Fears and Phobias

For years now I have avoided flying like the plague. I do it, but only in extremely important situations.

But yesterday I did a one day return to Newark to explore a business situation and other than a little bit of turbulence, the flights were quite uneventful.

Both planes were absolutely full, and I quite suspect that I might have been the only one even feeling the turbulence.

I took a few shots out the window as the sun went down and given that I was over a wing and the window was none too clean or scratch-free, they came out decent enough to share.

They are at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy!

Earlier in life I had been traveling all over the place by air. There were stretches when I was doing a trip a week and sometimes more than that. I traveled throughout the US, into almost every country in Europe, Scandinavia, and even as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Somewhere along the way, there were a few nasty flights and a couple of close calls. One in particular that I can vividly recall as being when the doors of hell opened up and were about to welcome back their prodigal son.

So, I can understand the development of fear that began to rear its head about ten years ago. It was grounded in some real threatening moments.

But somewhere along the way, I allowed the fear to turn into a full-blown phobia to where I have been going to insane lengths to avoid flying.

Convincing yourself that a 16 hour each-way drive to Baltimore to visit for a couple of days with your daughter, is serious delusion. Yet, I managed to talk myself into that one with all sorts of justifications.

So, facing my phobia yesterday was an important action for me and I took it consciously. It needed to be tackled. It had become ridiculous. I have also booked another flight (for fun) and am planning one with Victoria who is now in Chicago for when she next manages to get Erin away from the piece of shit lowlife that kidnapped her baby a few years back.

These sudden decisions are becoming a small source of pride and while I don’t for a minute think that I won’t be fearful on the next encounter with turbulence, I hope I am one flight closer to being free of this phobia.

You see, phobias are enormously disabling and they can have a marked effect on how we travel through the life experience.

In reflection, much of my own development of this phobia has related to handing over control to a third party (the pilot) rather than the simple fear of dying. I have been fearless in situations with alligators more than twice my size, so it isn’t as simple as being afraid of dying. I am not. A number of years ago, I pushed my way into the home of a couple of aggressive young men that had been holding and raping a friend of mine in downtown Tampa and successfully extracted her. So it isn’t even the aspect of being in a dangerous situation.

No, I recognized some time back that, while I don’t particularly want to die right now, I am not afraid of dying.

But I am most definitely a control freak and this is something that can really dominate decisions and actions. I know how I got there.

There are many of us living in fear of certain things. These things might be a creature, an event, or a situation. And some of these fears might even be linked to something we experienced earlier in life. For example, a person badly bitten by a dog when they were young, might be terrified of all dogs now.

And that is understandable.

But all fear is treatable. And that is the important thing for us to realize. No fear is bigger than ourselves. In fact the fear is within us and we give it power. The “thing” that gives us the fear is more often than not, unaware that they cause such fear in us.

For example, many people are so fearful of spiders that they run away or attack the poor creatures. Even though the spider has no idea what it might have done to cause such a response. In most cases spiders (and snakes) are every bit as normal as other creatures that we fawn over. Most of these creatures look at us and have an immediate fear response based on the fact that our species has already killed them by the billions. So, at least their fears are founded in fact.

When I say all fear is treatable, some people rush to psychologists and counselors, looking for answers. Sometimes, we are just told to take medicine … “here have a Xanax before your next flight. That’s help.”

But my belief is that rather than treating the symptom, we owe it to ourselves to examine the cause. We need to examine the source of the fear and try to determine the degree to which it is nonsensical.

Most of them turn out to be without foundation and that is where we shine a light on it, pull it out of the dark reaches of our minds, and then set out to tackle it.

When I had Jax’s spider walking on me a week or so ago, I loved every second of it. Yet there were several people that I shared that with that recoiled in fear at the very thought. And a few weeks ago when I sent a picture of a snake that I had encountered to a friend, he almost died after the image opened on his phone.

