Suggestions: Part II

Yesterday I outlined a few things that I find bring more fulfillment into my day. Today I am going to jump right back in!

Small gestures are not insignificant 

  • We have a tendency to casually leave out small moments of kindness that we give or receive throughout the day. I urge you to take note of the small things that you do throughout the day that make you smile, if only for a moment. The way  you behave towards others is usually a good indicator of where you are at emotionally and conversely who you are as a person tends to show itself through your actions. So take pleasure when you find yourself going out of your way to help the person struggling to carry their kids stroller up the subway stairs – Not only does this small act improve someone else’s day, it also allows you to take stock of your own personal struggles. We notice where we are coming up short personally when we take a look at our behavior towards others. 

What I have written above may seem cliché or self-congratulatory. In the event that it does I wish to explain myself further. Often times when we make small efforts to help somebody else throughout the day we resist the urge to feel good about ourselves for what we consider insignificant or common acts and behaviors. First, I think many people would be surprised by the lack of compassion one encounters each day. Consider the times when somebody goes out of their way to help you or when someone is very polite, positive and helpful – It seems to leave us with a feeling of satisfaction and brightens our day, if only a little. Part of the reason these actions are so impactful is because they often surprise us – they are not commonplace. More importantly, by dismissing acts of kindness as insignificant we often explain that “It’s not like I bought the guy a house, I just bought him lunch.” By comparing our behavior to another’s we automatically put ourselves in the position to make ourselves less meaningful. It is another exercise in gaining validation by comparing ourselves to others. Not only does it restrict you from feeling good about yourself but it also simply doesn’t mean anything.

Don’t allow others to ruin your day

  • This is something that I have struggled with my entire life: Always worried about what other people think of me, if they approve of me, if they appreciate me etcetera. This has more to do with maintaining a healthy perspective – our perspective is what ultimately decides how we reflect on our day, good or bad. As with most of our behaviors, the ability to allow someone else to determine the level of happiness you take away from the day is rooted in ourselves, rarely the other person. When we are confident and honest in our thoughts and actions it becomes very difficult for anyone to negatively impact our day. When we have little stability within ourselves, the slightest negative action from somebody can shatter us. That being said, it is imperative to take note of how much we are letting others dictate the degree of happiness we have in our lives. I keep myself open to all forms of criticism and am always willing to take advice, in fact I invite it, and this tells me that I am emotionally secure and stable. When I am not doing the things I need to do it becomes extremely easy for someone to negatively affect my day. Below I will list those things that I do to keep myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically secure throughout my day.

You are in control of your happiness

  • This idea was lost on me for much of my life and it is something that people tend to struggle with: The notion that we create our own happiness and cannot find it in external things/people. I understand that many of these things will sound cliché, and perhaps that isn’t a terrible thing. Most things I have learned in recovery have been cliché and I didn’t understand them until I felt confident in myself so I would instead poke fun at them. That being said, there are certain things that I do in my day that all but guarantee a fulfilling day:
    • Meditate: I spend 10-20 minutes daily practicing mindfulness meditation https://www.headspace.com/how-it-works. This type of meditation works for me and often by people who do not think meditation is for them or thinks it is all incense and nirvana. It is a practice that allows you to observe your thoughts and the distractions outside without judging them. It teaches patience, control and leaves me feeling less anxious about the day. It is an excellent way to give our mind a break from the constant racing thoughts we experience throughout the day/night. For instance, I was speaking with a friend recently who is in graduate school. He told me that often times he wakes up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning and immediately grabs his phone to write a note on his studies. This means that even when he is sleeping his mind is racing. The idea that we are relaxing our mind because we are watching television or sleeping is not always the case. Even when we think we are taking time off we are still a little on edge and subconsciously thinking – We need to give our brains a break, if only for a bit so that it can perform at a high level. In every case where we take time out of our day to take care of ourselves we are enhancing our productivity, mood etcetera not taking away from it. I often hear people say that they do not have the time to meditate – however the very practice is geared towards creating a more balanced version of yourself so it adds to the value of your day, it doesn’t detract.
    • Reach Out: Not all forms of self-care are so obvious. Reaching out to others each day is imperative if I want to have a fulfilling day and it is beneficial in more ways than one. The act of calling/texting/emailing somebody to ask them how their day is going is meaningful to both you and the recipient. I receive and send about 10 text messages each day only inquiring about the other persons day. When I receive a message asking me how my day/week is going I immediately become involved in something bigger than myself. If I am feeling disconnected or lazy generally all I need to change my mood is a connection with somebody else. In the same way, when I reach out to people and focus only on how they are doing I take my focus off of myself. Often times it is difficult to see how self-involved we can become, and by asking somebody how they are doing and listening to them with intent we remove the spotlight from ourselves and we also usually find that whatever we are worrying about isn’t all that unique or terrifying.

