It is the quiet of morning and I am listening to one of my favorite film scores (Pirates of the Caribbean) and am contemplating life.

Last week, I was challenged on Twitter* to examine my life and discuss the intentional and permanent changes I had made in myself. Few things are permanent in this life, but some of the decisions we make can be. My father tells me of a time of in his life where, as a child, he decided to react a certain way to a situation, and that decision has stayed with him his entire life.

Intrigued I thought about it, and shot off a tweet, but want to examine my choices a little more here.

The most obvious permanent change I have made in my life are my tattoos. Barring painful and expensive reversals, they will be with me until the day I die. I have two of them, one on the underside of each forearm. The first one that I got, on the left, I lifted from the pages of a favorite book, the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien. It says in the Elvish “aurë entuluva” and means “day shall come again”. The passage it is taken from tells the terrible tale of Hurin, warrior among men, who is fighting in rage-filled desperation against the forces of the Dark Lord Melkor. He is slowly being overwhelmed by the Dark Lord’s army, and with each smoking stroke of his sword Hurin cries out “Aurë entuluva – day shall come again!!” A battle cry that even should he die, the Dark Lord will not win forever.

This passage inspires me in my struggle against my own Dark Lord: Depression. No matter how dark and terrible the battle, day shall come again. Depression does not win! To companion the first tattoo, I delved into the Elvish and wrote a corresponding phrase “auta i kelomiâ” which means “night/darkness/the abyss is passing away”. Again, it is a battle cry for me against depression. On the one arm, striking a blow, “day shall come again!” and the other, following the blow with one of it’s own, “night is passing away!” For me, a powerful two-punch combo.

But what are the less obvious changes?

I guess second to my obsession with all things Tolkien, which inspired the first permanent change in my life, the next has been a life long tango, that is, my dance with organized faith. Early in life, even before I was born, I was involved in a Christian church of varying types. After I was born, my parents insisted on taking me to church every time they went. This was a life long choice that was made for me, and as soon as I could make the choice for myself, I didn’t go back for about seven years.

Recently I started attending church again. I still do not know what exactly I believe for myself, and how much I believe it. People around me talk of love for God, or Jesus, or whatever you want to call the divine being, and that for me remains a mystery, but I understand a great deal about Christianity’s holy book, The Bible. Thus I have begun teaching small parts of it that I do understand, at least a little, and live the questions for the rest. I don’t know what my future with religion looks like, and whether this second trial will be any more long lived or permanent than the first, but despite that I think my life will always be entangled with the Christian faith. I cannot seem to escape it. It makes up a significant portion of how I think and my moral compass and predates a lot of the morals I have decided to hold that are similar to Christian principles.

Third permanent change I made in my life was finally getting treatment for depression, and learning to deal with the ongoing effects of my mental illness. Yes, I am not well, and this is rarely obvious. My sickness is one of the mind and not body. It effects me in various ways, and I have written about that throughout the years on this blog that you can find, but it is a Very Bad Thing and it keeps me from enjoying many of the things in life that others take for granted, such as the ability to enjoy things in life. I am much better off now than I was many years ago at the height of my suffering, when my wife divorced me and left me to crumble under it’s weight, but I will never be healed. Full recovery I understand to be impossible. My brain is broken in ways that can only be patched, not perfected. Each night it passes away as day comes again, but it always returns.

I don’t know what the fourth change means, and I don’t remember precisely when I made it, but it was long ago in my teenage years perhaps, but I stopped writing in lowercase, or cursive, and began to write exclusively in print capital letters. At the time I think my handwriting was becoming more and more illegible, and I wanted to make not only stylistic changes, but make it readable. Since then, I have tweaked how I write certain letters (depending on where they fall in the sentence or word) and have developed a consistent font that is all my own. Someday when I can get an iPad and an Apple Pencil, I will digitize my handwriting into a font. That would be fun. But it qualifies as a permanent change I have made in my life that was intentional.

Beyond that, I don’t know. Do learning skills count? Perhaps, if they are unique? What about changeable decisions that are made continually? I have learned skills, and I usually make the decision to color my hair, or get tattoos (and I will again in the future). What about life goals, do they count? I have decided to not accept the status quo and fight for justice and freedom to think, learn, grow, and exist as you are and wish to be. This drives a great many of things I say and do and how I interact with others.

I don’t know.

But that is enough for now, I suppose, to give you more than a tweet to understand the permanent changes I have made in life. Perhaps that gives you more of an insight into the complex individual that is me. You’re welcome.

*(@philredbeard warning: I earn my M for Mature rating)

A Few Poems

In a bout of creativity, I wrote a few poems. I thought I would share them with the world.

First of all, a tribute poem, in free verse, about the death of AOL Instant Messenger, a program I used for many years at the beginning of the internet, in the long ago times, to chat with friends and family. Just today it was announced that AOL has shut down the service. Wow. Never thought I would see the day.


Little yellow person
Running ’round the world
Me to you to her to him
To talk
Life, and everything.
Until the twenty year rotation
Killed the connections
In favor of more tenuous tendrils:
Texts and time for faces
Time to run no more.
Rest in the graveyard
Of future things.
Did you leave an away
Message: R U there?

Next up is a little poem contemplating nuclear holocaust. It came to me in a moment at work the other day as I was watching a bubble of water skim across the dishwasher surface. After a brief moment, it suddenly popped, and there was a miniature shockwave that rippled across the water beneath. I live in fear that our stupid president might attack North Korea and start a nuclear war and no one will have the guts to stop him. A silly fear perhaps, but there it is. Here is my poem, also in free verse.

Push the Button

One should not
Push the button
Until one has under
The cataclysmic collapse
Of a water bubble

Finally there is a poem about the dignity of manual labor. Usually I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but as I was mopping the floor at work the other day it struck me that there is dignity in accepting what we have to do in the current moment and doing it to the best of our ability. As I said, I don’t think manual labor in and of itself imparts dignity or creates a work ethic that is worth anything, but I do think that doing one’s task well is worth, well, something. For better or worth, here is that free verse poem.

Quiet Dignity

Quiet dignity resides within
Back and forth
Back and forth
Simple mop and motion
Back and forth
Back and forth
Sweeping away yesterday’s
Crumbs and beet blood stains
Back and forth
Forth and back
For a change of rhythm
And pacing
Back and forth
Back and forth
Fan dries clean floors
The blades whir
Back and forth
Back and forth