As with everyone, my life is a personal journey. Recent events have illuminated surprising and unknown pieces of my foundation. As I continue my adventure, I intend to share my thoughts

0n relationships,

current events, and the multifaceted landscape of our society.

So why the title "The Cotton Picker Scat?" It ties into some great family history of mine!
My literary research thus far has proven to be priceless. I want to share my failures, my joys, my successes, my lessons. My story.

Because what is mine, may also be yours.

I'm glad you're here! The journey of the cotton picker continues…

Short Stories

"Tears on the Cracked and Narrow"

                                                                                                September 15, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
            I am very pleased to have this opportunity to introduce myself to you. I am anxious to do so for several reasons, none of which hold priority. I have a need for people whom I may meet in person to have some background about me prior to our introduction. I also believe that details about me may be of use to you if, by chance, you meet someone in the future whose background sounds similar to mine. I have discovered that I am a very important person who has a vision to share with the world. I am hoping, perhaps, that you are similar.
My life up to my current middle age has certainly held much more responsibility than I ever imagined. I was full of imagination as a child, and I spent much time daydreaming. I really wouldn’t have said it was daydreaming if someone had noticed and asked me. I thought of it as planning a future for myself, or designing a better tomorrow, or reviewing thoughts of things to come. Real daydreaming is linked to things that could possibly happen, but probably won’t. My daydreams were thoughts of things that would be, that actually were going to happen in time. And they were always good things, because good things always happen when you follow the straight and narrow.
           I liked school, for the most part. Besides fulfilling its main objective, it was a great place to daydream. It was also a place of pain. I was smart but not physically adept, as my large size would indicate to some. I had to defend the fact that I was a big kid who was not aggressive or sports-minded. That took a lot of mental energy and caused early stress. I was musical, artistic, and terribly creative. I suppressed my anger because I was afraid of losing control, of not being considered a nice kid. I suppressed my creativity because I would have had to defend every expression. You must understand that I had been taught to turn the other cheek.
             My parents were truly compassionate and caring people. My dad was an educated worker in one of the real helping professions. My mother was a wonderful, ebullient teacher who sincerely cared about education. To learn, speak, write, and behave appropriately and correctly was mandatory. There were no options. Caring for others, accepting your fate and not expressing anger was also part of the program. Looking back, most of that was all good.  The flip side of that coin is that I did not learn how to identify and attend to my own needs. I needed to be respected as a separate and unique identity, especially during the onset of puberty and the dog days of male adolescence.  
            During this transitional period in my life, we lived in a very large house. We had never lived in one like this before, and I enjoyed the space. There were three stories, four large bedrooms and two full baths. The odd thing was that for such a large house, it had a very narrow concrete driveway. It was long enough for about three cars, but there were brick walls immediately on either side that extended the entire length of the way.  If you wanted to park there, you had to take special care as you pulled in lest you damage your vehicle. We lived there for only five years, but they were important ones. I graduated from 8th grade and high school, got my first job, dated my first girlfriend, and established a few meaningful friendships that still exist today.
I went to college out-of-state, flunked out after two years, and began working with troubled youth. After ten years, I moved back to my home city, got married, and dedicated my life to being a Christian and mentoring others. I was gainfully employed with a nationally respected social service agency. I learned difficult but needed lessons about working with those whose lives hadn’t been so straight and narrow. My wife and I struggled with having a child for many years. We were overjoyed when our son was born one New Years Day afternoon. Soon after his birth, I went back to school and completed my bachelor degree. Doors began to open because of that paper. The straight and narrow appeared easy to navigate.
I took care of my parents when their health started to flip-flop. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and, by the grace of God, remains a survivor. I became guardian of my mother’s sister when she was diagnosed with dementia.  I traveled several times to the southwest United States in order to pack up her vanished life and move her to our midwest urban environ. I continued to work full-time in social services and received impressive positions such as training manager, program manager, and finally program director. My son was diagnosed with autism, and we decided to move out of the city to receive better services in the suburbs. We were blessed to find an affordable house in a great location. We were pleased that the local school district would be able to provide the attention we believed our son deserved. I was extremely happy, juggling all of my important, supportive roles successfully. I never noticed the cracks that appeared in our driveway.
