows:
John Thuesen #999557
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, Texas 77351
United States of America (USA)
The address must be written as such with the numbers included, so it may reach me. As of currently, we do not have tablets to respond by Jpay, but they should be coming. So, I require a physical address or P.O. Box to write to.
I wish everyone well, and that your dreams may take you places you’ve never been.
Meeting my friend
by John Thuesen (01/09/2022)
I am sitting here, thinking of you
and I am wondering, what would we do?
If meeting for the first time, we could be nervous and excited,
we would be up for about anything, certainly we’d be delighted.
I think perhaps a short trek to start would be good,
we could have a small chat, greeting all we pass in the neighborhood.
I would like to see where you work, your office and colleagues,
the place you make a difference, certainly with many intrigues.
Maybe you know a good place to eat, I’d be fine with burgers, chips and cokes,
we could meet some of your friends there, and have lunch like any blokes.
Then, we would stroll to a place where energy flows,
an afternoon of meditation and yoga, you could teach me how to pose.
I think in the evening, we would take in a dinner and a few shows,
it could be plays or movies, in that you can’t go wrong, everyone knows.
We could meet up with your friends again at a pub for a few drinks,
we would laugh and joke, and at times I could give you conspiratorial winks.
I really like walking, so then, we’d finish the night with a walk,
we could walk side by side, in the glow of the moon, and talk.
We would come to a place to be still as the world goes quietly by,
maybe I feel this a time to tell you a secret pain as you stand nigh.
Listening intently to my words, the injustices of it all, you would feel shock or burn,
and as I let it go and give it peace, a tear falls never to return.
Perhaps, you would wish to give me a hug, some experiences make you feel like ice,
I know not if I would be ready for a hug, but it’s a hug and they’re nice.
We could think of hundred ways to spend a day when I’m free,
we would have fun, we would have joy, and friends we’d always be.
I am sitting here, thinking of you,
and I am wondering, what would we do?
Being Thankful (11/28/2021)
Another year that is nearly over, still with so many things we face with an ongoing pandemic. One does not have to listen to the news every day to know all the struggles people are facing, whether individually or collectively.
One friend wrote me a little while back about having been on a 76-day lockdown that was continuing, and she expressed her feelings to me because I would understand the sentiment. Of course I do, and when things are bad on the outside, they can be worse here on the inside. It takes a lot to improve things here, and it is made all the more difficult in these times.
When times get hard, I do my best to keep all I can in mind, of what I can be thankful for, both in these times and going into the holiday season. As I have heard from others, there has been bad news and good news, of those passing away and births to come. If you ask me, I think there is some kind of global baby boom, since everyone has a baby on the way, or knows someone who does. It looks like I may be an uncle a couple times over, had the honor of being told names, or asked for name choices. I am an uncle already, but my friends have given me the honor of being an adoptive uncle, some have. In good times and bad times, having thoughts of what you can be thankful for may not make you feel happy, but it will give you some measure of joy or contentment to withstand the storms in our lives, give you endurance to keep going until they pass. All you need to do is wait them out, and when the skies clear the sun comes out.
I recently had a birthday, and the holiday season is on the way, of which there are certainly many places I would rather be, and people I wish to be with. I would even settle for Enzo and I hanging out in the woods, eating raw herring and onions together. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see? 😀
There is some reading material I got, which are Books 4, 5 and 6 from “The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan, and I’m finding them quite entertaining. They are full of adventure, Trollocs, Fades and Forsaken – oh my! I also have a few “X-Men” and “Thor” titles to read (big marvel nerd here!). Plenty to keep me over the holidays. Details I await from a friend who got me an X-Men Archangel action figure for the one I had, that was lost – which I don’t get to have it and only the photos – but I’m sure she has a special place for it. Slainte mhath, lass! ;-P
I have received some wishes, thoughts, hugs and lots of love for my birthday already, with more to come, I’m sure. My friends from all over have sent in some really wonderful words. From all my German speaking friends there have been plenty of “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, John!” (Happy Birthday, John). It is heart-warming to see how much I mean to others and how much I have touched their lives. They let me know how important I have become to them, being connected across distances, being made part of their lives, and some their families. I have pictures of everyone, some their kids, and others their grandchildren. At times, it can be easy to bring a smile to my face.
