Closing the door on 2020

Years ago, when I was a Correctional Officer at Kingston Penitentiary, separating the two worlds of prison and personal life was vital to maintaining mental, physical, and relationship health.

Access in and out of the massive complex was via a heavy, eight-inch-thick, steel door, that could only be unlocked by an officer working a control inside. It would close with a thunderous bang. This entry/exit point was called the North Gate.

The North Gate, Kingston Penitentiary

When I arrived, the sound would remind me that I’d entered a different world, one in which the abnormal became normal. After a shift where anything and everything did happen, the sound of that door banging shut would be my cue to leave the day’s drama behind. I’d step out onto the sidewalk where cars and cyclists sped by, and parents pushed their babies in strollers, oblivious to the walled world they passed. I had just reentered the normal.  

This post is not about prison or my past life, it’s about you and how you choose to close the door on 2020 . . . a year of abnormalities that became normal.  How do you heal from this and move on?

Unfortunately, we will all carry some scars from this past year, depending on your experience and resilience . . . everyone will be affected.  I’m not trying to be negative, just realistic, that’s just the way the human brain works.

Now for the positive . . . you can heal from this and move on. Yes, I know that the abnormal continues into 2021, but there are some signs that we are turning a corner. Vaccines are rolling out, and hopefully those who need it most will receive it soon.

So many things happen that we are not in control of, but we are gifted with the ability to control our thoughts, and if we cannot stop the obsessive ones, to seek help.

Thoughts beget emotions, which beget actions.

My father, a wise man, used to say, ”Garbage in, garbage out.” If you feed your mind bad thoughts, your emotions will follow.

So now might be a good time to think about a way to close that heavy door and move forward to a life of peace.

A few things that may help:

-develop an exercise routine and stick with it (plenty of exercise videos available, if you are confined to an apartment)

-get professional help; many clinics offer virtual meetings

-find positive distractions

-develop an attitude of gratitude; there is still good in this world and always something to be thankful for

-practice mindfulness; live in the present

-talk to a trusted friend

-meditate

-pray

-use the Capture/Check/Change method for dealing with negative thoughts. This one takes some practice. It works like this: As soon as a negative thought comes, you Capture it, then Check to see its validity, finish off with Changing the thought with a positive (might I suggest the attitude of gratitude)

-seal off those bad thoughts in an airtight container. It was a heavy metal door for me, yours could be a large safe, an indestructible bubble made from Hubba Bubba gum, or a titanium box . . . whatever you choose, try to stuff all those baddies in there and seal them off.

You are not alone in all of this and it too, shall pass. There is still hope and good in this world.

I wish you  and your families all these best in this upcoming year. Stay safe!

Review of This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn

Have you had the chance to curl up with a good book this Holiday Season? Something to distract you from this topsy-turvy era of COVIDocalypse? Do you enjoy supernatural battles between good and evil? Are your nails trimmed to the point that you cannot bite them any shorter? Yes? Great!

Please scroll down to see if, This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn, pairs nicely with a warm fire and that glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

By the way, D.L. is also a fantastic poet.

What Amazon says:

Six months after Amber’s sister is brutally murdered, she’s still looking for answers, and now someone is stalking her and no one believes her. Home alone with a powerful snowstorm approaching, Amber is determined to take control of the investigation by hiring a private detective, but her plans are disrupted when she finds herself snowed in with people she may not be able to trust. Meanwhile, Nester the evildwel, whose entire existence has been feeding on fear and pain, is seeking help from the angel who’s protecting Amber. Nester and Amber need answers. Can Amber figure out what’s going on with some subtle help from an angel? Will Nester find what he needs from his enemies? The worlds of good and evil clash, and the outcome will determine not only Amber’s and Nester’s fate but life as they know it.

My Turn:

Unseen forces battle for the future of earth, while unsuspecting humans go about their daily lives. This novel is a unique spin on the classic tale of good versus evil.  

Amber Dodges is a news reporter on the hunt for the killer of her twin sister, Iris. She unknowingly attracts the attention of the evildwels, the angels, and the killer.

Finn has created a strong female protagonist in Amber, who lives, quite literally, by the motto, “Never say die!”

A view of the supernatural and terrestrial worlds, are constantly interchanged throughout this story, providing a chilling premonition that something terrible is about to happen. You may need a few more sips of that Cabernet to ease the nerves.

As the story unfolds, Amber is threatened and grows leery of all, as she tries to determine who is a ‘friend or foe’. This fact is left for the reader to puzzle over, until the climax is reached.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires a peek beyond the veil of the spiritual/mortal realms.  Anyone who relishes a decent thriller, without the gore of a typical slasher story, will be appreciate the strong plot and high stakes drama. I’m giving this one a Four-Star rating!

