Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Now before I cause panic or anyone to wonder about my health, I am okay (as far as I know). I am still waiting on the results of my recent cholesterol test, maybe then my worries may shift. (Sorry Mom if I spooked you.)
I am not in a melancholy state of feeling like a pierced Goth kid who sees death as a perpetually looming reaper. Although it did not help that I awoke today with no voice, and a cold like I have not seen in ages, I still am not doing too badly for a 45 year old dude with many miles on him.
I guess what started the inspiration for this installment was indeed the fact that I remained home from work and was watching the Today show. I was watching a segment highlighting the story of a family in which the mother (of 2 young girls) was fighting, to no avail, stage four cancer. It was heartbreaking as the mother’s main worry was that of the welfare of her children. More so, she lamented missing “moments” with them: proms, weddings, vacations, and grandchildren to name a few.
The piece also highlighted an organization, to which the name momentarily escapes my memory that will help provide vacations, moments mind you, for the families of the terminally ill. They offer them a fond memory and a reprieve from the ravages of the illness for a brief period in time. It warmed my heart, and I commend these people for their fine efforts.
I also thought deeper for a moment. Who are the actual lucky ones here? (With absolute compassion and all due respect) I wondered which life was more coveted: one that is long without awareness to its gifts, or a narrowed timeline with a deepened appreciation of life’s blessings and a love for each individual moment. Quite a toss-up isn’t it?
Without being dark or macabre, I want to remind all that we are indeed dying. This I say without the intent to sadden, but to uplift. Many proceed through their timelines without knowing the date of their departure. That is the way it should go, right? Our schedules, the small stuff, and trivial circumstances flood our days, leaving little room for desire, or urgency for that matter, to take time for the important stuff. The stuff we would so trade a king’s ransom for if we had one more day at the end. More time to do the things we would do, if we all knew our departure time.
Since many of us are lucky (or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint) to not know when we are leaving this earthly plane, perhaps it should truly spark more urgency than less. One who has been handed a terminal health obstacle for example can immediately get on a shift in perspective and start to gain closure, reconnect, or simply appreciate the things we the oblivious procrastinate. Many of us, myself included act as if we are drinking from a never ending well. What if God decided to call us home next week? What if it was tomorrow? What if it was this evening? How would you act? What would you do? Who would you surround yourself with? What are your loose ends?
I realized a few things today:
Things left undone. Are there experiences that nag at you, calling for you to try? Is there somewhere you have always wished to visit? Is there a class you always wanted to take? Is there a book still unwritten within you? Have you always dreamt of seeing Europe, maybe the ocean, maybe simply another city? If your time was greatly limited, what would you do? Are you a parent? I never heard of a man on his deathbed saying, “Gee, I wish I spent more time at the office!”
Things left unsaid. Do you have any “I love you’s” still trapped inside you? How about any “I miss you’s?” Perhaps you may have accumulated an “I’m sorry” or two. Often we hear of people who regret that they were never able to release the burden of words left unsaid. Take your own inventory. Is there anything that needs to go or be shared?
Many of us do not know exactly when we will leave this big blue marble. Even those who are burdened with physical or health obstacles may not always know the exact time of departure even when knowing their time is more limited than others. I feel that we can all agree if we knew our time was going to be shorter than we expected, we would be prompted to take on an urgency to wring the most life we could out of our remaining moments.
Like the song by Tim McGraw advises: “Live like you're dyin'.” Don’t wait until a difficult diagnosis or loss of a friend or loved one, prompts you to an awareness you can engage now in this moment. Although I am not sure if I will try skydiving, I will try my damndest to appreciate my moments here more. I will try to recognize the gifts that lie before me, and will try to be more frugal with my time.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The family time has been swell. The walks on the beach have been cleansing. The bonding on all accounts always makes for a fine vacation. What really has been an added blessing has been the trips down the surf in the evening with my daughter - Alexa: eleven years old, wise beyond her years.
Sanibel Island boasts what is called the "Sanibel stoop" where you will find the beachcombers bent at the waist like the women of Asia you see in photos tending to the rice fields. The shell hunting is amazing. The surf perpetually offers a continuous and revolving serving of shells and sea life upon its damp and sandy surface.
There are many forms of plant life that wash ashore that resemble curled hoses with a honeycomb-like interior. Bivalves, like mussels on steroids are as prolific as fallen leaves in the fall. Sponges, of all colors punctuate the oceanic litter, many jellyfish washed on land in between, and the rest if not sand, is a dense carpet of souvenir-quality trinkets.