As I have stressed in past articles, none of the things I practice are meant to make you comfortable at first – they are not meant to be a quick-fix for anything. These exercises are useful only when they are carried out with discipline. If my life seems attractive to you, you have to understand that I take these practices/beliefs very seriously. When I speak about honest reflection I don’t mean that I do it when convenient. Anything that forces us to look at our behavior, the reasons we lash out in anger, why we are so impatient, judgmental and jealous, is going to make us a bit uncomfortable. There are those that think I am a bit too intense in my practice, perhaps too hard on myself. First off, I assure you I come nowhere close to perfection in any of my practices. I find myself being lazy, judgmental, lacking confidence, wanting control etcetera. The point is that these tools help us to recognize when we have fallen off the path a bit and arm us with the tools necessary to get back on track. That being said, I am told often that I have a certain presence that makes people comfortable when I arrive and leave them feeling a little more positive about their day. This has little to do with the things I say, rather it is because I am comfortable with who I am and I am no longer hiding anything. You can find calmness in this life, a real presence based in a strong foundation. I am not apathetic, indifferent or disinterested – I am only calm, able to resist the temptation to lash out with anger and better still very rarely feeling the need to resist, the anger simply isn’t there. This type of comfort only comes with a deep connection to who you are as a person – a confidence that is built with a heavy amount of humility and gratitude. As uncomfortable as I am typing things that highlight my better qualities, the reason I do it is because it is not based in ego or attention seeking behavior. It is based in a constant search for advice on how I can improve my approach to certain situations – I ask people for direction every day. I come forward when I am mistaken, not with shame and a stare at the floor, rather I come forward excited to know how I can correct my behavior. This is a confidence in my ability to learn from others – to accept that I am not right all the time, in fact I am usually wrong. I have found a lifestyle that allows me to be comfortable with who I am because I do not think I have all that many answers. I am reminded of the Tolstoy quote “We can only know that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” I do not put myself in the position to tell people how they should live, nor do I believe I have the answers on how to live a happy life. I keep myself in a position where I am always open to the suggestions of others, not holding my beliefs as tightly as I once had. Perhaps most importantly, and closer to the topic at hand, is the ability to find happiness within myself and not in the external world. When we are able to realize that we are in control of our happiness we can begin working towards it. It is imperative that I do not tether my happiness to a person, place or thing (I guess a noun!) – I had to understand that to find true happiness, a fulfillment that had roots, I had to give up the notion that I could make myself happy by adding exterior things to my life. A person cannot make me happy, neither can a city or a nice watch. There was a time when I fully believed I would be happy if only I lived in New York City – Well, I moved and I was miserable for two years. New York does not have the ability to make me happy, the best woman in the world does not have the ability to make me happy either. Once I abandon this notion I am able to find the path to real happiness. In my next essay I will explain how I came to this understanding and how it affects my life today.

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Suggestions: Give Each Day Your Best (Pt. 1)

I hope through my essays that I have been able to convey that I am not in the business of telling people how they ought to live. I can say with certainty that my only concern is if I am living a life I consider to be meaningful and I resist the temptation to judge with the best of my abilities. It is not that I do not care about the behavior and well-being of others, rather I know that approaching people with black & white solutions, commands and judgment is simply not effective and is actually counter-productive. I only wish to share the tools I have learned and use that make my life more fulfilling. 

My approach goes against the culture of competition in this world. This approach can be misunderstood as passive and lacking motivation and drive. For me, it is imperative that my focus is on myself and my behavior throughout the day – In this way I am able to consistently grow and bring forth the best version of myself. Being cynical of others, allowing the success of others to negatively affect us and attempting to “measure up” to others leads to negative behavior and minimal progress. I focus on building myself, the comparisons are left to those who live a life I do not wish to be a part of. 

So, I have decided to share with you what my day generally looks like. There are days when I only accomplish a fraction of these practices but by and large I make these practices a part of my daily life and have been since the beginning of last year. My message and practices encourage people to realize that when we begin our day we are not preparing to battle the world. This idea that we are in a constant struggle against the world leaves us exhausted by days end and only gives us the pleasure of knowing that we survived. But survival is something left to our ancestors, we strive to live!

Below I will outline the ritual that I try to live in adherence with. I do not believe in shortcuts or any type of behavior that expedite progress in any unnatural way. By unnatural I do not mean magic weight loss pills and the sort, although those are certainly things to avoid – But I mean the things that make you uncomfortable. I believe it is unnatural to arrange your life in a way that forces you to abandon the very principles that lead to fulfillment, happiness and comfort.

Often times we rush ourselves in trying to do as many things as we can only to end the day feeling dissatisfied and stressed and only to wake up and do the very same thing the next day. This type of behavior is understood and is also encouraged by many people. However, I believe that often times we are aggressively chasing something that will continue to leave us dissatisfied and stressed and the continued pursuit is counter-productive not only to our well-being but to the real work we are doing.

With this in mind, my suggestions are not meant to change your life in a day or a month – they are ways to slowly build a new foundation based in discipline, humility, gratitude and honesty that will provide you with the tools needed to accomplish what you wish. I hope to remove the notion that we do not have enough time to live a disciplined life of self-improvement. I believe that many of reasons we come up short in other areas of our life is because we spend so little time working on ourselves. Improving your self will only make your day more efficient and will lead to a more fulfilling day, no matter what happens in the external world.

