Former Disney Illustrator Tells Us About Grieving The Sudden Loss of A Loved One (trigger warning)

This’ll make you cry. At the same time, I couldn’t withstand the beauty of this process and the genius of Gary and what he makes of it:

Source: Wie ein ehemaliger Disney-Illustrator den Tod seiner Frau verarbeitet › ze.tt )

(Only the title is in German, the scribbles and drawings have English captions and speech bubbles to them)

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Vagus Nerve Facilitates Guts, Wits, and Grace Under Pressure | Psychology Today

The vagus-brain connection helps keep you calm, clear-headed, and courageous.

Source: Vagus Nerve Facilitates Guts, Wits, and Grace Under Pressure | Psychology Today

 

And on a sidenote, if I may: All that we think we are is located in this frail network of “neuronal twigs” and that funny bulb at its top….

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7 Behaviors Common Among Adults Who Went Through Trauma At A Young Age – The Minds Journal

Trauma from when one was a child can range from a crippling fear of abandonment to physical abuse and anything between the two. Many adults are forced to deal with the trauma they experienced as children throughout their lives. 7 Behaviors Common Among Adults Who Went Through Trauma At A Young Age

Source: 7 Behaviors Common Among Adults Who Went Through Trauma At A Young Age – The Minds Journal

 

 

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And Now For Some Real Dark And Fantastic Humor!

726 Likes, 21 Comments – SandSerif (@sandserifcomics) on Instagram: “too often _ #comic #webtoon #webcomic #sad #junk #food #neverending #cycle #help #stresseating…”

Source: SandSerif on Instagram: “too often _ #comic #webtoon #webcomic #sad #junk #food #neverending #cycle #help #stresseating #unhealthy #dying #foodbaby #sandserif”

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This Brought Me To My Knees

Last night and running up to it over the course of the last few days, if not weeks, a burgeoning insight was in the making that came through at its full scope last night – and its impact had me completely break down: I should have been a music artist. And I could have been, people reassure me of. Or still can be. However, whatever environment I was in, musically speaking, I never found the challenges I would have needed to thrive and enjoy a real education. Everyone’s knee-jerk reaction to this will most likely be: Do it anyway by using the opportunities presented to you. I can attest to it with 100% confidence and honesty that I have done that. I really wanted it and I have accepted every little shitty job and every occasion to get to play my instruments and use my talents in whatever setting they wanted me in.

The reason why this article appears here is because of the fact that the C-PTSD I’ve been living with for all my life and which was properly diagnosed in 2013 for the first time didn’t show up as much when playing music and being in that walk of life. Plus, talent afforded me one or the other “extra” with my peers, which I needed – and still need – in order to accommodate the gruelling symptoms associated with this debilitating condition. In my early twens and for a while, I seemed to have “made” it, at least on the very modest scale that I saw feasible for myself given whatever limited amounts of formal education I had enjoyed until becoming a legal adult and getting to live on my own for the first time: I had joined a commercially working little act in Switzerland, who were booked year-round and always a year in advance, which meant I always had work and was able to fall back on that convenient fact in order to not be panicked over the uncertainty and volatility that is usually a part of this business. (or what’s left of it, the “business”, I mean). Plus, we made decent money and every now and then even nice money. I had left home for the first time and right from the start I was able to support myself doing what I loved (at least back then I did). And the sky would be the limit, I told myself! I’d spend almost every spare minute at the venue where our gear was set up in order to keep practicing my instruments and working on songs and compositions I had written. I was all about music and I didn’t want no part of all the “benefits” that this particular employment might have offered (like e.g. leading a rather promiscuous lifestyle as my band co-members were and wouldn’t stop “encouraging” me to do like them… headstrong as I can get, I refused their rather non-subtle “suggestions”, which created some friction, the latter of which I was more than willing to put up with in order to keep my relative freedom). But of course, I never saw myself “ending up” there, so I tried to connect with other, hopefully more influential people – to little avail, though. After some one-and-a-half years and with friction between one bully in the band and me reaching an intolerable degree, I felt it was time to move on – or at least away. So I quit and decided that it wasn’t too late just yet to embark on that kind of trajectory that most of my schoolmates, teachers, parents had seen for me: A conventional career, somewhere in a “real” job with some decent, dependable money and a respectable job title. So I returned to Munich, hung on to my dreams for a little while longer while working odd jobs for 2 years until I finally got my head around the fact that I did have a High School degree, which I could use for some further education. So I did that and began studying at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich.

