Our lives are often affected by not only the voices we hear around us and by the voices we hear within us. Over the last ten years I have made a conscious effort to improve the person that I am. But change has come slowly, first by breaking down the barriers of self-hatred; then by learning to love the flawed individual that I am. Still there are self-destructive behaviors that I have left to correct. But through study and desperation, I discovered the path of mindfulness, mostly through the teachings of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
While I do not embrace all Buddhist beliefs, I do embrace the thought that we should live in the here and now. That we should listen to our pain compassionately and that we should live a balanced and reflective life. Still throughout my existence the belief that I’ll never be good enough, still haunts me. So while some areas of my life benefit from the practice of mindfulness. Other areas of my life, most the physical side, are still slowly falling apart.
It is this part of my life that has brought me where I am today. Where I embrace my limitations and deal with them as they come. My recovery from congestive heart failure will never be 100 percent. But through understanding my self-worth and the gifts have been given, I can continue my journey to become my best self.
I often feel like I don’t adequately explain my experiences. My family and friends feel like I play down the things I’ve gone through. But truth be told I am very aware of my condition and my limitations. It’s just that I don’t let my limitations define me, at least in a sense I don’t let those things bind me. I may never run a marathon or sell a best-selling book. But I know who I am, and isn’t that the greatest gift you can ever give yourself?
I listen to the world go by, as I watch the leaves drift to the ground. The wind is blowing like it’s fall, but summer’s too stubborn to see the change. You know we act like that sometimes, refusing to let go of the past, never looking into the future. Children are the best examples of change. We first see them helpless infants, then the next thing you know they’re walking and moving away.
Time is a line that takes you from one point to the next. It doesn’t stand still especially when you stare into the mirror. Yet here we are, refusing to let go. To let go of old thoughts and old ways, that are just no good anymore. The day is hot, the sun relentless. Yet everything else tells me it’s fall. Why won’t you let go stubborn summer? Your time has passed, it’s time to rest. It’s time to let go.
It’s hard to command attention when you have the bad teeth and saggy skin. But you work with what you got, right? Most of my life I was a smart-ass, chain-smoking, food addict, with low self-esteem issues. Now I suppose it’s good that I only have a couple of those issues to work through. It keeps me humble. You can either go through life oblivious to how the world perceives you. Or you can go through life totally self-aware.
I’m not exactly sure which one’s worse, all I know is I straddle the fence somewhere in between. Listen I know what it’s like to be laughed at and I know what it’s like to be the bully. Either one of those scenarios paints a pretty picture. So I just survive on what I know and what I want to achieve. And what that is, is to be a better person than what I was yesterday.
We all have our faults, and some of us are pretty good at covering them up. But a stain is hard to get out once it sets in. Rather you pray to God or mediate to an inner power. All of us should at least try to work towards a better self. But in doing so calling yourself names or thinking destructive thoughts isn’t the way to do it.
Only through love was I able to look deep within myself and find the person I want to be. A kinder, gentler, and way less self-destructive me. There’s not much I can do about my teeth or skin without a dermatologist or a dentist and boat load of cash. But I have worked on a bunch of other things like my weight, my overall health, and my self-abusive behavior. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee for success, even if you’re rich. But your instincts and self-awareness can give you great tools to start.
Even the trees know the season, despite the heat. The time of harvest and bounty are upon us, as we turn the ground for rest. Here in the Deep South our planting season is long. But still a moment to cool down is required, before a long winter’s nap. I am my father’s son, a child of the earth. My blood flows from generations of sharecroppers and the working poor.
But to us born of the land, money is but a means to an end. A necessary evil tolerated in order to survive. But it wasn’t always this way. For decades I pursued the allure of wealth and the trappings of fame. Until a breakdown brought me back to my most basic elements and open my eyes. To see that the pursuit of glory was never what it’s all about.
So I stare up into the turning colors of the trees and listen to the songs of the mockingbirds. Leaves dance silently to the ground as a warm breeze blows across the sky. The Kingdom of Man makes its way down the streets, while nature itself ignores its busy pace.
The cicada’s sing one last song as I breathe in day. I think about family, time, and the legacy in which I leave. Meanwhile the Kingdom of Man spins so fast. As those of us of the Earth, are well aware. Aware that this too shall pass, and legacy and memory are all we’ll leave behind. But I’m at peace with that, for once I return to the dust, I will always live again.
