Facing Down Fears in the Journey Through Life

The Cherokee Parable of Two Wolves

“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man said. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

The grandfather looked at the grandson and went on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”

The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”

Fear

In me, this first wolf represents fear. The list of negative perceptions combines to form fear inside me. Fear of changing the life that I have been living over the last 25 or so years. The life that I was taught to live, not the life that I’m drawn to live. I strive for freedom from the 9-5 and have always yearned to be released from this man-made system. Yet, my fear of failure grows larger the older I get. As I sit in anguish every evening, knowing I can do it, that damn evil wolf steps in front of me with teeth showing, growling, hair raised along the ridge of his back. I succumb to his hostile advances and toss him a slab of raw meat to appease him.

What Is the Raw Meat?

This morning on my walk, I analyzed what exactly is the raw meat I feed him. I feed him my false sense of pride, my ego, false sense of superiority. Everything listed in the parable, I feed him. I’ve never given those characteristics any credence in myself. I view those only to be found in evil people. But I realized they exist in myself as well this morning. Now that’s been recognized; maybe I should quit feeding that wolf so much and nurture the good one.

Look Beyond the Evil Wolf

Behind the evil wolf stands the good wolf. He’s hungry too. How do you go about feeding him? That evil wolf is always right there in front of the gate, ready to gobble up any food you toss in there. You must open the gate and confront him. See, the evil wolf is fear, so if you walk towards him, he will still show signs of aggression, but he’ll back up as far as possible because he is scared. There is the chance he’ll lash out, but only out of fear. You take that hit and keep moving forward, and he’ll keep backing up. Then place the food in front of the good wolf, who the evil wolf fears. Eventually, that evil wolf will begin to fear you and stay out of your way as you go into feed the good wolf. He’ll still try you. That’s what he does.

That All Sounds Simple Enough

I know it sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. I think about many personal accomplishments I’ve made over the years for encouragement. Like quitting smoking, losing 30lbs, getting my SCUBA certification, to even purchasing my property, all those were scary things that I looked right in the eye and overcame. Making the change in my life to be freed from the chains of my 9-5 may be the scariest of them, but it’s becoming a priority for me. When we begin to prioritize things, it slowly breaks the fear of them down.

Vulnerability and The Comfort Zone

I have always been a dreamer. I have always had a massive imagination that seemed to have no boundaries. From the time I was a toddler laying in front of the television racing my matchbox cars through the southwest deserts of the United States while hearing Dan Rather’s voice faintly in the background reporting the evening news to my parents, to now, a middle-aged man who imagines himself every afternoon at my daily status meeting looking at every person in the room and saying, “You know what? I’ve had enough of this bullshit. I’m out. Later.” I really do that a lot hear lately as my boss goes around the room asking questions about this and that. Then I snap back into reality. Give him the report on my department. Gather up my stuff and walk back down to my office. I ask myself this evening as I go into a long holiday weekend, “What keeps me there?” I answer myself back with, “Fear.” Fear is a dream killer and imagination smasher.

The Comfort Zone

Many Americans have a fear of stepping outside of their comfort Zone. It’s kind of like their home. They made it the way they want it. It’s cozy and warm. You view your home as safe, right. The difference between your home and your comfort zone is this; if you walk out into your yard, dig a hole in the ground, slap a flower down in there, give it water on a regular basis that flower will grow. In your comfort zone nothing grows. It’s a dead zone. Inhabited by spirits of your past that hold you prisoner in there, so you don’t outgrow them and leave them behind. They use their fear to control you. They make it your fear.

