Having A Bad Day?

Last night my wife and I were invited to attend a fund raiser for families who have either terminally ill children or children who have suffered from a traumatic event, such as a horrific accident that left them severely impaired in some way or another.

These kids’ ages ranged from 4 years old to their twenties. Some have been diagnosed with some form of cancer, while others faced various degenerative, muscular conditions that limited their ability to walk, or move normally. Four of them were present last night, at the fund raiser, to perform on stage singing a song, or playing a guitar. Their courage to come up onstage was amazing. For some of them, this would be a first time event they did something like this, in front a large gathering. The anxiety they felt was acutely evident in their facial expressions, the way some of them stuttered as they attempted to speak to us and the deep breaths they drew in and exhaled into the microphone.

The courage these kids have had to muster up while they and their families faced great difficulties causes me to take pause at what my own life has been like, and the attitudes I have when dealing with the seemingly, petty hardships and temporal challenges I have faced in my life. I have not been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease like cancer, leukemia, a crippling, muscular disease like cerebral palsy, or a traumatic brain injury that the doctors speculated would leave me on a ventilator for the rest of my life. Yet, that is the reality for these young heroes. This is what they and their families face each day. Some of the children don’t make it like the four year old boy, I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Tragically, he died last year from leukemia. Two of the girls present last night, sang a song they had composed, dedicating it to his memory.

I, like many of us, are facing challenging times. But rather than sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself and stressing over those issues I truly have no real control over, I take the time to volunteer in some way or another to make someone else’s life a little better. The first time I understood how satisfying and fulfilling it was to play a key role in helping someone in a time of great distress, was when I served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic, responding to life-threatening emergencies. I never forgot the looks of relief I got from those needing emergency care during a crisis moment, where their life was in danger.

Soon after I was honorably discharged for the Army, I began to experience PTSD and fell into an emotional tailspin that lasted three years. I was in an inescapable, dark pit. Every single waking moment, was a relentless battle, struggling to keep my wits and not having an emotional breakdown while I was out with other people. I got no help, because I didn’t know where to go for help. So I struggled and languished dealing with anxiety attacks and depression, until one day, I had a vision in my heart from God, of where I was…it was an image of the incarcerating , dark pit I had fallen into. I felt that He had shown me that He would lead out from within myself, if I would reach out to others and help them.

So that’s what I began to do. It wasn’t easy…it was very hard at first. But as I became active in volunteer work, visiting the sick and terminally ill in hospitals, feeding and encouraging the homeless living in the streets, counseling and encouraging those incarcerated in prison, my perspective of my life began to change. I had developed an healthy sense of self esteem, that I was valuable in God’s eyes, as He used me to speak His words of comfort and healing to others who had gone through much more difficult hardships and challenges in their own lives. It is said, that one who has experienced great adversity and hardships, speaks many languages. I am intimately familiar with what that means. A deep sense of compassion, is born out of great adversity. I speak compassion fluently. Do you? I hope so.

In the support group where I act as a co-facilitator, to help men recover from the traumatic effects of past abuses and traumas they experienced, I have seen how devastating injuries to the soul can be and how far reaching and deep these wounds can be and how long they can linger and reek havoc in one’s life when not confronted and dealt with. There are so many who desperately need help in finding their way out of the deep pits of pain and despair, but don’t where to go for help. Worse, they feel they are abandoned by God and humanity and believe they are forced to deal with their debilitating issues on their own. There are so many people, who have yet to realize the great, life-changing impact they can have in the lives of others, if they would only volunteer in some place.

My intent isn’t to lessen or diminish the severity of what you might be dealing with in your own life. Anything we experience, that can cause us deep distress and suffering is significant, because we are going through it, and it has disrupted our ability to function normally in life. But sometimes, as God did with me, the path of healing we need, will require us to get involved in the lives of others who are going through unimaginable challenges, far more difficult than what we are experiencing. It is in those beautiful life lessons that God uses, to teach us…and show us how much He loves us and the many others around us, by what we allow Him to do in us and through us, for the well being of others.  Be an angel God uses to reach out and touch someone else’s life.

 

 

The Early Years

Screenshot_20161031-160051We lived in a two-story apartment building, in the late sixties, in a Chicago suburb called, Logan Square. The apartment was on Belden Avenue, located across the street from Charles Darwin Elementary School. I’ve seen recent, Google Earth pictures of the building. It still sits quietly, among  the other adjacent buildings, as though they are old neighbors, perpetually cursed to stay bound next to one another for the rest of time, on that street.

