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Nothing is brighter than a failing star.

One day there, the next day gone.

Morning light swallowed by the night.

Evening light never sees the morning sight.

But even a falling star is not alone.

See us all? How we all fall?

Impossible to see past our own self.

We are never alone, there is always help.

-Opinionated Man

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@smokendust

Hoping to Die

There was a time in my life when the land was covered in darkness. It did not matter what time of the day it was there was simply no light. I walked the world a ghost and prayed to any god that would listen that he or she would simply end it for me. I wanted to die. I wrote the below poem in remembrance of that time of weakness.

And there they lay. The tools of the day. A razor, a pile of pills, and a bottle of Tanqueray.

I have stared in the mirror for hours. All have gone to bed. With each tear has come resolve. We may as well end it all. I hate you. With a hand I gulp the pills, the bottle is already near. I gulp death’s companion. And to the left are the backup dancers.

A letter to someone… I hope… anyone?

Never there is a reply. I say this aloud now as the razor cuts once, twice, thrice… and as the ice cold water washes away my sight. I feel life fleeing from my nearing empty vessel. And suddenly a wrongness, a surrender of an opportunity? I do not know.

And as the light flees the coming darkness, all I can do is embrace the growing warmth.

People fail to realize that there is depression and there is suicidal. To me suicidal is the point you reach when you just don’t care. You could give a shit less about heaven or hell, they are one and the same because your life has become a living hell. It doesn’t matter how many “do gooders” speak soft words in your direction, you only see darkness.

I remember well that time still to this day. The feeling of that night, sitting online and telling a few “close online friends” that I just didn’t care. That it was time to see what the next page brought. I remember a feeling of finality when I shut down my mother’s computer. My steps were almost light as I walked slowly upstairs. Neither asleep, nor really awake… I walked like a man in a daze to my bathroom. I starred at myself in the mirror for what seems like hours and in those precious minutes I decided I was ready to die. I made that choice. I took those pills and I drank that bottle to the head and I remember smiling. Because finally I didn’t feel so cold anymore. The warmth of death was my friend that night and I was ready to receive him.

It changes you… that type of experience. It is nothing to brag about and many might feel ashamed of that type of weakness. To feel ashamed of being human is a shame in itself. I was human that night, but I am lucky my humanity failed to die.

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

@smokendust

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Final Post – My Adoption Story: Depression and the Devil

Man’s greatest triumphs can sometimes be found during his most difficult times of adversity.

This is my new saying when I reflect upon the “Dark Ages” of my life and my deepest days of depression. I am often not a praying man, which is odd considering my father is a priest and a doctor, and I don’t consider praying in times of need and praying to win the lottery as being a “praying man.”

I feel comfortable talking about my dark ages now, perhaps it is the mask of my pseudonym that gives me courage; but no, it is actually because I have moved on to greener pastures. My dark ages were a product of finding my birth mother at the age of 18. This came about in the most innocent of ways, in the form of a senior graduating gift from my adopted parents, my real parents in my eyes, a gift of adventure and excitement. It was a trip to Korea with a group of other adoptees from Holt International Adoption agency. I could never have dreamed prior to that trip, a trip I packed for with such excitement and enthusiasm, that it would be a trip that would usher in my darkest days. Granted, I had an acceptable childhood (no childhood is perfect), I had already struggled with demons of race and depression. I never considered that those demons would be small compared to the Devil I was about to encounter.

I really won’t get into the specifics of the trip unless someone asks or I am inspired to do so at a later date. Needless to say, since I have already provided the window to view it through, this trip was awful. I had been provided my adoption package by my adopted parents at an earlier time so I “thought” I was prepared for this trip. I “thought” there would be no surprises. I was wrong, depressingly wrong.

I found the information about my birth mother and my blood sister in Busan, South Korea, in a pathetic orphanage that I don’t even remember the name of. I have never liked hospitals or orphanages and I now knew why. No one, unless you are also adopted, can understand the pain that is brought when you are faced with the reality that you were not wanted. Add to this the pain that your mother decided one sibling was less trouble than you would be, and what you have is a maelstrom of emotions, regret, and anger. My storm could have killed me, it almost did.