Conventional Wisdom

This fear is taught to us by our mentors, teachers, and parents. They don’t realize they are doing it. They are just teaching the younger generation what they have been taught. Let’s look at it like this. Take Little Johnny laying on the floor playing with his matchbox cars, imagining them racing through the desert, then his mother gets up from Dan Rather’s evening report and comes over in the middle of this intense, nose to nose race and just stomps down on top of the matchbox cars. Then nonchalantly walks on into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee like nothing happens. That would be messed up. Some would even interpret it as child abuse. Now take a child with a dream of say being an artist. Then toss him into our current education system where this dream is viewed as inferior and eventually the child is swayed into getting an education in a field that has been deemed as successful by society. Don’t you think that’s kind of the same thing.

Missing Your Calling

As a product of this education system my dreams and imagination were never nourished and dried up. My parents thought I should’ve gone to college like my brothers, but college wasn’t for me. That’s why I went into the military. That was fun and nurtured my imagination and dreams. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve pursued a career in music and everyone in my life would have shit a brick. I look back now and hold that as one of my biggest regrets — not pursuing that path. I’m not bitter about it. I mainly just wonder if I could’ve made it. Not like a huge rock star, just an average musician making a living doing something he loves.

A song I recorded a few years back with some friends. I laid this drum track down totally unmetered. That’s without a click or metronome to gauge my tempo

Vulnerability

I wrote this piece to just put it out there and feel that vulnerability. To get that feeling of relief that it’s out there you know. So many people guard that stuff, and it festers in them while they sit in their comfort zone. If you noticed I used fester, not grow to describe the feeling while in your comfort zone. Growth is a positive gain. When something festers it’s painful, inflamed and usually slows you down. That stuff must be tossed out. And maybe many who read this will toss it out as they exit their comfort zone.

I love this quote

Global Reef Bleaching Events

Johnny L Brewer

In 1983 the first coral bleaching was observed during a strong El Niño. The first worldwide coral bleaching event occurred in 1998, and then again in 2010. The period between 2014 and 2017 was the most prolonged and widespread bleaching event ever recorded. It resulted in the death of approximately two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

What causes these bleaching events is the rising temperatures of the ocean brought on by climate change. Rising temperatures put the coral under high amounts of stress, causing it to expel algae, its food. This occurrence leaves the coral vulnerable to disease, stunts growth, affects reproduction, and can result in death.

The world has lost half of its reefs in the last 30 years. This continued loss of coral reef systems worldwide could have a significant negative impact on sea life. For millions of peoples worldwide…

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Negativity Is A Virus We should Protect Ourselves Against

Memorial Day week of 2018, my wife and I went on vacation to Washington D.C. D.C is a place that I had always wanted to see, ever since listening to the stories my mother told me as a child of her youth in the city. We took an overnight train from Savannah, GA., to D.C. and arrived late in the afternoon on that Saturday before Memorial Day. As we walked through Union Station, D.C., it felt like I was in a dream. From Union Station, we walked to our hotel room which was a block from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Our walk took us directly across the Capitol Building grounds, exposing the view straight down the National Mall displaying the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the distance. We got to our room, threw our bags down, and shot straight out to the Mall to take in the sights early that evening. It was just flat-out amazing to me. For the next four days, we walked all over the Mall. On Memorial Day, we walked from Arlington National Cemetery to The Library of Congress. The entire length of The Mall. On that Memorial Day, I laid a rose on JFK’s grave. I Listened to taps in Arlington National Cemetery while watching artillery guns shoot a 21-gun salute to our nation’s fallen. Saw the Presidential motorcade and capped the day off being invited into the Library of Congress main reading chamber, which was only open to the public two days of that year.

Arlington National Cemetery
The Capitol Building
Library of Congress Main Reading Room

I Did It All Completely Unplugged

I spent this entire vacation unplugged. My cellphone stayed cut off in my backpack the whole time. I had no camera. I had a Facebook account at the time. I never checked it while there and never posted anything while there. My wife took all the photos on her phone. This journey was akin to a spiritual pilgrimage to me, and I wanted to take it all in undisturbed and undistracted. After our return to Georgia, I reluctantly powered my phone back up. But for the following eight months or so, I never got back on Facebook. There was just something nice about not looking at it. Finally, for one reason or another, I wound up logging into my account one day, and right off the rip, all I saw was negativity. It was nasty political posts, and just woe is me, people. I opened my settings, found where to delete the account, and deleted it. I’ve been off Facebook ever since.

