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Archive for August, 2012

The Teeter Totter

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Today is an oddity. It’s still technically summer here in southern California and the past week has seen temperatures in the 90’s, but today is dreary and ashen. The sun was out for less than an hour before being banished behind a thick layer of muted grey clouds, and my open door ushers in a chill wind rather than a warm breeze. And I’m sitting in silence. The chirps and carols of neighborhood birds have been shut out by an invisible blanket of silence, and the splash of color usually seen among my garden from curious butterflies has all but disappeared. Even the spiders have vanished. It’s like the world is falling asleep, but I’m still fighting to stay awake and finish my obscenely long list of things-to-do.

But the pull of the bleak outdoors is sucking me in, and I swear nature is telling me to stop, look around, and pounder the strange ways of the world. Or maybe it’s the inherent oppositeness of the day – me being productive in the fast-paced world of my business, while the weather slows down to a quiet stillness – that draws me toward the idea of balance…

After all, isn’t the world comprised of checks and balances? Doesn’t everything have an opposite; a balance to its extremeness? I can remember sitting in science class as a young boy being told everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Can’t that be applied to everything in life?

Fundamentally, in the ways of the world, we know this reaction to be true. Dark has light, life has death, fire has water…etc. But can’t we also use this law in our personal worlds? If the world is comprised of opposites, shouldn’t the concept also be fundamental in our emotional lives?

For example, in the most basic sense, there are certain times when we’re overbooked in work and things are hectic and crazy; and then there are moments of pure serenity and relaxation. Such things don’t happen in conjunction, but eventually the chaotic world of work is balanced by a vacation. Sure, this is a cause of our actions and choices, but it works in opposites. There are days of laziness, followed by days of productiveness; moments of pain, replaced by the power of healing, etc. Even our emotions are held in check. Selfishness is balanced by kindness, truthfulness fights lying, love combats hate… etc. The list is endless. Like Newton said, everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

So how does this work in our reaction to terrible events that completely alter our worlds? What is the opposite of the emptiness and darkness you feel after you lose someone you hold dear? You can’t simply fill the void with someone else. The people you love hold a part of your heart and that part dies with their death. Is there any way to fix the blackness that remains?

In all honesty, I don’t know what the equal reaction would be. I know death is balanced by new life, but new life can’t eliminate what was taken from you. If anything, it patches a small portion of the hole ripped from your heart. But the void remains. Sure, over the years the pain subsides and the gut wrenching agony simmers to a dull throb, but nothing makes it go away forever. The best you can hope for is for the mend of the time, and to balance the tears of loss with the smiles of good memories.

I guess in the sense of hopeless loss there is no equalizer, no opposite fix. And in a way we remain broken, with patches of new life, time and memories holding us together…

Lessons to Relive Part 3– Lessons of Sundays

Monday, August 20th, 2012

One of the greatest features of life and time is that both always move forward, forcing us to continue even when times are rough. It’s a phenomenon that allows us to conquer our greatest lows, and leave nasty experiences in the past to rot and eventually disappear. So overall, the continuum of life and time is a good thing that ushers in newer and more delightful moments, and teaches us the lessons needed to mature and evolve. But despite all these grandiose results, a dark shadow lurks on the horizon; one that can consume times of gold and turn them into ash, scattering them into the winds of time to be lost forever…

I’m speaking of the sad events that happen to all of us betwixt the folds of life and time; the moment when we allow someone we love and cherish to fade from our memory. It’s a dark event that even we don’t pick up on until something earthshattering occurs like death, or the sharp realization all adults endure when remembering their childhood. But sadly, we can’t go back in time and remedy the neglect we inflicted, or change what we did or didn’t do for that matter. So we’re left with only our memories and regrets…

But sometimes, if we’re lucky enough to sort through the dark haze of guilt and regret, we recognize parts of ourselves that were shaped by those left behind… So those we loved are never truly forgotten.

