I feel overmatched. I sense I have no grasp of where you are. Somehow, and not slowly, I have lost the ability to read your eyes. A while back I watched you as you gazed out into the Atlantic ocean and I wanted to know what you were thinking. You had this look, the way a child looks when daydreaming, as though the whole of life turned to fantasy. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I saw it, and I suppose I am happy for it.
I am sitting in a nearly empty room in Brooklyn, and I don’t know how all of this is gonna come out. I will be honest, and I won’t denigrate others – I will talk about you and your life, but I’m not here to judge or answer any of your questions. I will do my best to write without concern of what others may think – of what you may think. All of this is out of my control, so I toss the demons and trust the strokes my fingers make. I will trust myself here and now – And should this river turn into a wild ocean, full of fear and distant from safety, I hope you can see the love way back at the mouth of the river. Love is how this begins, and it will be how it ends.
I fear there are memories somewhere that I didn’t keep long enough. I know who you are; I mean, the quality of person and all. I know that you have suffered for me and fought for me. To say that I am angry would be incorrect. In fact, this isn’t really about you, insofar as how it affects me – this is about me learning how to react and handle the changes you are going through, and it hurts; this type of change sends signals to the deepest roots within a person and delivers an astonishing pain. That’s what this is; all of this living and aging, it’s all just dying and losing.
Lately, it seems I’m losing more of you than ever before, and I know it’s not coming back to me. I need to find where I end and you begin, because I am not strong enough to take on weight that isn’t my own. I get lost because I have never had to do this. Frustration and sadness set in; at times I just want to push it all inside and pretend that you can’t affect me. Fortunately, all of the time I know where that road leads. I am not willing to push off into a forest of an ocean only to find myself lost and alone yet again. I am not willing to lose everything because this has got me sideways – this work feels like constant effort, and if that’s what it takes I am willing to work continuously.
I have a battle on my hands and I know it. Yours is a battle I cannot fight; I can imagine it is an exhausting one. There will be sadness, probably more than there is now, and that’s ok. Great sadness is the mark of a great thing being removed from this world, so it is in this sadness I turn to gratitude. Though my words here may cast shadows around my current state, there is no amount of darkness to overwhelm the brightness you have given me.
Your eyes sparkle when you hear it – you still have brightness, and it is all for other people. That is what I see these days; you still want to know how I am doing. Everything that matters in this world is happening at this moment, and you seem to have found a way to reign in moments as they come, releasing them as they go. I find that to be remarkable, and consider myself fortunate to be on the same side as you.
Out of all of this, if you are reading this, I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am for each memory stored away and each moment we have together. I hope when you sit and look out at the ocean you have some of those stored away for yourself. I wish I had what it took in the past to create positive moments, and I hope you forgive me for my detachment and selfishness. I didn’t know how to give back any of the love given to me, but I’m learning it these days. I only hope I didn’t come back to life too late for this – I hope I haven’t given an underwhelming performance.
I will continue to work towards being a better person, not just for myself but for those I impact and for those I do not know. I have found a way to connect with people and at times I feel like what I think you must have felt like, only I’m in a psychiatric unit, and you were on a stage. Still, I think the eyes looking back at us say the same thing: they all want an answer to a question that nobody has. And that is how I carry you with me – through the eyes of those looking back to me, waiting for me to say something to make them believe it can all turn around for them as it did for me.
My words are no longer backed with paper-thin defenses – and with confidence, I can tell you that I always want you to be a part of whatever I am doing. I can tell you that fear doesn’t control my life as it once did – it has been replaced with gratitude and service. And it is with gratitude and service that I hope to be useful to you in any way you may need me to be.
There is no one way to do any of this, there is only action and good direction. I have no business trying to change the landscape of the past or future; I trust the way the winds blow. I have seen too much darkness in my life not to enjoy the light, and I intend to do just that. I would never have imagined I would still be a part of all of this – that you would still have that sparkle in your eye when you hear my name. Some people change their lives because they are tired of being broke or lonely – I changed my life because I was tired of being empty and I wanted to know how to give back what was always given to me. What I have now is beyond my wildest dreams.
While your eyes may lead me to wonder and confusion at times, it is untrue to say that I have no idea where you are. As I catch a glimpse of you staring into the ocean, I may not know where you are, but I know that you have always been with me, and for the life of me I don’t know what I did to deserve so much love. I guess every dog has its day.
For the first 30 years of my life, I was not part of much in any meaningful way. I had my moments with family; I was well-behaved, polite, never set out to hurt anyone. Then again I never set out to do much of anything – I didn’t want to upset anyone, and I didn’t want any attention. Attention shines a light and exposes good and bad qualities alike – I didn’t want any light shining on me. I wanted to go unnoticed – and I was pretty successful. This attitude is perhaps why my behavior has at times confounded so many people throughout my life – I am someone who is likable, polite, pensive, and loving but I also don’t want people’s attention. So, often people would see someone who was safe to get close to, who wouldn’t hurt them. Often what people found was once they got too close I completely detached, and they were utterly shocked. I am nice, how could I do something so emotionally jarring?
I have always had one foot out the door. I didn’t want anyone to get close to me because I had no idea what they would find. In the first part of my life I was too scared to look into the mirror, so I created what I thought you wanted to see – every single person. What resulted was a disastrous collision of personalities, all created out of thin air and none with any foundation. When you have no foundation it is easy to run away – it also makes it impossible to stay.
I had to change – not a few tweaks here and there – I had to change my entire perspective on how to go about living if I ever wanted to connect with others. I had to make a decision, every morning, regarding my position in this world. To be part of this world I had to face the darkness – if I wanted the light, the connection with others, I had to be willing to find a connection with myself.
The darkness is the part of myself that I don’t want you to see, and I certainly don’t want to acknowledge. It is the truth – it is the only thing worth fighting for and the only thing that will allow me to be a significant, useful person. It may sound like wordplay, but it is not – there is no trickery, and there is nothing pretentious or new about this line of thinking. Being part of this world means so much more than going to work, making dinner, and going to bed. A paycheck, a mortgage, a partner – these are all part of an individual’s life. But in these things, we can escape from the world, pretend that our existence is a fulfilling one, that we have found beauty. For me there are a million smokescreens, a million disguises – there is always a way out of this world, and most people find it and take it.