Post-Deletion

After removing that looming cloud of doom from my life, I began to consume entirely too much cable news. My watching habits weren’t politically driven either. I watched all the cable news shows on every cable news network. I began watching them in the evening like many people may watch evening sit-coms and network programming. As I watched the evening coverage on January 6th, 2021, the Capital riots, I could feel the rage consuming me. Flipping station to station, all I see are images of these reprehensible, immoral, and politically corrupt people storming a building that I see as sacred. I decided this is enough; these cable news networks love this; this is money to them. All they want is to pander to negativity and enrage the masses; that was it. I turned away from cable news as I had from Facebook due to so much negativity. Now I only consume from my local news and the network evening news. Where I was consuming cable news on the television, I’ve replaced that time with, The Andy Griffith Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Life is so much more pleasant now.

The Andy Griffith Show
Wheel of Fortune
Jeopardy

Negativity Is A Virus

I’ve come to realize some things after detoxifying from these two mediums of information. Negativity gets inside you and festers like a virus. If all you are putting in is negative information, you begin to view the world through a negative lens. Your interactions with people become less appreciated. You begin to view people cynically. Your outlook on life becomes terrible. Every little thing bothers you, and you wind up angry about things that aren’t that important. It’s anger that has been programmed into you by a media company. It’s not even your anger.

How Can We Protect Against This Virus?

I want to say, first off, it’s okay to be angry about something. Anger is a natural human emotion. But be angry when someone has wronged you, not when Sean Hannity or Don Lemon have sensationalized some story for ratings—money. Don’t get mad because some Russian hacker has posted the most unbelievable political story in the world on Facebook, which in turn someone may have tweeted. That’s letting someone else or some other entity control your emotions. No one likes to lose control of anything in their life. Now that’s something to be angry about; there are people out there who expect you to believe things and be mad about them mindlessly. Negativity is time-consuming; it’s tiring. It’s like a job. It consumes you. Life is so much better to look at through an optimistic lens; maybe if we all tried harder to filter out so much harmful content consumption making the world a better place for all wouldn’t be such a daunting task.

A Life Well Lived

This evening while watching the evening news, I noticed my neighbor pulling down her driveway and pulling up to the front of the house. She’s not precisely my neighbor. The place next to me is her second property, her little local lake house. She’s an elderly lady, and as I watched her pull down there, a feeling of somberness just washed over me. In the past, she and her husband would go there to watch sunsets over the pond in our backyard. He just recently passed away, and this was the first evening she’s been out there since his passing. It was just heavy watching her walk around the property alone.

Sunset in my backyard

They seemed to be a happy elderly couple. They’d always stop and ask me how my son was doing in Hawaii. They’d talk to Buddy, my dog, through the fence; he reminded me of Elmer Fudd in the way he dressed. He always wore a red and black flannel shirt, khaki pants, and a hunting hat like Elmer Fudd. He was 81 when he passed. She’s a long-retired schoolteacher and acts and dresses like the sweet old lady that would be a retired schoolteacher. They were pleasant to talk to and were still deeply in love after all these years together.

I hope that I get to live the long, happy life that those two have. It’d be nice if 40 years from now, my wife and I could go sit down by the pond together. Hold hands in a swing, and reminisce about the older couple next door who used to do the same thing while watching the sunset. I could exit this world in peace if I could spend my final evenings like that.

Where the Hortons would sit and watch the sunsets

So, this evening this blog post is for Mr. & Mrs. Horton for giving me an example of a life well lived.

