Sunday, June 27, 2010
Family happy? Check!
I was reading my morning digital dose of news, email, and random whatnot when I heard: “You’re getting fat!”
“You heard me; fat!” said the voice with authority.
I looked down. “Well, squishy around the equator maybe, but...”
The morning’s peaceful pace became interrupted with critical self-doubt and now a moment in taking my own personal inventory.
The top was down on the convertible as I ventured downtown to stroll among the artists and uninhibited at a local community festival. Reaching in my pocket, I made sure I had the proper supplies before locking up and leaving my car behind for the 5 block hike to the event.
Wallet, keys, iPhone, earphones, and a few dollars spending cash; all this accompanying the freedom of a guy on his day off were plenty enough to satisfy.
“Not only are you are loser, but a broke loser!” The diatribe continued: “Real men work for a living and don’t waste their time here. How many dollars do you have? If you were working now, you would have at least double that!”
“Dad, where in the hell did you come from?”
I realized I didn’t have to listen. The only leverage an opinion has is our acknowledgement of it. I don’t care how he found me after all these years, but all I knew is I did not have to listen. I turned to continue as I had intended. I had what I needed and proceeded through the gates of the festival. The breeze, the sun, the music, and the aroma of fair food were reward enough for my efforts. For now I have enough.
What I realized in the reflection of these two incidents is how frequently these unsolicited and uninvited opinions can surface. The interesting thing is I am frequently alone. How is it these voices enter our space in an attempt at our disruption?
Amazingly I have been called: fat, old, worthless, broke, selfish, and a cornucopia of less-than-desirable labels by people or voices that were not even in my presence. I was often unaware or at least at peace with my situation prior to the critique. They were voices from people past, sometimes the media, perceptions of society, and opinions of strangers, loved ones, and ones I desired to love, even myself. They can be also found in magazine ads, billboards, and late night infomercials. They often liked to submit their opinions when I was alone or feeling empowered trying to throw off my balance.
I call them now “The Uninvited.”
I find when I doubt, critique, or argue with myself, I am only allowing these uninvited guests to ruin my party. Any energy we give to these uninvited opinions whether past, current, or conjured simply distract us from our present potential. Healthy self-evaluation is one thing. Emotional shredding is yet another.
Opinions can only manifest themselves when we start to wrestle with them.
Fat? No. Nerfy? Maybe.
Broke? According to whose opinion? I feel like I am still the luckiest redneck at the rodeo.
Who is in the room with you? Were they invited?
For those of you who are invited: I will be the “squishy” guy with a pocket full of change and his fingers in his ears enjoying himself.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I remember the days of my youth, assuming you are young, unhampered by self-doubt, and all the zest for life a young heart can create. I remember dreaming on the playground, role-playing great adventures. I remember welcoming my friends to join, adding thrill to the adventure. No dream too lofty, no adventure too forbidden.
I ruled too. I ruled my destiny and my soul burned with the promise of my own growth. The world was my oyster, my treasure chest, my love, and my passion. I had not let the voices of doubt become frequent dialogue that could infiltrate my ability to withstand the taunts of the naysayers.
E.B. – indeed you rule, and perhaps you may not know what your kingdom is, but never believe your obstacles outweigh your deserving. Sometimes the king finds his crown at the top of the highest mountain or at the bottom of the abyss. We never know if it is victory or pain that bestows upon us our praise and recognition.
Let your voice be heard above that of simple graffiti. Do not hold back your pain and anger by screaming in your pillow. Let your voice be heard and let it ring far and wide. Only then will your honest and open show of your own humanity gain for you that which you seek. The meek may inherit the Earth, but the noble, wise, and strong are those who often lead. Never forget though if you wish to be revered by humans, you must remain one. Compassion dear E.B.; compassion is essential.
As you age, as you draw nearer to your goal, remember to govern yourself first. Find the joy of being connected to who you truly are. Find the stillness and happiness in being able to enjoy your own being. Trying to seek approval from the masses is daunting, and more so draining if you lose your own identity. Find skill in your own personal management.
Also, practice the skill of silence. Sometimes the best rulers are those who give others a chance to shine. Restrain from being the first to need adoration, and allowing others to bask in the glow of their own personal achievement is truly a noble trait. The best rulers respect their own shortcomings, and surround themselves with those who have mastery beyond their own skills.