Sunday Afternoons and Seven-Up

Such a lesson of regret and understanding is poignantly portrayed in Troy Honeycutt’s account of his great uncle. When compiling Lessons From Beyond I was struck by the straightforwardness and no-holds attitude of Honeycutt’s story (as most accounts regarding guilt and loved ones are sugar-coated and whiney). He let his great uncle fade into the past, but found a way to preserve him eternally. And such honesty brings about the greatest lessons in life…

When Troy was child, his Uncle Gene was one of the most influential and important people in his life; not just because of his wealth and prestigious position in the world, but because of his work ethic and values. You see, Uncle Gene was a respected Los Angeles County Judge who had a big house with a pool, took golfing and sailing trips, hosted lavish parties, and had the most impressive set of sunglasses and hats. Troy, on the other hand, was middle-class on a good day, but Uncle Gene didn’t discriminate or acknowledge such superfluous differences, and he loved Troy even though the young boy wasn’t a blood relative, and instilled his values in life whenever the opportunity arose.

And when a youthful Troy mentioned his desire for a TV in his bedroom one fateful Sunday afternoon, Uncle Gene saw an opening to teach the wily boy a lesson in work ethic and pride. Rather than hand over the den television set, Uncle Gene set a price – painting the exterior of house. Now, up until this point in his life, Troy had never completed any chore – the dishes were always put away wet and the lawn was always shabby after being mowed. After all, a child’s own desires are far more important than pleasing the laundry list of chores handed down by parents. But Troy would never admit this level of laziness to his uncle, and set about painting the house every Sunday, and for the first time experienced the pride that comes from a job well done and the satisfaction of good craftsmanship.

It took Troy two years’ worth of Sundays to finish the painting, and knowing that he did a fine job was the ultimate payoff. And then Sundays returned to normal with seven-up, football and popcorn, until Uncle Gene was diagnosed with cancer. Though his uncle fought admirably, the cancer eventually gained the upper hand, and Troy became scared, skipping visits in order to skip the pain on his Uncle’s face. And soon girls, surfing and skateboarding won the upper-hand and Sunday visits stopped altogether…

Uncle Gene passed away when Troy was 17 years old. To this day Troy doesn’t know what day he died as he wasn’t there… Hopefully it wasn’t a Sunday.

Although Troy wishes he could yell at the teenage boy he was and explain how nothing is more important than family, he knows his teenage self wouldn’t listen anyway. Life happens and mistakes can’t be undone, but truth can be found in every dark corner…

Today, Troy builds custom motorcycles and is known for his attention to detail and work ethic. The lessons learned from painting the once formidable house guides him forward, and no challenge is impossible because Uncle Gene believed in him once and he accomplished a feat that seemed unattainable. And so, in a way Troy carries his Uncle with him, for Uncle Gene gave him the confidence to complete any task.

The fact still remains that Troy can’t change the past, but he’s learned to carry the best parts with him – Sunday afternoons with Uncle Gene…

And like Troy, we might stumble and forget those we love in the dust we unsettle, but once the haze clears the parts of true gold remain and are carried forward into the future with the realization that though the past is unchanging, it shapes who we are and thus, can never be forgotten.

The Big Picture In Small Print

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Trying to encompass the logistics of the world in a single conversation is like trying to eat a whole bag of marshmallows and still spit out “chubby bunny!” It’s overwhelming, rather ridiculous, tends to get messy, and in the end you wined-up a slobbering fool. The world is simply too complex, too big and too chaotic to fit in a singular idea, and those who do, find themselves sputtering and stammering to defend their incomplete thoughts.

Life isEVERTHING we see, hear, touch, and feel. And not just in the physical sense, it includes the metaphysical as well. Think about it… What is an emotion? What is a soul? Neither is something we can grasp onto, but we know undeniably they exist. We feel it in our gut, in every heartbeat, and in every fleeting moment when our minds wander into the unknown.So how can anyone describe what they see and feel without creating a complete set of encyclopedias? I certainly can’t, and I wouldn’t try too; but there are a few important bullet points concerning life and the world I do ponder on, hoping to adjust my grip on reality and stabilize my own fluctuating existence.

Love, Relationships and Compromise

In my eyes, relationships are a cornerstone to life. They can make or, for a period of time, break you. Finding the right person doesn’t necessarily complete you (as we are all one in ourselves), but compliments all that is good in you and helps you become the best person you can be. It’s about finding someone for the ride; someone who can reach for the highs, and climb up from the lows. And once your compliment is found, you must hold on for dear life. But we all know that accomplishing such a huge feat – finding and keeping a man or woman in your life – is a highly difficult task…

Relationships are beyond complicating. They are different for every person, and because people constantly change and evolve, relationships are in a continual flux… But I’m going straight to the heart of things. If you don’t have love, your relationship will eventually crumple, but if you don’t have trust, love can never flourish and grow. In a sense, trust is the cornerstone to a relationship. When trust fails, people feel cheated and eventually everything is called into question.