My Pets Make Me A Better Human

When I was a child, we had family pets. We had a yellow-headed Amazonian parrot named Pepe. A German Shepard named Caesar and an old cat that took up at the house we named Mama Cat. At the age of 14, my mother passed away. My grown siblings got the animals, and I went to live with my father. There weren’t any animals at my father’s. It was all work and no play. That’s probably why he died when he was 42. So, from 14 to 35, I didn’t have any pets around. That’s kind of sad when you think about it. That all changed when I bought my house.

Molly the Cat

Back in 2012, I bought my house. At the time of purchase, I didn’t realize that a cat was coming with the house. When we went to move in, we found this little, maybe around 6th-month-old kitten, hanging around under the carport. She was very shy, and it took her a few days to warm up to us, but after a few days, she became a part of the family. My wife named her Molly. Molly has been hanging out under the carport ever since. We let her come in the house, but she’ll only hang out for a little bit, and then she’s at the door crying, wanting to go back out. Since she prefers the outside, we built her a cathouse on a table. It’s small enough for her to get in and stay warm on cool nights. The walls are insulated. On cold nights, like anything below 40, we make her come inside. She’ll protest for a bit, but then she’ll claim her spot at the foot of our bed.

Molly

Buddy the Dog

After we were here for a couple of years, when my son was about 12 or 13, he came to me wanting a dog. At first, I was like, “No!”, but my wife and him teamed up on me, so we got a dog. My son named him, Buddy. He’s a mixture of a feist and a springer spaniel. He’s a very smart dog and picks up on things quickly. He doesn’t like Canadian geese in the backyard, and his mortal enemy is a squirrel. Well, being that I was so adamantly against the dog, he and I wound up spending a lot of time bonding. That’s how it goes, you know, the father is solidly against the dog, but once the dog is there, he takes ownership of it. Buddy is my best friend after my wife. I look forward to coming home and walking through the gate to see him coming up the driveway to greet me.

Buddy
Buddy and Molly hanging out in the sun

Grace the Dog

My wife got Grace out of a terrible situation. She was chained up to a stake in the middle of someone’s yard and only had a plastic pet carrier as a house. Her owners were such terrible people that when my wife finally got them to give her to her, their only concern was keeping the chain. When we got her, she was severely malnourished, wormy, and unsocialized. We have taken up a lot of time with her getting her to be a good dog. And when I say we, I mean my wife, myself, and Buddy. She didn’t even know how to interact with other dogs. She had been chained up in that yard by herself since she was a puppy. She was a little over a year old when we got her. Buddy took up time with her. He showed her how to act and play. He showed her what to do with a ball. Now all she wants to do is catch the ball. I mean all she wants to do.

Grace

Floyd the Cat

I found Floyd in the middle of the street on my way home from work one day. She was a little kitten. She had just started walking and was maybe 6 weeks old. Cars were straddling her approaching the stoplight. I stopped in the middle of traffic, got out, and scooped her up. When I got her home, she was a dirty little cat. I washed her in the sink. I introduced her to Buddy and Grace. You could see the love in Grace’s eyes for her. She immediately took her in as her cat/puppy. Grace would put her in the crate with her and even let her nurse on her for a bit. Now Floyd is a little psycho and not a normal cat. She doesn’t like a lot of attention and will let you know it with a quick swat. The only thing she’ll let love on her and not react angrily to is Grace. If Floyd comes up and rubs on you, there is a bit of fear that comes with it, because you don’t know where this is going.

Floyd. Floyd’s a female cat, by the way
Mother and Daughter

Taking Care of Another Species

Nothing brings out your humanity more than taking care of another species. Having these pets makes me realize what I missed out on for the 20 years that I didn’t have one. I feel it makes me a better person having a bond with Buddy, Grace, Molly, and Floyd. To me, they are part of my family. They are my children that never grow up and leave the house. It makes me happy to be able to take care of them. And it makes me happy that they choose to be there for me without judgment or any of the other things that come with dealing with people.