Arachnophobes (if that even is a word) would be well served to find a spider and let them walk on their hands. Talk to the little guy and identify that he has much more to lose should the exchange go wrong between you both. And let a snake wrap around your hand. Talk gently to him and show him that he has nothing to fear.

These are the kind of exchanges that will chip away at the wall of fear that we so carefully craft for ourselves.

Bear in mind that once we address something we fear, it will also bring a source of pride in our bravery. There is no such thing as bravery in a world of no fear. Bravery is the act of doing something of which you are afraid to do.

In the absence of bravery, we are very much likely to turn our fear into a phobia and at that point it actually begins to shape our lives.

So, I guess what I am saying is, address your fear and exert a little bravery before your life spirals out of control. Then again, that is exactly the advice that a control freak might give.

… just a thought!

Putting things off

So, yesterday morning I was sitting at my desk. The babies had all been fed and my breakfast was eaten and I looked at my coffee.

I thought about whether I should journey out with it then or leave it until tomorrow. The deciding factor was that it was really only 5:20, so time was very much in favor of me getting somewhere to catch twilight.

Camera and coffee beside me, I was on the road by 5:30 heading in a general west direction.

I hadn’t really decided where but I knew the skies were clear overhead, so it didn’t really matter where, as long as there was a body of water that would give me some reflection in the images.

The other guiding factor was that I needed to get home in time to watch my Wolves play Aston Villa in an early game on TV. So, that kind of boundaried my travel into the general Tampa Bay or St Pete area.

By the time I hit the interstate, I decided on the Gandy Bridge, which is one of the lower bridges across the bay. I saw on the maps app that there was a spot where people could launch canoes on the west side of the bridge, so I figured that would give me access to be able to shoot eastward and hopefully get some of the bridge in the shots.

The bridge is pretty much east-west, so I had difficulty imagining which side of the bridge would give me view of the brightening skies and for a while after I arrived there, I was none the wiser. It was too dark.

So I bounced a bit from the north side to the south side trying to get some shots before finally settling on the south side of it.

The upshot is that the north side had a better land mass to shoot from, but most of the coloring seemed to be more visible from the south side. As I walked away from the road, deeper into a tree line, I wished I had brought my Glock. Because it was almost pitch black in there and I had no idea who or what I might encounter. So, in all honesty it wasn’t very comfortable.

Then when I did go onto the south side of the bridge, I was walking (slowly) across wet rocks and mushy sand in order to be able to get a decent angle to shoot from. I heard voices nearby but I didn’t see anyone.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shots at the end of the blog. Despite the fact that it was a mostly clear sky, they turned out decent and I even got to visit with a lovely Great Blue Heron who walked up to within six feet of me and we had a chat. Well, I say “we” but it was pretty much all me doing the talking. He was just looking at me in that “don’t you disturb the fish” type of way.

It was really this morning, that the thought for the blog occurred to me. Yesterday’s thoughts while driving home were more focused on my lack of respect for my own safety and risking another broken wrist on some wet rocks in the dark.

But this morning, I checked the weather and there is dense cloud over me for the next several hours, so I was glad I hadn’t put it off.

And that is how “putting it off” became today’s blog thought.

You see, we humans have an innate defect in making decisions or taking action. We often will just defer a decision or a course of action until sometime in the future and in most situations, this deferment is simply us being lazy.

The sad part about that is that putting things off is almost never a better position to do something. We either create a new time pressure associated with our decision or sometimes we even leave it too late to accomplish what we want.

There are many phrases out there that try to drive this point home such as “Carpe Diem” or “Strike while the iron is hot.” So, there is already substantial logic in front of us that informs us of the benefits of doing something now rather than later.

Therefore it can’t be that we don’t know. We do know.

It has likely even been beaten into us. By our parents, our educators, our life. We are even likely to have encountered situations in the past where we have been victims of our own inaction.

So, why aren’t we learning?

I mean, yes, we are probably improved in our decision making and actions based on such input. But why isn’t it second nature to us, like breathing?

If we put off breathing for a while, we learn very quickly that it might not be the best decision we have ever made, so we don’t even think about it. We just do it.

