Thoughts and Questions About Suicide and Depression: Part 2

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In case you missed Part 1, here it is. 

My response to my friend:

I have finally gotten some time to reply to your last reply. Instead of trying to make excuses about how busy I have been, I’ll spare you the sob story and just dive right into responding.

First, I am so sorry you have to deal with all this. I wish I could take this pain and struggle away from you so you can enjoy your life. I am thankful, though, that you were willing to reach out to me. I feel honored, really, that you chose me to talk to and I sincerely hope our talking makes a difference.

I don’t know how many yet, but I have a few favors to ask of you throughout this process. By favors, I’m mainly going to be asking you to shift your thought patterns ever-so-slightly to see if it makes any difference. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with you—I love you right where you’re at and just the way you are—I’m simply going to offer a different perspective perhaps. By the way, if I make some assumptions about your thought processes and I’m wrong, I apologize. Just disregard what doesn’t suit you and try to use what does.

My first favor to ask of you is this: would it be possible to shift your thinking from judgment to curiosity? My assumption is you have a constant recording playing in your mind on repeat that is full of judgment. Over and over again you’re telling yourself you’re unworthy, not good enough, a failure, etc. This continuous judgment goes on day after day and it comes in many voices (some you may recognize and some you may not).

The reason why this is my number one favor I’m asking of you is because I believe curiosity was the biggest thing that helped me. I’ll explain how: I decided to go on a journey to figure myself out. I obviously had been telling myself a story about my experience up to that point. I carried around so much judgment of myself, of family and friends, of everything really. It wasn’t until I truly was curious that I slowly sensed some relief.

I’ve heard it said we can only connect the dots of our lives by looking backwards. In order to do this, we have to give ourselves permission to be curious and then stubbornly give ourselves self-love throughout the process. I believe that going on a journey of the heart that is full of curiosity and free from judgment takes boatloads of courage. It’s a journey that requires vulnerability because we may have memories we would rather leave in the past.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself often about your thinking: Am I being curious or am I being judgmental?

Just the initial question, “I wonder what that’s about,” instantly shifts your perspective from judgment to curiosity.  Think of it this way; your son throws a temper tantrum and your gut instinct is judgment (“he shouldn’t be acting that way!”). But instead of judgment you try being curious (“I wonder what he’s going through right now? What could he be struggling with?”). Can you see how the two different perspectives make a huge difference? One way is sharp, cold, and dismissive while the other is warm and caring.

I use a child in the example because most times we are dealing with our own inner child. Even though we are all grown up and expected to act like adults, our inner child is the one driving the bus most days of our adult life. Offer your inner child the same amount of curiosity and warmth and I promise you she will start to offer you warmth and kindness back. As much as possible, turn down the volume of your judgment and turn up the volume of your curiosity.

I believe your statement in your short response about feeling very alone and completely irretrievably broken is a wonderful place to start being curious. I think it’s wonderful and beautiful that you’re willing to be open and honest about your story.  And, trust me; your story has so much hope and power behind it. I understand you have been working through real deep matters of shame, abandonment, heartbreak, blame, abuse, forgiveness, resentment, and many more I’m sure.

You may not feel strong, but the reality is you are amazing and strong. You have endured a past that most couldn’t comprehend and yet you’re still here, still trying, still putting one foot in front of the other. Is it easy? No! Is it perfect? No! Is it understandable that you’re struggling? Absolutely!

So please, my number one favor I’m asking of you is that you move away from judgment and move towards curiosity.

Along with being curious, and along the same lines of losing the judgment, I’m wondering if you could increase the dosage of empathy and compassion you give yourself every day. You have done the best you can! You have endured so much and have come so far. Offer yourself the same empathy and compassion you may give to a child who comes to you in need. You may struggle to see your own worth. Give yourself empathy and compassion. I know, I know, easier said than done. But can you see how it all starts with moving away from judgment?