WAKE UP & MAKE YOUR BED: 

  • There is a library of data http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10188130 that tells us the harm we do to ourselves by reaching for the snooze button over and over. For me the solution has not been in simply knowing and understanding this information, that is not enough. We all know, more or less, what is good for us. I believe that there are underlying causes that encourage us to stay in bed and reach for “just 5 more minutes.” In a bit I will address what I believe are signs of avoidance and fear of the day in front of us that makes us want to stay in bed.
  • This may be elementary knowledge to many of you, but making your bed in the morning is an excellent way to start the day. This practice has very little to do with the actual making of the bed – It has much more to do with discipline and gratitude. When you take the few minutes to make your bed each morning you are, perhaps without realizing it, practicing patience and discipline. It will also bring a small level of accomplishment into your day

BE THANKFUL 

(Disclaimer: THESE ARE ONLY SUGGESTIONS. I HAVE ABSOLUTELY ZERO JUDGMENT OF YOUR PERSONAL BELIEFS AND DO NOT MEAN TO OFFEND ANYONE. I WILL NOT ENTERTAIN ANY FORM OF DEBATE.)

  • I do not believe that prayer belongs to any institution or any specific philosophy of thought. I do believe that taking a moment in the morning to show gratitude for the day is a healthy way to begin your day. In my practice, I choose to get on my knees and I ask for the courage to be meaningful throughout the day. I ask that my mind stays focused and clear. I am not praying to anything in particular, rather it is important for me to show humility and to acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe. It takes the focus from me and gives me a moment to trust my actions throughout the day.

REFLECT

  • Reflection is perhaps the most important exercise that I practice. For me, it is healthy to take time throughout the day to take an honest look into my motives and actions. Often times I will experience fear or an overwhelming feeling that someone is upset with me. Instead of sitting with this I look at my actions as honestly as possible to see what areas I need to improve upon. Most times what I learn is that I am being self-centered – I find myself thinking only of myself – so of course when somebody looks at me a certain way or huff their breath I automatically think they are upset with me. Reflection gives me a moment to visualize my behavior and my thoughts and the ability to make sense of the day. Have I been selfish? Dishonest? Useful? If I do not reflect and catch myself when I am being dishonest or selfish I will only continue these habits at a more alarming rate. Reflection gives me the ability to find areas to improve upon and gives me insight into the progress I have made.

Part II will continue tomorrow! 

Why Do You Do It?

Sometimes people wonder if I worry about sharing too much of myself. I am often given a little warning to remind me that once I put it out there, anyone can see it. I am sure, if I am fortunate enough to have people read this, that you may be thinking the same thing: Is it smart for him to be so honest about all of this stuff? What if somebody found out and judged him without knowing him? 

To be frank, I have these thoughts as well. I sometimes wonder if I’ll look back and think that I should have kept some things private regarding my mental health and addiction. It is worth noting that I have thought tirelessly about this topic, the pros, and cons, and continue to write because I continue to feel better, and I believe others feel better from reading it. Mostly, as long as those two things are happening I will continue to be open and honest about what some believe should be hidden.

Perhaps the most compelling reason that I write openly is that I do not want people to think that I am broken in any way – or at least any more than anybody else. I do not like the stigma that goes along with people who deal with anxiety, depression, addiction or any other number of mental health issues – The idea that something is wrong with me bothers me. I come with a warning, and I know and accept that. But I am not someone that people need to tiptoe around – I am not unbalanced. Rather I am a constant work in progress – I am someone who devotes much of my time to self-improvement not so I can be like everybody else but because I want to be the best version of myself.

Mainly, however, I write this for myself, for the person struggling and for the people struggling to understand someone like me. I do not get angry when people judge me; rather I hope they will be able to see that someone who is confident, social and intelligent can also be a recovering alcoholic with anxiety & depression. I want people to see that I am just as capable as anyone else, and the fact that I am in tune with my emotions makes me more dependable not the other way around.

I am someone who takes pride in being pensive, compassionate and understanding. I am someone who would not trade my life for anybody else’s, and I think that is what I want people to know. I do not write so that you pity me; I write so that I may celebrate what my life experiences have taught me. I am not sorry for who I am – I do not want to trade my mind in for a new one. This is not to tell you how wonderful I am; this is to inform you that people who suffer from addiction and mental health issues are just as capable as anyone else in living complete and impactful lives.

This is to tell individuals who are struggling that there is nothing inherently wrong with you – that I see your potential even though it may be lost on you at the moment. This is to tell anyone that doubts someone like me, that worries if I am up to the task or wonders if I am reliable that they are in for a surprise. I write so that anyone who thinks someone like me is fragile, weak or timid can see what someone like me is really like. I write because I believe in the power of words and because I want you to know me.

I continue to write because I believe that strength comes from having a thorough relationship with yourself, knowing yourself to the best of your abilities. I believe that what is seen as a weakness to other people is the very thing that makes me strong. I write because I am a writer, and this is who I am. I am here because I feel that by keeping things hidden I am admitting that something is wrong with me, and I do not think there is. I want people to feel comfortable talking to me, knowing that I am not here to judge anyone. I want to continue communicating with people – I want to be close to people. I believe that problems can be worked on together by sharing experiences and by listening to one another.

I do not ask others to understand me or to agree with me; rather I ask that you support my path the way I support yours. I can help without trying to fix; I can love without needing to know it all. I want to follow your path in life, so I support you with love and compassion. I stay here because you make me stronger, and I want to contribute to your life in any way I can. I write to those who identify with my struggle; to you, I write because I know you very well. You may question my compassion and my intention all you wish – I only ask that you pay closer attention to my actions, and there you will see my real purpose. In my eyes, you see compassion and kindness because to look upon you is to stare right back into myself. I know shame and I will not tell you how to handle it; I will tell you that the shame I felt never needed to exist. The sadness and misery did not need to be experienced alone for years and years. However, for me it did, and yet I am still here. I will not tell you how to live your life but if you let me I will show you how I live mine and how my shame and loneliness has vanished so I know that it can vanish for others as well.