To be part of this world means finding authenticity within oneself – admitting and working on one’s flaws before celebrating one’s successes. To appreciate the light with sincerity one must understand and experience the darkness – one must engage in their personal battle to find happiness and fulfillment on their accord. The euphoria that others bring us is not authentic; it cannot be. We create our happiness and others serve only to enhance our lives. We go out and face the world alone, find what we have hidden from ourselves, and rip it out of the ground and shine a light on it. Everyone has their fair share of flaws and most point out the flaws in others to direct the light away from themselves. In the darkness you cannot do this – there is no light to shine on the faults of others, there is only you.
You have people who rant and rave about the miscarriages of the government – posting vile speeches just to grab a headline – yelling as loud as they can about the misdeeds of everyone but themselves and then resting on their mistaken laurels. These people feel they have done their part; they have blown the whistle on everyone else! They have told you and everyone else exactly how to think! They have done nothing for themselves. They are scavengers – they want your attention – they want the light off of them. Don’t take their light on – or listen to them and take up arms from your couch. You will find no argument from me – I cannot make others work on themselves, and I know this. I can only show you how I came to confront life on my own – one must do it alone.
When I set out to face my devil, I saw the manipulation, the layers of deceit, the dishonesty. I saw where I had been so convincingly dishonest with myself that I hadn’t even noticed anymore. This had to be undone – my life had to be reworked. My life is still being reworked; it is a daily reprieve. I echo the words of great minds from the past and tell you that the only thing I know is that I know nothing. I cannot right the wrongs of the 21st century with a few vitriol words here and there. Each time I see another spew words onto the screen condemning others for their way of life and offering a solution I smile a bit. What I offer here is not a solution, it is not even directions to anything. I do not know what others must face in their life – I do know that there is a part of this world that is filled with darkness, and I know that when given the opportunity to work on one’s shortcomings a person will turn swiftly and point out mine first.
All I have is my path and it is dark at times, but it always leads me to a beauty I had never known before. These things I work on, the things others have taught me, are ways to work on a sickness that was within me long before any drink was. It is the disease of being born and being scared. The illness in this world is fear, and I cannot tell you what fear you have. Perhaps you are like me, and you have pushed your fears so deep you hope they never come back up – but they will and they most likely already have. Our repressed fears and shortcomings find new ways to breathe, new ways to hurt us and the only way we are rid of them is if we face them.
There is a darkness in my world today – it tells me to go back into my bed, to turn off the lights, to make an excuse instead of going outside. My fear tells me I am unwanted, unworthy, and of no use. However, I have faced my devil many times and each time I do I gain more light – the light is my beauty and my truth and the more I seek progress in the darkness the more truth I find in the light. The light is what shakes me from my slumber; it is what makes my eyes rise to meet yours. The light gives me hope; it is a reminder of what I go through to get a glimpse of beauty. To know pure beauty is to know utter darkness; Do not fear to become mired in the shadows – the brightness within is bolder.
I do not know what the world needs or what problems can be solved. I only know that if one will only examine themselves the way so many dissect so many others from afar one will find answers they can use. I gain nothing by learning what your flaws are – I cannot correct them – only you can correct yourself. With this knowledge, it seems to make sense that I ought to continue working on myself and myself alone each day. My words here are only a journal into my life – if you find my life appealing, if you see the stillness in me that you wish for yourself you will find my methods here. I will not make orders; I have no power and no control over you. I have experience. You know where I come from; it is your choice: do my words have any merit? Ought we look inwards instead of outwards? I tell you that man can change but one heart and one mind in this entire world, and that is his own. I will be part of this world by accepting the darkness – that is how badly I want the light.
Though it satisfies my selfish mind to align myself, to toe the line, I must move away from mirrored minds and reflective voices on the chorus line shouting “we are right and they are lying.” I want my beliefs to be challenged, and you secure enough to be challenged.
I want to be without answers and confidently balanced.
I have no use for you who are right and you who are wrong.
I want to be steady on trembling roads where all is not right and all has gone wrong. I want to surprise my shadow and know that I am not all black nor all white.
Fling forth all beliefs and surrender all answers. They don’t mean a thing. The language will change and though we have the means we no longer feel the need. We will know how to move on these trembling roads and we will trust ourselves more than we did before.
Attachment melts from our golden eyes
The path we are on is not a pack of lies.
And as you beat your heart with no education
You will trust your words without hesitation.
You and I with golden eyes no longer need to proselytize or win the war or steal the skies. We just walk along on trembling roads and as we speak the pathway grows and roots are born and sorrow goes. And though the sun is sleeping even the blind can see that the brightness between us is the sunshine within us and the sunshine within us is the sun that you see.
Fear of not being taken seriously.
Fear of freedom and fear of light.
Fear of being superfluous.
Fear that you won’t love your enemy.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what you love will prove inconsequential.
Fear of death.
Fear of running out of time.
Fear of things left unsaid.
Fear of being forgotten.
Fear that your transformation has gone unnoticed.
Fear that you won’t be fully recognized.
Fear that they won’t understand what all the fuss is about.
Fear that you are too late.
Fear that you never arrived.
With sincerity, effort, and error.
Though I am the bearer of fragility and foolishness, I harbor no hatred. I am the spark before judgment, the ghost disguising pride; I mustn’t give in to hatred. But you! You can tell me what it is like to hate with fury. Deliver me from naivety and expose the shadows running through the heart of every man and woman. I know these shadows; you have become your shadow. You furiously cast fear and hatred into empty vessels. I have only sadness and compassion for your malice. Do not mistake my depression with despair. You are the one who is full of despair; You feel so weak in your ways that you turn to hate. Ashes embrace you but are fleeting.
Memories of those forsaken soon spell disaster on your tongue. And where has your arrogance led you? What path trembled, split and shattered beneath your feet? Who is to blame for your disillusionment? How much is your love worth now? No longer able to bear your reflection, you cast shadows on those around you, but this is not the world’s fault; it is your fault. You are too scared to see it, but you must. I will guide you through the desert, and you will confront the truth. Your mind cannot breathe as burials burst from beneath and settle on the surface. You are falling apart. Your lies collapse into your chest; your legs shake as exhausted bridges plummet from the air. You have a tenuous grasp on reality, and beneath it all, you are full of fear.