Fast-forward three decades: I completed my studies and had always worked in the tech industry (software corporations, Apple, Microsoft and the likes) while being a student and on into the first years of my conventional career after having graduated. I had started out as a database engineer, a consultant, a vocational trainer eventually getting to lead and supervise small teams of freelancers and ultimately landing me a job as project manager with the subsidiary of a major German publishing corporation. At the time, they were in the lead as far as using web publishing technologies the likes of which we are using today as if they had always been around and as seamlessly to handle as a coffee maker or a tumbler or… you know. Back then – this is in the late 90ies – still a lot of hard and genius thinking had to go into engineering these things in order to have them perform at the speed and reliability that everyone expected them to perform at. So my job was to round up all the talent in the various departments of the company and see to it that we’d come up with stellar solutions and results from one month to the next while keeping ongoing customers – and the board and shareholders of the company – happy. I don’t appreciate routine business too much, so I’d always volunteer for new and challenging projects that kept me and the teams I was to oversee on their toes, sometimes to the satisfaction of our superordinates, sometimes …. a little more “convincing” and diplomacy was needed in order to get us the budgets we’d need to see our ideas through. It was a time of education, career evolution and nice money. Plus, I was married, which completed the picture of a more or less stereotypical “DINK”. I was alright with this life and I’d have loved to carry on like this for at least another decade before thinking of additional responsibilities, code for “starting a family”. But I’m digressing …

Life happened, marriage ended, career path took curve balls and all of that must have contributed to the underlying C-PTSD to roam more freely through my system. Long story short: Disability and incapacity since 2008, living on hand outs from month to another and having to fight hard for making sure they keep coming. Because I couldn’t think of anything else, I thought that somehow “coming back” to music might do some good, only to find that the bag of symptoms hits me even harder in that environment than anywhere else. And on top of it, I was never satisfied with my own performance or that of my musical colleagues on stage – for reasons of said minor education I had enjoyed and where my own attempts at getting better would have needed some good advice and guidance from someone with stronger skills and experience.

Monday morning, though, I’m going to participate in a general aptitude test with a local vocational music school here, which seems to have a very good reputation despite the fact that it’s located in this rural, quaint, Swabian small town of some 30,000 souls, the place I was born and grew up in (and hopefully, I’ll get to keep my trembling hands and knees in check enough to deliver a convincing performance; same goes for the singing audition). I became friends with some of the – highly talented! – students here and they encouraged me to give it a try, along with the head coach of the guitar department, who has an international career as a performer and producer in the more popular genres, but also explores some more experimental styles of music with small trio formations of his.

That moment last night that had me collapse with defeat was the sudden realization that I should have never strayed from the path I had embarked on as a twen – contrary to whatever “reasonable” thing anyone else had to say about me, life in general, yada-yada. If there was a place for me, which allows me to get by at least semi-smoothly…. I’m afraid it’ll have to be the world of arts, in spite of all the material challenges and risks there (and a whole lot more to put up with, which could be the topic of another entry – or a book…). But let’s face it: Whose job is safe anymore in this day and age of maximum volatility and unpredictability everywhere?

So, wish me luck, if so inclined. Thank you for taking the time to read this rather personal message.

Update: This is three days after the exams and auditions. The levels of anxiety were absolutely brutal, the day of the aptitude test more brutal. I went shopping afterwards, had to see a doc, then went home, fixed myself a tasty meal, overate, got wasted to the point of losing all motor functions a few hours later and collapsed on the sofa – and slept for 12  hours straight, with my clothes on and all. I’ll know the results in about two weeks from now.

