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.
A man is sitting across from me, shaken and fearful. He wants to ask me a question, but he is afraid of what my answer will be; he is worried there will be no magic in my words. I assure him I will give him the answer that was once given to me, and I am neither fearful nor shaken. I ask him why he came to me in the first place, and he responds, “Because I want what you have.” He knew he would have to ask and out came three simple, usual questions: “When is it going to start working? How is this life going to lead me where I want to go? Why am I not seeing the results?” His questions may not seem commonplace to you at first, but look closer. They are riddled with selfishness and self-centered fear; they are focused directly on his life and his problems. Leaving no room for anything but his selfish ends he finds himself stuck, unable to see the change that is occurring.
I am a selfish man. It is an elaborate selfishness, perhaps not noticeable to everyone, but it is there, and it is healthy. I want more attention, more acknowledgment, more assurance. I want you to feel better because of something I have done; I want to be the one who pulled you from the fire.
I don’t always feel this way, and in fact, it is rare these days that I act on such feelings. I have moments where I don’t feel like people notice me, moments when I want to shower in the warmth of compliments and admiration, but they are altogether few and far between and not nearly as impactful as they once were. Still, I work on my character defects, this one with a particular kind of ambition. I am careful though not to get carried away, not to feel shame and embarrassment; I must be careful or else my solution to selfishness becomes increased selfishness and begins a confounding web that nobody could make sense of. It is in this tempered work where I find new tools and new methods to alleviate my character flaws. This work allows me to become a better man, and it takes time.
For me, the “work” that I speak of consists of a few things: I must sit in reflection alone and with another person and continually seek out defects in my character. This is an in-depth and honest look at my motives, actions, and reactions to others. It has to be as revealing as possible, as we have a tendency to layer over our faults to keep from admitting them. Once I come to terms with a character defect, I then begin to search for the reason behind my negative behavior. For instance, if my character defect is an inflated ego I need to address situations where my ego is at its height. Are there certain situations where my ego rises? If my ego becomes inflated when I am on a date, I can easily trace this back to some insecurity. Now I have an inflated ego that is masking an insecurity within me.
I continue to connect the dots to find where these defects trace back to; it is always complex, and the issue is not corrected on the surface. If I find that my insecurity comes from not having much money and, therefore, feeling as though the date won’t be interested in me I have to trace this back; it is not the lack of money that I am insecure about, it is my lack of confidence in my value. It is my belief that I am not good enough for someone to be interested in, but I blame another’s lack of interest in my lack of money, etc. I transfer the responsibility to another person, keeping me free from blame. In reality, all of this comes from my belief that I have nothing to offer, and people will react accordingly.
The process takes patience but perhaps, more importantly, it takes courage and humility. You have to be willing to admit that you lack in areas of your life where you may have previously thought was a strength of yours. It becomes difficult because there are many characteristics of our Self that we cover with so many layers of excuses and lies they become unrecognizable to us. We believe the lie we have told ourselves for years, thus making it even more difficult to accept we are at fault. There are those who judge others harshly and regularly yet if you were to point this out to them they would have a genuine look of disbelief on their face. We convince ourselves so thoroughly that we are not at fault that the mere suggestion we have made a mistake infuriates us. Nothing is our fault, and everybody else is to blame, that is our motto!
The belief that all things external create our current situation is possibly the most damning view of all. Once we give responsibility over to anything external, we lose control over changing our position and later our outcome. We limit ourselves entirely and find comfort in the ability to blame our misfortune on someone or something else. The tragedy is that by failing to acknowledge our responsibility, we will never improve.
This sentiment is heard daily: your day was terrible because of the traffic, your job would improve if your boss were more understanding, you would exercise more if you lived in a more exercise-friendly city, you would eat healthier, but work doesn’t give you enough time, your relationship would be better if your partner were more patient, and on and on go the moans of self-pity and selfish men and women everywhere. We tend to have such a firm belief that somehow the world has conspired against us to keep us unhappy, alone, and exhausted; We prefer to sit still, assume we are the target of a dull life and continue complaining and moaning to the end. It is this belief system that needs to be thrown out and a new one built. To know your motives, your character, and be able to spot when you are wrong you must go through painful experiences and revelations. We grow as individuals by confronting, experiencing, and enduring difficulty in life. When we shy away from this challenge we stay put, effectively moving us backward.