Because of this, you have my love; Do not mistake benevolence for weakness. It is because I love that I may see you as God intended. Everything exists because I love; life is love. Your hatred does not succeed because there are those who will continue, into the abyss of time, to love one another. That is my answer to your hatred: to love. I feel heartache because I love and gratitude because I love. You and your hate will burn, and burn out.
OUT OF SPITE I LOVED YOU.
RESISTING THE TEMPTATION OF REASON
IN SPITE OF THEM ALL, I LOVED YOU.
OR, I NEVER LOVED YOU IF IT EASES THE TIDE
I MUST LOVE SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE.
THE DOOR HOLDS, WATCHING THE HINGE BEND
I cannot define love, but if I could, I would say that my definition of it has changed drastically over the last two years. Or rather, my sensibility surrounding the essence of love has changed a great deal. Judging by my current belief, I could say with some confidence that I never actually loved anyone in my life for the first 30 years; aside from natural, instinctual feelings primarily towards my mother as a young child. In fact, I would go so far as to say that none of my emotions, my feelings, were genuine for the first part of my life. This does not mean that my past is some demonic dwelling or scorched earth. There were plenty of notions floating around of love, forgiveness, sadness, anger, etcetera – I just experienced a perverse version of these emotions.
Love has always confounded me, and somewhere along the way I picked up the impression that many people loved one another by one person showing dominance towards the other, often instilling fear to get their way. I was turned off by this approach but had never picked up an alternative, so I created my own, as a child, and as you can imagine it was terribly flawed. My idea of love was one where I would do anything for another’s approval, anything so they had no reason to be upset or angry with me, and once I did I considered it love. I wanted so badly for others to accept me, for others to embrace and approve of me that I was like a wounded puppy, always expecting to be cast out into the storm unless I lay on my back with gifts and acts of submission. And as so often happens people begin to treat you as you show them how to use you – I was your “yes man” and you had no choice but to take advantage or to leave me. Few people wish to leave the wounded – and fewer realize the power they take; yet I allowed all of this and created much of this because I wanted to show you I loved you. I instead showed you I was dependent upon you, and when you left, I cursed you. I was a sick man, a wounded man, and you sadly tried to rescue me.
All of my emotions were based in fear; everything I felt was a safeguard against me feeling inadequate and not in the actual emotion itself. I felt pride when I sensed you were proud of me, yet I never felt pride alone. I felt anger only at myself, blaming all of your actions as reactions to my mistakes. Sadness came in the form of self-pity and forgiveness was used to avoid confrontation. Loneliness was perhaps my most genuine emotion – but I have always felt alone. Amongst millions I have felt loneliness in the pit of my stomach; In the darkest hours, I searched for isolation to rid myself of this feeling. I found a friend in my loneliness – I embraced my negative, harmful emotions because they accepted me. However, they failed me time and again; this foundation so weak that I fell further and further until I had felt nothing at all. I became numb. Finally, I became something I could live with.
Numbing pain, a numbing hatred, all directed inwards. I was able enough to take the hate, yet I was far too weak to be honest with myself. At this moment, I created my most delusional emotions, my most intense feelings of love and sadness were paper thin and frail. No foundation, no mortar or brick, nothing at all. 27 flights up and I felt the cool breeze – nothing and yet everything in front of me. My complicated emotions also saved my life – for it was pride that brought me back inside and onto a new life of genuine, painful, and confusing experiences.
And at times, it is just as lonely – but the utter sadness and hatred are gone. Loneliness beckons me, but I resist the depression and self-pity. Instead, I confront these feelings – I am ok with this loneliness. I step outside and ask to be placed in a position to be of service – to comfort those who feel they are without value. There those who seem to have no worries at all; there was a time when I seemed to like this to many. I can be of service by listening to people and understand that I never know what someone is going through. When others lash out it is because they are hurting, and I can be there to practice tolerance and compassion. It is not my turn to lash out at the world – I do not need to turn to hateful words. I understand this sickness, it makes us bite, bewildered and afraid. It takes control of our minds and hearts, and we are so vulnerable we don’t let anyone close. I won’t try to control you; I’ll wait outside, and my story won’t change. You always come out to me when you are ready.
This is my love – to be patient and to not control. When I love another, I want them to find happiness and fulfillment even if that doesn’t include me. I can work through the pain of loss because love tells me I am not losing anything; To love you is to want your brightness to reach its peak, and I remove myself and my pride. My love is not selfish – I know that you have your path in life. Sometimes our paths run parallel yet most times our paths go opposite ways and in these moments, I rest easy knowing I never tried to control you or bend your will to mine. I do not force you to come with me when your path winds the other way. Most times I don’t understand your way, but I support it.
Today I tell you that I want many things that I never receive, and I can smile because I know they weren’t meant for me. I know that my life puts me in a position to have positive experiences beyond my design, so I let go of the desire to design. My plans force you to be in my life; they force you away from your life, and I don’t want this.
I am myself; I am intense, overwhelming, passionate, sensitive, emotional, and I have a hard time dialing it all back. I can exhaust you, I can inspire you, I can turn you away or brighten your eyes. It all depends on you – there is no magic in my words. If you want what I have you will want more – if not you will continue. There is no trap outside my door, no poison to stall your steps. I only attempt to be as genuine as possible, as honest as possible, and as authentic as I can be. It scares most to hear such honesty and to many it is inappropriate! It is too much! But to me, it is all I know to be true of myself. My small talk is riddled with nervous apprehensions; I don’t know what to say. I can listen for hours, but I cannot listen to an empty heart.
My love took me to Bellevue psychiatric ward again tonight to speak to those who are sick and suffering in their right. And as I do with you I do with them; I sit outside and hope for a chance to share my song. I don’t pressure the vulnerable; I don’t lie about my life. I tell them the difficulty I have had, of the pain I have felt, and of the joy, I am fortunate enough to experience on a daily basis if I choose to experience it. They sense that I do not want anything from them just as I do not wish anything from you. Being allowed to share my song is enough; everything else is controlling and forceful, and I do not want this. I do not wish to deceive you, and I will not be whoever you think I should be.