In the eyes of each sufferer, I see myself staring back. I am compassionate to you because I know you are scared, tired, and you feel alone. I stay here to remind you that you are never alone – you are a part of me now; a part of my past, my recovery, and my future. You do not need to remember my name, my face, or my words – my past is just a past – a bridge to nowhere. I ask instead that you remember my love, tolerance, and compassion. I hope that when you are stronger, you remember that someone showed up and listened to you when you were suffering. When you wish to reach out to me and thank me for showing up and listening, I ask that you instead turn and give your love to those who still suffer. The world I know needs love and compassion – for the sufferer, we can always find a deep compassion if we are willing to look into their eyes – such powerful reflections shine from the weariest bodies.

Every Day I See the Sun

When I sit and reflect on what my life means to me today I am in awe. Not because of what I have accomplished but because of the amount of compassion and understanding I have been shown by other people throughout the year. I believe a good measure of a person is found in the people that he impacts and, to a greater degree, the amount of people he allows to impact him. This year you people have shown me the true nature of understanding and love. It had been lost on me for many years but it was always waiting in your hearts. I can see you vividly now and I wish to continue seeing the brightness in each one of your smiles. If I were to have but one gift on this day it would be that you go out and make today meaningful – that you find a way to be a positive influence on somebody other than yourself. That today and each day following you allow the sun to shine within you so that others may see the great possibilities that this world has to offer. Go out into this world and make your mark on today – and give freely of yourself knowing that love will always find its way back to you. 

Rhett Burch

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Now is When the Sun Shines Brightest

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky 

Lately, things have been going well. I am turning 32 sometime this afternoon, and I have no idea what to say. I have no idea where I am going and no news on tomorrow. What fascinates me is that even though I have no certainties in my life, I am completely calm. I write, and I do volunteer work – I am not ashamed of my life today, nor should I be. What I have found interesting is that throughout my entire life I always presented myself as someone I was not. I would be anyone I thought you wanted me to be, albeit nobody ever told me to be a certain way. But I was so uncomfortable, so full of self-doubt that I thought if I just played the role of somebody significant I would, at some point, become someone significant.

The difference in my life today is that I do not live in fear – for I have nothing to fear. I can fall asleep without worry and am no longer tethered to the anxieties of my past. This lack of fear is not based in any knowledge of the future of course. What I have instead is understanding of the present. I know, for the first time in my life, who I am. What I once believed to be spectacular now pales in comparison to what I think my life has turned into.

I find only joy in the embrace of others and the eyes of strangers. I find myself in stages of passion that I never knew existed. The gift of life is only realized when one believes life can be fulfilling. A life that was once wildly confusing and based in a mental delusion is now lived with a fixed intensity on the day, letting go of my grip find my footing. The pathway to fulfillment and happiness is not found in magazines as I once believed. I have lived a life that has taught me precisely what does not bring me any satisfaction, and I have no room for them any longer.

I do not need to be known as anyone in particular. I only wish to be a source of light for those that need me and a place of compassion for those that do not understand me. I do not want to judge any longer – I have no room for it in my heart. I wish to grab the day with vigor and an unyielding passion for life in whatever form it comes. I would like to be present in the hearts of others, not as a burden but as a light.

I know who I want to be for the first time in my life, and it is not specific. I wish to be an impactful person, if only for brief moments in the lives of others. I would like to be a positive presence so that when I part company people will feel better than when I arrived. I hope to make an impression on you, to let you know that there is brightness deeper than you ever imagined inside of you. That you have the capacity to become more than you ever thought possible. I hope to instill in others the notion that we find no progress in comparing ourselves to others, rather we find progress in becoming better than we were yesterday.

I hope to trigger the emotion that leads others to see the benefits of reflection and honest introspection. That we have nothing to feel ashamed of so long as we continue breathing life into each moment. I hope to be this person because I have found a way to live a life beyond my expectations. At once I found that a life of fear, anger and pity is a life that is empty – a life that I do not wish to entertain.

I hope that you can feel the passion with which I type these words – the relentless pursuit of fulfillment and progress that comes with this life. I do not wish to bend your views to my opinion; I wish for you to build your energy into what you wish. I can face the world eye to eye and be the person I had always hoped to become – I sense the urgency each morning to prove to myself that I have what it takes to be better than I was yesterday.

Everything in my life lies one step in front of me. I do not rush life; I do not try to push it around. I do not wish the world to accept me; I would like to accept the world. I see the universe unleash its beauty in your smile – I see the sun shining fiercely in the eyes of those I love. I can accept the embrace of others – I can give more than I take. Each moment brings forth the bricks that I shall build my path with. Life is waiting for us to grab it – it is waiting for us to take hold of each other and carry love and compassion throughout the day instead of forcing ourselves upon others, smashing the dreams of those around us. I rise to meet the world eye to eye for the first time in my life. My happiness is not bound to anything in particular – it is found in the words I share with you and the smile I see in your eyes. Go out and take your life back and I will do the same – For the world will be whatever it will be, and I will be myself!