Sadly, I’ve been watching this drama unfold among many of my close friends, and I can’t help but be drawn in…

I don’t know… maybe it’s just the hot weather making everyone cranky, but a flood of relationship difficulties is pounding on my door, and I’m desperately looking for a solution.

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”

If only we could, “never grow up,” and live in a world with magic and the innocence of childhood. When we were young trusting those we loved was natural. There were no questions because we’d never been hurt. Fast-forward a couple decades and now we’ve turned into bitter and pained old souls who believe in self-preservation where any hint of betrayal can turn into a relationship meltdown.

But that’s not the point in life…

We shouldn’t live in fear. And although trust is a fear and makes us vulnerable, it’s key to our success. After all, didn’t our parents always say relationships were about compromise?

We have to compromise our independence and learn to find happiness in others. No more self-medicating. When you find the right person, let go of your insecurities and trust that they love you too.

When both people trust a relationship it becomes unbreakable, and even at the lowest of lows when the love waivers, the trust will keep it all together.

I guess that’s what I’d tell my friends who are struggling through the summer heat and the storm of an argument… Remember the trust you built, and you can once again build a truly amazing relationship. Trust might not be everything to a relationship, but it’s a good place as any to work on and cultivate.

Just Do It and Smile

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Obligation is a tacky word. To me it’s full of condescension and negativity and can make any good mood go sour. It’s a buzz kill that brings about annoyance, sadness, anger, resentment and even doubt. Honestly, why would anyone want to do something they really don’t like?

Being bound by a custom, a promise or a law is all fine and dandy, but the resulting negative weight on our emotions is just plain sucky. And as I sit fuming about the obligation I must keep, I can’t help but ponder the truth behind the word and the action. Why all the animosity? Why do wefeel anger toward something we consciously agreed to do?

I guess having no choice in the matter makes obligations so horrible and terribly time consuming. We all got a life to live, and putting it on pause simply to finish a task that we have no desire in doing, can really bring down a day. But that’s the funny thing… we chose and agreed to complete the task. It wasn’t forcibly shoved down our throats (even though it may feel that way); we said we’d do something and therefore it must be done.

But now, the obligation has turned into a monster of honor and responsibility. If we don’t follow through on a promised duty, then our character is called into question, and wemayeven doubt our own intentions. And doubt truly weighs down the soul. Life is all about finding our way, doing the things we want, and creating a world of joy and comfort. Calling that into question, only intensifies the gloomy, stressed mood that accompanies every obligation. It’s an exponential growth of horribleness and pain, because the next thing we know, we’re feeling resentment toward those we agreed to help.

And being bitter toward the ones we love can crumble our whole world…

Family and friends are the pillars that hold us up, and if we happen to fall, they are always there to help pick up the mess. They are the puzzle pieces that complete our inner peace and bliss. In this jigsaw puzzle of a world they are a light of guidance, no matter how dark our lives have become…So by closing them off in our frustrations over changing our plans to finish an undesirable duty, we shut out the light, and our joy immediately begins to wane.

So what can we do to take the edge off obligations?

We can stop being selfish.

Obligations aren’t about us. They’re about the person we made a promise to. So, rather than dwell on the untimely upheaval of our lives, think about the good we bring into someone’s world. By sacrificing a portion of our day to help someone in theirs is an ultimate portrayal of loyalty and love. And the look of joy on their faces is enough to prove our hidden anguish is worth it. And then, the obligation is no longer a chore, for it has transformed into a small favor for an awesome friend.

So enter into the bonds of obligations with an open heart and the weight of the task will lesson considerably. Don’t fret over the pending inconveniences to life. The obligation and time belongs to those in need, not us.

Instead, webecomethe source of a friend’s happiness, and this is a huge responsibility that should be viewed with reverence and awe rather than annoyance and resentment. We have the power to alter their life for good or bad.

Besides, it’s never as bad as we make it out to be. So, stop the complaining, just get it done, and keep on smiling… because we’re going to make someone very happy.