I am myself, on my path, and I can love you from oceans away if I must. I will never try to change you, and I will never let you change me. I love you for everything you are and for your pain and your happiness. You let me sit outside the door; I expect nothing more. The moment you are ready I will be here; my message does not change. You can always find me on my path seeking balance amid the chaos. I fall over and over and over again, and my lips and knees are bleeding. But my heart and my mind are still and I get back up over and over and over again. I do not have to be right, I do not need to be perfect, I do not need to be understood. I only wish to be given the chance to know how you feel, to be a body to sit next to, to be someone who only wishes for you to find your brightness. I am always part of this when I take myself out of it.
You are born with pure heart and mind, sound and lovely. For I only know beauty born in reverse – I know beauty after the bloodshed, death, and ghosts. But you know beauty before the plague. You see beauty and love as they exist, unlike me with my gratitude and admiration so necessary. You were born to be beloved – I died to become only a mere fraction of people such as yourself. Do not resist what comes naturally – your nature is not mistaken.
I sit and listen to the rain ricochet off my windows and down to the alley below. I turn the music off, turn the lights up, and begin staring at the computer screen; I am alone. I visit these valleys sometimes – they are warm and cold at the same time. I do not feel grateful, I am not content, I am fragile, and I do not like this at all.
I do not like this because it is selfish, self-centered, and it does not make any sense to me. Still, I must investigate – I may not make sense to myself, but I feel this way nonetheless. These are the things I wish to keep all to myself and even further, these things I want to hide from myself. But I know better – I must divulge these feelings to overcome them. So, I will sit here and talk with you; I am happy you are here with me.
I feel overmatched. I live life between the waves – a life beyond fruitful yet somehow darkened by the lack of visitors. There are moments when I want to forget my past, forget what I have learned and be invisible; I want to be a ghost. This valley is passing, and may be gone by sunrise – but I know the importance of sharing, so I write. I know that to be of service is my purpose – and even in my most selfish moments, I can be of service by not keeping these moments to myself.
I do not want to be normal, whatever normal means. Still, I am exhausted, and despite my many shades of color sometimes I just want to be right in between everything. This is perhaps the most selfish thing I have ever written, but I am ok with this. I am, after all, a selfish man when I am alone, afraid, and dissatisfied. Confusion beckons me, and I am almost ready to heed the call. But alas, I am here with you and beginning to feel myself better. I am starting to feel part of something – part of you.
I want you to see me as I am, and at this moment, my words are becoming bolder because I sense your eyes scanning the page. I sense that in my golden age of transparency I have become less timid and more at ease. I am beginning to let this feeling go, I feel the discomfort slide from my shoulders and wither away. I want you to understand me, to know that my heart is elastic and my mind expansive. I want you to know that I need you because I see God in you – not in myself.
You are my conduit to the life that I know is worth more than I realize. You are many, you are everyone, and though I know the whole of you will never see this, I will feel your presence despite this. Do you understand what you have done for me? Do you now realize that you are necessary?! You have not answered me yet; still, I sense your presence, and it is you who I must thank. Only in divulging my heart to you do I see my selfishness and unhappiness in action. And now I see them both melt away. This is how I come to find myself; this is my path to fulfillment and contentment. It does not come to me without effort, though I submit to you that I doubt happiness comes to anyone without effort unless the person is a fool and mistakes over-consumption for joy.
I know now that I must find the ability to be of service expecting absolutely nothing in return. In many ways, I feel that I am of service by being truthful here – and to be honest, I have received more than I could hope for already by writing this. It is in the act of being useful, honest, and of service that one finds meaning and fulfillment – I find only fleeting feelings of happiness when I receive praise and applause. The external gifts do not bring forth what so many believe that they will – it is in the work of service where one will find this meaning.
I have been restored to my faith, love, and usefulness before anyone has even glanced down at these pages. It is not in the celebration of one’s work where fulfillment is to be found – it is in the effort and the sincere desire to be useful to others where sunrise meets the ocean creating a dazzling display. Every disappointing moment is traceable to my design, so I let go of my plan and again embrace what I do not know or see.
I feel the sunrise in the alley; the rain has stopped drumming on my windows, and a smile comes across my once weary and teary eyed face. The music finds its volume again, and a maddening piano sends a fury of force up my spine and into my now focused mind. I am here to be of service, to light fires along the path so that they may provide direction for another. I cannot see behind me, and I do not know how this will make you feel – and the beautiful truth is that it matters none to me. I have received whatever it is I should receive from this, and though I hope you wake with happiness in your heart, I know I cannot worry myself. I have no control – I am but a writer and a poor boy who has found my heart ripened because I can send my thoughts into the ether. I am always a part of this when I take myself out of it.
It has been some time since I have written anything. This is not due to a lack of inspiration, rather some other things have been on my mind – both newsworthy and not so newsworthy. Certain things are happening that I have strong opinions on – issues that I want to argue over, make my voice heard and point out the fault and misdirection in others. These are the things I want to do when I’m reacting, not thinking. Ultimately, my purpose is not to argue over such matters, especially not here. Instead, I turn to what I know has worked for me: Love, compassion, tolerance, humility, understanding and the ever so powerful tool of leading by example.
For much of my adult life, I was enamored with the idea of making a type of earth-shattering impact. My thoughts would quickly jump from helping someone on the street to saving an entire country from starvation. For an extended period of time, I believed myself capable of causing what I would refer to as real change. I had this belief that it was okay if people wanted to help on a community level but my impact, my desire to help others was so enormous it had the potential to change the world. And throughout all of this grandiose thinking, I didn’t make any difference or help anybody.
I sense that this type of thinking is not as rare as one would hope. When I reflect on that kind of thinking, I notice that the desire to make changes that are newsworthy often eliminates the desire to create change that nobody notices at first. There is a part of me that is driven by ego, fear, and excitement – a part that wants to tell people where they are wrong and blame others for what I see as a disservice. What I have learned is that this type of behavior, this holier-than-thou attitude, reveals what my real motives are. When I argue and yell, I am doing it because I want it to be known that I am right! This behavior magnifies the truth behind my motive – I want to be seen as something special, as someone who is out to make the world a better place. Instead what I have actually done is burn up all my energy trying to impress upon people how passionate I am about some cause to the point where I haven’t made any impact at all, besides hearing myself speak.