When I returned I immediately went to college. A time that was supposed to be filled with excitement and growth, was instead filled with depression, anger, weed, and alcohol. I filled my time finding things to fill my “hole.” It did not help; it only delayed the sorrow and pain that I had to face eventually. When I dropped out of college after three and a half years the only welcoming I really wanted was a grave. Failure had become a part of me and it evidently had originated when I was left on that lonely street in Busan, South Korea in 1983.

I become a drunk. At 23 years old I was a first class alcoholic. I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s book “Medium Raw,” and part of my inspiration for writing this comes from him. The other part comes from my loving wife and my two wonderful children, all three of whom I continually feel that I do not deserve but I am forever thankful that I have. So thank you Anthony for the courage to speak or rather to write.

I remember, vaguely of course, stopping every day at Joe’s liquor store and buying a daily pint of the rawest whisky I could find, I believe it cost around $3 dollars a pint, and feeling like the drunks I had always despised I would begin to guzzle it on my short ride home. Before you judge, YES I know this was highly stupid of me and irresponsible, but who can ever say they were responsible while being depressed and drunk? If you know anyone that can make that claim I can in the same breath claim that bastard is a liar. Alcohol was my friend, my confidant, and his name didn’t matter whether it originated in Mexico, America, or hell even some African country. It didn’t matter as long as it felt good touching my lips.

It was late; I would say 3 am, when I saw him. He was not what I expected and I really can’t be sure if it was him or if he just gave me a glimpse of what I would see if I ever really met HIM. I was drunk; I think Braveheart was playing in the background. I was in the upstairs of my parent’s house, yes at age 23 I was living at home again another dagger to my heart, and I felt a presence at my door. In my childhood my father used to have the (then) annoying habit of standing behind us and watching our TV show with us. I never thought about it then, but looking back, he just wanted to be with us even if we did not particularly, at age 15, want him there. This presence was not a comforting one; I felt the hair on my arms stand. I saw a man, it was a man, but he was a shadow of a man at the same time. He looked at me and something awakened in me, it was fear. I had never been so afraid in my life. Keeping in mind that alcohol and weed are the nectar of the gods and that with those coursing through my veins I had thought myself fearless. I was mistaken. With one look the Devil showed me my humanity and all I could think was that I desperately wanted to live. I cried and shut my eyes and when I opened them he was gone. I still to this day do not know if I was dreaming, I really doubt it.

Fear can drive a man crazy, but it can also drive a man to life. I look back on that day and I realize that fear had kicked my ass back into gear. Today I am content. People ask me if I am “happy” all the time, I don’t think like that anymore. I look upon my life with my wife and my daughters and I realize… sometimes being content is enough.

Jason C. Cushman

-OM

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Depression Settles at the Bottom

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I don’t view depression as waves, at least not for me. My depression feels like white flakes in a snow globe and are activated when something shakes me to my core. I become the center and the space around me becomes my world, a world I cannot see. While blinded I feel my swinging mood aiming for me like a gauntlet and I am the fool that has entered into it blind. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot escape.

It has been 17 years since I found out about my birth mom and my sister. It has been 12 years since I tried to kill myself the first time. It has been 9 years  since I found happiness again. Through those transitions I have relearned my depression. Through those years I have grown to accept it and myself.

People always want to fix things. Fix your smile so it looks just right, fix your attitude so it fits your new smile, and while we are at it let’s fix your past so you can finally move on. Depression? Take these meds, a few more pills. Lay back down on this couch… aren’t you comfortable yet? Tell me about your problems so I can tell you why they aren’t really issues. Let me know all your concerns so I can explain how you created them. Men and women in white coats scribbling your life away in a second. Trying to find the answers when we don’t even know the question.

Depression settles at the bottom. It never goes away. It never “finally leaves.” When happiness slams the door who is the first to notice and peep their head from waiting closet? Who knows just the right words to whisper in your ear so that you question the answers you once had?

