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Thursday, April 24, 2014

What’s the Fastest Way to Help Someone?



A dear friend of mine has been struggling for nearly ten years with his employment situation as well as his overall outlook on life. I had always known what his problem was, and tried to tell him on numerous occasions but my words fell on deaf ears. We would argue and so I gave up on helping. I love my friend and it pained me to see him so unhappy with his life.

But recently I figured out that the problem was not my message but the delivery. I learned that the fastest way to help someone involves two components
  1. Learn to speak their language—This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to learn Italian or Cantonese. Learn how they like to be spoken to. Do they: respond well to analogies, dislike politics, get turned on by spirituality, have a laid back quality about them, etc. If you don’t know how to speak their language because they’re a stranger, then look and listen for clues. What are they asking for? What do they like to talk about? Ask questions. 
  2. Give them the space to figure out the problem on their own—As a species, we like to solve and fix problems. At times, we even like to jump in and try to solve other people’s problems—sometimes unsolicitedly so. Because no two brains are the same, people work out problems differently—even if the end result is the same. As a child you were given Lincoln Logs or Legos and you didn’t want your parent to put together the pieces for you, you wanted to do it yourself. You may have been slower than your parent but you eventually completed the task. Moving away from that analogy, the best way to give another person space to figure out their own problem is by asking deep questions and not judging their response—simple questions like: “Why?” “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” “What’s the best thing that could happen?” “How?” “And then what?
I sat with my friend a few weeks ago and we walked through the things that he’s struggling with. I learned to speak his language, gave him the space to think things through on his own, and passed no judgement on his answers. He’s now taking steps to get help to make a better life for himself.  

The best way to help is to encourage someone’s intelligence and to not insult it. On one hand, it’s great to seek and accept help. On the other hand, we all have the tools inside of us to help ourselves become the best person we can be. 

--

My 30 character, 1 man show The Gospel According to Josh is back in NYC… May 16-18 Off-Broadway. It's a benefit and proceeds are going to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 


More info at: www.gospeljosh.com

Synopsis:

The Gospel According to Josh

A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah


In this 30 character, 7 song one man show, a small town teenager, Josh, follows his big dreams to Hollywood despite the tempestuous relationship with his pious father. 
By the time he turns twenty-five, Josh thinks he’ll have had the perfect life—a few years singing on Broadway, followed by a starring role in his own television show. After which, his getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and his face would grace the cover of the National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Instead, his resume is filled with an assortment of minor league theatre and an appearance on The Maury Povich Show—a career sidetracked by his father’s tragic suicide.
Tortured by his thoughts, he finds himself on the ledge of a fourth floor window, contemplating jumping out—in turn he must reach out to the only person who can help him before it’s too late.

Featuring cameos by Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Elvis; The Gospel According to Josh is a comedic and poignant true-to-life tale of love, loss, struggle, and survival—a gospel account of one young man’s passage into manhood—his twenty-eight-year Gentile bar mitzvah.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Evita Ochel (24)

This is the twenty-fourth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Evita Ochel with "Finding a Win in Retreat."
 --
It was an overcast day on May 19, 2012 as I found myself standing on the edge of the beach in the northern most tip of Oregon. The moment began to fully sink in of what was to come. I, along with my partner and another couple, were about to start a long distance hike on the Oregon coast trail. It was my first endeavor of this type. The nature lover within me was eager and excited, but my mind couldnt help wonder with mild hesitation about the journey to come.

We began our trek that afternoon in the most pleasant of ways and had a memorable first night. Little did we know about the experiences ahead that would test our boundaries and inner-balance. The next day we began our long walk at the break of dawn under a thick, grey sky. Rain was merely moments away. As those first thick droplets fell, an interesting sensation ran through the body. In society we are so quick to scurry and run for shelter at the first sign of rain, yet here we were, miles away from any kind of shelter. We marched on that day as the rain and wind pelted us from every direction. Everything was wet and cold, and we were soaked to the core. Day two turned into day three and neither the rain nor the strong winds subsided as our trail weaved through the wide open beach, stony ridges, and dense hilly forests.