What I have learned is that I cannot will people to think like me. Just as importantly, my desire to convince others completely distracts me from making any impact at all. I become obsessed with telling people how they should behave when I am not behaving the way I preach. I have been at fault of this many times throughout my life and, to a lesser extent, still am at fault today. But in many ways I have changed, and I continue to change.
I have learned that the greatest impact I can make on others begins with me living a life that begs me to take the next right action. I have learned that before I can impact others, I must change myself, working to improve myself daily. I try my best to restrain from judging others and when I fail I look at my life and find out what is missing. What am I doing or not doing that is making me lash out in a judgment of others? Often I find that I lack humility – my ego has gotten a little too big and I have to take the steps necessary to come back down to earth so I can see people the way I was meant to see them, eye to eye rather than from above.
When I can carry a message of love and understanding, when I ask to comfort rather than to be comforted, when I place myself behind others I begin to see actual change. What may come as a surprise is that the biggest difference isn’t in the people I am in contact with, the most significant change happens within me. This change enables me to push myself a little further into the presence of others. It allows me to become more involved, more visible. When I practice tolerance I am not being steamrolled over by people who are more aggressive, rather I am learning the ways that I can better reach people. I learn by listening to people, by trying to understand where their heart is at. My voice is not as loud, but it may prove to have a longer lasting echo.
And that is what I want to impress upon others, that echo. I am not at all concerned about being seen by those who only wish to congratulate me, I want to be seen by those that need my help. When I speak to people, I want them to know that I have no interest in anything other than the act of helping one another. The people that I talk to do not need to remember my face, my name or my opinion – my hope is that they remember my love, compassion, and understanding. My hope is that they recognize that actions based on fear and aggression do not lead anyone to the results they wish – That love of power and control is only love of a delusion.
My hope is that when I leave people they feel more connected than when I arrived. I have a desire to show people that I know all about fear and anger, and I know that it doesn’t promote progress and happiness. This is the example that I hope to impress upon others – an example that shows a man who lived in fear, isolation, and misery and turned into a man that lives with peace, passion and understanding. I hope that I can show through my actions that I did not overcome these things by myself and that I overcame them with the love and compassion of others. I can’t remember everyone who has helped me, but I remember exactly how they helped me. I know that they showed love to me when I was incapable of returning it – they showed me compassion when I didn’t think anyone cared – they told me that they understood that I was hurt and that they didn’t want me to worry any longer. Those are the things I remember, and in that way those people have left a part of themselves with me that I will never forget. So forget my name, my face and my story – forget everything you know about me – it doesn’t matter. Instead remember the things that made me believe my life was worth living, that it was other people, faceless people, who through acts of kindness, love, and compassion were able to save my life.
They taught me that to keep this gift I have to give it away, and I do. The people that resonate with me, the ones who have made my life better than I ever imagined it could be, are the people who approached me with compassion. Those that have lashed out in anger and tried to instill fear in me have left a valuable gift for me as well – they have shown me how to diminish the brightness in others, they have taught me how fear manipulates people into doing things they never thought they were capable of. I have lived in both of these worlds – one of them almost killed me and the other shot life back into my eyes.
I have no need for fear in my life, I have no room for anger. Today I have the ability to help others make positive changes in their lives – to look at me in the eye and know that there is a life of happiness out there if you want it. As long as people want to make a positive change I am able to be of service to them, specifically because others were there to be of service for me when I needed. I don’t need to argue to prove my point, I am the proof. I am here because of love and compassion. I am here specifically because of those little things that people do that go unnoticed to everyone but the person they are helping. I am the result of individuals like you who have wished me well, who have written notes letting me know that I am in your thoughts. The compassion that was shown to me and the love that I still receive are the things that have made me who I am today. It brought me back to life – it helped me see how amazing people are when they open their hearts and act not with judgment but instead operate with love. If I have made any impact on anyone it is because of the impact others have made for me – and for me, I only have to look in the mirror to know the power that love and compassion carry with it.
“I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.”
― C.G. Jung
I cannot recall my first memory. As I scan through my mind and search for memories I find something distinct from any concrete memory. I find a feeling instead; It is an overwhelming sense of fear. I have lived with this fear my entire life and for most of it I have not known what to do with it. I have buried it deep within my soul, drowned it with drink, slept it away. Then it happened one day, as if perfectly choreographed, all of my solutions stopped working. I was left alone, shattered, and ready to collapse. Worst of it all was that I could no longer hide — death was the only hiding place left and even in my delusion I was too wary of death; I could not punish the world like that! My ego wouldn’t allow it.
As I child I would watch cartoons throughout the entire night; I secretly wished I could become one of the characters. I knew that these cartoon characters were not real. Therefore their feelings weren’t real, meaning they didn’t feel anything – I wanted the freedom these cartoon characters had. 5-year-old children generally want toys, games, and friends; I wanted to not feel anything. I always wanted to escape whatever situation I was in, but of course, you cannot escape yourself. I would run for years beyond my youth, but I never got away from the thing that haunted me; myself.
What was it about me that I wanted to escape so badly? There are not very many negative things one could say about me, at least not very damaging things. I absolutely have my fair share of character flaws, but I treated myself as if I were a monster, a villain that needed to be defeated or avoided. At times I believed myself to be downright unlovable and even let my thoughts drift so far as to think my childhood friends had been paid by my family to spend time with me! It ‘s hard to be yourself around anyone when you always question why they are there in your life.
I didn’t understand why anyone would choose to spend time with me, and over time I developed an exterior that told the world I was above it; I was better, smarter, and more talented than you and I lived in this world between self-idolizing and self-hatred. Living on these two spectrums makes it seemingly impossible to find a way to understand much in the world and even harder to behave accordingly to the ways of the world. I didn’t know who I was at any given moment, so I looked to others to tell me what to do, who to be, and whatever you thought of me is who I was and that was that! It was as if everything I pursued in life was guesswork on my part; Either work, a cause, a woman, a friend: I made my decisions based on what I thought others would see as agreeable. As long as I thought others would approve of my choices, it didn’t matter what I actually wanted, for I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and even that I didn’t know until the end. I thought I was doing what I wanted and in a very real way I was: I found my value in the approval of others so I did what I thought you wanted so that I could receive the approval and value that I wanted. It was as insane as it sounds.