When we examine the Self, we find what drives us to succeed, to want love, money, sex, isolation; we find our motives behind our actions. This discovery is of paramount importance; Once we recognize why we behave a certain way we can determine if we are acting that way for a good reason or with manipulative minds. Often we are confused when someone dislikes us or why a disagreement seems eternal and often it is because we cannot see our part. It is important that we don’t waste energy focused on other people and their responsibility; You do not have any authority over anyone else.
When we explain away years of confusion and cover-ups we begin to notice our real self, and we have a clearer blueprint of how it works best. We take responsibility for the things we can control, and we work to improve them. In my experience, most of this effort, when put into action, is shown in being of service to others. Perhaps not so surprisingly this is where many people find trouble because they cannot see how the act of helping others is improving their life. Even with the work laid out clearly most will return to the surface and work on fixing their appearance. Most will feel some satisfaction from tricking others into believing they are all put together on the inside, but this is another cover-up and another lie. It can yield no real satisfaction and results in episodes of anger, frustration, jealousy, and fear. When you work on the surface alone, you will get surface solutions, and they do not last.
Being of service does not necessarily mean volunteering. When we are of service we are patient with our partners, kind to our neighbors, and helpful to those around us. Being of service means putting your needs behind the needs of others, no matter who that person is. We are patient with others, not asking them to be patient with us. We attempt to understand others without asking to be recognized. We offer assistance without expecting anything in return. We do this because we can improve someone else’s day, and it is time we realize our needs are not of paramount importance. In this process, we can stop forcing life, and allow life to unfold the way it will.
“When will it start working, ” the man asked; For him to pose this question is an improvement by itself. After years of total selfish behavior, he is ambitious about correcting his flaws, just impatient. The reality is that this starts working within us before we can see it, but others see it. Others will begin asking if you are doing something different, perhaps you are on new medication, or you have been exercising. By putting your needs behind others, you slowly teach yourself humility and patience, two extremely appealing qualities. You begin to lose more and more of your insecurities; you find yourself becoming more confident because you know you are living a life worthwhile. You should be proud of this life, and others will be proud before you begin to notice the change.
Most people are turned off by this entire notion, again for selfish reasons. Some will exclaim that it is too devastating and harmful to look at our mistakes; some will say it is an exercise in self-loathing. I don’t know what people do in their minds, and I ought not to be concerned in the least. Some will not see the value in digging up these character defects, an admittance that they are satisfied with whatever they know themselves to be, a mask of sorts I suppose.
I often hear people dismiss this notion without realizing it because it means so little to them; For instance, a man is unhappy with his job and over dinner one evening he unloads all of his dissatisfaction with the world onto the table. He was pigeonholed from day one: father left him young, tore his knee up in college basketball, professors didn’t take him seriously, and he settled for a partner and a regular job. If you were to suggest that he was never forced to end up with an average life and that if he wanted, he could change his life, he would scoff and remark, “Look, I don’t wish to get into a whole existential whatever with you. I’m just stating the facts.” He is, and he isn’t; this life happened to him because he relinquished control and instead of overcoming painful moments in life he took the softer route. If he had an examined Self he wouldn’t need to work so hard to come to this conclusion, but since he doesn’t his argument remains in this short-sighted, “Don’t want to get into it” type of discussion that leads nowhere and solves nothing. It is a useless debate, just as he feels.
For me, to lead a fulfilling life, I must work to understand myself; What I find is that I do not learn much by trying to “figure it out” – rather, I come to know myself by being with others, by giving, not taking. I know that my insecurities, my selfishness, and my lack of confidence hurt me in countless ways throughout life. This is why I work on improving these areas, and it is also why I share my faults with you. There is no shame in admitting your shortcomings; The shame is for the confused and wounded who look you in the eye and tells you he’s not hurt, that he is fine. That is not strength; it is poisonous pride. Each one of us carries a hefty load of character defects and those who admit theirs unload some weight each time. The more work you put in, the lighter the load is – The road ahead is long; choose wisely and go lightly.