Feelings come like a shaking sun and all you can do is stand there in your crystal prison and wait.

Waiting for depression to settle once more.

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

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A Book of Triggers – By: Jason C. Cushman

If I were to imagine a book of life it would best be described as a book of triggers. For what is life other than a slowly revealed circle of need, want, and more need? My book of triggers has always been my journals that I have kept throughout my life. Triggering thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the moment laid to permanent rest by drifting pen. At rest, but never sleeping, they are active memories that swim before my eyes even still as I read my life from dried ink. Is there a point when life can finally be accepted and we see a trigger no more. No, I think not.

I have lived my life balanced on the knife’s edge of emotion. Being far too sensitive as a child, I carried much of that pain because of my inability to ignore pain. To ignore the barbs of life that found welcoming flesh every time within my body. Within my soul. Is there an MRI for the soul and what would the picture of mine look like? I imagine my soul is much like me. We would not appreciate the eye of such scrutiny or the nakedness of such honesty. We would instead turn in upon ourselves, as we have always done, seeking the shell that God never blessed us with.

I write my triggers because I recognize they exist. They are as real as the scars that mark my skin. Denial is a luxury I cannot afford anymore and maybe never could. After my first suicide attempt I realized that I very much hold the ability to deny. I could ignore the sun until it burned my face. Actually that is an apt analogy considering I still remember the burn of bile coming up my throat as my body fought desperately to live. I do not take credit for such actions. A white flag of acceptance hovered above my falling body during this point of my life. Falling for I had indeed fallen to the moment. There was never a clearer time in my life as my body fought to live through my stupidity and that is ironic still to this day. To me the sadness that fact brings is the largest trigger of all.

We cannot live our lives cringing from the sound of every trigger we step on. Instead that sound should become like music to our ears as the cacophony of reality impresses upon us the reality of our conquest. We are taught now to ignore triggers and to steer clear of even the subject. In our politically correct society we are forced to forewarn people that “trigger warning” the words written here might actually mean something to you. Might actually affect you in some way.

When I look over my shoulder I do not see a past presented by picturesque Monet created pathways. Instead I am assaulted by the rawness of Memphis city streets alive with the power of memory. A painting littered with forgotten words and stained with pain born tears. A painting of reality is what my past presents and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wake up to a trigger each morning. A Korean face looks back at me in the mirror and no matter how many times I splash myself with cold water, still the same slanted eye, half smile appears. It must be me. It has to be me. And yet that introduces the second trigger of my story, the power of acceptance. To accept what does not feel right, to be forced to be who you don’t think you are. Who cannot relate to such a feeling for differing reasons? The world is a melting pot of such forced persuasions as we are each told who we are and what we were meant to be.

I think the saddest part about my first two triggers is that they were decided for me. They were part of a path connected by an action one cold morning in Busan, South Korea. A morning when a mother decided she no longer wished to be a mother and in doing so she placed around my neck a necklace that did not hold a locket of love. Instead it held a golden trigger upon which was written a name. A meaningless name which was never to be used. A name that I sometimes wish I was. Ahn Soo Jin.

It is amazing how much meaning a name can have and yet not have at the same time. I suppose much of that has to do with acceptance of what that name truly means. We are given words to mark us as singular in an overcrowded world that will rarely see you as an individual. Who does that name mean more to? To an adopted child a “given name” is simply another tab in our adoption file. Particularly if that child is Asian and adopted into the United States because most of us are forced to have our names changed. Our “given name” becomes an amusing item of memory that we sometimes fondle late at night as we look to the East.

My Korean name is more than just a trigger because my birth mother gave it to me. I am constantly reminded of the holes in my past when Koreans shake their heads and exclaim “that is a girl’s name!” So we can at least pinpoint where my love of alcohol came from. She had to be drunk to name this Adonis of a man a woman’s name. What was she thinking? Did the orphanage mix up my sister’s name with my own? Dominoes of life fall with a clatter as the inevitable line of questions rattles off in my head. I cannot stop them. I allow them all to fall and run their course. Stopping this line of thought simply bookmarks my pain for a later time of contemplation. I rip off quickly the band aid of life to get it over with.