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You don’t have to love your family – The Hit Job – Medium

Our culture has brainwashed us all to worship at the altar of family kinship. Why? No innate reason exists for loving your family, or even…

Source: You don’t have to love your family – The Hit Job – Medium

Totally hits home. I’ve tried everything with mine for them to love me as the real person that I’ve become, not just their reflection of selves they’d like to see in me. But they don’t even know me, didn’t show much interest in getting to really know me, either. Once I have moved out (again and that’s the first thing I did when I had finished school), I am going to stop trying. As a matter of fact, I will them treat them as the strangers they have always been and still are: Just random people that I happen to have some very unfortunate, embarrassing biological connection with for no other reason than them not knowing how to use contraceptives….

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Nothing Beats Reality

… is a quote that’s said to be attributed to Sixto Rodriguez, the infamous Detroit songwriter that had a short recording career in the US, but unbeknownst to him became a music icon in South Africa. Decades later some fans of his seek out the truth behind the rumors of his death by suicide and find a well alive construction site laborer instead whose long lost dreams they eventually rekindle. That’s about the story’s plot in a nutshell behind the movie Searching for Sugarman. For some reason, this quote stuck with me. Nothing beats reality.

Today, in my own small version, I seem to have found ample proof for the legitimy of the phrase he coined. Because… what I experienced tonight is either a very lame, mundane personal reencounter that might be lost on anyone who’s not part of it. Or it’s indeed as incredible as it feels to me. One thing is for sure: Only a few hours ago, I couldn’t have dreamed up any of this by any means possible or mediating substances or whatever. But one thing at a time.

After decades of having lived a fairly uneventful adult, middle-class life – at least for the better part of it – I fell on much harder times back in 2007. Divorce, difficult job situation, several attempts at “reinventing” myself, eventually end of career, job loss, health impaired, disability, finally I found myself fighting to keep a roof over my head. And here I am, “ending up” – for now – in the place I grew up in, even couch surfing with bio family for well over a year by now. But I also made new and good friends while keeping some trusted old ones and still do my best to shape something new from the debris of my former life.

Tonight, I decided to follow my new friends’ invitation to meet them for a live concert at the beloved watering hole/joint that many of us have incessantly frequented since High School. Imagine an old school pub very much like your typical Irish pub at least when it comes to the look, feel, smell and patrons of the venue. Singer-songwriter concerts, card players, a run down bowling alley in the back and a grouchy leaseholder who might be willing or not to fix you a meal from the menu. It was all there. And we loved it. Tonight however we had to “celebrate” the end of an era after learning that the leaseholder of the past 11 years is finally going to retire and announced to close the place in April – a week from now. Sadly enough and although she had announced this pretty much half a year ago, noone could be found who she could pass the baton on to. So it’s pretty much a given that the most popular hang out of youth and pretty much people of all ages won’t be no longer after April 14th. This is the backdrop to the personal part of my story.

As a teen, I was too busy rehearsing and performing with local bands while entertaining dreams of becoming a professional musician at some point. (which I did for a while, but not in the walk of life I had pictured myself in). So it is only now after so many decades that I realized what a great hangout this actually was and is. And along with the small town I had spent all of my childhood and youth in, the particular venue and its patrons grew on me in the short amount of time that I was back. So I, too, see it go away with some heartache and disbelief. Now we all sit there, watching this one-man-show singer/guitarist do his thing like many times before, but the entire show suffering from this dark cloud of apprehension in light of the fact that come April 14th, none of this is ever going to take place here any more and ever again as the owners seem to have sold the property and didn’t show too much inclination to negotiate other options than to have the building torn down to make room for whatever plans the new owner might have (probably a lame appartement building at obscene leases). “Bittersweet”, I guess, cuts it. Long faces in the midst of some cheering and enthusiastic applause, the latter possibly as both authentic appreciation as well as the dire attempt to squash the shock over the grim outlook of this institution of a pub.