I took one last look into your bedroom, my eyes filled with life, and turned away. The weakness of human design effortlessly revealed by nature, dissolving structure and breath in a matter of moments. Dogs barked in the alley and neighbors rushed to the scene as smoke settled among us. I remained still, unmoved – shattered. My tears, black from smoke and ash, painted trails on my cheeks. It was as though I was waiting for something, for the whole of life to collapse as well. The morning stars distanced themselves, giving way to the sun, and I remained. I never once glanced towards the sun; heartbroken, I knew it was there. In a moment it had all vanished. In a moment it all remained.
The following months passed with dizzying speed, then years passed, and then it didn’t matter anymore. Leaves fell hard, and for some those leaves were rocks on their backs, but I felt nothing. I was such a sick man, such a selfish man; I hadn’t noticed any of this passing. My sickness and self-centeredness do not excuse my actions; I was well aware of myself, even if my self-deception and delusion were reaching new peaks. Instead of taking responsibility for my disappearance I blamed my actions on the nature of things. Instead of helping others heal I took advantage of their pity; for I was the one with blackened tears and a wounded spirit! I stole years from myself, years from others, and I did it all in the name of self-defense.
Slowly, I began to die. You had always asked about me, worried for me, even had dreams for me. But I knew nothing of dreams or gratitude. You had given me your heart and your words; I gave nothing in return. I left home, trying to keep balance amid the chaos, and distanced myself further from the sun. As the days grew colder, my eyes lost focus. Ice poured from my heart into awaiting hands, slowly forcing each one to retreat. And, forgetting more and more of myself, I retreated as well. A numbing pain was all that was left; and then –
The thick of winter had broken me. Surrender had been given to me and life restored to me. Like a blind man given sight, I have much to discover; I have made so many mistakes, so I have come to offer what I can.
You have left indelible marks on my life. In the past, I was not the type of man who could appreciate your effort and sacrifice; today I am. Your kindness overwhelms me now; I am left with immense gratitude for the moments of happiness which you gave to such a lonely heart. I am of service to those you understand; I see you in their faces and am reminded why I am there. You are one who has given me the strength to show up for others, and though I wish my character were the same back then, I can only hope that somewhere you are smiling.
My mind eases and lets go of the past; I let go of the horror and keep the beauty. I have let go of you and our past, choosing to keep you with me in the present moment, heart beating alongside my heart.
Today let us walk with hazard, setting our sights towards the sun as though we were walking straight into her. There is no parting and no sorrow; we were raised to see life as an unmerited gift, thus we leave this life with gratitude for being born, sentient and feeling. And in many ways this is only life as we know it that is ending; Perhaps this life is the caterpillar and ahead of us is a greater beauty. Perhaps once we make it to the sun we will find butterflies. We never look back, and as fear falls from us we see a glimpse of truth in this world and it is in one another.
I know I cannot help it
Someone asks me what the cost is,
I close my eyes, relax my hands and stop
What change did you expect?
A search is on and you can’t get away from it.
Ain’t that a six-inch stone in your wheel?
Don’t you get the shakes when it’s gotten too late and the brakes on your door aren’t working?
And the stove coils in your head are heating up an’ burning
So you curse yourself and you assume someone out there is tricking you, someone out there is kicking you.
That someone is caring too much and maybe it’s the wrong way.
And you can’t figure which temperature feels good and you don’t even know if some out there do.
And what do you do if everyone thinks of you badly?
What do you say when the feeling that’s got you wrapped up in knots is paranoia and you try so badly to rid it from you?
How do you sleep when your brain is mad at you?
Do you look into others eyes for a choice or ought you to think that there’s a chance you may be right?
And ain’t that some kind of feeling?
Isn’t that something you aren’t sure you want but feel you know you need?
What do you do when the tricksters are planning?
What do you do when you feel you can’t be wrong it’s that all things thinking of you are meant for deceiving?
Do you try with your whole soul best to follow your head and stick to your breast?
Should you hope for a reason to convince you on what you’re feeling?
It’s when the river bed can be seen by a bird with one wing that you know you’re bleeding.
When the whole sky and all its friends can put on a sheet and worry you when you sleep. Is it the letters that decide the end or is it the season?
When you wake with London’s sprinkling you can’t go back to dreaming for the best of your reasons.
You can act like a rebel or sing on a step.
You can hope for the night to come down but you know you can’t help but not believe it.
So you drink ‘till the plastic guards start retreating.
You hurt your chest so badly it starts caving in behind you and soon enough you’re bound to find the things that held you are now the things you must carry around.
