It has been about a year and a half since that fateful day when I got the first letter from Mark Hamilton. I remember the envelope with its red and blue edging. I had a very warm feeling about that day, like my life was going to change and would never be the same again. I saw a show one time where a person who had purchased a winning lottery ticket felt the exact same thing that day they bought it. I can only describe it as a knowing… a feeling of certainty that was very quiet inside me, yet very strong at the same time. It absolutely would accept no argument from me, and I didn’t mind because I liked that feeling. It made me feel peaceful and made me feel happy, and I hadn’t had much of that…..
I guess I can say I always knew I was different. I also knew at some very intrinsic level that it would do me no good to try and “fit in” because I would never be able to pull it off anyway. I was a sensitive, serious kid and there were times where I just couldn’t think very well, times where I was very embarrassed. I was always the underachiever, the one whose parents always got called for conferences with the teachers because there was “something wrong” with him. I was an easy target for the other kids to pick on. My six-year-old solution, which was to have far-reaching consequences, was to withdraw from people. I got very good at building walls and not bridges. But I did not see what this would do to me. While others my age were out socializing, learning how to handle themselves in those situations and learning how to deal with emotions, I was not. I fought depression a lot, and it only makes sense in retrospect because I was badly warping myself. I left myself no means to cope when, in my senior year of high school, a young lady took an interest in me. It lasted just long enough to wipe out my defenses and bring back all the emotions I had buried. I had always struggled with depression and was teetering anyway, and this finished me off. I could not cope. I was going to take my life but instead
saw that I needed to make some major changes if I was going to be able to cope with life enough to continue living. I allowed myself to be admitted to a psych ward, where I cried buckets of tears. I was there for three weeks and had to drop a class so I could graduate.
Having survived childhood, I now went to college. I didn’t really want to go; I had discovered popular music and figured I would not need a college degree to do that.
But my mother came from a family of college professors and there was absolutely no way I was not going. So I went to a state school for music. I learned a lot there and a lot about life, a lot of things that the classes did not teach but my experiences did. It was a bittersweet time. I survived a couple of near-death experiences and the survivor guilt that came with them, as just a year earlier I had planned to die and end my life. I misread right-brain messages and became religious – devoutly so. I think if you are going to say you believe something, walk your talk. Don’t sit on the fence – either you are or you aren’t “whatever it is”. I still believe that. Be COMMITTED to whatever it is you are doing. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I finished college in three years. While I was there I had started writing songs. I
was 21 and had a mission to tell people what I had learned: It doesn’t matter how far down you are, you can always come back if you want to badly enough. What might my life have been if I wasn’t duped by mysticism? But I was and so I lost a couple more decades living altruistically to a fault, doing the safe and expected things, putting my mission aside again and again for others. I married and divorced twice. My memory and my health collapsed. I was broken and had to go back into therapy again. It would be oversimplifying to say I had a mid-life crisis, but that was part of it. I had expended myself for others to where I had never taken care of myself, had given up my dreams more than once, was not living them or anything close to a life I wanted to live and it took its inevitable toll.
I learned much in therapy that would seem like common sense to many of you, but for me was very deep and profound. I also found that I have a different brain chemistry than most, and so I have chemical depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and seasonal affective disorder. After finding that out, a lot of my life made much more sense. I always had to expend so much energy to get up from my “down” to everybody else’s “normal”, so I had to expend a lot more effort to get the results someone with a normal brain chemistry would. There were plenty of times where I just couldn’t do it. The ADD is like an on-again, off-again disability. When it hits, you just can’t think. You can’t realize or see anything, let alone the essence to what is. There are times where I will sit down to do something I have done many times before and can’t remember how to do it. I have to wait till the episode passes and try it again. There is no way it could not have drastically affected my life, and it did – and some of my choices made it much, much worse.
I believe the reason why things are the way they are is just as important as the
result. I believe the reason why something gets done is just as important as
whether it gets done or not. So I have chosen to write this testimonial this way. But
now I had the letter from Mark. What was I going to do?