E.B., I admit now that life has presented me with a variety of challenges. Some have dealt me crippling blows. However I am still here. I will also admit that my ability to profess that “I RULE” at much at all has dwindled. Maybe I did not listen soon enough to my own advice. Don’t let others try to steal your scepter. When you stop believing you are worthy, others follow suit.
“Rule?” I am not sure if I really want to rule much. However the bold statement of a youth who still has dreams unimpeded and a sense of self-esteem that will leverage his or her dreams into fruition, I bow to you. You indeed rule, and I pray your tenure does not include term limits.
I frequently pass this square on my walk. I check for E.B.’s message. It took only a couple of weeks for either nature or the skilled trowel of a worker to erase the message. I hope the enthusiasm that inspired the initial act of graffiti has not waned. I also hope that the only expression of E.B.’s confidence extends beyond vandalism and into positive creation of action that propels this person into that which he or she professed in cement. I also hope the skilled trowel of society, opinion, and unrealistic expectations do not smooth the passion of this youth. Godspeed E.B., and if you are going to mark up any more sidewalks, please use chalk.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I spent a glorious day yesterday with a group of friends I do not see as frequently as I would like, but it seems we always pick up where we left off. You know those friends; the ones that you may not see for days, weeks, or years, but some ripple in time does not make it seem as long as it has.
Upon driving the hour-long trip home, I enjoyed a brilliant light show from nature warning us that it was about to christen us with a healthy rain. Soft melodic music set the ambient background as the wind burst in and out of the window with my arm “surfing” the bluster. T’was a blessed evening indeed.
The drive along the dark highway with only the soft “whish” of damp tires was eventually interrupted by civilization. Bright street lamps, glowing signs, and hustle and bustle of people getting where they have to go eventually encroached upon my serenity set to cruise control.
I kind of chuckled as once upon a time, the illuminated “call-to-arms” could have led to a good old fashioned redneck smack down. Not tonite. I now find the folly in what people allow to derail them. No I am not talking about any physical contact as I could see if someone punched you, pulled your hair, flicked your nose, gave you a “noogie, Indian burn, or wet-willie” which could cause a commotion if undesired, but the simple things we have allowed to become unnerving. It is quite comical actually.
“Did you kick her ass?”
“No, but I really wanted to.”
This one I have heard and I am sure somewhere the outcome did transpire into violence.
Who also started the “I will harm you and disrupt you with a loud exhale” tactic? Ever had one of those moments in line somewhere; you cannot make up your mind between the chicken or the beef? I mean a burrito can be a commitment as they do truly stick with you for a while. You pause, you vacillate between the two. Then you hear it from behind you: “Huhhhh!” “Crap, give me the beef.”
I find the “Slow-shaking-of-the-head-in-disapproval” is another tactic with its own venomous barb.
“What did I do? I mean I looked over and this dude was shaking his head at me!”
“Oh my gosh man, did you shake your head back?!”
“Damn! I didn’t think of it fast enough.”
“Maybe you ought to take the day off tomorrow to recover.”
I guess I find these things funny now. These gestures are just that, and have no more power than I give them. What does that say about me and my character to let these simple little movements and behaviors take me down. Funny how they can have a tendency to linger if you let them.
“Remember last week at the grocery, when I was trying to dig the change out of my purse, the lady behind me exhaled rudely?!”
“What? Uh, no.”
“Well, I would have said something if I didn’t have the kids with me.”
Now when confronted with these behaviors, I simply smile. Maybe that is my own passive aggressive retaliation subliminally, but not necessarily my intention. And to you “Mr. Brights-you-from-behind,” if you would like to email me your social and travel schedule, I will try to avoid your chosen path. If not, that will be me smiling at you through the rear view mirror.
Monday, June 7, 2010
As the children tried to find order in their excitement to prepare for their calmer “school-accepted” volumes and demeanor, the teacher emerged from the doorway. Normally she stands back and holds the door for the youngsters, allowing them passage. Today she extended her arms, keeping them at bay and forcing them to retreat and not enter the school room. The kids were shocked at their interrupted routine.
What a pleasant surprise!
Okay I am forty five years old; I still want to be able to start my day with recess from time-to-time. Maybe I can. I guess our interpretation of recess has maybe changed. I am aware that if I were to join the kids on the swings in the morning that is, well ...just creepy. I find that recess is simply a pleasurable break in the routine. “What” the break encompasses is subject to personal interpretation.