Misdirected Perception

It is not that I believe my mistakes should be forgotten, it is that I find worrying about them to be a waste of time. I propose to myself that instead of beating myself into oblivion over my mistakes I use them to understand what areas of my life need work. I can reflect on my day, count up my mistakes and mine alone, and find areas that need improvement. In order to gain the most fulfillment from this I must remember that the next day ought to be filled with action and more action. Improving oneself does not come by looking off into the sky and wishing it to be so – it originates from the very simple idea that tomorrow will be used to repair the damage I have caused today while recognizing that my path towards happiness & fulfillment is becoming smoother. 

I had a conversation with a woman tonight about her resistance to reflect on her day. She told me that she really disliked having to be honest with herself about any mistake she had made and didn’t quite see the point in having to examine “How shitty I was today.” 

The more I listened to her I realized that she was experiencing a very common mistake in perception of herself and the value that her flaws have. To listen to her speak about herself was easy because I wholly understood how she felt – I believe I understand both sides of many things because I have lived 2 different lives. I have been the character who repeatedly beat himself over the head, wallowed in self-pity and doubt, lacked any semblance of real confidence and at the same time had an intolerably massive ego. I have also become someone that tries my best to act with sincere and intense conviction concerning positive action, remaining useful to others and building my self-worth from actual achievements as opposed to false pride.

So, as a person who knows a few things about poor perception I felt that I could share with her what I find to be helpful. I told her that reflection has nothing to do with realizing how terrible we are, instead it has everything to do with understanding how incredible we can be. When I count up my follies I try to look under every stone – I have to find the ones hidden deep inside. There is effort to be sure but after recognizing the positive impact it has on my outlook and my behavior I find it to be worth any pain I may endure along the way – the pain in recounting my mistakes is minimal when understanding the immense potential that is unlocked once I begin improving myself.

“Is there something in particular that you do?” she asked me. “You seem really calm.” Maybe she misread me – perhaps I was just tired this evening and gave off the energy of a sleepy person! But in reality, I am calm and positive throughout my day and for good reason. I told her that I believe each one of us has a good measure of mistakes and character defects that we are often too afraid to look into. The problem with this avoidance is that these issues do not go anywhere. When I pretend that I have not been selfish, the quality of selfishness does not leave me. Instead, it grows within me, behind the curtain. When I resist being completely honest with myself, I begin to let certain areas of my life go untended. With this careless attitude, I start seeing those character defects lash out into my life in unpredictable ways. Without a period of honest reflection, I can start to let unattractive behaviors come back into my life. With regards to her claim that honest reflection only gives her insight into how terrible she had behaved that day I pressed on and told her that in my life there are two options: Look into my mistakes and begin working on improving myself or push them deep into my memory in the hopes that they will disappear.

This belief that our issues and character flaws will vanish is both a mystery to me and a life I know very well. However, I stressed to her that refusing to look into my day was like pretending I don’t have to pay rent; I can trick myself into believing it to be true but at some point, sooner than later, the landlord is going to knock on my door. And having to face that reality is much more difficult than reflecting on my day, locating any areas that need addressing and beginning the next day knowing that I have a sincere interest in correcting and improving my behavior and thought.

I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts and then it dawned on me – a life like mine was once so unbearable to look upon because I had the full knowledge that I was going to make no effort to better myself. When I am entirely ashamed of myself and my life with no plans to change there is little cause to reflect on my behavior, for I am not planning to change so why take the time to look at how useless I am?

But, I began to tell her, that life is dead. In this life we have the knowledge that we are going out of our way to become better people, sons, brothers, daughters, students, teachers etcetera each day. This type of reflection is the only way I know how to improve myself. I do not investigate my day so that I can use it to tell myself what a poor job I made of the day. Rather I have no fear in admitting my shortcomings because I am armed with the knowledge and the enthusiasm that I will do everything in my power to improve myself.

I closed our conversation by attempting to explain how I stay positive: I told her that I try my best not to compare myself to others, that someone else’s success or failure has nothing to do with me. I told her that when I speak about improving myself, there are no specific terms, no status to be found What is found is someone who insists on becoming better. When faced with a person who only wishes to improve themselves you will be hard pressed to find fault in his or her behavior. While there is fault, there is also an accountability that this person possesses, and that type of responsibility gives that person a much clearer conscience.

My path to positivity and fulfillment isn’t found in forcing things; rather I allow life to come to me. This means that I have to be patient with life, I have to practice humility or my pride will get the better of me and I will again try to force things and attempt to control the show. I cede control, but this does not limit my work ethic. I have been told that my demeanor does not fit life in New York City. I am too calm, and I am not the type of person to claw my way to the top. Perhaps that is the culture here, but this claim could be a misunderstanding of my calm demeanor. I have an intensity and vigor that at times shock me – however, my energy is focused on other things. I believe I am clawing my way to the top each day; only my course doesn’t need competition with others. I am in competition with myself, focused on becoming better today than I was yesterday.

My energy is focused on finding happiness and fulfillment, no matter what form it comes in. I am calm because I have faith in my action, I do not worry about reaching any particular status. I live with an unyielding passion for life – I live with intense joy and intense sincerity. It is constant work, and it is what I consider living to be. I take this seriously for a reason. I have been asked when are you going to start living your life!? But this is me enjoying life – fulfillment looks differently for everybody. I know that my life today allows me to be a part of my family. It allows others to depend on me. I have the ability to be an impactful member of society – I have the freedom to become whoever I hope to become.