We found along this stretch of beach, at this point in time, that about every fifty feet or so, a starfish would be pushed ashore by the torment of the surf. They are the variety with numerous thin legs, sandy brown in color.
Their efforts futile against the push of the sea, their doom almost certain.
Many young kids would stare, poke at them with driftwood, or step over them along their journey as if it were a crack that would break their mother's back. The natives stroll by indifferent to their presence. My daughter was looking for a "dead one" to add to her shell collection to be able to take home. I took her on a detour.
I approached the first one, still being churned by the waters and flipped him over to see if his underside showed signs of vitality. It did. I let her see the creature as a "being" as opposed to a souvenir. She gently stroked its belly with the gentleness of a big sister touching the skin of an infant. She smiled unafraid.
Pardon the paraphrasing, but I shared with her the story perhaps we have all heard:
The beach was littered with hundreds of starfish washed ashore. A little girl was carefully and repetitiously picking them up carefully and walking to the surf's edge and casting them back into the curling waters. A man approached the busy young girl and observed her task.
He watched as she appeared to barely make a dent in the never ending supply of starfish she was returning to their home. She methodically walked to find a starfish, walked to the waters edge, and tossed them back to the sea.
The man finally stopped her, starfish in hand as she was about to toss her next one. "Why are you wasting your time? There are too many for you to save. Do you think you can make a difference?" asked the man boldly.
The girl replied matter-of-factly, "It makes a difference to this one." She tossed the next starfish into the sea.
My daughter lit up at this parable. She then started with a fire to save all the starfish she could. Not only have we saved many starfish since, but sea urchins, a baby shark, and many other shelled bretheren. We now have a standing date after dinner, every night, for the duration of our vacation to "save lives". We "send them home" as we call it.
We sing "Somone saved my life tonite" by Elton John. (At least the words we know) We make our difference. I am glad my daughter took the detour. I think it will stick. She mentioned she now wants to be a marine biologist. I hope she does.
The bigger picture is our appreciation of the small gestures, the minor opportunities, the moments of truth, where we can make an impact which should never be held trivially. The ability to make a difference, save a life, or show compassion is a practice that can be polished and performed in many, many areas of our life. To share the gift of enlightening one to the glory of the presence of all of God's creatures was worth the eighteen hour drive. I find joy in her newfound appreciation and enthusiasm to help other beings. It makes a daddy proud. Mission accomplished!
It all matters.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I wonder if it is me or if I truly can see the subtle bend of the horizon reflecting the massive girth of the planet on which I stand. The blue-green sea is punctuated only by the foamy white caps adorning the curling waters.
I feel small, miniscule, powerless. Microscopic in the grandeur of the scene I stand in the presence of. I listen the the Earth breathe. The gusting breeze reminds me that only a small increment in velocity could throw me to the dunes. I listen, I respect that.
Prayer is when we talk to God. Meditation is when we listen. I am all ears...
The smallness fades into a realization of a feeling of communion.
I now feel bigger...
A connection stirs in which an appreciation of a global fraternity in which I proudly am a member. All here feel the wind. All here feel the surf. Membership priveledges allow all to join in the beauty. No card necessary.
I feel free. What is it about the vastness that allows us to feel free? Do we need the spaciousness to enjoy our own sense of self? Yet our self is not alone. We can be free in a crowd. We can be confined in solitude.
Freedom can enjoy the lack of encroaching duties and routines. Perhaps temporarily cleansing our schedules of having to look at time. Time we created to tell us where we feel we are supposed to be. Obligations. Do they distort us or connect us? This answer varies day by day.
I find me.
I find here in the deafening roar of the gusting wind, the silence I long for. I long to hear what I am supposed to hear. A message of comfort, of reassurance. Did I or do I have to come to the sea to hear the message? How far must I travel? Whom must accompany me, or whom must remain behind? The message is omnipresent. I often forget to turn my receptors on.
The me I find is the same me that is always there. The one that for some reason adds on the pounds of accumulating burdens and thoughts that adds weight to the load. I unshoulder the baggage. I drop it to the sand. Arms folded before me, eyes closed, I just breathe with the Earth. I listen. I listen good.
I don't need to always travel far to get the messages I need to hear.
"Everything will be okay."
"I am right here."
"You are loved."
I need to remember that. It doesn't hurt being by the ocean though.
I needed to hear today's sermon. I needed to feel small, big, free, and me. I needed to sit in nature's pew and be held captivated by the majesty unfurling before me. Sometimes it makes the lessons that much more indelible and enduring. I am thankful.
Today God called me to the sea...