There are unpleasant circumstances, however, there are many thoughts, feelings, and wishes that can bridge the time and space, that anyone could know they are not alone and that someone is thinking about them today. We all know it is not an easy thing to do when hard times come, to feel gratitude, thankfulness or joy. I would encourage others to try though. To paraphrase some thoughts from “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, one cannot choose their circumstances, but they can choose their attitude in any given set of circumstances, choose their own way. These are wise words, and some I am still working to master myself.
In receiving all the wishes I have, I am going to keep giving them in return to all my friends for this holiday season, all year long, and always, as much as I can. These will be things I keep in my mind and know I have a lot to be thankful for despite my circumstances. A friend once asked me what I see when I look around me, not sure what she was asking, this was the answer I gave or close to it:
“When I look with my eyes, I see a cold, dark place. When I look with my heart, I see all those in my life who care for me, and want me there with them. We may not be near, but we are as close as we can be in our thoughts.”
As we head into the holiday season, it may be hard for some to find the spirit in it, but I do wish that you can find something to be thankful for and that it gives you hope and some measure of joy. To be cliché, I know if I can do it, I know any of you can too. I wish that it will carry you through this season, all year long and beyond.
I grew up living in the countryside, and when I was still young, I started doing a lot of farm work, which is quite common in rural areas. I also raised poultry for showmanship in different county fairs since I was in 4-H. I was around a lot of nature, fields, woods, and of course, animals. I would say that my favorite animal is a dog, and that I am more of a dog person than a cat person. Although, I do like the big cats more – such as tigers – but that is a matter for another time.
Getting back to dogs. I have had a few dogs in my time, and I have come to enjoy these animals a lot, as any person who has owned a dog would most certainly understand why. I have also come to have an affinity for wolves, which are closely related to dogs. Though not exactly dogs, the wolves are genetically very close to dogs, or so I’ve read. Wolves seem to have a certain majestic beauty to me, much like all the rest of nature does.
There came a time when I discovered, there are actually wolfdogs, which as the name hints to, is a breed between a wolf and dog, that gives a wolfdog. I don’t know their traits and characteristics very well, and I have only read a little about wolves, their pack rankings, and how very important they are to nature. A friend of mine has been telling me a bit about wolfdogs, which there is a sanctuary for wolfdogs not far from where she is.
It is a non-profit sanctuary, in which all the support and proceeds from the public goes back into the care for the wolfdogs. My friend looked into it, and she tells me she really likes how this non-profit operates. I did like to hear from my friend, that while a person normally could not own a wolf with how wild it is, and cannot be domesticated, a person could own a wolfdog. To the right persons, who know how to handle and care for them, they could possibly adopt one from the sanctuary.
My friend has sent me pictures of some of the wolfdogs at this particular sanctuary with a description of each, and told me to list in order for her, my favorite to the least favorite. Apparently, the list of wolfdogs she sent me were ones in need of support there. The ones on the list are not popular ones with the public on the tours, and most likely because they are more wolf, and therefore, more elusive and not really seen. However, the wolfdogs can be sponsored for care at the non-profit sanctuary.
I cannot have a dog now – as much as I want one – and don’t know if I will ever again, or if I will ever have a wolfdog even. So, my friend wrote to tell me what she thought the next best thing would be. Since I chose Enzo, as my favorite, and he is in need of someone to care enough to help him out, that it sounds like a match. Then, she told me what she really thought.
Imagine my surprise, when I opened her letter, and enclosed was a certificate of sponsorship in my name, and two pictures that came with it, for the wolfdog I chose, Enzo. I was elated to see it, and he is a good looking wolfdog, if I do say so myself. And, I do! I may be a little biased! It makes me wish I could go scoop him and give him a home with food, care, room to roam, and with plenty of scratches behind the ears and belly rubs.