The Fall of the Gasoline Commuter

Johnny L Brewer

I’ve had many discussions with friends, family, and fellow employees about the future of gasoline operated vehicles as of late. Many believe they aren’t going anywhere. I feel it’s way past time for society to make the transition to electric everyday commuter vehicles. The only reason these vehicles are still in mass production is the amount of lobbying the oil companies do to continue to make the profits they are making. Oil is a technology of the past. Continuing to pursue pathways in the oil industry is like using dial-up internet in a metropolitan area.

With advancements in technology, soon, the everyday gas-burning commuter vehicle will become obsolete. There will still be uses for gas-burning machinery in an industrial application. But this limited use will lessen the impact of greenhouse gases on our world. Think about the early days of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, when everybody was issued a…

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My First Round of Vaccination

I’ve written before about my experience with the COVID-19 virus. After having the virus, I decided not to be in a big rush to get the vaccine, being that I had already been exposed to the virus, and some people hadn’t been exposed and needed it before myself. I drive past one of those mass vaccination sites daily. It’s just up the road from my house. Sunday morning, I was in my local Wal-Mart, and they announced if anyone wanted the vaccine, they were giving them out free at the pharmacy, So I eased on over there and got my first round of the Moderna vaccine.


The Convenience of Getting Vaccinated
Giving it in Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, or any place like that is so much more convenient. I’m there, and a lot of the time, I wind up just mindlessly walking around and looking at stuff I’m not going to buy. Another thing is that it’s not quite as intimidating either as the mass vaccination site I ride by every day. Honestly, that place looks like something you’d see in a movie like Contagion with Matt Damon or Outbreak. The Dustin Hoffman movie back in the 90s where the little monkey brought Ebola to the U.S.

Nothing Spreads Like Fear. They got that right years ahead of time
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com
I loved this movie as a kid


Vaccine Hesitancy
I live in deep-red Trump country. I mean deep-red, like the crimson fires of hell, deep-red Trump country. As you can imagine, there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy here. Many of my friends swear they will not get it. I told a couple of them yesterday that I got it, and they looked at me as if I had just said to them that I had just shot up a boatload of heroin. The FDA unapproved nature of the vaccine doesn’t bother me. I was in the Army in the late 90s when the government was shooting all the soldiers up with an unapproved anthrax vaccination that didn’t even keep you from getting anthrax. It just slowed the effects of it down so you could stay on the battlefield longer. My two friends were quick to spout off the lines they pick up on certain news shows they tend to watch that may try to discredit the science of it all. But to myself, I wonder this, while they spout them off as slight, faint, echoing voices in my head. Both believed the science when they hurt their backs. Both trusted the doctors who did their back surgeries. Both trusted the pain killers they took that their doctors prescribed to them, that every evening I see advertised while watching the evening news. Have you ever listened to the side effects they rattle off real fast at the end of those commercials? That’s just my observation of the whole thing.

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Photo by Danya Gutan on Pexels.com


Taking It for The Team
I don’t care who takes the vaccine or who doesn’t. That’s your choice. You get that because you live in this country. I feel I have to make sure other people can be safe around me. I’m wired that way. I joined the Army to do real Army shit, as I wrote in a previous piece. As a young kid, I thought that was to tear ass around and blow shit up. As an adult and no longer in the Army, I realize a soldier’s job is to serve and protect the Constitution of this country. The Constitution was written to protect the people. I’m wired to serve. That’s why I joined the Army. That’s why I take a vacation from work on election days and go work for my county’s election board and make sure that everybody who comes gets their chance to vote. And I guess that’s why I felt the need to get the COVID vaccination.

Storytelling: Appreciation of The Oral Transfer of History

As a child, I wasn’t much of a reader. My four other siblings were readers; I remember them being enveloped in books all the time. We had bookshelves full of books at the house. I just never had the patience to fall deep into a book. That’s why as an adult, I find it strange that I find solace in communicating through the written word. It’s therapeutic to me to get my thoughts out of my head. That way, I have room for more racing thoughts. What I do enjoy is a good story to be told to me. There is something about listening to someone else’s experience, being told to you, in their voice that brings me great comfort and joy.