(Sanibel Island, Florida ~ Spring Break 2010)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I saw a couple of mentions of the rain, some random personal thoughts, and then I came across the words "I need a miracle", and paused for reflection.
I guess I was looking at the request of a miracle in and of itself. It is the “big order!” Now I understand in times of dire crises, I find searching for miracles appropriate to leverage hope, to distract away from certain negative outcomes such as severe illness or catastrophe. What I also find interesting is a desire for a miracle to wipe away many, many small things accumulating over time; many bad decisions, ill actions, deviant behaviors and thoughts culminating in a situation that is no longer wanted. Do we deserve the do-over, or is it time for a lesson learned?
I have learned that people do not change until it is too uncomfortable not to. I also know both good and bad experiences become part of who we are.
So what I now observe is where we are is probably where we should be. In the discomfort we endure now, lies the hope and promise that the damage we perceive to be unfolding around us is actually a potential blessing of wisdom unfurling down the road. Sometimes it is difficult to see the whole picture where we stand as the picture is so big, we must levitate that much further above it to see it in its entirety.
Perhaps the miracles we request are best served in the form of being unanswered. Maybe our miracles are the lessons we learn by holding on to our faith in times that try to pry our fingers from it. Sometimes the best medicine tastes the worst.
I guess I selfishly would love someone, somewhere to make it all right at my request. Not with just me, but with everyone. Sadly, one man’s miracle could negate another’s lesson. I guess I will have to be patient to see what is delivered to me, in the form I need it, which is in my best interest for my greater good. I hope it doesn’t taste yucky. I need a miracle.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“Heck I dunno.”
“You must want SOMEthing!” said with surprise.
“I really don’t know. More socks maybe? I’ll get back to you.”
*Author's Note – I am not trolling for birthday wishes, or any acknowledgement of any kind. Actually, I am more of a fan of a modest approach to my birthday, but if I would have mentioned another “milestone next Tuesday”, this post would just seem weird.
I find at this point in my life, I really am truly content. When asked what type of gift I would like, I truly do not have any decent suggestions I can offer to my loving friends and family. I find it a blessing that I simply don’t want anything that I can think of. I don’t see World Peace appearing wrapped in a little bow, getting a set of six pack abs is pretty much up to me year round, the missing hair is out of my hands (maybe more hats), and I always feel weird anymore asking for toys or knick knacks. I guess I am a gift card guy anymore if I have to conjure a suggestion.
Sky Mall catalogue is always fun, I mean an automatic pet waterer is a must have, but then I think, how long am I leaving the dog to allow their water supply to dry up? Ah, the heavy mysteries of airline retail.
As I take the inventory of the “things” I may want, I take a detour to the personal inventory. I ask myself, “How ya doin’ man?” I respond, “Ya know, I’m a’ight”. As I take a state of the union of that which is me, I realize as with our country, there are things that need addressed, challenges ahead, and also cause for celebration. As with our country, I see I may not be perfect, but I got stuff going for me. My popularity rating is still high enough for my family to not change the locks when I am gone. (Pardon me while I check the doors.)
I find nowadays my birthdays are a time of simple reflection. I do not curse the ticking of the clock as it ticks all year long, and it does not just give a long gong once a year in March for me personally. I will occasionally look back at what I was doing a year ago; maybe a few years ago as well. I smile as I journey back, as I do when I receive one of those cards that tell what was happening on your birthday years prior. Quick trivia –
On my birthday, the Monitor and Merrimac armored warships battled to a draw in 1862
Chess player Bobby Fischer was born.
Arnold Schwarzenegger won his first bodybuilding title.
A U.S. stamp was five cents.
The average cost of a new home - $16,150 (No, I wasn’t born in the forties!)
Yes, I got one of these cards...from my insurance agent, but he remembered nonetheless!
Anyhow, my wants are low, the books balance, and my inventory is square. All I asked for was a homemade dinner from my mother and to have my kids with me. (My wife works late and we will celebrate at a later time). It is warming to hear my mother reflect on stories of my youth. She lights the room and is always a gift to be around. She tells stories of when she was my age. I like that.
I am only as old as I feel, and I notice that changes daily. I am only as happy as I choose to be, and that keeps me occupied as well. The things and titles I have or have held are of little importance compared to the really important stuff. I am luckier than some, but still have room for improvement. I recognize my blessings and making it to another annual milestone is one of them. Thanks goes to my parents for bringing me here, and getting the ball rolling for the first couple decades. Thanks to my wife, kids, family and friends, for the second couple of decades. The stories were compelling. And, God willing, if I am granted a couple more decades, I am excited to see what lies ahead. For the time being, just in case you were wondering, you can’t go wrong with Barnes & Noble gift cards!