I obviously took it and followed up, getting everything he offered. It was very tough to do for me, as I was in very dire straits. I was living with my mom for a few months, having been caught unprepared by the end of a marriage to someone who was once my best friend. But in both cases I had married someone too hurt to be in a relationship. Now I would have to make sure I took care of myself to make sure that description did not also apply to me. But my health continued to break down after all the stress and hurt I had suffered. One night my dinner did not agree with me.
The pain got to where I couldn’t take it. I gave up fighting and managed to drive
myself to the hospital.
Thus began a six-week odyssey of not being able to do much at all, with pain killers so strong I could not drive. I tried to keep working but couldn’t. The procedures I was going through were as bad as the original malady itself. I was having kidney problems – stones and another issue they thought was congenital. I eventually had to have surgery. I would have to be put under, so I prepared a last will and testament that I had my mom and a friend of hers sign. It was a very poignant day for me, that day before surgery, but it turned out OK.
Shortly after the surgery I moved out into a place with a roommate at first, but then he decided to move out. I had nowhere else to go, had a lot of debt from the divorce and was rationing my food. I was on unemployment as I lost my job. It was a very dark time. I was grateful to be able to read Mark’s writings, as they made a lot of sense. But with my brain chemistry, I had never been able to see things very clearly. I had missed many opportunities in life. How was I going to apply this?
How was I going to figure out how?
Times were very dark. I lost my insurance and had to wean myself off of the
antidepressant medications I had been prescribed. I was so frustrated. I was
completely alone. Only all I had learned from my experiences kept me from giving
up, giving in and checking out. In the midst of this – being hungry, not knowing if I would be able to hold on to my place, so depressed and frustrated and hurt I was really not becoming someone either of us would like – I got a book in the mail which turned out to be the Miss Annabelle story. I do not believe in the religious concept of God any more – I found organized religion to be based on appearance when push came to shove, and that trumps doing right – but I do believe there is something else out there. Mark’s description of the Zons and the power of consciousness explains what it is without all the circular reasoning that you have to indulge in to believe in religion. I think that was in tune to me and so it came to be that at this time, when things were so bad in my life and I had been so hurt and weakened by it, I got this story.
I expect most if not all of you reading these lines have read that story. Because it describes a world that could be if all of what the Society stands for comes to pass, it is a beautiful story of overcoming all kinds of trials and heartaches and spitefulness and malice… a world where ultimately love and joy and peace and happiness and having all these things forever – plus someone to celebrate that with – become the norm. Now imagine reading this if your heart had been broken, if you felt betrayed by much of what you held to be true, if you were not sure if you would have a place to live or if you would have something to eat…. if you were struggling to keep going
long enough to see if maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel that you
could get to. How do you think you would react to it then?
I had gotten a glimmer of hope here and there from Mark’s apprenticeship meetings and I kept going. But this was something else entirely. I will confess I cried a lot when I read it. I was pulling for the characters and what they were going for and the whole story touched me in a way that I did not feel so alone any more.
Life eventually got a little better. I got hired back by an accountant I had worked for previously. I started working on a business, getting an entity set up and registered with my state and taking classes and being mentored to develop a web site so I
could make my living for myself eventually and get the freedom from someone
else’s schedule that I had felt was the biggest impediment to reaching my dreams. I started writing songs again. I kept ordering whatever Mark offered me and kept reading. But how my mind works with the brain chemistry I have would still be a problem I would have to surmount, somehow….
One day I got an e-mail – great, exciting news! The Neothink summit was going to be held in Chicago. I was being given some vacation time by my employer and it looked like I would have just enough money to be able to go. Initially I thought, sure! But then I started to think about it some more. Was I really up for this? I would be going there myself to meet a bunch of people I had never met before. I had no idea what to expect. I don’t really do so well in social situations…. What if this turned out to be just another disappointment? I went back and forth. It was an unknown, social, SCARY thing for me. But I made the reservation.