If we had a real record of our delayed decisions or actions being good for us, then I would understand. But how many times have we benefited by inaction to where it becomes reasonable to do so?

I mean, OK, if you woke up in Southampton on April 10th, 1912 and said “ah fuck it, I’ll wait until tomorrow for the next ship to America” and then rolled back over for a snooze … then I understand.

But most of life doesn’t play out to where putting something off actually was a good idea. Most of life happens in the now.

When we realize that our lives are lived in the now, it requires us to deal with things in the now.

Tell little Johnny you love him today. Maybe something will happen that takes him away or takes you away. Don’t wait until it is too late

Today is in the now. Tomorrow is in the future and unless you know something that I don’t know, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone.

It’s why when the company hit the skids a few months ago and I had nothing to do, I decided not to do nothing. I decided to do something. So, I wrote a book. And a month later, I wrote a second book. And now in my third month, I have started book three.

It is irrelevant if anyone ever publishes them or if anyone reads them. But it is important that I wrote them. Important for me. It was something I had mused over for years but I kept putting them off, thinking “ah, I will do it sometime.”

If I was lying on my deathbed, wishing I had made the time to write the book that was in my head, I would be seriously pissed at myself. And while there may indeed be reasons that I will be really pissed on my deathbed, that won’t be one of them.

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard a friend tell me that they should write a book, I wouldn’t need change for a twenty. But of all the people I have heard voice that thought, I don’t even know one of them who has.

But life is not about writing a book. At least not for everyone. But I can guarantee you that there is at least one big thing that you wish you had done, but haven’t. And it probably isn’t that you decided not to do it. It’s just that you will do it “some day”.

The truth is … you won’t. You will lie on your deathbed and right there in the middle of all the things you wished you had done better in your life, there will be that one “thing”.

So, either accept that your deathbed is going to be a pretty miserable experience or get off your ass and do the “thing” today. Even if it is so big that you can’t get it finished, it doesn’t matter. Get it started.

Then at the very least on your deathbed, you can take consolation in the fact that you died trying.

… just a thought.

Demons

I have to stop saying I got up early, because truth is, getting up before 5 is now very much my norm. In fact, I am sure if I wasn’t releasing all the kitties and have everyone fed by 5:20, they would probably assume the old man finally died.

So, yes, by 5:45 I was on my way to St Pete armed with my camera and a cup of coffee. OK, hang on … I will also have to stop saying “cup of coffee” because all my blogs have me traveling with one within arms reach.

Anyway, this morning I selected Demens Landings as my port of call. I had only been there once before and it was a good shoot, so I figured “why not?”.

I was on the interstate talking to myself (there’e no one else to talk to at that time of the morning) and I noticed I was pronouncing it like demons, instead of de-mens which is how I think it is supposed to be pronounced.

It was this pronunciation that determined the blog today, but I will come back to that in a moment.

It was a wonderfully fresh morning and even though the sky was a bit too clear for a nice sunrise, the shots ended up pretty decent. I have put some at the end of the blog and hope you enjoy!

So driving away, I was totally invigorated. It was a wonderful way to start a day, but I gradually returned to my train of thought from the drive down to St Pete.

This is the problem with a long drive (it was about an hour) … is that I end up with a lot of thinking time.

I began with a recognition that I have so many demons in my closet that I need to take out a self-storage unit for the overflow. It is dreadful and something that I am genuinely unhappy with myself about.

These demons come in a variety of shapes and sizes and their main goal in life is to make a person feel bad or feel guilty over something. They are generally not around when we are doing that something. No, they wait until it is too late to stop yourself and they come in afterwards and make you feel miserable about it.

Demons generally come with conscience … you open up a fresh box of conscience and lo and behold a few demons jump into your bowl. They should have a warning on the outside of the box – Beware, Demons Inside.

Of course, being raised in an Irish catholic country, having a conscience is ingrained into each and every child at an early age. If you have impure thoughts, feel guilty. If you touch yourself, feel guilty. If you murder a few english tourists, feel guilty.