You have done the first hard reality-check. You have taken account of your situation and it’s not a good place to be in. But here’s the thing, at least you can better orient yourself now that you know where you are. You have done the brave thing; you risked being vulnerable and told someone that life isn’t perfect and you’re sick of it. What a beautifully brave thing to do!
I’m not sure why, but there’s something written in our DNA that wants us to be happy and healthy. We are born perfect and whole and then our conditioning and upbringing causes us pain and heartache. We are constantly trying to get back to that place of perfection. You instinctively reached out to me because deep down you know things aren’t right. You also have a tiny glimmer of hope that things can get better. Trust this instinct you have. Stay curious about it. How did it get there? Where does it come from?

One last favor and I’ll leave you alone (for now). Can you please not give up? Can you trust me enough to believe me when I say you ARE worth it?!? I would be a complete fool to try and explain why life allowed the pain you experienced over the years. I don’t have the first clue why these things happen to some and not to others. But the main reason I don’t want you to give up is because I’m eager to understand why you have endured all you have. Only you can find a purpose and a meaning behind your pain. Only you can rewrite the story of your life from one of tragedy to a story of triumph. Only you can share your authentic story with others and create a better world for those who have endured similar heartache as you have. Only you can take away the judgment and shame you hear in your head every day and shift it to genuine curiosity and eventually loving acceptance. Only you can offer all these insights about yourself to me. I am intrigued and I am interested to hear what your curiosity discovers. So please don’t give up and know that even though you may feel alone at times, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

I’m eager to hear back from you and I hope you have a great rest of your week!

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My friend’s response back to me:

I like what you wrote. I do believe questioning, trying to understand instead of just seeing the surface is MUCH more beneficial.

That being said, the truth is, I don’t blame or judge myself for where I am. And I have asked myself many questions, and it’s actually in finding the answers to those questions that I’ve gotten angry. I’m angry at my past, and I’m angry at the people who have damaged me.

And I ask myself, why did it have to happen to ME?

Why was I born to such a shitty mother?

And why did I have to get a shitty replacement mother?

I know I deserved so much better and there was nothing I did that made that happen. I care deeper, try harder, and understand more clearly than most people in this world, and yet here I am. There are millions and millions of people who have such a better quality life even though they don’t deserve it at all! Even some of the shittiest of the shitty have awesome lives.

I know it doesn’t help me at all to compare, but it’s VERY hard not to notice. And I know it’s because of the shitty people in my life that I struggle so much with depression. If I didn’t have to deal with this god awful depression, I would be so much further in my life. So it ends up making me angry.

But I also know my life could be so much worse. I know I could have been born in a third world country or in a country where women are treated as property, I know I could have been born with a truly severe handicap and so could have my children. And knowing that does help me a little bit…. I guess I’m just mainly frustrated at knowing how much potential I have and yet because of the depression, I haven’t even come close to reaching it. But also knowing I do have potential does give me hope for a better life once the depression subsides. I do have some hope. But it seems like every time I get close to a chance at reaching my potential, depression rears its ugly head once again and flings me back to where I was. It’s extremely frustrating!

I will say though, I am very thankful for my potential. I realize many people really don’t have much, and It’s knowing that I actually do that has kept me from giving up. I know the only thing that has stopped me so far is the depression and I remind myself of that often.
I also try to tell myself that every shitty thing I’ve been through helps me to understand and have compassion for others who struggle and it will eventually help me be stronger which will actually add to my potential.

I know I sound like I’m going back and forth between being angry and being understanding, but I guess that’s exactly what the depression is. It’s my damaged brain arguing with my inner self. I just somehow have to make sure that my inner self keeps winning the argument against my brain!

And then, a half hour later my friend replied again….

If you didn’t notice, the first half of what I wrote was written in anger. The second half was written in realizing that my life really isn’t that bad and it’s because I’m depressed that I think so negatively.

So thank you. Responding to you helped me see that. Actually seeing my thoughts written out helps me make sense of them more. 😀

As our conversation continues to unfold, I hope to add more. I’m so excited for the “aha moment” my friend had.

What a wonderful reminder for us all; by putting our thoughts on paper we can sort through them and make great strides in our self-discovery.

Give it a try!

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If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone! Reaching out can make all the difference.