If anyone wishes to see Enzo, and the other wolfdogs, or even sponsor them, you can go to:
I would like to give a thanks to the founder of Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in caring for a part of nature, and a big thanks to my friend, for giving me the gift of sponsoring Enzo in my name.
Drawing by John Thuesen (06/14/2021)
The Eyes of Eternity by John Thuesen
The rising sun and break of day,
we must awake and not delay.
The waxing moon and change of tide,
wind, water, elements far and wide.
A stroke of the pen, a swing of the hammer,
all work is done in good manner.
A clash of thunder, a clash of steel,
all things we know that are real.
Struggles with the hand, struggles with the mind,
every human experience, each is one of a kind.
All that we see, all that is tangible,
these be made known and understandable.
The countless stars surround the earth below,
we search for other life, the span unknown,
when the time comes, we each face it alone.
Otherworldly sights, at times, pierce the veil,
when the time comes, perhaps, each will have a fairytale.
Our bodies last so long, and soon perish,
what is everlasting, that we cherish.
A touch of spirit, a spark of divinity,
who knows, but the eyes of eternity.
Laughter is the best medicine (2/14/2021)
The world can be a very tense, very serious place, so it is good to find other ways to make it through tough times. I often feel that having a good sense of humor is helpful, in either getting you through those hard times, or simply making your day little better. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I have developed a unique sense of humor, I suppose, which is often cheeky, sarcastic, even witty, among other things.
I can be quite serious and hard on myself, for example, being very matter of fact, having great attention to detail, and always wanting to perform to the best of my abilities. I hold myself to a high standard. On the other hand, people get a kick with finding out, behind my toughness and stoicism, that I can be quite a jokester. I guess it is a pleasant surprise to many, but to those who know me, it is no surprise at all.
During my time in the Marine Corps, I have had a squad leader say as much. In fact, it was noted by him that it was not anything super harmful, I just needed to work on the appropriate time and place for jokes. That was from when I was about 20. Some get a laugh out of knowing just that about me. Perhaps I leave no doubts when I say things like “I’m fluent in two languages, English being my first, and sometimes I have been known to talk a lot of crap”.
Something I did over the Christmas holiday, was send a card to someone, my cousin maybe, and the card said “Don’t open before December 25th. So I started the card to her with “You don’t have to tell me, dear cousin, I know you opened this card before December 25th”. When she wrote me back, she told me I was right!
Another dear friend I have in Germany, once told me sometimes I am making her “so mad!”. Well, she said a little more than that, though I did make her mad, it made me laugh. So, I told her “what kind of brother would I be if I didn’t make you mad sometimes?” That made her laugh a lot.
Those I become friends with, we develop a wonderful bond. And, with some I am a dear friend, with others I am kind of like a brother. This particular friend knows who she is, and I plan to make her mad often anyway. I’m sure I will get a letter about that very soon, telling me she wants to wash my brains or something else. Much love to you Sis :-).
When situations or circumstances are tough, I do think a healthy sense of humor will get you through just about anything. So, when tough times come, laughter is the best medicine to cure what ails you, in my opinion. Maybe not always, but it can be helpful. I do hope someone got a laugh, or at least a smile from this.
Lesson learned? (1/10/2021)
In light of the events of January 6th, I am as shocked and dismayed as anyone, though I am not surprised. People must realize that anything can happen anywhere. Additionally, I am greatly disappointed with a lot in our society, and this is simply another matter, of which affects me. Many have asked me about my opinions and views – if any – of these events and what could be expected. First of all, I don’t feel anything is quite so easy to capture in just a few words ever, though people like easy explanations. Second, I believe it is a failure at every level of society to maintain calm and order, including our leadership and authority, of whom have not done so great a job. There are many other ways to go about voicing one’s upset and outrage, of which rioting and insurrection are not the way to do it. There are better ways to voice one’s dissent, better ways to pursue political interests and remedies.