Over the course of 10 years, I had treatment for this fear of mine, and I found it in the bottle. I didn’t know it when I began, but I had found something that would finally allow me to escape myself; it was the magic I had looked for my entire life and at last I found the cartoon life I had long wished for. I found a way to deal with my fear and insecurities by completely avoiding them, shutting that part of my mind down, and it worked for some time. It worked in the way that is not fulfilling, however; I was able to work, have relationships, have fun, etcetera.
But I was never relaxed, never present, and never actually happy. I was able to make myself look good enough to the world, but deep within me, I knew the truth. I knew that this unhappiness, this blatant avoidance of fear was slowly killing me. And in a way that is exactly what I needed; I had to kill that version of myself because it was made up of lies and confusion. There was nothing authentic about me and the life I was living was a complete waste of life, up until the point I decided to change. Once I made a decision to change my past experiences became invaluable to my recovery and to the recovery of others, so in this way, I am grateful for my cartoon life.
I chose to put down the bottle and the other “solutions” I thought I had found. It was in doing so that I had finally admitted the truth, that my life was not working and my way of solving my problems was terrible. That was part of the beginning for me: an admittance that I didn’t know anything about myself, my insecurities, my fear. My ego and false pride had to be acknowledged as well and then had to be torn down.
Everything I thought my life was built of and in fact the very ideas that had kept me afloat needed to be destroyed; not altered or tinkered with — they had to be completely removed from me, and it is painful. This is the part most people avoid because of the pain that comes along with growth. But without this pain and admittance, one cannot make progress; the options are always to avoid or to accept, and I chose to accept the challenge.
What I knew of myself was that I had this deep fear that led to thoughts of self-doubt and insecurity that led still further to grandiose thoughts and high levels of egotistical thinking and behavior. I may not be able to control my lineage but I can control my actions, and my action was to understand these character defects and work to rid myself of them by building strong character traits. This was a new type of pain and fear for me because I now had a plan. I did not fear the unknown, I feared to have to face my inner self and the demons within, and it is the only way to find peace.
By allowing myself to encounter my insecurities I was able to recognize how little self-confidence I had and I began working to understand why it was so low. I’m a talented, generous, decent looking guy; why should I be so down on myself? The simple fact is that I didn’t know who I was. I couldn’t see myself the way others did and in this confusion I hated myself for lacking clarity.
The progress happens when one is finally able to admit that it has been themselves holding themselves back their entire life. The blame has to be removed from the people and from bloodlines, and responsibility has to ensue. This is the thing so many people fear: taking responsibility for their own actions and thoughts. This is the cause of so much unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. We do not dare say we are at fault and in the rare instance that we do it almost always comes with the inclusion of someone else’s fault. One may say they were being unreasonable in their actions but will generally follow with a reason for their actions caused by another person; “Yes I was wrong for slapping you in the face, but you kept egging me on, pushing my buttons!” There is no acceptance in this, it is shifting responsibility to another person and believing another has control over our actions so much so that we find ourselves rarely at fault because there is always someone who “made” us do it.
This is the truth I had to find: that I am in control of how I receive other people and I am not responsible for how other people feel about me. I spent much of my life claiming to live a certain way because others expected me to, but it simply was never true. Nobody ever told me to live a certain way, and that is actually not even the important part. Nobody has the control or power to make me live a certain way unless I allow them control over me, and whatever way you slice it the responsibility comes back to me. This was the beginning of my journey to finding a more authentic self.
I have finally realized that I have a choice in how I live my life and it does not need to be met with the approval of anyone. I have trust in my actions, emotions, and motives. I know that though I make some mistakes my aim is always on a positive target. The need for others to accept me begins to drift once I accept myself for who I am, and that meant learning who I actually am. This takes time, and it continues today. By facing my fear and going through it, I removed my insecurity, self-doubt, and ego. I found a sincere compassion, a thoughtful mind, and a willing attitude to learn and accept.
I follow a path of humility, honesty, acceptance, and a release of control. The way others see me is none of my business, and that’s hard to accept at times, but I have no choice in the matter anyhow — I have no control over how you see me.
When we are able to accept responsibility for our behavior and leave the blame game to others, we find greater peace, simply because it is authentic. When I blame anyone for my behavior, I am refusing to take responsibility and am looking to avoid what ails me. We are of course not always 100% at fault, but this is not important; we are always 100% responsible for our own actions, and this is all that should concern us, for it is all we can control. I do not meddle in the lives of others because I care for them and respect them, not because I don’t have time for them. I do not try to force others to live how I believe they should because I do not know how others should live their lives; the use of force does not work when hoping to help another person improve.
Every day I see people behave in ways that I see as inappropriate, annoying, and unhealthy but I do not say a word about it. Others will not change until they are ready to look in the mirror and admit that they need to change. This is a moment of grace that few experience because few will accept their faults, it is too painful for them to do so. I am sure people will read this and think “I am glad he finally admitted he was wrong. He finally learned to take responsibility as the rest of us have long ago.” This is the sad truth and the damning reason for so much unhappiness: No matter how much I change, no matter how happy I am or how miserable I am, I cannot change you.
Knowing myself allows me to trust myself and frees me from feeling responsible for the highs and lows of other people’s lives. We take responsibility for our lives, face the challenges ahead of us and admit our imperfections. A life of avoidance is an unexamined life, a cartoon life with no real feelings, beliefs, or happiness. There is only delusion and the lies we tell ourselves, but at some point, we begin to dig, and we see the truth. We feel the weight of our unhappiness and loss of identity. At this moment each of us has a choice to make, a decision that will decide our future, and it is simply to accept and rebuild or avoid and retreat.
The world does not owe you anything. That is one of the greatest truths I believe I have learned in my life. When I was able to release the notion that I deserved something, that the world had let me down, that somebody ought to come and ‘fix’ me, I was finally able to find something worth living for.