Upon reflection, I find that I have been finding ways to incorporate “recess” into my schedule recently; especially in the mornings. Since I often hit the ground running due to my obligations to my kids and having to get them off in time, I have found a greater need to regroup. Adhering to a strict and tight schedule can be something to admire, but to fill every moment of every day dedicated to a specific task can wear a body thin.
I have added 15 minutes to my alarm clock in the morning. I find that this is ample amount to be able to sip down a mug of coffee, catch up on some news, emails, or light headlines prior to getting the kids off.
I walk my kids to school in good weather. A little exercise never hurts anyone. On the way home today I had a pleasant conversation with the neighbor dog. It had been a while. It was good to see Scout again.
I also find that my music player is a great way to achieve recess at any given moment. My trips to the grocery, walks in the neighborhood, and other simple tasks take on a more serene feel in the presence of music. There is just something calming when life has a cool soundtrack. I have a tendency to look at things with more of a “cinematic appreciation.” I star in my own movie.
As we grow on and grow old, we mustn’t drift from the idea that recess is exclusively for children. Children are just wise enough to expect it as a nourishing part of their day. Of course we may look foolish if we were to run, arms a flailing, screaming, and twirling in circles; but wouldn’t it feel great?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I also had spent time in years past enhancing my moods, perceptions, as well as social enjoyment by the application of “mind-altering” substances. Sadly things like Dos Equis beer did not necessarily make me "The most interesting man in the world."
Now I play for the “other team” and am a proud participant in sobriety-based endeavors. I have a stack of little coins showing certain milestones, as well as the “big trophy” of the fact that I feel better, am healthier, appreciate life more, and have positive or improving relationships for the most part. The old behaviors shrink in my rear-view mirror.
Do I hold ill-will to those who partake? Nope. If you reach out, I reach back, that’s the deal. (As it should be in many areas of life.) I don’t proselytize in any of my belief systems. As I have learned: I try to have people appreciate what I do through attraction, not promotion.
In recovering from the grips of the negative behaviors I mentioned above, my brethren and I are presented with a series of “12 steps” to break free and move beyond the troubles associated with such a lifestyle. I have heard the words: “Foolish, worthless, cult, it doesn’t work, yadda-yadda” pertaining to the groups program. You be the judge.
I do not want a copyright issue on one hand, but more so I am going to “paraphrase” the steps meanings so one may see the usefulness in other areas of life. I will not number them as I think it is a collective achievement. For me it has been likened to the action of spokes on a wheel that support forward movement and momentum, as opposed to start at the beginning, move to the end then complete. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know. Regularly.
Here’s the nutshell, but presented in a way that shows its value as a philosophy. You insert the particulars as they may pertain to you and your life:
There comes a time when we realize we are powerless over “things, people, and circumstances” and we lose our ability to manage how our lives unfold accordingly. A realization occurs that there is “Someone”, or “Something” beyond ourselves who may be able to help, who may have a solution, a compassionate guidance to restore us to where our lives return to a quality state. Once we decide to go beyond ourselves and our self-will, and place our navigation in the divine guidance we so desperately need in this moment, we start to make the turn. We do not have to “define” our faith as much as “invest” in it.
We need to look at ourselves, look deep into our souls and determine what is nourishing us, and those things that are toxic; in all areas, thought, word, and deed. We may find that sharing our pain with those we trust on this Earth and beyond is cleansing and releases the burden we hold inside taking the space for healing. It is okay to reach out.
If we seek guidance; guidance of a divine and pure nature, a beacon that guides us to where we should adjust our rudder, we can then realize a new path has been embarked upon, and old ways and maps can now be shed. Sometimes we must ask for help in not only shedding the past behaviors that led to us veering off course, but to continue to shine light upon the path we now tread.
Nothing is more crippling emotionally and spiritually than words left unsaid, personal and emotional damage left unidentified, apologies withheld, and avoidance of accountability. Make it right my friends. Regardless of the outcome, a dialogue can lead to forgiveness; whether it be of others or yourself. Remember to do this often; time doesn’t always heal all wounds.
Being able to regularly turn inward, allows us to stay connected outward. Prayer is when we speak to the Divine, meditation is when we listen. It is a dialogue at times. Both are necessary and healthy to staying on course. Once we find a steady course to follow, we can share the light of our beacon and behavior to allow others to venture alongside us. They can find solace in the calm space between our wake as we venture forward enjoying the same gesture of those who tread before us.
I also know that nowadays when things are rough, and not going my way, a milkshake can be quite intoxicating too, and afterwards you won’t wonder:"How the heck did I end up here?"