I have long since placed my Korean past in the closet it belongs. It is only revisited when society tells me I should reflect on certain days with happiness… such as mother’s day. People often say that Christmas is the worst time of the year for them and that depression always seems to rear its head during that holiday. For me mother’s day is the most depressing of all holidays. My depression no longer “rears” his head when he hears of this joyous annual occurrence. Instead he grumbles and mumbles. Only the attentive can make out the words he repeats over and over. “Fuck mother’s day.”

I do have an appreciation for mothers and fathers and I have my adopted parents to thank for that. They were great role models, provided for me, and even more importantly were supportive during my adoptive search. They never once tried to hinder what must have seemed like an inevitable train wreck and neither did they belittle me with advice on a topic they had no experience with. That is something many adopted kids forget is that there is no guide for their new parents and mistakes will be made. The love and compassion though that it takes for someone to take a stranger, even a child, into their home is immeasurable.

As I have grown into my new role as a dad I have found moments of pause. Times where I wonder about the man I will never know, nor have any desire to meet. Whenever I walk into a doctor’s office and fill out the family history survey with a large N/A I sometimes catch my eyes rolling… as much as Asian eyes roll. I wonder how many times I will have to explain my own confusion and lack of answers to the world. When entering the military I had to be cleared for my Tops Secret clearance for the Air Force. I remember my mom telling me that the investigators were at their house and kept asking about my birth mom. One of the agents said “well we will need to speak to her. How can we be sure he is really South Korean?” My mother responded “well when you find her tell her that her son says hello.”

Growing up the only Asian idol I had was Bruce Lee and unfortunately I really didn’t start liking him until college. I instantly connected with his struggle to prove to his own country his worth and how that drove him so hard through his movie career. I wonder if other displaced children have day dreams where they return in triumph to the homeland that rejected them. Maybe they return as the adopted child of the President or they become the next Korean boy band sensation. Instead we live in a reality that never fully accepts us and we in turn never fully accept it. Living life between two shadows of want is a sad way to live.

~**~

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

Blogging – Battling Doubt

I spent a week away from my blog… well technically that is a lie. I am never “away” from my website, but I did force myself not to post. I spent a ton of time reading blogs and blogger thoughts. Of course after a week of doing that I have a few things to say to anyone that wishes to listen.

I get so tired of reading post after post of negativity about blogging. It isn’t the median either that is being attacked, it is the idea of success. Now I am no salesman and this is not a pitch to get you to buy my ebook if one existed (by the way buy my ebook). I honestly get annoyed as shit when I read bloggers writing about how “there are so many blogs out there that it is impossible to be noticed.” It is indeed impossible to be noticed with such a crappy attitude. The same people probably “expect” every follower of theirs to read every post they publish. It doesn’t work that way people and I repeat this often.

I view my website as a success because I have met my goals for it. MY GOALS, that is the key phrase here because I do not enslave myself to other people’s visions of success. For every person that spreads doubt and tries to tell you that your blog will never be successful ask yourself this, what has that person ever done in their life? Are they Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg? If not tell those people to shut the fuck up! Literally look them in the eye and say “you don’t have a damn clue what you are talking about. Shut the fuck up!”

I am not the most knowledgeable blogger by far, but I own what I know. I believe in what I do or I wouldn’t be wasting my damn time. Do any of you have any clue how many people have told me my blog is a waste of time? That the views and subscriber number mean jack shit. Even when I hit my goal of a million views through hard ass work I was told “so what? What have you achieved?” You see there are three types of people in this world to me. The “doubters” that feel their purpose in life is to shatter dreams of others. Then you have the “dreamers” that dream up amazing shit that never actually happens because of one reason or another. Lastly you have the “doers” and guess what we doers do? We fucking do.

What type of person will you be?

-Opinionated Man