Do not be ungrateful! The world has given you life! If you want to change, if you want to make connections with others, and if you wish to live a genuinely fulfilling life, you must go out and create it. Every possibility in this world lies one step in front of you; No organization, no amount of donation, and no amount of lovely words will fill this desire for connection.
I represent nothing and nobody but myself. My impact is much greater when my efforts are authentic, and my goal is simply to connect with others. It works – it is the reason I am alive today.
Throughout life we each seek connections with others but we often make a crucial mistake: we reject connections with those who seem different than us even in the slightest. We expect institutions and elected officials to do something that is impossible – we expect them to create happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
We see injustice in the world and we take up arms on the internet, hurl insults at political parties, and complain to our friends over the phone and over happy hour. But what have any of us done? What has this actually accomplished? There are groups, organized events, and cocktail parties for every cause imaginable yet what connections have they created? We have created a system where we blame the world for societies ills, create groups where we sit and complain about them with like-minded people, and return home to search for more news to complain about.
We are still alone, still not connected to anyone or anything besides ourselves and in most cases not even that! We are desperately seeking a way to make an impact yet in all of our desperation we have overlooked a simple fact: Connection, positive impact, and a sense of belonging begins with our hands. We do not necessarily need million man marches to create change. We do not need badges and memberships to select organizations to make connections. And we do not help anyone by choosing who we connect with – instead we punish ourselves and society altogether.
The connection I speak of, what I believe is lacking in our lives, is one where we show up when the other is bleeding. It is the relationship that stirs us from sleeping to only listen to another howl with pain. It is the realization that others feel our pain because they have taken time to relate to us. I cannot fix anything but I can find a way to connect with almost any person who is willing. The compassion we show, the identification we find, and the sacrifice we make to form these connections is what makes life fulfilling. One must have discipline, yet every good thing in this world comes with a high effort. You will not need to question if you are this type of person – one who is fulfilled and impactful knows it – it shows up in their eyes.
I have seen change in my life – I have experienced emotional, physical, real change and I have seen loneliness vanish from the world – I saw it first in myself. My entire life was changed because people postponed their Saturday night plans to come and visit me in hospitals. I have been treated by very fine physicians, given first class treatment, and am educated enough to understand quite a bit of politics, psychology, and philosophy. While I am grateful for treatment facilities and big ideas I did not find lasting change within these places – more importantly I never believed I was owed any special consideration by these institutions or our government.
The actual change that was created within me and still persists today was made by individuals who wished to form a connection with me. Some of these connections still remain, and some were only present for an hour or two. And this is the confusing part for many, the defining of connection and the return people expect for their efforts. To connect with another person, all one needs is to be authentic with their efforts – to listen with sincerity and to speak honestly. One’s motives ought to be finding a way to ease the suffering of another, and in turn, this creates a bond which provides each person with fulfillment.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome in all of this desire to connect with others is our at times inability to forgive others or to stop blaming others. Blaming others for our situation in life is easy and is often times enjoyable. It may not seem pleasant to you at any present moment. However, there is no real effort in blaming, and that is why we choose to hold onto it so often.
The pain in being a part of this world involves facing life, confronting the difficulties involved and living through them in order to change your life. Forming connections takes real effort. It takes times and sacrifice, and most people are not willing to put forth this effort when instead they can wake up each day and feel comfortable in their belief that everything is societies fault and they can do nothing to change it. They can change things actually, it is just too damn difficult for most.
Many people look at this world with such disgust that it seems an overwhelming task to make any change whatever. When this lack of action is taken seriously we find that people have given up, though they may still donate to the local animal shelter. People become resigned to life the way it is – they don’t understand others so they stay away, they don’t believe others understand them so they become resentful, and they end up believing this is all too much work so why even put in the effort. The bar is often set way too high – the idea that in order to create change and form connections one must heal an entire country has become the war song of the world. The belief that changing one person life for one day has lost importance and so the effort is no longer there. Once we subscribe to the idea that our impact is too little we resign ourselves to a life of no connection and no impact – we live an “all or nothing” life, and it is always a “nothing” life when put to use.
I have come to believe through experience that forming a connection with someone takes effort and discipline but it is what makes life worth living. I believe strongly that if I can positively impact a person’s life for only one day then I have made a worthwhile change. I believe this because the modification is never only for one day, not for either party. The people who have changed my life were often there and connected for only brief moments, but they are links in the chain of my life. They won’t receive any recognition or badges from me but these people do not need or want that. Once you have connected with others you find the reward within this connection, and no amount of press or praise will outshine it.
I don’t come here and write to tell anyone how to think or what to do – though I have my fair share of opinions. What drives me is not the hope that you will do what I want – my hope is that you find a way of life that is fulfilling for yourself and that alone makes a positive impact on my world whether you live in Brooklyn or Botswana. I do not come here to tell you how I spend my days or to catalogue any success I may have experienced in life – instead I come here to examine how I can be of better service to you and in the process I find a new fulfillment.
I share with you the innermost parts of my life so that we may be able to connect. I may be judged by others, I have given up my anonymity, I have released to you my greatest fears and failures. But what I get in return is far greater than what I get by remaining silent. I find connections with people on a level few are able to. I can connect with individuals who wish to remain anonymous but are still honest. This is part of what has changed my life – it is not easy telling you that at 32 life is still damn hard to figure out. I don’t celebrate every time I say how much I struggle with self-pity and self-centeredness – but I also know I am not the only 32 year old who finds life difficult. If one is honest they will tell you that when confronting life with a desire to create positive change it is often difficult. Forming connections means going right to the source, sitting next to the hospital bed, and telling someone that life can be something worth living. It means being honest, humble, and disciplined.
The world gave me a gift by giving me life, and each time I curse the world and its cast of characters it is like spitting in the face of my Creator. We fight each day to be meaningful people, and throughout this battle, we find that victory rides with us daily and change reside in our hands before we ever leave home. You won’t find what you are looking for at the next fundraiser – you find it on the 20th floor at Bellevue Hospital. The world is waiting for your help – go find your 20th floor.