Peace my Friends!

~Travis

Thoughts and Questions About Suicide and Depresssion: Part 1

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The following is a dialogue I am having with a friend over the past few weeks.  The dialogue is ongoing and I will post more as it unfolds.  I am choosing to post this now because I believe it is an important discussion to be had by more than just two of us.  My friend will remain anonymous and their portion will be posted in italics.  In case you’re wondering, it is being shared with their permission.

Depression is very serious.  We all struggle with various levels of depression or other mental health issues from time to time.  It’s an important discussion and I hope by posting this you can see you’re not alone.

 

I’m fighting to keep up in this game I’ve been forced to be a part of. Why?

Do I have to keep playing?

Is it all an illusion, something I am only experiencing in my mind?

What happens if I stop playing along?

Do I get to move on to the next level?

Is there a next level?

Or am I just fighting for nothing?

If I keep fighting, will I eventually win?

What kind of outcome is there if I do win?

What is the purpose of this game?

Does anyone win?

Or is that an illusion too?

I did not choose to be a part of this game.

It seems futile, pointless.

A lot of times I’m told I should keep playing for the sake of my children, but then I think if I can’t see the purpose of all this, what is it I’m doing for my children?

My children have been thrown into this game they did not choose to be a part of either.

Are my children here for me, or am I here for my children?

Why is it that life of any kind (from ants to fish to plants) fights to survive?

Why are we told we have to survive?

If, for some, life is mostly just a negative experience isn’t it selfish of others to force those who are miserable to continue living in misery?

Why can’t those who are miserable just be allowed to quit this pointless game called life?

As has happened to every form of life preceding us, we are all going to end up dying eventually, so why should I prolong the inevitable if it’s not a good experience?

I’m merely just a grain of sand on the beach of mankind that will not change the beach at all if it isn’t there.

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Wow!

Simply wow!

These are all beautiful questions and I’m beyond thankful you sent them to me.  I understand when you wrote these questions you had no intention of sharing them with anyone so you may feel a slight touch of embarrassment.  Please don’t.  I can’t convince you to feel one way or another but I hope by sharing these questions with me it brings you relief instead of embarrassment.

I’ll start with your question, “Do I have to keep playing?”  No, honestly you do not have to keep playing this game you’ve been forced to be a part of.  You can quit at any time.  How might you quit?  You could end your life (which is the question I think you’re asking here).  I hear reservation in your questions about ending your life, though.  I sense if you really wanted to you would have successfully done that already.  What I really hear in your questions is a longing for more.  You want more out of this life and your experience but you’re desperately tired of the way it’s going so far.  I get it!

Depression sucks!  There’s no way to sugarcoat it.  Depression takes over your brain and leaves you in the dark with no hope that tomorrow will be any better than today.  When we hold the conviction that tomorrow won’t be any better than today our depression turns into despair.

I want you to know, I have been there.  I have walked the dark tunnel of depression and blindly felt my way along the cold rough walls of despair.  People would be surprised to know I struggled for several years with depression.  I had so many of the same questions you wrote.  It almost felt like you tore a page from one of my old journals.

The fact that you are even asking these questions gives me great hope for your future!  There are so many people who feel the same way you do but never verbalize it or even admit it to themselves.  Sure, they may not openly contemplate suicide, but they are dead nonetheless.  How many people do you know who have simply just “checked out” of life?  They are just going through the motions from one miserable day to the next without any hope of a brighter future so they turn to booze, drugs, porn, entertainment, exercise, or religion.

The questions you’re asking are common to every man and woman on the planet.  We all find ourselves left on this planet with no owner’s manual.  We have no clear reason why we’re here.  Man has attempted to make sense of his existence since the beginning of time.  We make up stories and rituals and dogmas to help us feel better but they still don’t take away our anxiety.

Finding meaning and purpose is solely an inside job.  It’s one we must strive to discover for ourselves.  And by ourselves I’m not saying we have to do it alone.  Nothing about finding meaning and purpose for ourselves is meant to be lonely.