It’s all designed to get you into the confession box so that you can share all your dirty thoughts or doings with an old man in a black dress.

Hell, the catholics had the guilt thing perfected so well, that newborn babies are born sinners. The moment they breathed their first gulp of air, they are sinners and unless baptized they can’t enter heaven. How sordid is that? Have you any idea how many parents of newborn children who died before baptism were faced with their children dying as sinners and therefore ineligible for heaven?

But on the good side, these demons and the conscience they spring from are an important mechanism for making us humans better social animals. The demons remind us that we do nothing with impunity; that there is a consequence for every action. And if we don’t pay for it, then someone or some other creature does.

I know a few people who have no demons. They go through life as though they are perfect creatures that never do anything wrong. They apologize for nothing. And they never learn.

And due to their lack of demons, they also tend not to be very empathetic folk. They are unable to identify with the poor, the old, the infirm. They tend to be very black and white in their interpretations of things and their way is always the correct way. They tend to be very militant and unforgiving (yet invariably profess to follow a god that was all about forgiveness).

So when we talk of demons to those kind of folk, they tend to identify the demons as others. People who have an abortion, people who wear masks, people who educate children about racial inequity, black people, and of course, immigrants.

Unfortunately, I am one of those (well, several of those actually) so that might go someway to explaining where my demons come from.

It must be because I am a sinner. Bless me father, it is 50 years since my last confession.

No, the truth is that I have demons because I am not perfect. And I know that I am not perfect.

I like to think that I try to get better each year in certain ways, but I am not sure that is even true. Does living longer mean that we become better as we get older? Nope, sorry!

It just means we have been around longer opening up boxes and letting the demons runs riot inside us.

Eventually, do the demons just drag us away screaming at death, into the shadows like in the movie Ghost?

Perhaps that’s where they got the idea for that, but they got it wrong. The demons weren’t in the shadows waiting for us to die, they were within us all the time.

Demons and our conscience are likely the last things within us as we say goodbye to this world. As the outer world shuts down and we are left alone in our head with our thoughts, do the demons invade and remind us of all the things we did wrong? Do we lie there wishing we could have done differently?

They talk about our lives flashing before us, as we are on our way out, so unless you are a republican then you probably are going to question yourself and be forced to examine what you did and didn’t do.

And that brings me to the real point of this train of thought. The things we did right, the lives we touched and the loves we shared. These are not just the things we did with good conscience. These are the things we did that impacted others around us in a positive way while we were alive.

These are the things that gave value to our lives having been lived.

Sure, there will be things we didn’t get to, or mistakes we made. But we are merely human and therefore flawed. And that’s ok. The demons know that.

That’s why, the bit of that movie off-camera that we didn’t see, was the demon putting his arm around the dead guy, saying “it’s ok, you did your best.”

You did, didn’t you?

… just a thought.

Triggers

Though initially on my driveway, I saw a few stars overhead, I knew it was a cloudy morning.

It was still an hour before twilight even, so looking up was a futile exercise in almost pure darkness.

Nonetheless I decided to take my first coffee of the day off to the lake. I honestly didn’t care if there was no sunrise, I just needed to escape the house and the PC.

When I got there, I was the first person there. Which isn’t that surprising. All the sane people are likely still in bed at that time of a Saturday morning.

Then as I got out the camera and was attaching it to the tripod, a couple came by on bicycles. It was really only the lights on their bicycles that I saw, in truth. But when I said good morning, a male and female voice replied so by the powers of my amazingly powerful deductive reasoning, I determined it was a couple.

As they took up positions at the end of the little pier, this is all I could make out:

All my naked eyes could see.

Thankfully the A7 is notably better than my eyes in low light so it captured a few shots worth sharing. They are at the end of the blog. The cloud cover was insanely thick though, so none of these shots are particularly good.

Hope you enjoy, though.