It stands defiantly tall, pale and menacing, as it has always been. The face of its frontal exterior, looks gothic, dark and lifeless, like a dormant monster, quietly observing the living just beyond its boundary. Its corners are squared and sharply contoured, there is nothing soothing about it. There is an intrusive vine that spreads itself over most of the frontal exterior, at certain times of the year, like a natural parasitic mask, growing to conceal its ugly face. When I saw it for the first time after forty-eight, some odd years ago, I thought to myself, “There you are, I remember you,” as though I was revisiting an old, adversary.

After so many years, my journey is now coming full circle. A return to a time that brought so much pain into my young life as a boy. Why am I going back? Why subject myself to recollecting such painful memories of my parents’ late night shouting matches, images of my mother’s skinny frame sobbing over the kitchen sink uncontrollably; the serious auto accident we were involved in, one late night, as my father drove my bothers and I to the airport, where my aunt Miriam’s husband, Richard, would accompany my brothers and I on an Easter Airlines flight to my fathers’ family, in Miami, Florida?

Because this time, I am on a new journey, moving towards wholeness and healing. I am no longer languishing in the deep, mired pit of the crushing weight of guilt, shame and despair, coupled by the toxic poison of bitter unforgiveness and incarcerating bitterness that left me so completely crippled. No more. I am on a new quest, where God now walks along my side, keeping His loving, tender and empowering hand upon my shoulders, guiding me along each step of the way. My journey continues…

A Young Father’s Cry…The heartache Begins

I can still see it in my mind’s eye, as though it had happened yesterday. The emotions of that day are just as painfully palpable as they were some forty-eight years ago, when my three younger brothers and I sat quietly in the back seat of my father’s green, 1969 Ford, hatchback Mustang, watching him sob uncontrollably, while slumped over the steering wheel of the car.

It would mark the beginning of the end of our family as I knew it and of my father and mother’s tumultuous relationship that would end in divorce. It would become the precursory event that would lead to many more pain-filled years I would endure throughout most of my life.

“Why are you crying, daddy?” My question went unanswered while he continued to cry uncontrollably, burying his face in his right elbow, he had draped over the steering wheel. After regaining some of his composure, he lifted his face to wipe the tears and mucus off of his face with a small handkerchief he kept in his rear, back pocket of the Bermuda shorts he wore. His eyes and eye lids were red, swollen and heavy, giving him the appearance of a sad looking bloodhound, as he held his fixed gaze upon the front door of the simple house in South Miami we had lived in, as though he were looking at something through the closed door, with x-ray vision.

Not wanting to cause us any further alarm, he turned over the ignition of the car and backed us slowly out of the driveway and down the street to the main road that would take us to the highway, north to our grandparent’s house. The trip lasted maybe twenty minutes as we drove north on highway 826 in South Florida, to the small town of Hialeah, where his parents lived. We all remained quiet for the short duration of the ride through town. I can still remember the humid vapor of the ocean breeze that would make it’s way from miles away, tasseling our straight, light brown hair like the hand of a frantic mother, trying to comb our hair before we got to grandmother’s house. We called her, Mima.

We were soon greeted by welcoming arms of both my grandparents and two or our aunts. They deeply loved us and took us in as though we were orphans. My father never talked about why he cried that day, but as time would soon reveal, it became increasingly apparent of what was going on. Little did I know how it would profoundly strike me in one of the most violently, intrusive ways and change our lives forever…

 

Welcome

Hello, my name is Dante. Like Dante Alighieri, who wrote the “Divine Comedy”, also known as, “Dante’s Inferno”. Yes, I get asked many times, “Your name is Dante, as in Dante’s Inferno?”. Yes. The spelling of my last name even bears a close resemblance in spelling as his. And Like Dante, I have stories to tell. Considering some of the valleys I have walked through, I have earned my name.

The purpose of this blog site is simple:
I will share my stories, insights, and wisdom I have gained over the years so that others may see my foot steps embedded in the path of the journey they are on now. For some, that valley is named, Depression. For others, it’s name is Fear or it’s evil cousin, named Anxiety. For others, the name is vague, but it’s reality is just as real as the others. Not all of my stories, are of a dark consequence, some are inspiring and some are quite humorous.

No matter how dark the storms we face, or how black the night may become, the light of the new day, will always shine through in the end.
Walk with me in this brief moment of the vapor of life we share together. Let us be friends. For no man in his right mind, desires to be alone, but to share what gifts God has bestowed upon him, with others.
I am your friend, Dante.