The passion I put out into the world is returned to me. The brightness I see in other people is the same shade as the light that others see in me. For the first time, I am a positive presence. It has nothing to do with finding a high paying job, finding a companion or forcing anything. It has everything to do with having an answer for the question Who are you? My job title can’t answer that and neither can a girlfriend. When the right job and the right girl comes along I’ll have an answer for that as well – I will be ready because I have found happiness within myself. I know a peace that is mine and mine alone. I have found a spirit that only I can take away from myself – and this is my life.

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To Still A Restless Mind

I task myself with designing my day; I cede control of designing the outcome

At times I allow myself to become wildly confused. I find myself digging deep into mistakes of my past, aimlessly trying to find answers. I never find these things that I am looking for, rather I find only more confusion and struggle. When I exhaust myself with this task I find myself worn out emotionally, after all what I am really doing is beating myself up over and over. There is never a clear point in this action, it is an exercise in futility.

What I have learned is how to successfully get myself out of this mess. I have been asked many times how I forgive myself and move on – how do I continue growing after enduring failure? There is a close behavioral association with failure followed by apathy, laziness and self-pity. This does not have to be the case; failure is something that we all experience but it is in how we react to failure that actually matters.

When I explain to those that ask how I get past failure and resist the temptation to sit in self-pity the reaction is often one of feeling let down by my method. My answer to this seemingly insurmountable issue is simple, and I suppose somewhat anti-climactic:

The only way I have learned to get past my own personal failures is in taking action. The most harmful thing I can do when I feel defeated is to allow myself to behave as if I am defeated. When I have made a mistake there is no solace found in self-pity. I find no hope in worry or in entertaining my racing thoughts. I replace worry with reflection in an attempt to learn from my mistakes and nothing more. I gain nothing by punishing myself – in fact nobody does. 

The way I choose to handle failure is not unique, magical or groundbreaking. I have never found, in my 30 plus years of searching, a shortcut that actually works. What I have found is that when I continually move forward, taking whatever action is needed, I continue to grow. I have found that the absolute worst thing I can do for myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically is sitting with worry  and searching my past for other reasons to beat myself up.

At times I can string along a few days where I don’t feel accomplished, where I find that I haven’t taken advantage of the day the way I ought to. In this situation I find the same method of action to work. As opposed to ruminating about what I have not been doing I take it upon myself to go into action. I find that the only way to relieve myself of frustration, anger, self-pity and worry is by literally doing anything that requires me to give of myself. I find any way to get out of my own way – often times all I need is a little break from myself to get back on track.

This is where I find the solution, where I find my answer. It doesn’t come without work and effort. It comes from reflection and action. It comes from the knowledge buried deep within all of us that relief is born out of action. When I give of myself, when I can be of service and make a meaningful impact on someone else’s day I am given relief from worry. I find fulfillment in reaching out to others and satisfaction in improving myself.

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Myself

I ought never regret the experience of pain and suffering. Through these experiences I have learned the most valuable lessons in my life. 

I have been scared my entire life. I have been terrified of making mistakes and never recovering. But most of all, I had always been afraid to tell people how I actually felt. There are multiple reasons why I feared this: I didn’t want people to think I was weak, I was terrified of rejection – I just wanted to keep a smooth course and go unnoticed.

When I reflect on my past I don’t identify with much of anything. Some things that I once believed just don’t make sense to me any longer. Some things I’m still learning, I’ll never stop learning. But the one thing that I am most ashamed of is my inability to ever tell people what was going on in my head. I was selfish, I didn’t want to disappoint people, I wanted to be the person others thought I could be. I could play the part pretty well for awhile but inevitably the charm wore off and I was left alone, deservedly so.

The fact is when I think back to past experiences I don’t even know what I was keeping secret.  As more time passes I think I just never felt like I was ever good enough for anybody. I didn’t want anyone to see the part of me that was terrified so I showed a part of me that didn’t care. Somewhere in my mind I think I knew that would be enough to eventually push people away.

To be honest I don’t really like thinking about how I used to be. I can’t relate to my past – my memory is sometimes lacking. Sometimes I just remember the despair and in a way I think at the time I designed it that way. My idea of fun was running away – even when I was around people I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

The reason I am writing this is because through all of this, through years of lying, depression, substance abuse and later minor memory loss, I have become someone I honestly never thought I wanted to be, and I absolutely love my life. I think of the passion and intensity that I have today – it’s pretty wild. My emotions don’t swing up and down and they are very clear to me today after years of not really feeling anything. When I speak about my life now I get so excited that I often begin to tear up, not out of sadness but because sometimes it seems unreal. How could I have turned out this way? How could a person who tried almost everything to destroy himself be at peace? Why did I have to put myself through so much pain to find happiness?

In all honesty, much of this past year has been a complete mystery to me. I don’t have any secret formula – I am not unique any more than anyone else is. Sometimes I think the reason my appreciation for life is so intense is because I know what the opposite feels like. When I think of what I was doing this time last year, what I was feeling, I think that I would have to be heartless to not be overjoyed for each day that comes to me. Whatever the reason is it is not all that important. What I find to be of much greater value is the very clear notion that good can come out of some very dark places.

I may have taken the longer path, but what my path taught me was how I don’t want to live. I am reminded of what my life can turn into when I don’t take advantage of each day. It has also taught me that I don’t want to live with regrets any longer, and quite frankly I don’t really have any in this new life. I am open and honest with people today, I can allow myself to be vulnerable without fear. I am able to do this because I am honest with myself and I trust my motives. I don’t set out to hurt people.