I come to sit next to a pretty lady who seems to have come here all by herself, so of course I chat her up (although I usually never do, I’ve been single since 2003 and after my divorce), we share some laughs, try to enjoy the show, yada, yada. In the midst of it all, I suddenly seem to identify something familiar in her facial expressions as if I had known this particular smile, the glimmer in her eyes from way back when and in a person I once loved. Her name was – let’s call her “M.” -, I was a travelling musician at the time and our paths crossed when she had escaped her neglectful, sometimes abusive adoption home to live with a friend, who worked at the casino opposite of the club we performed at night after night. At that time, all I wanted to focus on was music, playing at night to make a living, coming back during the day to practice and entertain meager attempts at writing my own material. I was 23, the other guys in the band all had some 20 years on me and had been doing this for the past decades. The only passion left in them was to track and “hunt” down any female that didn’t exactly look like a sack of minced meat – and attend to said “meat” in the usual way, then dismissed them like an empty coffee-to-go plastic cup. I wanted no part of that and tried to stay away from the guys as much as possible. But they kept urging me to do like them, because they had this reputation and I was supposed to live up to it as part of the job. Headstrong as I was, I refused to play along and naturally, I refused any women they were interested in. To be safe, I pretty much refused women in general at that time. As a matter of fact, things felt so bad for me at times, I came under the impression that all male-invented stereotypes about women must be true: All sluts, except Mom’s (for clarification: That is not what I was really thinking, but I was too insecure to stand my ground on that and my environment was… shall we say “confusing”, to say the least). Again, this is the backdrop of what I was dealing with – or shall we say: put up with as an early twen.

Once, there was this particularly pretty young lady, dancing at “our” club every night and all night, but never leaving with a man, just dancing, having all eyes from every single male in the room land on her (of course, she enjoyed it, what women wouldn’t? But like I said, she’d never arrive or leave with a man). My band mates kept urging me to try and get to know her, but I was not interested. I had somehow found a way of living this crazy travelling musician’s life with promiscuous horny middle-aged men for band mates and make myself half-comfortable in my little world of dreams (that never came to pass, I should add, try as I might). The last thing I needed was some disruption to that from a female, much less from the “star of the venue”. All sluts, remember? 😀 Naw, don’t get any of that on me!

One afternoon, I’m at the club as usual, learning new material, headphones on, all my attention funnelled on the song I was to learn, figuring out the lyrics and chord progressions. In other words: I was busy. Super busy. Busy, busy, busy. In yet different words: Sacred time! It was not a good idea for anyone to mess with any of it back then, I’d devour your sorry ass, warts, pimples ‘n all, no prisoners were made! Yes: Open warfare, if you so much as showed up during my holy hour(s)!

There she is. Out of nowhere, it seems, the young lady from the night before and all nights before. She places herself right in front of me in this somewhat sassy fashion, mouthing away, which I wasn’t hearing as the music was at full blare. I mentioned headstrong, living in my small bubble, right? So I tried to just ignore her at first. But she wouldn’t leave. So I took the headphones off, already being fairly pissed off over the disruption of my daily routine (warfare….!) and setting out to explaining to her that I was busy and that this was not a good time to have a conversation. (Yes, apparently I have a talent for being an ass, who knew?… 😛 ). But maaaan… what can I say… she was so nice! So freaking charming! With a smile that would have had Jack the Ripper reconsider the gruesome actions he made questionable history for… Head over heels? Probably the closest I ever got to that feeling that is the stuff of many a Hollywood movies. So, to the best of my memory, I think we agreed on having a coffee together some time. Which we eventually did. And for the foreseeable part: I did fall in love with her, in spite of all my gruff posture and demeanor towards women at that time and in this particular walk of life.

Crazy weeks of partying together followed, her friend that she lived at being a part of our awkward threesome. That friend had a temporary ban on her driving license, so she wasn’t allowed to operate her car. But she had a nice car that asked for some “rubber action” (not to be confused with “jimmy action”….). So she handed me the keys and we’d take off on a whim, leaving at 3 am, driving all the way from Lucerne in Switzerland to Milano in Italy – to have coffee, do some sightseeing and shopping, drive all the way back and sleep all day. (I bet you’d like to have some further details here, but uhm… sorry… maybe another time and only if a publishing company holds a hefty check to my face, haha!). We’d get up in the evenings, have dinner somewhere downtown, then I’d hit the stage for a couple of hours with the horny old men, while “M” would dance the night away in this perfectly innocent, child-like, oblivious-to-her-surroundings manner that has me fall in love with her again for just thinking of it. She was gorgeous! And we had fun. I was in love. I made good money, which we got to spend during those days. I was happy. I think, she was happy, too.