Meet D.L. Finn:

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.

Connect with D.L. and purchcase your copy:

Twitter:  @dlfinnauthor

Facebook

Instagram

Blog

RWISA Profile

D.L. is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club.

Amazon.com

The “Ghosts” in my Darkness

This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.

No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.

PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.

IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.

YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.

YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.

SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.

My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at markbierman3@gmail.com. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.

PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.

No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.

That’s complete bulls**t!

I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!

If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.

Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.

What Haunts Me.

Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,

For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much

“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”

I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch

What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,

He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.

We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.

My belief in God.

My wonderful and supportive friends and family.

Prescribed and monitored medication.

Professional counselling.

Leaving the situation (work).

An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

Regular physical exercise.

Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.

Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).

Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.

Pets.

Avoiding the news and social media, at times.

Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.

Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.

I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #15 #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity #fiction

pursootfictionchallengeHappy Sunday! Here is my take on talented Author Suzanne Burkes’ weekly Fiction In a Flash Challenge.  Authors are invited to write a short story about the photo shown. Please click on the above link to go to her blog site. Thank you so much, Suzanne for hosting this regular challenge!

Rosemary’s Treasure

“Grandma, are you sure you want to go up there? They’re in bad shape, and your hip.”

“Oh, pish posh,” Rosemary waved dismissively. “Should have done this years ago and those were built when quality counted.”

“That was seventy-seven years ago. This place has been abandoned for—”

“Twenty years, other than some vandalism, the bones are solid.”

“Maybe, but yours aren’t. Please, just let me have a look. The third floorboard from the back wall of the closet, right?”

Rosemary patted Emily’s hand. “I need to do this myself, with a bit of help from you.”

Emily wiped a tear and hugged her grandmother. “I understand. You were eight and you’ve waited this long. It was your only hope. All these years . . . ” Her grief soaked the purple shawl.

“Shh . . . I’ve made my peace. This must be done before I see him again. I pray God will allow it in Heaven. Father has the other half, that’s why they never found it on him.”

Rosemary’s eyes stung but she must show restraint, be the brave girl that her father had said she was just before he left for the Great War. “Let’s continue, shall we?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” Emily broke her embrace and took the tissue from Rosemary.

“But you must let me check each tread before you step on it and let me guide you. Those are my rules, I’m sorry. I love you too much to lose you.”

Rosemary nodded. “Agreed.”

They moved ahead, arm in arm, with Emily sweeping away the debris with her foot to clear a path. At the base of the stairs, she tested the railing and was satisfied.

“You see, built to last. The stairs will be the same, though the third step might creak. I learned to avoid that one when I’d sneak downstairs after bedtime to grab an extra cookie.” She pointed to the room they’d just left. “My parents would be sitting in their chairs, Mother with her nose in a book, while Father would be asleep. I never got caught, but sometimes I think Mother knew.” Rosemary smiled.

The stairs proved to be every bit as resilient as promised, but every tread protested the disturbance.

The hideous orange and white floral-patterned linoleum flooring installed by the last tenants had chunks missing and revealed the hardwood underneath. Decay wasn’t always bad.

Emily gingerly walked her grandmother across the tripping hazard to the first room on the left. Time had left only a thick layer of dust, cobwebs, and a musty smell in the barren room.

“Hmmm . . . used to be a lot bigger,” Rosemary said. She blamed her watering eyes on the dust and mold. “I loved this room, but after Father was gone, well, we had to move.”

She sighed deeply and shuffled towards the tiny closet. Emily’s hand went to grab her arm, but she brushed it off. “I’m good for now, but I’ll need you to help me kneel.”

The old woman reached the closet and Emily helped her to her knees.

Rosemary struggled to remove the floorboard and Emily offered to help.

“No! I must do this!” Her face softened and her tears splattered into the floor dust. “I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to snap. This arthritis is making it hard. Did they nail it down?”

After what seemed an eternity, the board yielded, and was hoisted with a collectively  held breath. Would it still be there?

Emily handed over the flashlight. The small beam illuminated only cobwebs and dirt. Rosemary dug frantically to clear them, and the light reflected off a silver object lying in between the floor joists.

Rosemary picked up the necklace with shaky hands. Emily gasped, for there it was, the legendary object that she’d heard about since early childhood.

A heart, with one half missing, the other half perhaps lay on a faraway battlefield.

Rosemary clutched the jewelry to her heart, and then wept loudly. Emily rushed to her side and tried to console her grandmother through her own tears.

It took several moments to recover, and Rosemary showed her the inscription in the heart. Because of the shape and the missing piece, it read, ALW TOGE . . . Always Together.

“Oh Grandma, is that true? Do you really believe that?”

“Yes, Emily, all of my life I knew he was there, and soon I will get to see him again and this heart will be whole.”