Most importantly, I am no longer afraid of the future. I have worried that no woman will love me because of my addiction – I have worried that if I have kids I’ll pass my addiction on to them – I have worried that I missed out on a certain future because of things I did in my past – In the past 10 months I have worried about all of these things for about 30 minutes. The fact is, today I know something about myself that I never knew; I know who I am.

Most of the time I don’t even know what I want but I know what I need. I focus on each moment so that I am able to enjoy each day and so I am prepared for the future, whatever it may hold. I may put myself in the position to be hurt from time to time but it is the only way I know how to gain what is most important. I am no longer confused about who I am or what I am doing. Perhaps I am too intense at times but at least I know that my intensity has direction. It has heart and love. I let the future be whatever it will, and I’ll be myself.

Perfect

I make so many mistakes in various ways that it’s almost embarrassing. In reality though, I am rarely embarrassed when I make a mistake simply because I am always open to advice from others and am continually striving to learn from my mistakes. The reason this is effective is because it takes actual action and effort to practice this – I have never successfully found a way to forgive myself and at the same time improve myself by seeking shortcuts.

What I have learned is that the thing that often holds me back is the feeling that I have failed myself or someone else and no matter what I do I can never get over that failure/mistake. This is just a complex excuse to get out of taking action but it is very effective. I am very talented at convincing myself that my efforts will always be in vain so I might as well give up. This is never true – there is always a way to forgive myself.

One reason I know this is because I have practiced it in some difficult situations. I have chosen to sit face to face with people whom I had harmed in various ways in my past and I acknowledged my mistakes all the while not knowing what the other persons reaction would be. In order to do something like this I have to be ready for the possibility that my amends may not be enough for someone and they may never forgive me, and I have to accept that or else I will find it very difficult to move forward.

I have to find the part of me that has shown through action, not words, that I am fully committed to improving myself each day. The mistakes I make are no different than the mistakes of others, and when I have put in the maximum effort to show myself and others that I truly want to improve and enhance my life it makes it incredibly easier to forgive myself and others have a tendency to see that change I believe in my sincerity.

What I have found to be the most crucial moment is the time when I am stuck somewhere in between. If I take a day off of practicing these principals I have two options: I can beat myself up, sit in self-pity and believe the absurd notion that I am some sort of failure or I can in many ways erase the mistakes of yesterday by getting up and doing what I know I need to do today.

When I take action in my life I convince myself that I am worth something. When I seize each moment to be of service and show gratitude and humility I prove to myself that I have something worth keeping. What happens naturally is that other people begin to notice that change.

This works! I know because I spent 10 years of making mistake after mistake and never making any attempt to show that I wasn’t the sum of my mistakes. In 10 months I have taken such intense action towards correcting my mistakes that I don’t have to tell people how I feel, they can see it on my face. They see it in my actions and my enthusiasm. The thing that can drive many of us into apathy or depression is the inability to forgive ourselves for past behavior and in a sense believing it too late to come back. It is never too late. By taking action today we can begin to erase the mistakes of our past. It starts when you want it to – When you want a life full of freedom, fulfillment and enthusiasm it is yours, you just have to take it.

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(un)comfortable

How does one change? Others often tell me how much I have changed. There has been a swift change in my perspective – an occurrence that ‘s hard to explain. I believe that to make radical changes in my life I had to make radical changes! It sounds simple, or at least, it seems simple. What is not so surprising is that in the past whenever I had claimed that I wanted to change something in my life I had always tried to find the easiest way to change. I was convinced, somehow, that I could make changes in my life by putting in minimal effort. This does not work.  It is a painful process – it is challenging. What often happens is I retreat into an easier, softer way – instead of dealing with character defects I pretended that they weren’t there or simply hoped they would go away, but they never do. In fact, with time these defects grow out of control and the pressure is often too intense to bear. When I allow these defects to go untreated, I drift into isolation. Here comes the secret! If I honestly want to improve my life and finally face my demons I have to do things that make me uncomfortable. I have to stop behaving the way I once did. Everything that seemed to “complete” me had to go – I had to make radical changes. And doing things that make me uncomfortable are a subtle price to pay. Invariably, when I do the things that I know are healthy for me mentally, physically and spiritually I feel better. The turnaround is remarkable – and it is radical. There are no shortcuts, no handouts. It takes action, it takes effort and resiliency. This is the only way I know how to make effective changes in my life. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. The easy route doesn’t pay off – 

Owning the day

There are moments throughout the day when the easiest and seemingly the most sensible response to disappointment or frustration is to lash out – to conjure up scenarios that place the blame on someone or something else. I am capable of inventing innumerable scenarios where I am not at fault when things go awry. The reality is, I never have to look past my own front door to find the source of any disappointment or frustration. The want to remove the spotlight from myself by magnifying the fault in others does not yield the response I believe at the moment it does. In fact, this behavior magnifies my own faults – an added assurance that I am generally the cause of my sorrow and I am also the cause of my joy. When I allow myself to find this new perspective, a perspective that does not allow me to find excuses, I find that existence is a much more liberating experience. I at once take responsibility for my shortcomings, take advice regarding where I am mistaken, and take the necessary action to avoid these pitfalls in the future. By accepting the fault in myself I find the ability to forgive myself, forgive others and recognize the struggle that others experience. My struggle is not unique to me – the world is not against me. When I believe that all of the negativity in my life is caused by outsiders I am surely at the height of ego – as if the outside world had the time to concern itself with my mood. When I fully work this belief into my day I find that I can accept disappointment much easier – I can control my anger and frustration, many times not experiencing either at all. When I stop pointing the finger at others and stop blaming the world for my situation I can better understand that I am here to improve myself first. I am not concerned with the failures of others, it has no relevance to me. There is no excuse, there is only action, and it is up to me to seize it.