Tony Anders ~ Born March 9, 1965 - ?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
As I look before me on my little bookshelf I see many wonderful books created to educate, inspire, uplift, and educate. I have the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and books on I Ching wisdom and Buddhism. I have Dr. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Andrew Cohen, and Doreen Virtue adorning my shelves as well. I have books on acceptance, living in the now, recovery, humility, religion, faith and self help. You will also see this roster punctuated with Stephen King, Dan Brown, and Mitch Albom. I think there is also a Dr. Suess up there too.
The interested thing I find in the tomes I have read containing a more spiritual nature, they all, in their own dialect, point to certain values, practices, and observations of how to live a spiritually fulfilled life. Although varying in many ways, they also conjoin to teach us of awareness of ourselves and our actions, compassion to others, beliefs of a higher nature, accountability, and certain moral modes of conduct. It is this research that helped me understand and appreciate others and their right to what they believe, and if what you place your faith upon, or whom for that matter, works for you, then who am I to judge? Many of the ideals I learned, once distilled to their spiritual core, all seem to eventually converge to certain universal core values.
For me personally I was called to write this more so as a digestion of my observation of why I read, research, and try to develop myself. Why do I try to keep a glistening shine on my spiritual self? On top of that, I was pondering the paradox of enjoying the journey and if it is and infinite one, or do we eventually become truly enlightened? Do we hit “cruise control” at a certain level? How does one become considered a prophet, holy man, or sought after pinnacle of his or her faith?
As I looked through time, I noticed the most revered people of faith, the tops of the spiritual pyramids if you will, were not only praised, but often equally chastised. I also found the beliefs they taught or followed had many common traits described in their own vernacular, but they came from what many consider very “different” belief systems. They leaders were often ostracized or banished or even killed. Even though they taught love and human compassion, many of their followers thought others were incorrect, and at times deserving of imprisonment, or death. Regardless of what you or I believe, I find it confusing.
I guess what led me to this is I indeed have read, practiced, and researched the works of great spiritual teachers both current and past to experience a better life and appreciation for all things. Once a certain level is understood, the basic tenets are simple. Like basketball for example; it is easy. Put the ball in the basket. Now doing it in the dynamic of a game, when the obstacles are flying at you are where the challenges come in and the practice is needed. It shows too why there are only so many legends in this game as well. Consistency, patience, practice, understanding, tenacity, and heart all leverage growth and can be a difficult recipe for the masses to acquire.
I then wondered, is there a level where things just level out? Is there a time when your understanding is just so ingrained that life’s challenges are no longer as difficult or consuming? Is there a time when you totally release all circumstances to the, “it is in God’s ( or the universe’s, the Source’s, the deity of your choice’s) hands now, and I am totally okay with it?" Is there a point where faith and or spirituality are strong enough to where you truly, I mean truly find you are in honest and total acceptance and allowance? Not a façade you stand behind because you feel it is the right thing, what is expected, or that others will think less of you if you do not wave a banner of faith. It just was something I wonder about.
I see many of my friends of strong faith and conviction, and spiritual practice recently enduring some challenges. They turn to their faith and belief systems (as they should) to find solace. They turn to following the practices and teaching of the belief systems they follow. I then wondered, about the demeanor of the leaders of the faiths in question and how they got where they were spiritually in such situations. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. But I thought, we follow them because they have something extra special. They have overcome or gained an understanding we hope to someday achieve. They have endured enormous challenges of both physical and spiritual nature, and seem to arrive well on the other side. There is a gap between them and us we are led to aspire to close. That is why we study them.
Unfortunately since most of the supreme leaders of most belief systems are deceased, I am saddened that I cannot ask them some simple questions. I want to go to the source and not a mortal’s interpretation of their words.
A couple of days ago it was brought to my attention that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was coming to my neck of the woods soon. Then I thought, “He is a good example; a kind, gentle, and very wise soul!” Here is a man who is a leader to many and of great spiritual conviction. He also lives in the world I live in, in a time I live in. He also has suffered and to a much greater extent. He is estranged from his homeland against his will. He tries to share a message of love and peace in a challenging time. Great candidate!
I know that it is none of my business, but I just want to know that the people I have read about, and those I and others revere were perhaps a bit closer in some areas; to just for a moment think we are not so distant. Hopefully I will get a chance to see the Dalai Lama when he comes here to Ohio. I just want to know if he cries, and when I do that it is okay.