However, I hope people will begin to think about the person they are electing, whether or not they are the best one for the job. Any public office a person is elected or appointed to, comes with responsibility and accountability to best serve the people with respect to the specific capacity of that position. A public official of any kind is a servant to the people, and is to conduct themselves with traits and principles that reflect a leader of the people we can all aspire to and be inspired by. Some matters that have come to the forefront, such as misinformation in the media, didn’t happen overnight, and is something that has existed in many areas and topics, and has been around longer than any alive.
If you ask me about why, about where it all went wrong, well, it is more a matter where everyone is wrong, especially our leadership and authority. Furthermore, we have only to look back at history to know, if we can’t hold our leaders and authority responsible and accountable for their actions, you are allowing a dangerous path to be taken. They have a very high standard to live up to in doing what is right at any point and time. And, if we can’t find common ground as a people, our society will destroy itself with one side fighting the other. It is my hope, when anyone is thinking about where we are as a people, you can look at yourself in the mirror and know, you are doing your part – however great or small – to live up to the standards you would hold anyone else to, that you can set aside insignificant matters of controversy or social division to do what is right. We have long deviated from any moral compass in America, and I hope that this can be a wake-up call, that we all must start to examine whether or not we wish to continue in our ignorance and arrogance. We will only have so many warnings.
Quote to Think About:
“Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” –
Christmas Wishes (12/13/2020)
The Christmas season is my favourite holiday, and probably the most difficult on those of us in confinement. And, this pandemic has made things harder for everyone all over the world. I do my best to keep a good perspective on everything to make it through the season because I would most certainly rather be with my friends and loved ones on the outside, sharing peaceful and joyful moments with them. Perhaps, many will not be able to do that on the outside because of the restrictions. It may be difficult for everyone to have a joy in this season. When things become hard, it is not so easy to keep your head up, and one may feel depressed and not very joyful. What does someone do to overcome this difficulty?
I don’t know what works better for one person or another, but in this season I reflect on the whole year on what happened, and all the things I can be thankful for in having. As cliché as it may seem, I actually do that. It’s something that keeps me going, with having something positive in my mind like that. It does help to have a better state of mind about things when you are in restrictions and isolated. I connect with friends and loved ones in doing things together we decide, which could be anything. For example, I sing “Silent Night” every Christmas Eve with a dear friend of mine, and I sing it at the same time (5pm my time) with the time difference, since she is in another country and time zone.
My situation is not ideal by any means, but it doesn’t stop me from creating thoughts and moments with those who matter to me, in that way we may connect and share a meaningful moment. I do have a lot to be thankful for, and what that is most always to me, is all those I have in my life. They really are, and I tell them that I’m thankful for them, and I would have a lot less without each of them.
I do my best to send everyone a Christmas card or letter on time, and I even ask each of them to light a candle for me during the holiday, in having a way to share a connection. Now, in writing this, I hope they feel a greater connection, not just between us, but each other as well.
Wherever you find yourselves, I do wish everyone as much peace and contentment as possible in their hearts, that everyone may be able to spend time with those they care for, to have a joy to carry them through this season, and that something special will find you all in the spirit of the holiday.
I wish you all a sincere Merry Christmas.
The Lasting Change (11/11/2020)
Alone is exactly the way we feel for one reason or another, whenever we experience hard times and adversity. It is quite isolating, so much so, that it can make us close in on ourselves. We carry the burden alone, instead of reaching out, though for some they have no one to reach out to who understands, nor were they given the tools to figure out life’s difficulties. So, we find ourselves alone. But, are we really so very alone or do we make ourselves alone? I don’t think we are as alone as we make ourselves believe.
I have had many of my friends ask me what I do to cope to or deal with things in my small world. It is no easy thing at all, and it can be a lot at times, which my very wonderful friends can tell you. Even now, some are feeling the isolation of all the restrictions, becoming depressed with the social distancing, among a variety of other issues. I have dealt with quite a bit in solitary confinement for over a decade, and everyone outside is getting a small taste of what I experience every day. I have also had many hard experiences in my life, and no need to go into detail about that. There are others out there who have been through what you have, or are experiencing the same or similar problems as you have. We all react differently to it as well. Why this lack of finding someone to talk to or even relate with what is going on?