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Revealing A Hidden Truth (PT. 1)

I have seen the truth – I have witnessed faith work its wonders right before me. It is my faith that others may laugh at, may shrug off as a hallucination of my mind. But it is here, it has taken form. I have seen the transformation of a man from a withering shell to a lover of life. I have seen the beauty in people, I have witnessed the brightness in their eyes. I have seen the works go into action and spring life into the world. I sit with the results, I know them very well. I am a result of this faith. I have seen action spur men into a freer life than they ever thought possible. This is a new way of life for me – I have seen the light in others and I can sense it in myself. 

{Revealing a hidden truth}

I have lived somewhat of a mystery. Part of me feels as if I have gone through much of my life acting accordingly. By which I mean that I have not always felt emotions or held beliefs with the same confidence as I believed others to have done and often times would behave as I thought I was meant to behave. For many years I seemed unsure of what specifically I was supposed to act like, as if there were some sort of template that could guide me to the correct end. My confusion seemed to know no bounds and to many people that know me personally this may sound a little far-fetched. Or perhaps it will seem spot on – what do I know of what other people think?!

Often times I look back on my past to try and figure out who I was. I think that in many ways I was pretending to be somebody that I believed people would respect and admire. Much of my 20’s seem to go unaccounted for – not in terms of my memory but rather in terms of what I was feeling. It is difficult for me to believe much of what I was selling to people, though during that time I believed myself to be selling a true version of myself.

But when I look back with clarity I realize that so much of my identity was a lie. If one payed close attention it would become very noticeable; my actions did not support my claims of love, passion, excitement, friendship, etcetera. It is difficult for me to say if I have ever truly loved the way I once told people I had. If I were put on the spot and ordered to name the things to support my claims I could not, then or at the present. I don’t believe I was capable of the type of love I see other people display towards one another, simply because I had never loved myself. It is important to say that nobody could have done anything differently to strengthen my emotions, I simply didn’t know what it meant to be in love with somebody. But I wanted to be. I wanted so badly to be seen as others were seen. I wanted to be somebody to depend on and I wanted to feel that longing that other people spoke of – but I didn’t.

One thing I believe to be true however is that I have always been a good judge of character in others. I saw something in other people that I knew I wanted to be a part of, and I had hoped that it would bring me happiness. But I never found that happiness, it never wore off on me. I behaved much the same way in my friendships, which can be a more forgiving relationship. Essentially, I had become a person that nobody could depend on. I believe that my calm demeanor made me bearable to be around, but I don’t think I was gaining any momentum with anybody. If anything I was always moving away from people, until eventually they would be gone from my life or they forced me back in to their life.

And on life went, forever leaning in and out of peoples lives, always careful to not stay too long. I had pictured myself as the hopeless but lovable character, never one to take home to mom and dad but always up for a late night talk. Over the years I began to notice a development that I wasn’t prepared for; I had found myself to be so distant from others that I could never realistically be a permanent fixture in anyones life. I had become so fearful of other people knowing to what depths I had fallen that I was no longer accessible. People had tried for years to love me but I had been so foolish in my pride that at once it seemed I had lost it all. I realized that love can wear people down, specifically when it is not shown back to them. I had taken this love for granted, assuming that somebody somewhere would be there to love me. And that was precisely my problem; I had always acted as if there would always be some new source of love for me to take in, as if they were stationed at the end of each exit ramp.

I had love from those closest to me, but love wears on these relationships too. This love was never going away but I was certainly doing one hell of a job trying to beat the life out of it. At some point this love becomes painful, difficult to show day in and day out. I had been so incredibly selfish and careless with the love others had shown for me because somewhere in my mind I knew I didn’t deserve it. I had a feeling that it didn’t belong to me anymore, it needed a new, more grateful owner. It didn’t make sense to me because I had been without true emotions for such a long period of time that I didn’t know how to react to it. All I could figure was that people were wasting their time.

And then, one evening in January I broke down. Maybe it was a spiritual awakening or maybe I was just beaten down but I had finally decided to give up the fight, I had been losing for years anyway. As I started to change I could feel these emotions come to life in me: love, pain, remorse, guilt, anger, sadness. I hadn’t felt these in any meaningful way for many years and they all hit me at once, like a savage dog let loose in my mind. I didn’t know how to handle these emotions correctly, I just had to let them overwhelm me.

As I continued on I began to awaken to a new life, a new perspective. People had told me to be patient and I had listened. I started seeing the beauty in the actions of others – what was once a blank stare was now an idea. I had the drive to give love back to the world – I had passion that I hadn’t known at all. I found that inside of me was a wealth of love to give to those who had shown me the same, and it wasn’t forced this time around. It feels natural, like the warmth from a fire. What had become of paramount importance was the fact that I finally found the ability to love myself. I knew how to give freely what for so long had been freely given to me.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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