But that brings up an assumption on my part:  I sense you are lonely.  I sense you are lonely because you have been handed a belief system that doesn’t work for you.  You have been handed a script that you are supposed to act out in the big screenplay of life.  The only problem is you don’t really like the script you’ve been handed.  You have been forced to wear a mask that doesn’t suit you.  You have been told to believe there was an exact way the screenplay began and an exact way the screenplay will end and your part is already set in stone so you might as well accept it.  I assure you, this is bullshit.

Those who have shoved their well-meaning certainties down your throat are themselves not wholly convinced deep down.  If they truly are certain, with no doubt or no questions, then they’re either ignorant or deluded.  Like I said, man has tried to make sense of his existence since the beginning of time and mass movements have surfaced all throughout history to help make sense of it all.  We must remember, though, a delusion shared by millions still does not make it true.

Sorry, I digress.

Back to some of your great questions.  “Is it all an illusion, something I am only experiencing in my mind?”  Yes and no.  Most of what you choose to believe about yourself and others is definitely an illusion.  Let me explain by asking some questions:  Where do your thoughts come from?  Who (or what) places your thoughts inside your head?  Is it mandatory that you believe each and every thought that comes floating along into your head from who-knows-where?  These are important questions because I want you to grasp something.

Your brain is an organ inside your body that is simply doing its job.  Your heart pumps blood; your lungs inhale/exhale air; your eyes see; your ears hear; your brain thinks.

If my eyes are for seeing and my ears are for hearing than why should I be surprised when my brain is for braining?

Do we judge our eyes for what they see?

Do we judge our ears for what they hear?

Your heart pumps blood through your body nonstop—pump after pump after pump. Your brain pumps out thoughts one after the other—thought after thought after thought after thought.

We assume because these bad thoughts are coming from inside our head, then we must be bad.  Here’s what we fail to realize: We have a choice whether to believe our thoughts or not.  We have a constant story going on inside our heads and our thoughts either confirm or deny this story.  So we believe the thoughts that agree with our story and we throw out the thoughts that disagree with our story. But what if we changed the story we believed about ourselves?  Wouldn’t that change the thoughts that we choose to believe?  I think it would.

If you had a difficult past (which I believe you have), then there are very deep fundamental questions that I’m certain you wrestle with on a daily basis.  I don’t have the first clue why hardships fall relentlessly on some people more than they do on others.  I assume there comes a point where you begin to ask yourself why life isn’t fair.  I totally understand.

I’m aware of your growing discomfort with the worldview you were raised in.  I’ve been there and done that.  We have been told that if we would just turn to the proper religion and believe the right thoughts then all our problems will be sorted out.  I don’t know about you, but I see countless “religious” people who have just as many hardships as the nonreligious.  And interestingly enough, the well-meaning religious person attempts to sell you their version of truth much the same way a used car salesman tries to sell you his Honda Accord.  The following is a paragraph from Erich Fromm out of his book Psychoanalysis and Religion:

Man’s problem is we cling to the belief that we are happy.  But as life plays itself out we are faced with contradictions.  So religion has been man’s search for security in an unsecure world.  The question is not whether man returns to religion and believes in God but whether he lives love and thinks truth.  Religion is dangerous because it prohibits critical thinking.  Prohibiting critical thinking impedes the power of reason.  Religion threatens reason, the reduction of human suffering, and morality. The norms and ideals to believe in are: Love, Truth, and Freedom.

I recently read in an Alan Watts book that “objecting to pain is pain.”  This reminded me of all the Byron Katie books I’ve read and videos I’ve watched of her on YouTube.  She talks about how anytime we want something other than reality we create hell for ourselves.  It seems way too simple and almost unbelievable, but if we can shift our thinking to accept our current reality the hell will evaporate right before our eyes.  As a homework assignment, look her up on YouTube and watch the people who are obviously in their own personal hell at the beginning.  Immediately their stress is lifted the minute they change their thinking.  It’s totally crazy but I see it working in my own life now that I pay closer attention to my thoughts.  I’m excited to hear what you think about her videos.