Anyway, by looking at the viewfinder I quickly realized that while the guy was rod fishing, the young lady was hooping. She had started up her music and began swaying to its rhythm and it brought my mind back to happier days with Brittany. She would often hoop at the same lake at sunset and the memories came flooding back.

It’s been almost a year since she died and while most of my recollections of her since have been on a sadness scale, this wasn’t.

And the thought for today’s blog was hatched there on the pier, as opposed to my normal thinking stage while driving home.

You see, I realized immediately that this young lady hooping had triggered my memory into recalling Brittany and because it was purely a hooping trigger, it was simply a good memory, without the normal overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness.

Triggers are an important part of our mental process and though they are generally outside of our control, they can be pretty powerful in their ability to over-ride what is currently front and center within our brain.

While triggers can be situations or events like this morning, they are often just a smell, a taste, a song, or a video even. Something that our brain has associated with the object being triggered, at it was stored away in memory for recall.

When we choose to remember someone or something, we don’t get to assign the trigger. We are not inputting with a computer memory and assigning a value in a field that is part of a look-up table. Memories are mostly formed without our input, often without our knowledge, and always without our consent.

Now, there are things that we can force ourselves to learn. We can study and repeat until something is committed to memory but that is not what I am talking about.

And unless you have been programmed by the CIA to suddenly emerge from subconscious and assassinate someone, you won’t have triggers associated with such learning either.

No, I am talking about triggers that provoke an immediate recall within our brain of a person or moment, as if they were just there and we had just witnessed them.

For example, any Frank Sinatra experience (a song, an image, an article) always reminds me of my mom and her complete infatuation with ol’ blue eyes. It is indelibly printed in my brain, her wonderful obsession, her repeated listening to his songs, the many books of him on her shelves in the living room, and of the one visit he made to Ireland and how she traveled 120 miles on crutches from a broken leg to see him.

I don’t know how many triggers my brain has nor how many are good ones. But I am aware that there also triggers that are bad ones.

Triggers of an experience that will sadden me or make me cry.

I am pretty sure we all have them.

And it is important to recognize a trigger for a bad memory when it happens. What was it that caused us to respond to where we have suddenly become saddened or hurt, completely out of the blue?

These triggers will make something appear in our mind as if it has just happened and so the level of negative feeling associated with it can be very strong … even on something that happened ten years ago.

So, when we recognize a trigger for something negative, we need to identify it and create an understanding of why it has provoked such a response. And if we can, we need to try to avoid such a trigger in the future.

It may not be avoidable … many of them are not.

But some are and we need to ask ourselves if the presence of certain stimulus are worth having in our lives when compared with the negative responses they can trigger.

I have known very close friends to have deliberately kept their child’s room exactly as it was, just before their child were killed.

Every time they pass by that room, or enter it, they are immediately catapulted back into the loss all over again.

We each travel our own road and live a life that is full of memories created along the way. That is why our brain has a recall function, so that we can deliberately remember a memory and draw from it as part of our life experience.

But it needs to be recalled when we are looking for it. Not at random.

It is one of the things I absolutely fucking hate about my iPhone and Shutterfly and social media services. Periodically they conjure up these stupid collection videos like “this day in 2016” and parade all sorts of stuff in front of us, some of which we simply don’t want to see.

The number of dead friends and lost creatures that have been thrown up at me in this manner is significant.

So, I guess what I am saying is this. So much of our lives is outside our control. Including much of our own memories. Taking control of our memories can be a very positive step for those of us that have some negative memories worth avoiding.

… just a thought!

That Little Voice

I needed to get to Circle B and I needed to flex my big lens again. It had been a couple of months since I did either and I wasn’t happy with my lazy choices.

You see, when I go to Circle B, my walk will always be a few miles. Depends on which trail I take as to exactly how many, but whatever one I choose, there is always some walking involved.

This morning, I was up early enough and arrived at the reserve around 6:15 and I was pleasantly surprised that the gate was open. I honestly thought it wouldn’t be, as sunrise was still over an hour away.