“You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I do not want to forget who you are
Within the ever-changing exterior, I see a shadow
I do not want to forget that person, yet I often do forget
I do not want my words to drift
this is about me, not them or you
this is my labored error, my fault, and shortcoming
It is not without forgiveness and repair
I do not wish to forget who you are
I know who you are yet at times you escape me
You seem heavier at times
and other times appear blissful
Where is it that you go?
Are you seeking anything or are you content to wander?
It is no matter to me; I only hope you have found something
Something that keeps your mind moving amid the chaos outside
I hope no regret rests deep in your heart
For there is none in mine
Do not waste time illustrating errors of time gone by
I will not bear witness to this, do not waste your effort
I have been reborn in time for this
Gratitude pervades my soul
I am but a whisper with a crack in what was a steady voice
But my whisper is sunlight; the steadiness was a disguise
As for this sunlight, thank you for allowing it
Your softness is not weakness
It is what allows me to speak
Your softness listens deep into the darkness
Do not fear this dark; I beg of you
For it is this darkness that allows the sunshine to persevere
Instead anticipate what this night brings forth
Cling close to my chest if you wish, I will not allow darkness a home
And as I must not forget you, I urge you not to forget yourself
Recollections of small towns and big dinners
A storybook grandmother still vivid in the mind
Her cigarette filled ashtrays and working class love
Do not lose grip of these memories
For they are here in place of those that won’t stick around
They are warmth, truth, shadow and light
You hold onto these; you are not missing anything
And I will do the same
I will hold you as I know you
I cannot forget you even if I tried
I am so much of you; I grow closer to you
Do not read my words with sadness
I do not write them through tears or lost time
Time stays still so long as we remember
Time is but a moment passing by
Just before sunset, before the lightning dazzles the earth, everything seems to stop. My heart sinks, the universe beckons me closer, and my hands are steady. At this moment my mind is consciously still, my thoughts unknown to me, and I stand alone and at peace. This is my moment of clarity. At this time I know nothing, I do nothing nor do I say a thing. I am still, and my body beats and moves the way bodies do – and at this moment my mind relinquish all power, all control, and all design. I give in.
This is the calm I feel when I have fully surrendered my will and my life to something other than myself. I understand that my life cannot be run by self-propulsion. I have tried this way of life, and I have failed at this way of life. I have tried it backward, sideways, inside-out, and upside-down. I have tried it in different shades of color, different tempers, sharper lines, wild obscurity. None of it works when I am the one in control – and the reason is simple: I lack the power to run my life, and I certainly have no authority to run anyone else’s life.
This idea, the lack of authority, takes on greater meaning then I will discuss at the moment. Within this lack of power is an admittance that I know very little if anything at all. It leads me to this idea that for me the debate is over. The stage where I once argued politics, religion and ideologies is now empty. I am not withholding judgment; I am not biting my tongue believing this a more proper, tactful way to present myself; I simply do not have an argument for you. About my past self, my ego is shattered, and humility has risen exponentially. Consider also that my ego reached to the heavens and my humility, on some numeric scale, would have measured a .01, so I am not saying I have these qualities in surplus.
What I can say is that I no longer believe I have the answer for you. I do not have the answer for myself! I have had to seek out a power which could grant me direction and lend my feet a path which directs me straight instead of in circles. To debate my beliefs with another means I believe my answer is superior, and I have no way of knowing this. Common sense tells me that I do not have the answer for a country of 400 million people – humility tells me instead of arguing I ought to listen.
I have opinions! I am not claiming that I don’t feel strongly about certain things. In fact, I feel incredibly passionate about the ideology which my life has taken hold of – but I am humble enough to understand that this is my path, my ideals, my structure, and it works for me. I have no idea what works for you. There are things I do each day that I believe would make others more efficient, perhaps lessen the anxiety of others, allow others to lead a day with more clarity – but I only know that these things work for me. I will not tell you that following my morning routine will make you more connected and transparent – my opinion is that it is a fine method, but I know nothing of how you operate best because I do not know what you need.
This is not to say I keep my mouth shut. Many have come to me and asked me what I do, how I do things, how I arrived at certain points, and I am more than willing to sit down and share what I practice. I suggest my way of life may work for you as it works for me, but I do not proselytize. Often I hear others say “if only people would listen to me! If only things were done my way this world would be a better place” – Or the nonstop political debates roaring incessantly, opinions thrown to the wind and leaving me curious if the thought given to these opinions is genuine.
For me, the debating committee has resigned. And where it leaves me is often apart from many discussions and outside of certain social gatherings. But this is my method of recognizing my role in this world – that when I give up the notion that I have control over the day, over my life, and over the lives of others I find a new freedom where my choices become easy, my mind able to focus on things I consider important, and my heart able to be tolerant and compassionate instead of vicious and cynical. My life run on my accord leads me to darkness; it prompts me to make decisions based on selfishness and greed. My position in life becomes your fault, the government’s fault, the world’s fault – never mine.
I am limited – I cannot make this world whatever I wish it to be for myself by myself. I need help, and I have found help. Original thought is not something I am against, but it is not something I seek out. I find what works and what has worked for those who have come before me. I look to those who live a life of self-confidence, stillness, and ease. I look to those who do not admonish others for their beliefs but rather pay no mind to their opinions and instead seek to understand rather than be understood. The ones who listen with intent, who do not give answers but instead share their experience.
Others may question me, others may find my way of life peculiar and still others may find my stance weak. My stance, however, has the strongest backbone I know of, and it is not my back which carries the weight. I do not have answers for you; I cannot fix anything or anybody. I have suggestions, I have experience, I have scars if you need proof. All I need is to turn and ask for guidance, for direction, to be shown the next right action – I need to be taught how to be useful in the stream of life and how to be best of service. This life leaves me asking questions alone, sitting in reflection and searching through spiritual channels for the right action, the most useful action to be shown to me. I have lived a life where I chose my path, where I opted to believe I knew what was best for the 7 billion inhabitants on this earth and I ended up lost over and over again. Today I ask how I can be of service and how I can be useful and it leads me to others who need someone to listen to them. It brings me to individuals, not countries. And in turn whatever loneliness I encounter on this path is turned back into fulfillment when I need someone to listen to me.
I do not wish to debate with you anything at all; I simply do not have any answers. It is a shame if you feel I have let you down, and I would be more than willing to listen to you and share my experience.