(*Note - I read many things to understand them, but it does not necessarily mean a practice or endorsement of the material)
Monday, March 1, 2010
I’d like to tell you a story of a sad little boy who thought life was not going his way. No matter what his better judgment was, no matter how much he knew better, he still found himself in a rut of disappointment, impatience, and irritability.
“Was that little boy you Tony?” said the random voice needed to make a point.
“Crap...okay, yes it was.”
As I have said before, I write not only because I feel I am called to write about the random stuff that burrows into my melon; but I also write to confront my own hypocrisy. I find at times, I will deviate from my core beliefs and no matter what words of encouragement I would tell you all in undesired or unfortunate times, I can often find that I kick myself when I am down. I find I seem to favor my strong leg when doing so. What is most frustrating is that I know better. As I have stated before, “my biggest fear is not my inability to practice what I preach, but my inability to become aware when I am not doing so.” Last month did not help.
Due to the gelid Midwestern blast of winter we endured, my business suffered. Kind of like what I figured the first night in prison would be like. The weather was off, finances were off, people’s moods were off, and the physical pain I endured shoveling “nature’s fluffy white blanket of marshmallowy goodness” confined me to sofa-surfing on a couch atop a heating pad. It is not age, it is mileage.
"Snow Lonely" mentioned, my friends online and in RL (Real Life) gave their support and laughter. I joined a gym (still going), and as I mentioned near the end of one post "It starts with a single step", I decided that if my perception and chosen motivation and momentum could allow me to feel better about my circumstances; I queried, “What would happen if I shifted this positive mindset to more areas?” Ah, grasshopper, now your kung fu is good!
Since that post, here is a brief rundown of some of the simple events that have transpired since that chosen thought shift that for some silly reason, I decided to leave on my spiritual shelf for far too long.
As many could probably tell, I like writing. I say, “I am a writer, now my job is just to let everyone else in the world know that.” I have a book written, awaiting an avenue to release. Do I go traditional, or self publish? I am working on both. We’ll see. I also contribute to other outlets as well; one of the outlets being Movie Planet, which again I have mentioned earlier in a post. By a happenstance of serendipity my friend who is a renowned movie critic called me out of the blue. He often travels to major cities to attend movie junkets with some notable people and movie stars I am sure you have all heard of. His job as an on-air personality at a television station disallowed him to travel to the most recent junket due to ratings sweeps, so guess who he asked? No not Gene Shalit! The sad little boy mentioned above.
I was a little disappointed, but then started the shift. I realized this “sad little boy” was invited to go to a one-of-a-kind event, in a fabulous city, and it was because my friend believed in me and my skills enough to send me to the event. Life was (and is) pretty damn good. He assured me there would be more opportunities. Maybe this could be the one that got away, but I had as much fun fishing as landing the fish. I was happy to be on the radar. (So many metaphors, so little time.)
That afternoon, I received on my phone, a confirmation that I had been accepted by Examiner.com. I applied to become Columbus Ohio's Spirituality Examiner (reporter) for the large website, and if I play my cards right, I may make a couple bucks. Not quit your day job, retire on a yacht wearing a Speedo bucks, but bucks none-the-less. Boo-yah! Another atta-boy from the cosmos! This glass half-full stuff was working. (My first submission got rejected, it was considered too “bloggy”. I find that a compliment thank you very much!)
Sparing you the minute things I notice all day long, I see how the Law of Attraction is working tangibly for me. Call it perception, serendipity, coincidence, B.S., placebo, whatever! I find that if I feel better, things are teetering more so in the favorable, I am all for it. Funny too is how a lot of this was leveraged by a recent purchase of a book on CD about the Law of Attraction. I like to believe it was placed before me at the right time.
New Attitude. I suggest trying it on for size.
Finally, as I logged onto my new Examiner account today, I noticed something really, really cool. I made twenty eight cents! I am now a professional writer baby! Heck Yeah! I have been told that I will not make a dime by writing and I can tell them where to get off as in my first day I made almost three times that! Heck Yeah again! I know I have a long way to go for financial abundance, but baby I have momentum! I have movement! If I only make enough in my writing to buy a cheeseburger, I will enjoy it as the best cheeseburger I ever ate. I will reflect that I earned it by following my passion, shifting my focus into a positive state, and I hope I never forget that I truly am the luckiest redneck at the rodeo! Giddyup!
*Shameless plug ~ knowing how we all enjoy a follower or two, if you are so inclined, please stop by my Examiner Page. If also so inclined, help a brother out and subscribe or RSS. Maybe I'll get that cheeseburger. Bless you all!