To anyone else the choice would have been obviousget off the trail and take cover. To a long distance hiker this kind of stuff is supposed to be part of the experience more or less. The comfort-driven body nudged to find indoor shelter. The purpose-driven mind didnt want to hear any of it. After all, it was only the third day of our three-week trek and part of this experience was intended as an exercise to push beyond the comfort of personal boundaries. It would be a disappointment to duck out at the first sign of hardship. But if the challenge of a long distance hike wasnt enough under favorable conditions, the weather made sure that we got the most out of our experience.

In our comfort-driven society, it may seem foolish to even have to contemplate a choice under such conditions, but anyone who has ever wanted to push their personal boundaries in any area of life can no doubt relate. But there’s a fine line between honoring personal needs to maintain a healthy balance, and working with ones edge to push through personal limitations. I wanted to honor my commitment and my body, but I also wanted to honor my groups experience.

For that third night we compromised as a group to get proper indoor lodging. It was a wise choice and we continued on the trail the next day. The weather calmed a bit, but I was feeling a bit worn down by the strenuous physical experience encountered thus far. However, I was determined to keep moving forward. But soon enough, I began to feel a sense of discomfort in my left foot.

By the morning of the fifth day, the pain in my foot became more pronounced and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to get some adequate rest. Sure I could have pushed forward, but what then? Maybe things would have gotten better, but maybe not. And what would have I been proving in the end anyway? The choice was crystal clear. I got off the trail and took it easy for the next three days. Then, as the weather and my foot cleared up, we rejoined our group and were back on the trail again.

I cannot say that accomplished the goal of completing that trail in full. But I learned a tremendous lesson: the balance of needs and wantsknowing when to push and when to retreat. It can be so exhilarating at times to push our personal boundaries and limits, or accomplish some goal. But there is no positive accomplishment in pushing these too far. That trek of 2012 was filled with nuggets of wisdom and personal realizations, and today I am grateful for every moment and experience encountered on it.
***
Evita Ochel is a consciousness expansion teacher, who lives by being the change she wishes to see. Her diverse passions and expertise include being a writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, web TV host, and author of the book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition. To learn more about her or her work, visit EvitaOchel.com
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Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 
Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making Deposits and Withdrawals at Your Own Personal “Help Bank”


“Giving does not only precede receiving; it is the reason for it. It is in giving that we receive.” - Israelmore Ayivor
If I read that quote a few years ago, I would have dismissed it phony and trite. Receiving the help from another person has always been a delicate, touchy subject for me. The question, “how can I ever hope to pay this person back?” is at the root of this anxiety. 

But I need help—I need it bad. I always have and there’s no other way around it. At this very moment in my life, people are coming out of the woodwork offering their help on this albatross of a four performance run of The Gospel in NYC in May—photographers, well-meaning acquaintances, cinematographers, and new and old friends alike. How am I supposed to pay them back… what can I do for them that makes their help worth their while?

The answer: I’m not supposed to pay them back… not directly at least. I’ve had to reconcile that there are times when my personal or financial resources won’t come anywhere close in return to what I’ve been given. But I can help a different person with the time I give, the money I donate, or the personal resources I allocate. The gift of help I give is a twofold gift I give myself: 1) I feel better for having helped someone, 2) I put a deposit into the “Help Bank” inside my brain—a place where when I make enough deposits, I feel comfortable asking for withdrawals when I need them.

Of course this idea of a “Help Bank” works with two caveats 1) You can’t actually keep score because it defeats the purpose of the delicate relationship between the giver and the recipient of help, 2) You must not overtax putting in deposits or taking out withdrawals on either side. As difficult as it may sound, the relationship one has with their “Help Bank” must be an organic one. 