I pulled into the parking space and noticed one other car in the whole lot but I didn’t see the owner. Just as I stepped out in near total darkness, I saw a large black hog run by me.

OK, I am making it sound like he was very close and he was probably about six or eight feet away in reality. I was startled and I clearly startled him. He looked at me and I told him how gorgeous he was and then he walked away into the darkness.

When I got the lens and camera sorted and set out on foot, it was so dark I honestly couldn’t see where I was going and I inadvertently headed in the wrong direction.

Once I found a marker, I knew that I should actually be walking in the opposite direction, so I turned about and did that.

For the first five minutes, I was walking on a section that takes you in among trees and ultimately leads you to a trail which is more in the open. But for those five minutes, I could see about ten feet in front of me and that was it.

So in the middle of that., I stopped, pointed the camera at the darkness and took this shot. My eyes could see nothing but this is what the camera saw:

My eyes saw darkness with a few stars and a hint of the moon. This is what the camera saw.

This is what I love about the Sony A7 …. it’s low light sensitivity is amazing.

Unfortunately for me, as soon as I took the pic, the mosquitoes found me. I had opted to finish the bottle of spray that doesn’t work, in some stupid hope that these final squirts might actually deter the mosquitoes, but surprise … it didn’t.

This is a pure sign of abject stupidity … repeatedly trying something that you already know doesn’t work.

To say I was annoyed at myself would be an understatement. I lasted about fifteen more minutes and tried to outrun them, but it was purely miserable. Apparently their favorite food in the dark is the blood of stupid Irish people.

So as the sun started to define the sky a little, I walked very briskly back to my car, determined to go home.

I hadn’t even attached the 600 mm lens yet, but I didn’t care. The shots I took with the super wide 11 mm one would have to suffice.

When I got back to the car and jumped in, finally escaping the incessant whining noise of these savages, I had this nagging little voice in my head saying “Come on Neville. Put on the big lens and take the trail down by the lake. Don’t give up yet, there may be an amazing moment just waiting for you to capture it.”

So, being the optimist, I listened to the voice, got the big lens on the camera and headed off on the trail that leads to the lake.

Before you head off to the gallery at the end of this, let me quickly point out THE VOICE WAS WRONG … there was no amazing shot and at best the shots I got were fair to middling. But hey, they are there at the end of the blog if you want to see for yourself.

Enjoy!

Anyway, the thought in my mind as I drove away was to do with this voice.

Sometimes it is wrong and sometimes it is right and though it was wrong this time, it might well be right next time.

So I will always listen to it.

It is part of my core system of belief that we have an inner sense within all of us that tries to tell us when something feels right or feels wrong.

We may not be able to concretely define why something might be either, but our gut feeling is nonetheless a very valid source of advice.

Of course, the voice is really just a refection of our own instinct and this instinct is mostly created based on past experiences as well as a collection of fear/flight triggers. So it is really only our own voice.

When it starts to be someone else’s voice, feel free to call your psychologist and let them know Neville sent you.

But as long as it is your own voice, then the subconscious part of you is trying to speak and you should always listen.

Yes, it will be occasionally wrong. And that is because we are not robots or computers. We are humans that sometimes make mistakes and incorrectly analyze a situation.

But not listening to your inner voice is not just stupid, it can also be quite dangerous. Don’t get in the back of that white van just because the stranger needed help.

If that happens and you aren’t hearing a little voice telling you not to do so, don’t worry. This is simply Darwinism at play and your flawed family line needed to be extinguished anyway.

To rely totally on the five physical senses you have is simply put, a foolish way to go through life. You are ignoring the benefit of your past experiences and also the experience that has been built into your DNA to warn you against certain situations.

Whenever I fail, I fail despite listening to my inner voice. I would never want to fail and then mourn how “I wish I had listened to my inner voice. I just knew it felt wrong.”

I can’t abide people who suffer some kind of a disaster and then are quick to tell you how they knew it was going to fuck up somehow.

It fucked up because you are a fuck up. You knew better but didn’t listen.

… just a thought!