I’m guessing something: simply the process of having an open conversation about your depression and your struggles has already made a difference.  When I was going through my darkest days, one of the only things that made a significant difference was having a nonjudgmental friend available to hear my raw unfiltered emotions pour out of me (similar to your questions above).  There is a mysterious power that is unleashed during our vulnerability.  I can’t really explain how or why this happens but the more vulnerable I was, the less heaviness I felt surrounding my depression.

I have so much more I would like to say but I will bring this to a close in case I am boring you to death.  But one last thought: Even though you may not be able to currently see the astonishment of who you are and the beauty this life has to offer, I want to reassure you it’s there.  You are amazing!  You are a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable individual who puts a smile on every face you encounter (especially mine)!

I promise you there are brighter days ahead.  You are not alone. And we will get through this together!  I’m honored to share life with you and I consider myself the lucky one to have you as a friend.

~Travis J.

 

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I have a long response I wrote right away, but never really finished because my depression got such a tight grip on me. I also just wrote a short response today. You can use, edit whatever you want.


My short response:

Ok, so where does this leave me? Yes, I do feel very lonely and completely, irretrievably broken. Life doesn’t care if you’re whole or broken; it still keeps going and going. I don’t feel I have all the right pieces to keep up. I’m struggling for something I don’t even see a point in. Everyday I’m at war with myself trying to figure out why I still keep fighting for something I will never win.


My long, unfinished response:

It does help a lot to know you’ve been in this dark place too. People who haven’t seem to have no understanding at all why I feel this way and that I must be choosing to feel this way. But I’m certainly not choosing this. Who would?! It’s a horrible place that no one would choose to be in.


I do realize I don’t have to keep playing this game, but I can’t help worry what would happen if I did choose to quit, mainly to my children. And I don’t necessarily mean that quitting would be ending my life, although that’s definitely the easiest way to quit. I sometimes fantasize about running away to the wilderness or to a deserted island, somewhere far from people and society where this game isn’t being played and I can just enjoy the beauty and wonder of life. I guess I feel like this “game” is something people, or society, have created. And this game takes away the meaning and enjoyment of life. And if you don’t have the right pieces to play a strong game, then it’s a miserable game and you lose. What makes it even worse is if you look like you have the right pieces, people think you’re just not trying hard enough and look down on you even more for not keeping up your game. I have a strong healthy body, higher than average intelligence, and I even have decent looks. I look like I have all the pieces, but I don’t. None of those physical pieces matter because my emotional pieces are missing or have been broken. Maybe I was born without some, but most of the pieces have actually been broken by those who were supposed to love me. It leaves me feeling very handicapped, like I no longer have what I need to win, and I just want to quit.


And Yes, you’re right. I do feel very lonely, painfully lonely. Some of the loneliness isn’t by choice, but some of it is. You see, after those people who were supposed to love me broke my pieces, I got too scared to allow anyone else to love me. I learned from my past experiences, anyone who does “love” me will eventually break what’s left of my now very fragile pieces. I’m already losing as it is, I can’t afford to lose anymore pieces! But I also know I’m not strong enough on my own. So again, I just want to quit.


I’ve never really looked to religion to find a purpose or the meaning of life, because religion doesn’t make the least bit of sense. Churches teach that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. If he is, then why would he create a person who will exist for just a blip in time, with the ability to think, wonder, and ask questions only to send them to eternal hell if they don’t believe without question? Since he’s all-knowing, he knew they weren’t going to believe before he even created them, didn’t he? That question alone was enough for me to stop believing in religion.


So where does this leave me? I’m stuck fighting to keep up in this game, a game I see no purpose in, one that I don’t have all the right pieces to play and make it.

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Wow!  Your response was again so beautifully written!! I’m simply in awe of your writing!  You really have a gift and I have loved this exchange with you so much!!!!!!  I’ll be responding soon.

 

OK, friends, this is one of many ongoing discussions I’m having recently.  I hope by sharing this it will help and give you the courage to reach out if you are struggling.  Much love!

More to come.