And they want to go this way or the other and no matter what choice is made your brain won’t be bothered.
And you start seeing pathways that you haven’t gotten but have been given and you try to cry with all your might because you know this ain’t the usual gift-giving.
But you can’t cry ‘cause your souls been hidden.
Your mind’s been delivered but it ain’t your name on it written.
And it scares you half to death even though you don’t know if you believe in the thing you keep searching for.
You can’t excuse yourself anymore.
You can’t keep asking for a sentence.
And all you want is someone to show you where it was you went missing.
And no one believes you because nobody here listens.
What do you do when the price has been lifted?
When their patience wears thin and you think it’s them that are sinning?
Do you think to yourself while kicking god, what’s their thinking?
Didn’t they go to school or were they the whole time just whistling?
And you don’t want to think these thoughts in the worst of your seasons but you can’t help but think it’s them that are cheating.
What do you do when you think you are wrong?
When it’s you and not them that have been misspelling your name all along?
Do you think these thoughts ‘till your brain starts un-weaving and your bridges come down heaving?
Or do you think it best to hit the road on all fours and stop at the very last fever-torn store to figure out just what you’ve been reading?
If you can’t find it where you’ve been looking is it best to stick to those thoughts or do you think it’ll help to quit thinking about whatever it is you’ve been eating?
And if that ain’t it where do you look?
You can shake hands with each doorknob but you know it might lead you somewhere you’ve been before.
Down a road that’s no good anymore but you go because you’ve forgotten yesterday and more.
And maybe down the weakened path, you’ll find a heart that can bring you back.
But you get hesitant when you see that hand coming to yours because you know you could be wrong and if you are you fear you may lose the thoughts in your head that have kept you running for so long.
So you hold onto these thoughts with shovels already in their hands.
But isn’t it going that way these days?
You can’t lay right cause the things you think are true just won’t stop bothering you and the thought you might be wrong keeps you hurting all night long.
And you feel guilty even though you aren’t sure why and the thought of any happening makes you feel your stomachs filled with fire-flies.
And you wonder why you feel so bad and you say you try but you hardly do.
And you want to blame somebody but you don’t know who.
And when that feeling comes you stop in your tracks because you don’t know where to point the finger at and you’re scared it might get bitten off by ideas you thought were long written off, better left alone, or put in a retirement home.
So you feel tricked and embarrassed because your ropes are tied too tight on the harness and you act harmed by the ones thought to understand you best.
Are you wrong for shining your sword too long or practicing your whip too strongly?
Are you understanding at all or are jokes thrown at your name behind the mall where you thought the kids once crawled but you know they might be the ones with the ball?
And you don’t want to feel this way but others think you do.
You try and help the cause but can’t stop thinking all the while they’re hurting you.
So you surround yourself with very few in an effort to produce just who it is you’ve been calling “you”.
But that ain’t what you think you want to do.
So why does the sound of voices bother you so much until you crack and crunch the idea of being in touch?
What do strangers tell you that not even your closest crutch could?
What answer do you give when the lights are on so bright it burns your eyes all the way thru to the inside?
If your marbles are too slowed down do you kneel to the chrome buildings and give in expecting some sort of healing?
And you start running sideways and get all turned around even though you know this ain’t the right way into town.
So you build a wall of sand that blocks the beggars from your hand and all the while people question where you stand.
You aren’t sure yourself but it seems a better way than winding up lying down on 6 pieces of wood with a person only known as a saint and you think she’s no good.
Do you keep pushing even when the feeling is gone?
Is it best to keep up construction even though you know that it’s wrong?
And if you hear that you are the one holding the wrong cards do you continue to weep even when the royal clown comes knocking at your door.
So you’ll wait and wait ‘till he’s been at your door too long and starts moving on. And in your church, you sit and think if you’re going in the right direction or if you should cut off your feet.
You can choose to save your water and walk down that street or you can hope for forgiveness on the other side of the parade that’s lit up with people who’d rather stay awake than sleep.
You feel you’re right though you’re told you’ve been wrong before.
But it doesn’t matter anymore cause your captain’s already heading to the shore opposite the one that holds the people you’ve denied once or twice or more.
And behind they sway their hands and shout to you through the waves.
They cry for your return but you can’t go back again seeing as it’s too far a swim.