But she had a story. Again, for privacy reasons, I’m going to skip the details. Let’s just say that at the end of my “gig” in Lucerne, I had a feeling that I couldn’t simply take off and get on with my self-absorbed, easy-go-lucky life as I had before. I offered to take her along for a while and take care of her as best as I could. (I made some very nice money with this band, so that part was not a big problem, I thought). Long story short, this idea turned out to be non-sustainable. Pressure from the band and management, pressure from the venues and their owners that we were booked for, money turning out to feel not as lavish as before, myself never having enough time to spend with her for reasons of my funny job… the list goes on. I came within close reach of losing my gig and at that time simply didn’t see any other job I’d be able to do (which, in retrospect looks like a startling case of clairvoyance, but… I had no idea then). So I had to put my foot down and decided, we’d be better off, if I found her a place to stay and a part time job. Someone else, who had been following our band for a while, stepped in and offered to let her live with her and her family, who owned an upscale restaurant on Lake Zurich, Switzerland. So I take her there on one of my very few off-days, get her accommodated, spend a few days and when I had the feeling that things would work out alright, I’d take off to resume my travelling routine.

Weeks, months come and go, we call each other, I visit as often as possible. Things there didn’t go well, the initially helpful other girl veers off into a bullying harangue, I have to “rescue” M. again. So I bring her back to my home folks’ place for lack of other options available at the time. Now, I practically never get to see her and I can’t blame her for finding another man, closer by and with time on his hands for her. So that was that.

Swinging back to tonight’s concert: All of the above suddenly comes back to my mind when looking at this nice lady sitting next to me whom I’ve imposed myself on by chatting her up. She reminds me of M. She has the same smile, that same spark in her eyes, when she laughs, a similar twang in her speech. We clink glasses, bring out toasts to this or that, have a good time. And then… out of the proverbial blue, bam! IT MUST BE HER!!! M.! The girl from some 30 years ago, whom I’ve spent crazy partying weeks with, eventually ripped her from the slightly abusive friend’s tenure where she camped at. Knowing me, I also know, I will never sleep another night if I don’t find out. So I release that unfathomably lame line that has anyone in their right mind gag with repulsion: “Do I know you from somewhere?” She gives me the look that must follow a line like this, something like “You seemed nice – until now.” But doesn’t say a peep. Tenacious as I can get, I press on: “OK, I realize I just said a very stupid thing. Guess, I can’t redeem myself. But if I could … would your first name happen to be M.?”

Beat me with a stick, if you must, but: It was her. Is her. I even remembered her last name at the time (anyone who knows me will also know that I simply can’t recall names – ever! Which is bad news in the business world, let me tell you…).

So I come home from spending a loooooong evening well into the small wee hours of the next day with M. 30 years of catching up do take some time, no?!

I couldn’t have made any of this up. I swear to God, this is what went down tonight. I am still in disbelief myself… Destiny? There are no accidents? I never believed in any of these concepts. But after this… I might reconsider. After all, with her almost never going out as she shared later that night and myself having become a recluse as well, what were the odds?

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Why Self-Regulation Is the Most Important Thing in the World

Most human problems are rooted in dysregulation of the nervous system. Self-regulation, a goal of somatic therapy, keeps the fight/flight response in balance.

Source: Why Self-Regulation Is the Most Important Thing in the World

After all, we apparently can get ourselves back closer to a healthy homeostasis when following these ideas and practices. Admitted, it is a lot of work. But to me it is always important that something is possible at all. For a long time I was under the impression that the damage incurred was irrevocable. While I do think that the propensity and potential for retraumatization is higher in individuals who had multiple trauma happen in their lives, I also find Dr. Porges’ approach to be highly empowering as it puts ourselves into the driver’s seat (and aren’t we the ones who know ourselves best? And can trust?). Maybe we can even get to a point where we appreciate these precious moments of serenity to a much higher degree than any other given person who got grave experiences spared so far. I know that I had a few of those and they make all the difference between just getting by and really living!

 

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