People, when met with something that threatens their emphatic well-being, will more likely than not distance themselves from whatever it is that makes them vulnerable, or even challenges their belief and worldview. It could be when you open up about something, you are met with hostility, ridicule, or what a psycho-social term refers to as being „othered“ (like meeting a form of prejudice in some way against). It’s probably no wonder we don’t easily trust expressing our true feelings and withhold much to ourselves because of this, some form of judgement. It could be a lot of this mistrust with each other has allowed other forms of discontent to spread so easily in the current socio-political atmosphere, the very air is charged with anger and discord.
I feel we have become so disconnected from each other, that we no longer have the trust to go to someone we know to speak about some difficulty or share our differences. I mean, we can’t discuss any views let alone problems anymore in a mature way. Even our leaders can’t seem to do so. Our vulnerability is what makes us human, but many forget this simple basic fact. That we’re all human. It is shocking to the extent with which people have forgotten this. What a balm it can be, when you can go to someone you trust to listen without pretense, and relieve yourself of a burden by saying it. With a good friend, sometimes that is all it takes. Sometimes, offering of good advice, or if you experienced some same or similar matter, what you did to overcome it.
What does it cost to give someone a little time to listen to their concerns or worries? If it is your friend, for example, would you care? Anyone at all for that matter? Kindness costs us nothing, and we gain so much more by showing it.
If you have lived, in some way you have suffered.
Did you feel isolated and alone with whatever it was you were going through? I think it is quite possible that you did. How much of a difference would it have made if you felt understood, if you had help, someone showed you empathy or had your side and back in the matter? What an uplifting feeling if you wouldn’t have had to carry a burden alone, and had that loyality from someone you know. People everywhere are feeling the strain of the loss of a sense of community, or humanity between each other. Humans are social by nature, and a lack of interacting with others has made everyone feel more alone in some way.
We are all possibly finding ourselves more alone with more time on our hands, and interactions between each other are much more brief or restricted. It would be quite a difference to make these small interactions with everyone a better, more positive one. It could change someone’s day or even avert some crisis if we showed a little interest and meant it. Understanding someone is a significant way to connect with them. Responding with sincere empathy, rather than the usual impersonal platitudes, is a great respect to human dignity in bringing about a change to someone’s plight.
We influence each other more than we know, and for some it is a greater influence than others. It may not always be easy to change your worldview or something, or even step outside yourself and imagine being in someone else’s shoes, though if you tried you may find even you would grow as a person, as a human. To be plain, open up a little more and show honest and sincere interest in others, maybe ask how someone is doing and mean it, call someone you care about to see how they’re doing, try to understand someone or respond with empathy.
We all change the world in small and great ways, and we all influence change. Wouldn’t it be better to make the world a more beautiful and kinder place with care, compassion, and all the rest?
Cool song: Creedence Clearwater Revival: Have you ever seen the rain
Quote to Think About:
“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.”
The Joy Within (10/25/2020)
In this sad time, where there is seemingly so much chaos, we must begin to first restore the balance within ourselves. The coming months will be very difficult and a great time for reflection and contemplation, which I find the winter months to be for me. Everything out there that is tearing us apart, inside and out, is making our small existence a prison. We must stand guard against the tides of uncertainties and noise that come our way, and cannot allow it to make way into the soul of our being to become trapped by it.
Try something different, change something for the better. Try something simple, for example, instead of criticizing someone, give them a compliment, honest and sincere appreciation about something, whatever it is. With all the negativity around, you may be surprised at the change that would come, if our interactions are cultivated in a more positive way. One little kindness can make all the difference in someone’s day.
If it is joy in ourselves we work on, we have nothing to lose.
Sending everyone kind regards.
Book inspiration: How To Win Friends by Dale Carnegie
Cool song: Metallica: Nothing Else Matters
Quote to Think About:
“This happiness consisted of nothing else but the harmony of the few things around me with my own existence, a feeling of contentment and well-being that needed no changes and no intensification.” (Hermann Hesse)