And even if you could you feel you’d be giving a lie you’ve already shown once to them. So you jump off the boat and can only hope that you’re right.
But you cry in your hours when you’re locked up inside and you think to yourself if your thoughts are really yours
And you open up a door filled with questions you ain’t seen before
And want to shout out but there’s no one left standing by your door
And you wish you hadn’t been asking questions full of scorn
But you did and you’ll find that people don’t care for poor souls anymore
And even if they did, in the end, you start back all over again
Great moments in one’s life happen when one has given up desire, settled for whatever outcome may pass. If one hopes to inspire he does not try to inspire, he just is. And that was you; you were just you. And within this transformation, you became an inspiration, a teacher, and most importantly an example of how a good person ought to live their life.
When I think of you I think of waves: I do not know you on levels others do, and I am happy with it because I was fortunate to see the boldness of your heart when you spoke even the softest whisper to another. You are guided by an unyielding pursuit to help others and in this pursuit, you left behind trails for others to follow. Trails which beckoned us to be a student, a student like you.
Your sincerity resonates deeply in the hearts of us; I know this to be true. I have left many times feeling myself unstoppable – feeling as though a spirit has reached out and given me grace. You are one of the waves through which the fire can boldly show itself, can instill in us the most fragile foundation, a most connected moment.
Do not despair – it would be a mistake. To despair would suggest that there is unfinished business, and there is none for you. Your example is alive and well, and around the waves float specks of water and dust – all hoping one day to become the wave, to become more like you.
I know where to find your voice and so do others. And I will seek out this voice, as tears roll down my cheeks and onto my hands typing these words, I will seek to follow your example. You have set beauty on the horizon, enjoy the sunshine, sir.
Starting off the weekend sharing last years Mothers Day letter here on White Light Words. I will have a new Mothers Day piece this weekend.
“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I don’t deserve to have the mother I do. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way; Rather I find my mother to be such a rarity that it doesn’t seem fair to others that I ended up with her as my mother. Such is life I suppose, and instead of feeling guilt I am grateful to have this rarity in my life.
I have always been a lot like my mother, the first similarity being our birthday. I often speak of our most valuable qualities coming by way of painful experiences, and me being a nearly 12 pound baby I believe I made my value known from the beginning. This would be the first in a long line of painful moments that my mother endured to allow me to become the man I…
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Being rocked back and forth on the D train, I lay my head back and breathe. Images of fingers wet, soaked in water and blood, fingers snapping and slipping making inaudible sounds. This is my meditation; lands forged by rough hands and sweat. Cities built by no personality, no discernible political mind, just with these hands, bloodied and slipping but still creating the peaks that we humans can create.
A fear wraps around with the brunt of war but the footsteps of a ghost. Images belonging to someone else construct lanes into my psyche, forever changing into someone else that I will soon call myself. I am changing, this is how we change.
This blood and water slip from the hands of others through rocks. I awaken, and I am wet, chest flooded with someone else’s blood, eyes pouring with someone else’s tears, hands forced over rocks. These hands are now my hands; every reflection, every image which belonged to another, it now belongs to me.
I am responsible; these are my hands bleeding and slipping and trying to snap to make this happen now! I am the one kneeling before the chrome buildings, pouring my hands and my heart over the rocks, awash with the blood and water of myself and others. This is my land, and to my left and my right, this is your land. Break your hands over these rocks as I break my hands. There is no future to save them for; it is not our future that we build this for. Work so that their present may be stronger than ours. Be grateful that our present is as strong as it is. Be loud, work, bleed, and weep as you work. Let your work be truthful, be honest; this is how you will succeed. To sit silently is the only way to fail. I will not fail. My hands awash in water and blood, images of your tiny hands awash in love.
If I should be brought before you
And am asked to skim the trees
To recollect my fondest thoughts
Amid a wasteland of memories
I should dig deep the shallow trenches
I will seek out every eye
For my past bear’s strong resemblance
To the ones I stand before
And I will know a soft resistance
As I push off from the shore
I wonder how all of this will come to pass; How you and I will remember one another. I don’t sit with this for very long, for I know where my mind often leads me. I do not drift to positive places. Instead, my mind seems to embrace the negative and haunting spaces. But I must think of this, of you and I and our past. My past, as it were, is what I must think of.