Give with reckless abandon. And receive help when you need it because you deserve it.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Blast from the Past and Reflecting on 5 Years


I’m writing this post on the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death, his suicide. Honestly, I’m having one of those mornings where I can’t think of much to write… but it dawned on me that a lot has happened in the five years since he died. Because I’ve chronicled much of it—good and bad—it makes a bit of sense to juxtapose three big moments, not only to contrast but to compare. This post is a bit longer than usual but is a reminder to me, to you, to someone you love that while things may seem bad now (maybe even for a long time), it’s possible for things to get better too. Part 1, is an excerpt of my book when I found out my dad died, Part 2 is an excerpt of a never-before-seen piece I wrote for my diary “Winning the War on Depression,” while recovering from clinical depression in 2011, and Part 3 is a new ending to my play The Gospel According to Josh playing May 16-18, and adequately sums up the high point of my recovery. Thanks for reading :) 

Part 1: 
The pieces of this morbid puzzle were all coming together as I looked down at my phone, still blinking with ten voicemails and an urgent text message from my mother. I called her straightaway. She picked up halfway through the first ring. 
“Hi, Josh,” she said. Her voice was dark and solemn like I was expecting. At least she wasn’t dead.
“Hi. What’s up?” I replied anxiously. “I didn’t check my voicemail.”
“Oh…” she said, letting out a long sigh. “Listen, there were paramedics at your father’s house this morning. It looks like he… well, he killed himself. He’s dead. I am so sorry Josh.” 
I was waiting to hear “April Fools.” There was still a slim chance that my mother had forgotten there were thirty-one days in March and was making a terrible attempt at some sort of inappropriate practical joke. But the punch line never came. This was real. But what is someone supposed to do or say when their parent kills himself? Is there a detailed instruction manual for this somewhere? If so, I hope it also explains what to do if you don’t like that dead parent very much.
Fighting for both oxygen and the ability to speak, I began to mourn for what could have been. Despite my lifetime of contempt for him, I had always held out hope that he would become the father I had always wanted—a man whom I could go to for advice, confide in, and trust. Now that things between the two of us had started to improve, he threw it all away, leaving me wanting more.
As I regained the capacity to form words, my pragmatic mind went into overdrive.
“Listen, we’ve got to figure out the funeral arrangements. When and where…”
 “We’re going to have the service this Saturday at the church,” she said in a hushed, staccato tenor.
“Okay. How are Jacob and Erica doing? How are you doing? You know this is nobody’s fault. I mean, this is totally on him—not us.”
“I know. Everyone’s just upset. I just can’t believe he left you kids without a father, after his own father did this to him. It’s a shame. I’m sorry, Josh,” she said. Her voice cracked as she said my name.
Was she sorry for me? Did she blame herself? Did she love this man in spite of all his glaring faults? 
“Yeah… um,” was all I could think to say, my voice finally quivering. “I guess I’ll come down tonight and see how I can help. I don’t know.”
“That would be good. We are going to have to go through your father’s stuff and get the house ready to sell,” she said, keeping the conversation a practical one.
“Of course.”
“Listen, I have to go now and make a few other calls, but I love you, Josh.”
“I love you too. I’ll see you soon.”
He was only sixty, a young sixty, and he shouldn’t have been dead. 

Part 2:

Everybody Hurts: Even the Rich and Famous
Dear Friends,

Today I’ve decided not to keep the focus on me. In my research online for articles on depression, medicine, and new blogs; I came across a blog entry from, “Beyond Blue,” by Therese J. Borchard and an article from People.com about a very famous and talented recording artist who has battled depression. Her name is Shania Twain.
Ms. Twain talks about how in 2008, her marriage of 14 years to Robert Lange collapsed because  he was having an extramarital affair. In the months following the divorce Ms. Twain says, “There were moments when I really just thought, I don’t need anything and I don’t need anyone. I just want to go away and disappear.” 
Wow. How many of us have felt like that at times? I know I can relate to those feelings. And for me, this just solidifies that a lot of us are going through similar things and we need to talk about these things privately or publicly as an effort to help ourselves and help each other as Ms. Twain has.
To go back to the article, Ms. Twain says, “I was in a deep, dark slump,” but what gives me hope is what she says next: “I needed to find a way to get myself out of it. I had to force myself back out into life, back out into experiencing things.” 
She wanted to get better, so she forced herself to do so. And again, I can relate. I feel like lately I haven’t had as much passion for life but I want to experience that passion again, so I’m forcing myself to do things that I don’t much feel like doing. Sometimes, I haven’t felt like getting out of bed, or going to class, or hanging out with a friend or family member; but I do it anyway because I know these are positive things in my life and seeing these people and doing these things has proven to be therapeutic and has helped me get better and it has allowed me some time off from my thoughts and has given me new perspective on life. 
Maybe it seems like a tall task getting out of bed, and reconnecting with loved ones, and going to class or work; so let’s do it in baby steps. We don’t have to do it all at once but the very least we can do is do something to help us get better and get out from under the feelings of depression and despair. Today, I got out of bed, ate a full breakfast, and am going to a job interview. That’s a start. 
Thanks for reading.