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

 

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Love Actually IS All Around

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Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the Arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy. But it’s always there.
Fathers and sons.
Mothers and daughters.
Husbands and wives.
Boyfriends.
Girlfriends.
Old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were messages of love.
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that love actually …. IS …. all around.

Love Actually

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It’s Valentine’s Day. The day in February that men and singles have grown to despise. The day when we’re supposed to shower our significant other with gifts and love.

I have held the opinion a long time that holidays are barely any different than any other day of the year. My sometimes grumpy scrooge self says they are all man-made holidays meant to push the economy forward. But the more thought I gave to these holidays, the more I began to see their significance.

We are all creatures of habit. Our brains are hardwired to create—and keep—the same daily habits day after day after day. Eventually we can basically sleepwalk through our lives without even so much as a speedbump until something comes along and jolts us out of our slumber.

Holidays help do exactly that. They help us remember what we so easily forget.

Valentine’s Day is all about love. I can’t imagine anyone having any objections to remembering the love they have in their life. Not just one single love, but ALL the love they are surrounded by.

Sure, our society portrays Valentine’s Day as a “couple’s” holiday. I get that. But to me it’s so much more.

When I am jolted out of sleepwalking through my daily routine, otherwise known as my life, I take a few minutes to reflect about what really matters to me. Instantly, without a doubt my mind turns to my children. Their lives fill my heart with more pride than anything else on this earth. Sure, they’re teenagers and they have different ideas than I do sometimes. But truth be told, I learn just as much from them as they do from me. They each possess so much wisdom and a deep knowing more than they realize.

When I think about Valentine’s Day and when I think about love, there is so much that comes flooding into my mind. I have literally been walking around throughout the day pondering what love is to me.  When I think about love, I think about ……

…… Sharing this adventure of life with my wife. We have both been learning and growing so much over the years. I’m blessed to be married to a partner who isn’t afraid of the growing pains.

…… My parents who just celebrated their 50th Anniversary last August. I could sit and listen to their stories for hours of all the crazy, amazing, funny, sad, silly, emotional events they have been a part of over the years.

…… My friends Owen and Cara. To me, their love and their lives are a perfect example of what love truly is. Sure, their lives are full of many ups and downs. But the one constant that never waivers in their large home is the presence of love. No matter what life throws at them, love actually IS all around them.

…… My amazing Aunt who recently lost her husband. She may not realize it, but she is one of my heroes in life. Her vulnerability and bravery has been something that helped shape the man I am today. Every single time I have visited with her over the years, she quickly bypassed the surface talk and spoke to me straight from her heart. She loves deeply and shares honestly.

…… My friend Joanne who always loves me unconditionally and offers me so much wisdom. Our friendship is full of so much mutual admiration and respect. We love to co-create together and our hearts are always refreshed every chance we have to connect.

…… My nephew and his husband. These two beautiful souls continue to show me year after year that love knows no color or gender. Love is love is love. It’s breathtaking to witness and I’m honored to be a part of their lives.

…… My “extra” siblings I was blessed with since a young age. Bob and Robin have been a constant in my life since I was just a kid. They continue to show me love and support as if I was their relative by blood. And Jenny became the little sister I never had. Even though we haven’t kept in touch as often as we’d like over the miles and the years, we are both deeply affected today by the close bond we have always shared.

…… Several of my close friends who have been enduring different struggles. They are the brave ones. They trusted me with their struggles and were vulnerable about what they were going through. Vulnerability is the soil where genuine love can grow between friends.

…… Myself. You may laugh, but many people struggle with themselves. I am truly blessed to have established a wonderful relationship with myself. I spent several years pushing through an ugly depression (and we all know the high price that depression makes some people pay). Thankfully for me the heavy cloud lifted and now I continue to find ways to amaze myself and live in awe every day.

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So, it’s Valentine’s Day. Whether you have someone to call your valentine or not, I hope today can serve as a reminder to you of all the love you have in your life.

If you have a Valentine, show them your love.  But also ponder on all the other love in your life as well.

If you’re single, think about all the people you’re surrounded by and, if you look, you will see that love actually …. IS …. all around.

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

 

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