You were gentle with me; virtually every memory tells me this was your way. You knew that anger would cause me running, and your job was to have me stay. And at times you were overbearing, you wanted for yourself my good health. You wished my mind would pause, and you could rest. You cared much and sometimes in the wrong way. But I forgive your co-dependence, your expectations, and your disappointment. I overlook these things because I, too, am full of error, and I am not here to blame.
I am here to recover the past, not for keeping but to learn. What was it about our relationship that you wanted to hold onto? What was it about me that you seemed so keen on keeping close? I have asked myself this question, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. At times, I was honest and pensive, but others I was a complete waste of effort. Who holds onto the daily garbage? One who is sick themselves I believe. I look back with compassion, not wishing to change you, and this is not meant to enlighten you. This I doubt the entirety of you will ever read.
I can remember when you embraced me, and my embrace was a lie. I remember when you embraced me, and I felt your heart pouring into my chest. I heard your heart pouring into my chest, its crimson waves exposing the emptiness in me. I felt you sometimes, and other times you left me frozen, or I left you frozen. We were just friends. We were lovers. We were enemies. All of it was real, though. You failed me and used me selfishly. You were so many people all at once; it’s no wonder I completely lost you at times.
But you are not unique … Christ, neither am I. I considered you less than you deserved and became the type of man I have always judged, hated. My selfishness knew no bounds and still, it was suffocated time and again. I had fallen so short of breath that our relationship had to change. All I could do was start over. I had no idea what this would mean but it was time to tear each other apart and continue, alone.
The beginning was beautiful. Leaves fell hard in those first few days, and for some those leaves are still rocks on their backs. But it was no longer excuse enough for me to hide behind. I loved them dearly, I truly did. I love them today differently because I am different and they are different. They are whole but hard to see. I send out eulogies because I was not always there when the moment surprised and seemed to ambush us. I am here now, I am here for the ones who wish to hear me.
I still seem to lose you at times, even though I feel we have been doing everything well. We outgrow each others usefulness, we no longer need one another. When you no longer need something it becomes a weight around your ankle unless you part ways while still feathers. In the beginning, it feels wrong; it angers me to part ways. But it is the best for both of us and the best way for the whole of us.
Sometimes I glance out the window and see your birds singing. Other times I turn my back to you, wishing you would at once turn away from me. I love you, I have forgotten you, and I hope to love you. Before the earth, before the lovers and the users and the apathetic bystanders, I hope I give you something you cannot hold but can use. I hope you see me and know that the past is real, but it is gone and only alive in your mind. This moment is real as well. I hope you see the power of this moment, and I hope you forget me and move on if that is what you must do.
You have nothing to say to me, and I nothing to say to you, for the most part. One day I will sit down and tell you what it all means, but today you must work on it yourself. It is your world that you must save from forever wilting. You do not live for me, I do not live for you, but we live for a purpose higher than both of us. I cannot define yours, and I know you cannot give me the relief I once sought. I appreciate you for who you are, and do not want you to change your colors to draw me closer. If I speak a foreign tongue to you and you wish to retreat, I do not blame you. Those who are meant to be in my life will be; others will become useful by becoming more like themselves.
I love you, I hope to love you, and I have forgotten and forgiven you. Do not fear whatever lay in front of us, it is meant to be there, and we no longer need to embellish who we are. This is the death of our relationship.
At times we will find ourselves discontent, irritable, and generally just blue. The feeling may seem to have come out of nowhere, leaving you confused and a little on edge. It can be scary, at times overwhelming, and downright lonely. During these moments we rely on our mind, asking ourselves questions and using our best tool to make sense of this dreary feeling. We often feel as though we have exhausted all possibilities. We think we have a done a thorough job and yet we still can’t seem to shake this feeling of apathy.
Unfortunately for us, for those that can relate, we are more often than not asking ourselves the wrong questions. And our questions aren’t just slightly misdirected – in these moments our thoughts are often epic; We begin to examine the meaning of life, the reality of our relationships, even questioning the very nature of ourselves. We struggle to relax and our once still minds turn into dime-store psychologists and philosophers. Our questions are vague, massive, and without answers.
It doesn’t always have to be this confusing and arduous, I promise you. In fact, I’ll do you one better and tell you, while it’s fresh on my mind, exactly how I get myself out of these blues.