Love,
Josh

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
-John Pierpont Morgan

My take on this: This quote summarizes how I’ve felt about my depression. I don’t want to be depressed all the time anymore so I’m going to try not to be by doing positive things for myself, connecting to positive people and doing good things for myself and others, while trying to maintain positive thoughts. Hopefully for me, that’s the first step towards getting somewhere.

Part 3: 

During my next semester at college, I did extensive research and found that suicide and depression wasn’t just a problem within my family unit. One million people across the world take their life each year—a horrifying statistic that somehow, I needed to reduce and change. While on campus, I met an enchanting college psychologist named Tina and began to see her as a patient. One of my big discoveries while in therapy was the idea that I needed to be useful and in the service of others to be able to recover from my depression and feel whole again.

But how would I do that? I spent nearly my entire life being in the service of one person—me. And so, I reluctantly vowed to quit my selfish show business pursuits for good. While into the fourth week of my retirement I had an epiphany about Not the Hemingways, the speech I created during my previous college semester as an indictment of my father. I decided to restructure it and turn it into a one-man play called The Gospel According to Josh. I would pair the show with suicide prevention education so I could help others struggling, in crisis, or in need of healing. This Gospel was good news that both my mom… and my dad saved me from ending my own life. 

But this Gospel was merely a concept. For two months, I pitched it to hundreds of college psychology professors across the country and with zero luck. Finally, a professor at Baruch College picked it up and we did the show in late April 2011, sponsored by the psychology department. I had no idea how it was received by what was an unresponsive audience until one young student approached me after the show.

  LATINO KID
(Reticent)
Hey man… I liked your presentation. And, like, I think I been dealing with being depressed, like the clinical kind you talked about. I’ve thought about dying. And, um I just thought it was normal. But…I want to feel better. … can you walk me down to the counseling center?

NARRATOR JOSH
All of the painful ordeals of the past two years with my father, my mother, my girlfriend, and my own depression—it was all worth it to help this one young man get help and stay alive. 

Over the course of a year, I performed my Gospel to thousands across the US and Canada. I made new and lifelong friends with whom I was able to commiserate, hold, and hug—a feat that has me on this stage, about to take a bow staring at the tattered note in my hand.

(Lighting change. JOSH stands under bright lights. There’s SFX of soft applause. JOSH waves and is about to bow. He’s holding a piece of paper )

NARRATOR JOSH
1) I’ll feel so guilty. If I kill myself, Erica and Jacob will probably be very upset. I can’t let them lose their father and their brother… not like this. 2) There could be other adventures, many of them that I’ll never experience… Macchu Picchu. Hawaii. Antarctica. Outer space. 3) A family of my own. A soul mate… a happily ever after, a fairytale ending…

(Beat)

And now there’s a fourth—and it comes from my father. I used to think he had ruined my life but he gave me the greatest gift—meaning and a purpose. 

(JOSH smiles, and crumples the sheet of paper, throwing it high into the air into the blackness of the unlit stage behind him.) 

I have no need for fairytales. I’m already living my own, and warts and all, it’s shaping up to be a damn good one.