Transfer of Oral History

Oral history is a technique for generating and preserving original, historically interesting information— primary source material—from personal recollections through planned recorded interviews. This method of interviewing is used to preserve the voices, memories, and perspectives of people in history. But before recording technology, these stories were passed down from generation to generation by community elders, parents, and people sharing their experiences with others. You see, a common practice early in our civilized world was to keep the masses uneducated, so the educated could tell them what to believe. Thus, many people were unable to read and write. Therefore, history was preserved by oral storytelling.

How I love To Be Told A Good Story

I used to love to hear the stories of my mother’s youth. She grew up in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. Her best friend in high school was Cass Elliott of The Mamas and Papas. When I was real young, she’d show me pictures of them and let me listen to records. The first time I was properly freaked out by watching The Exorcist, she told me she used to walk that stone staircase Father Karras threw himself down on an almost daily basis. I was told stories of how she attended Martin Luther King Jr’s famous I Have A Dream speech. Along with many other impressive stories of her youth in the city, I think she realized early on that I was more into hearing a story than I was reading one.

Street corner at Georgetown, DC, USA. image taken from google images

A drawing of this street corner was framed and hung over the fire place mantle in the living room of my childhood home in Georgia. My mother’s way of remembering home.

The Exorcist stairway. Don’t it still look creepy? image taken from google images

Others’ Experiences

As I grew into a young adult, I still appreciated the stories of other peoples’ experiences. When I was in the Army, my NCOs would tell me stories about their experiences in the first Gulf War, Somalia, and such. One older guy I met while deployed, a Marine, told me about being at the barracks bombing in Beirut. I was blown away by that story. That’s one of the first news stories I remember seeing on television as a child. Another person I met was part of the story of Blackhawk Down. His story blew me away also.

Marine Corps. Barracks Bombing, Beirut 1983 image from google images
The Battle of Mogadishu-Blackhawk helicopter wreckage image taken from google images

 I’ve enjoyed the stories of the guys I’ve played music with; I find it interesting the narratives of their stories in the context of the region of the country they come from. I’ve played with guys who come from the northeast region who have worked with a lot of the thrash and glam metal bands that came out in the 80s. A lot of the guys I’ve played with from the southeast region tell me of their experiences of working with REM, The B-52s, and Collective Soul. Then when you get to your older guys, they talk of experiences with The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Brown, and Little Richard.

Two of the most influential bands to me as a child

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 01: Photo of ANTHRAX; Joey Belladonna is in the middle (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
The Allman Brothers Band

Appreciation of A Good Story

I feel when someone tells you their story, they are trying to include you in their experience. To me, that’s an honor. Every story told to me, either by my mother or some dude I met filling in for a band in some venue in Palm Bay, Florida, has been a jewel. They are all valued possessions to me. If you never gave it much consideration, the next time someone tells you of an experience, dig deeper into it; imagine it from their perspective. Listen to the excitement or sorrow in their voice and feel their feelings. Just appreciate them for being human.

Urban Oil Drilling and Neighborhood Refineries

Johnny L Brewer

I live on the east coast of the United States in a rural area. In this area, mineral companies mine for kaolin, a white clay. These mines are located out in the woods, nowhere near a neighborhood. The other night I was browsing the internet and found a story on urban oil drilling rigs. I thought to myself, “That’s insane.” After a lot of investigating, I found this practice to be very prevalent in southern California. Los Angeles has the largest concentration of urban oilfields in the country. It’s not only drilled right in the middle of neighborhoods but also refined there as well. People can walk out of their house and look one way to see a drilling rig pumping crude oil out of the ground; then the other way to see the refinery that turns the crude oil into gasoline.

image taken from google images

Over…

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