Cowbell, and even more cowbell makes everything better. Don’t believe me, just try it. Once you start letting cowbell into your life, it will begin to seep into every aspect and before you know it, everywhere you turn, you will see and hear the beauty of the cowbell. It is versatile, easy to carry anywhere and is extremely cheap. Heck, in many cases, cowbell is free so you will have no concerns when you give it away. The song of cowbell can turn the darkest of hearts bright again. It can even change the world, one note at a time, if you let it. Cowbell was, is and always will be unconditional when you give it to others and that will help creat the magic.
Okay, in all seriousness, I havent fallen off my rocker. I’m not in some crazy medicated state that I am seeing rainbows and unicorns dancing around. Although, many people who don’t believe it or are afraid of it will say I am. Heck, I fully suspect that some might find this post full of shit and not want anything to do with my Blog anymore. The idea of cowbell is so radical that the hardcore Tackleberries (Police Academy reference to the hardcore cops who know every piece of tactical equipment around) out there will refuse to accept it as a real possibility in the journey of PTSD. All I can say is that to those people, all I can do is offer them more cowbell so that maybe they will come around.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, yes cowbell is a metaphor. But for what you ask? Well, continue to read on.
I mentioned a few posts back that I was planning a post on a topic that has become near and dear to me, particularly after my time at Project Trauma Support. And, here we are now, on the verge of the post that I believe is the foundation to helping ourselves and others as we navigate through PTSD on our way to Growth. It is so simple yet it is so hard to grasp and live by because we were trained away from it all our lives, particularly as military and first responders. But, here it is, cowbell equals Unconditional LOVE.
Now, let’s get a few things sorted out before I continue. I am not referring to the love for a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, dad, child, sibling, pet or anything or anyone that we would commonly say “I love you” to. No, I am talking about a very different type of love, one that we as a society have moved away from over the course of many generations and a root cause to a lot of the issues we face daily in our lives. The love I am talking about is the love that you show, express and offer to anyone, anything and everyone you come into contact with in your journey through life. And, no, I am not suggesting that people should be going around say I love you to every stranger they come across, because that is not the concept of unconditional love.
Unconditional love is simply acceptance and happiness, to others and most importantly ourselves. That’s it, that’s all. It’s not a concept of true love, lust, admiration, trust, caring or whatever other act you can think of. It is an acceptance of who we or the other person is, flaws and all and an unbridled desire to provide happiness to ourselves and others. And here is the important part, unconditional love is given without a desire or need to receive anything back.
How does this fit in with PTSD you ask?
Well, lets start with ourselves. For many with PTSD, there is a lot of shame, guilt, embarrassment, self hate / loathing and anger which we project onto ourselves. You know what I mean, those “How could I have let this happen?”, “Why didn’t I do more?”, “What was I thinking?”. But, what do you think would happen if instead of beating ourselves up we simply said, “I did the best I could” , “I did what I could do” or even “I survived”. Then take that one step further and accept that reality as oppose to the negative narrative. What happens is that you begin to open yourself up to accepting yourself, which in turn will lead to you allowing yourself to feel happiness. Seeing how happiness and acceptance are the two cornerstones of unconditional love, without any effort to get there, you are knocking at the door to it.
Before we can heal and move forward, we first have to look within. We need to understand that no matter what happened, at some point, we had no control over what transpired. And, it is okay that we had no control because in life, sometimes shit just happens. By accepting that, we just opened the door to our personal healing and more importantly to allowing ourselves to love ourselves unconditionally. It means accepting all the faults we have, all the positives we bring with us and to begin letting go of the pain, anger, hurt, guilt and shame that we are all carrying.
For me, that meant accepting that I was not responsible for the death of the newborn, nor was anyone else in the hospital room. I had to understand that there was nothing that could have possibly been done to save the baby by the medical personnel or myself. It was going to happen regardless because sometimes, fucked up shitty things happen and you have no control over them. It took 12 years of holding on to the guilt, shame and anger for me to accept this and open myself up to loving myself once again, regardless of what I did or didn’t do in the hospital. It was when I opened myself up to accepting this that the magic of unconditional love of myself began to take hold.
Once we get to that point ourselves, we can start opening up and giving unconditional love to others. I think that this is best understood through the use of a simple example. Next time you go for coffee and you are next in line, approach the cashier / barista with a big smile. Read the name tag, use the person’s name and speak in an upbeat tone. Say please and thank you and when your done, say “I hope you have an awesome day today.” That’s it and yes, it is that simply. You have no idea what that other person has going on for them, whether they were just shit on by another customer or if they are struggling emotionally and like you, simply trying to put on a happy face so that you don’t have to explain what is going on to anyone. But, in that simply interaction where you were polite,and humanized the interaction, you might have made things that much better, for them and you.
I suppose another way to look at it is to call it compassion. Regardless of what you call it, compassion, unconditional love, etc, the results are the same in the end. It makes you and others feel better. And no, it’s not easy sometimes. There are more than a few times that I would have preferred reached out and touched someone with a back hand or not interacted at all but this is life and sometimes, life isn’t easy. But, I keep on trying because I like the feeling I get from it. It’s like a drug, releasing endorphins in my brain.
It is hard to approach situations from a higher level and not get dragged down into the negative. It happens all the time and more than once a day I catch myself sliding down too. But, sometimes you just have to remember a simple phrase to help turn it around.
More Love, Less Judgement.
Try it, just for the hell of it.