(Blackout. A TDB song with a fun and introspective electric guitar plays into the blackout and through the bow)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Sneak Peek from the New Script for the May 16 NYC opening of “The Gospel According to Josh”


So, I’m bringing a new incarnation of my one-man show The Gospel According to Josh back to New York City Off-Broadway on May 16, 2014. We’re doing it as a benefit for suicide prevention and mental health services. To commemorate this, I wanted to share with you a piece of the new script. This following segment comes just after getting help from my mother after I nearly make a suicide attempt. I hope you enjoy… and I hope to see you in May :) 

***
Finishing up at my desk, I staggered over to my bed to lie down, exhausted from all of the activity of the day. I had a lot to process: my three reasons to live, seeking professional help, and getting better. I wasn’t going to die that day, not by my own hands. How I would live—that part wasn’t initially so easy.
The next morning I woke with the sun shining directly onto my face and a cold breeze circulating through the room. I had forgotten to close the window before I went to sleep—that and the stinky fact that I still hadn’t showered in a week was a harsh reminder from my brush with death the night before. 
My thoughts turned again to jumping out the window until I started repeating the mantra that cooled me down the day before. “Please help me connect to positive people, positive thoughts, positive experiences.” For the next year, I struggled and repeated that mantra religiously and kept my sheet of paper of three reasons to live on hand whenever my mind sought to betray my spirit and will to live. During my next semester at college, I did extensive research and found that suicide and depression wasn’t just a problem within my family unit. One million people across the world take their life each year—a horrifying statistic that somehow, I needed to reduce and change. While on campus, I met an enchanting college psychologist named Tina and began to see her as a patient. One of my big discoveries while in therapy was the idea that I needed to feel useful and be in service to others to be able to recover from my depression and feel whole again.
But how would I do that? I spent nearly my entire life being in the service of one person—me. And so, I vowed to quit my selfish show business pursuits for good. While into my fourth week of my retirement I had an epiphany aboutNot the Hemingways, the speech I created during my previous college semester as an indictment of my father. I decided to restructure it and turn it into a one-man play called The Gospel According to Josh. I would pair the show with suicide prevention education so I could help others struggling, in crisis, or in need of healing. This Gospel was good news that both my mom… and my dad saved me from ending my own life. 
But this Gospel was merely a concept. For two months, I pitched it to hundreds of college psychology professors across the country and with zero luck. Finally, a professor at Baruch College picked it up and we did the show in late April 2011, sponsored by the psychology department. I had no idea how it was received by an unresponsive student audience until one young student approached me after the show.

  LATINO KID
(Reticent)
Hey man… I liked your presentation. And, like, I think I been dealing with being depressed, like the clinical kind you talked about. I’ve thought about dying. And, um I just thought it was normal. But…I want to feel better. … can you walk me down to the counseling center?

NARRATOR JOSH
All of the painful ordeals of the past two years with my father, my mother, my girlfriend, and my own depression—it was all worth it to help this one young man get help and stay alive. 
Over the course of a year, I performed my Gospel thousands across the US and Canada. I made new and lifelong friends with whom I was able to commiserate, hold, and hug—a feat that had me on a stage in August 2012 at a high school in Hawaii, about to take a bow staring at the tattered note in my hand.

(Lighting change. JOSH stands under bright lights. There’s SFX of soft applause. JOSH waves and is about to bow. He’s holding a piece of paper )

NARRATOR JOSH
1) I’ll feel so guilty. If I kill myself, Erica and Jacob will probably be very upset. I can’t let them lose their father and their brother… not like this. 2) There could be other adventures, many of them that I’ll never experience… Macchu Picchu. Hawaii. Antarctica. Outer space. 3) A family of my own. A soul mate… a happily ever after, a fairytale ending…
(Beat)

And now there’s a fourth—and it comes from my father. I thought he had ruined my life but he gave me the greatest gift—meaning and a purpose. 

(JOSH becomes erect again, smiles, and crumples the sheet of paper, throwing it high into the air into the blackness of the unlit stage behind him.) 

I have no need for fairytales. I’m already living my own, and warts and all, it’s shaping up to be a damn good one.

(Blackout. A TDB song with a fun and introspective electric guitar plays into the blackout and through the bow)