Yesterday was a pretty damn good day for me. I had spent the evening at my sisters during what was predicted to be the storm of the century but turned out to be no more than a heavy snow. I spent a little time with my sister, got ready and went off to meet a friend for lunch. My afternoon could not have been better: great company, great food, afternoon tea and the winter scenery all made for an ideal afternoon. Around 7 pm I parted ways with my friends, got on the train and headed home.
As I got settled in for the evening, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the after-effects one generally does after such a beautiful day. In fact, I found myself a little frustrated, confused, and incredibly bored. “Oh shit, this isn’t good, ” I thought to myself; Something must have been terribly wrong, something real was happening here. My mind began racing: Am I not doing enough, is this life fulfilling, am I doing everything wrong? All of these questions! Who the hell asks themselves these questions and expects even a whiff of an answer? Evidently, I do – but this is not as dangerous as it seems.
I got up from the couch and walked to the kitchen, looked up on my dry erase board and there it was in all its simplicity: “Relax and take it easy” – On this night, where thoughts began racing, and questions began building, my relief appeared before me in this simple phrase. I sat down and decided to make a list – What did I eat today? How much did I sleep last night and how did I sleep? Is there any simple reason that I may be annoyed? And here is what I came up with: As I mentioned before the food yesterday was great. What I failed to mention was that I had eaten only two bites of it. The tea was good, but it was preceded by 3 cups of coffee. I got a bit of sleep, but I slept on a couch after spending the day in a hospital and navigating my way through the snow filled streets. In my mind these experiences weren’t negative at all – I enjoyed spending time with my sister and I don’t really mind the snow. I had a great time at lunch – I don’t eat all that much anyway. What I was neglecting to notice was the physical and emotional effects I endure when I don’t take care of myself – I didn’t need answers only the gods could give me, I needed to eat something.
I got up this morning and went for a walk around the neighborhood. It is gorgeous out today, my mind is completely calm.
We have such a difficult time accepting the simple solutions. Maybe the sky really is falling but isn’t there a chance we just haven’t been sleeping well lately? Aren’t these simple questions at least worth a look? There are often underlying issues that we are dealing with in any number of ways – but they are exacerbated when we don’t take control over the little things. We tend to ask ourselves questions that aren’t meant for us to answer. Here’s a tip when your mind begins racing: You aren’t capable of outsmarting this world. Emotions rise and fall with the hope that they return somewhere in the middle. Our mood shifts a little throughout the day, but we can almost always trace it back to something simple, some minor annoyance or some missed opportunity.
In these moments, when you cannot seem to find an answer to your blues, make a list. Do you owe someone an apology? Have you been dismissive towards your partner? Are you happy with your workout regiment? Are you eating healthy? Are you eating enough or maybe too much? Have you started that book you got over the holidays? Are you keeping something to yourself? Are you telling the truth? Does your neighbor play their music too loud? Make a list of the things that you can change, go through it and make changes to the best of your ability.
Allow yourself to be unhappy for a time but bring yourself back before you want to. Get pissed off at your neighbor for being inconsiderate but take it out at the gym. You are allowed to feel like shit now and then – But do not start looking into the abyss for answers that are in your refrigerator.
More often than not I choose to view difficulties in life as an opportunity for growth. Throughout the struggle, I am in a state of anticipation, knowing that the fight cannot exist forever unless I resign myself to hopelessness, which is an option. It should be noted that hopelessness is only a part of our ‘negative faith’ and lies in our neurosis. Neurosis is, according to Carl Jung the avoidance of actual pain. So to believe that life is hopeless I would have to think that my negative thoughts are real and in this admittance, I would realize that I am avoiding actual struggle.
So, I know life is never hopeless and even in the darkest hour there burns an overabundance of hope. I can then at least admit that though I may not have confidence in my grip, there is hope within my reach and that in and of itself is hope. So I sit with my small bit of hope in anticipation for the moment when I will be overwhelmed with hopeful feelings and a new perspective marked by new and positive progress.
Every struggle in life has left a path in its wake back to something valuable in which it was banished. The road is there; the struggle has carved this path, and my job is to walk through the battle, look over my shoulder as I pass it by and anticipate the glow in the distance that is unknown but is always, absolutely always exciting and remarkable.
Perspective, positive thought, and the willingness to confront life; that is all I need to find my way out of the struggle.