I remember the day I was supposed to go. Should I or shouldn’t I? Would I or
wouldn’t I? It was so hard to pack. I got some music I liked and headed out the
I used to drive as a courier in a past career so the drive wasn’t a problem; nor was finding the hotel. I got to my room and made out some little slips with my name and contact information if someone wanted them. Then – although I still had mixed feelings about going – I found out where the summit was taking place and walked there.
I will spare you a description of the summit as it has been described before. I can only tell you it had been a real struggle for me to get myself there. It did not disappoint at all; in fact, it was hard to leave. I met some wonderful people and many doors ended opening up for me that I don’t think would have otherwise. I think going there and meeting everyone did two things: when I called in on the calls that I had learned about, the person I was talking to could say in their mind, “oh, THAT guy”, and I think that made a huge difference; and I think it showed that I was serious. Regardless of whether I am right or not, I was making some of the calls now and people were reaching out to me, helping me to get past the ADD that hamstrung me as far as being able to become a self-leader and put into practice all I had been reading. I had met Steve Fagan and Charlie Moore at the summit; both reached out to me in different ways – Steve by allowing his company’s resources to be used to help me and Charlie by becoming my life coach.
The stress and grief and pain I had gone through were receding deeper into the
past. My mind was getting better. I had had a co-worker at me for a time for me to tell him when I was playing out again because he wanted to hear me play. I don’t know why, but he kept after me. Of course, I put it off. How could I get up in front of an audience and play if I couldn’t remember the songs? But that did not satisfy my co-worker, who had a cafe with an open mic night that he went to.
Finally, I said to myself, OK – I’m gonna do it. I told my co-worker who came with his wife. Yes, I was there, too, with my guitar, about to put my memory to the test. But any performer will tell you that it’s murder just before you go up there. But I went. I did forget the words at one point but was able to improvise. But the main thing was that I did it and got through it. It was a comeback for me, which I continue to do, and I told Steve and Charlie about it on the Powers Call. It seemed to make an impression because they graciously had me describe a vision of what performing would be like if I had “made it” one week and then had me give a testimonial the next. I was frank about my failings and spoke from the heart. It is easier for me to speak to a group rather than one-on-one, but I still was not prepared for what happened next. They kept me on for the whole call and had the other callers speak to me and me to them. I was vey deeply touched by how my story affected them. It was what I had in mind to do – to positively touch others’ lives – when I first got out of the psych ward at 18.
That was yesterday. I wish I could say I have retired my job and cut the last of the chains the anticivilization held me down with and kept me from my dreams. But there have been some hold-ups with the web site and I am not to that point yet. But I am working on it and am very grateful to have gotten help that for me with my different brain chemistry is indispensable to my being able to actualize the literature and actually become that self-leader. I was asked by Steve LaValley to send him some recordings I had made. I dusted off the recordings I had made with ProTools about two years ago, got them converted into a format where he could hear them and got those off to him yesterday as well. I am incredibly grateful to have come into contact with something honest – Neotech/Neothink – that is what it says it is – and now I am actually being able to help and return a good turn, and I do believe one good turn deserves another. Yes, I have a burning desire to progress and cut the last chains, but I am on the way, and the doors that are beginning to
open for me are just the beginning. To be able to give back to something that has helped me is very humbling and it touches me deeply.
I am loath to close this, as the story is ongoing. But I can tell you that I continue to work and continue to work toward my goals. I can also tell you that I made a promise to myself that I was going to make it this time or die trying, but I was never going back to living without my dreams again, or doing the safe or expected thing.
Oddly enough, not long after I made that promise was when I got Mark’s first letter.
I will close this with two quotes I have shared on the Powers Call.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man
stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit
belongs to the man who is actually in the arena – whose face is marred with sweat, and dust, and blood; who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, from an essay titled, “In the Arena”
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you’re doomed if you don’t try.” –
Anonymous sign, but some of the best advice I ever got We have all heard that the saddest words in the English language are, “what could have been”. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to make every effort to make our dreams come to pass and fully realize our Friday Night Essences… and o help others to get there too.