The aunt that I guarded died. Then another aunt passed. The following year, my mother died after twenty years of battling and recovering from a grocery list of ailments. The following year, yet another aunt died.  Within six years, four female elders who had shaped me, formed me, contributed to my joyfulness and creativity…died. The growing responsibilities of my dream job became a huge stressor, and restful sleep faded to a memory. The family members I had remaining, including my dad, had increasing health issues. My son, who was already dealing with autism, was diagnosed with depression. He was beginning adolescence, and I was not paying attention. I wasn’t even paying attention to myself. I was cracking up.
I looked at my doctor like he was crazy early that Monday morning. All I wanted was medicine to help me sleep. I had been so stressed out that I had taken the previous week off from work. I needed a doctor’s note to return. But he didn’t think I needed to return to work. In fact, he refused to write the note that I requested. He started talking about anti-depressants, time-off, FMLA, perhaps in-patient services. Just crazy, crazy stuff. I needed sleep, I kept telling him. He kept telling me about therapy and medications. He started writing out lots of those doctor slips. I felt queasy. I called my wife and told her that I was coming back home. She asked if she should come and pick me up, but I chose to drive. I was in a daze.
I successfully drove the short distance home, parked the car, and staggered up to the bedroom. I was really tired. All I needed was more sleep. I had not been sleeping well for a while. I had probably slept about 1 ½  hours per night for the past two years. I would get up, go to work, try to do as little as possible, and return to my real job, which was taking care of my family and my home. That Monday, however, had been different. I really had to call in sick. I was Humpty-Dumpty. I had cracks all over the place. I had just been officially diagnosed with major depression.
I sat on the side of the bed and cried hysterically, like I had never cried before. My wife was petrified and helpless. After twenty-years of marriage, her husband was disintegrating right before her eyes. Slowly and surely, a sadness that had been in shadow for so long was finally allowed to reveal its real face. It began to cover me like a fog. I could feel it pointedly enter the top of my head, like a meat thermometer in a Thanksgiving turkey. My temp would probably have indicated ‘hot’ with all the thoughts and confusion running rampant in my mind. Or maybe it would state ‘cold,’ indicating how I was really reacting to all of the upheavals in my life.  
My tears would not stop. After spending so many years of caring, supporting, encouraging, uplifting and being kind, I was useless. After almost thirty-years in the field of social services, it seemed I had served and socially accomplished nothing. After so many years of striving to be the good son, the good friend, the good nephew, the good guy, the good church member, the good husband, and the best father, I just didn’t give a damn anymore. Not one. About anything or anyone.
It took a lot of energy for me to walk straight and upright all the time, to walk that narrow line. To have to get up every day and not stumble, to provide for family, to care for those within my circle who were disabled and needed support. To work, to lead, to be an example. To accept the discomfort as part of the job. To withstand painful arrows from toxic people whose nature it is to inflict. To allow those arrows to pierce my heart, never allowing the wounds to heal because I was unaware of their damage.
For the past three years, I have been taking better care of myself. It has been a challenge. Some days are better than others. I don’t accept just any comment thrown at me from someone emptying their garbage on my mind. Please realize that for me, dealing with depression is a process of healing. I’m learning new coping skills, and I’m purging behaviors that do not serve me. No, I am not over it. I remain in therapy and take meds that I don’t like taking. I have felt a physical change down to the marrow of my bones. Depression is very real. It is one of the most personal situations that I have ever endured. I view it as that driveway of the big house from my youth. It is narrow with no give. I want to keep from bumping into the brick walls on either side. However, if I do, I’ll just use a bit of paint to touch up the scrapes and keep going. Thank goodness for prayer and the grace of God.
            I so appreciate the time you have spent reading this life review, so to speak. Believe me, the story is a lot longer if told in person! It has been humbly offered for your personal review. Who knows? I may have the opportunity to meet you, face-to-face, in the future. If I do, I won’t feel the need to tell you about my ‘stuff.’ You’ll know it in advance. I want people in my current life to know about…me. I am not a threat to society. On the contrary, I believe I can serve as a lifeline for it.
Now, to those who are already acquainted with me, please take note. My days of being blindly courteous are in the past. I’m more particular about what I say, and what I allow to have said to me. I choose the amount of energy I expend on toxic people. These days, I choose to speak truthfully, clearly, and freely, based upon my life’s mission.
After all, we live in a free country. If you don’t like what I’m saying, or disagree with me, or wish to call me a dreamer, or an idealist, or a sinner, then move. I’ve shed enough tears. I’ll stand my ground, my feet firmly planted in my right mind. So simply move. Get out of my way and out of my line of sight. I’m not speaking to you. I’m talking to the future. I’m speaking to the person behind you.

Someone you should know

P.S. Happy birthday, ma.