It’s so quiet, I can hear the wind moving. I can smell the sweet dampness beneath the trees. My mind brings me here, when I need clarity. A place to center myself when I’m surrounded by noise. Today has been one of those days, rather it be the noise of my own life or the noise from those I love. The storms of fear and feelings of helplessness are certainly encamped around me.
The world in general often bring chaos. A kinda relentless drumbeat of worry and senseless thought. Under this canvas of sycamore and fig leaves, I still can’t help but feel the relentless heat of the day. As much as I try to focus on the quietness of the moment, I still hear the relentless noise of this human life.
I find myself wishing for another time. But I know well and good that even those moments had their pain. So I sit here jaded by my past and burdened by the expectations of the present. Leaving me clueless to see a way out. Forgive me for my bluntness, but often the noise lays waste to a gentle soul.
We walk our paths through this life. Only wishing to give joy, but still falling short of the expectations placed upon us. But we’ve lived through this darkness before and I’m sure as hell we’ll live through it again. But just as the breeze picks up and cools me, so to shall the currents of love free our souls.
I can’t find my mood today. So I half-ass watch football, while my son (my local ESPN broadcaster) keeps me updated on scores. I came up with several topics to write about, but my mind just isn’t there. So I blow the whole day, doing nothing. But as evening falls, I play some quiet jazz over my earbuds, punching one key at a time on this little keyboard. I think about my parents as I stare into the bathroom mirror. Wondering about how wise they were when they were my age.
Fear has an amazing power over us. It can cause the most confident of us to go insane. Or the most fearful of us to confirm our suspicions, that life is just one big tragedy. So I stroll back to my bedroom, and as I lay on the bed the kitten is playing furiously with one of her toys. Watching her I’m reminded that optimism and perspective still have their place. Especially among us mere mortals who rack our brains everyday trying to find meaning in it all.
So I continue punching one key at a time, doing nothing. With my wishes tightly held in my pocket, that only one other knows. While the rest of the world scurries about like cogs in a machine. Spinning around but never getting anywhere. But I digress, for life is so much more, if we just look around us. We produce, we invent, we distract ourselves; while below us the world keeps turning. Are we even aware anymore? A saxophone blows quietly into my ear, the rhythms that the musician feels. I move my foot to the beat; as I feel the pulse around me. The pulse of life doing nothing, yet doing everything.
We create images from others that we deify into the desires that we carry. But more often than not, those souls are no more a deity than you or I. They are often flawed by their own fantasy’s and desires. Very few of us care to delve deep inside ourselves. We choose instead to swim in the shallow end. I always saw myself as a broken and miserable soul, with no good ending coming to my story. But I continued to search for an answer, a shining light. That I could never found in the dogma in which I was raised.
What is life, but an unending chain of moments. Moments which we often pick and choose to remember. The memories that endure usually end up being cruel and savage. My Grandma loved the song “Rose Colored Glasses”. A song that described a bleak world brightened by the tint of a rose-colored lens. I never quite understand the meaning. But when the world stopped being so bright and beautiful. It took a little bit of tint to change the scenery. For me that tint come in the form of becoming self-awareness.
Often, we look to others to be our heroes and our savors. But in reality, it is you and I that must ultimately save ourselves. I’ve read a lot of self-help books, attended a bunch motivational seminars. But after a moment of euphoria, I’d just walk away feeling empty again. It wasn’t until I opened myself up to listening to my pain, that it began to heal. I stopped burying my pain in a fog of flowers, trying to ignore the stench that lay underneath. Self-awareness exposes the wounds, clears the heart, and gives you permission to let go. By listening compassionately to that wounded child, we tear down the walls we’ve build around our hearts. It is the power of love and forgiveness, that creates the positive images we need to live.
For the last week or so, I have been working on the finishing touches of my latest book, “Part of Me”. Among the things I’ve been working on is editing the foreword written by a new friend artist Rod Jones. As an independent publisher, it’s up to me to do everything, including editing my own foreword. So can I say it’s a little embarrassing to sit down to read and edit words telling what a gifted and insightful person you are.
My background is well documented, I took pain that was buried deep and dug it up for all the world to read. I am an imperfect man. I have made and continue to make mistakes every day. It’s really hard for me to take compliments. While the layers of myself may say otherwise, the verbal abuse and self-abuse I have suffered take their toll.
Cleaning old scabs is a hard and painful process. It requires a delicate touch, which if done incorrectly can make things worse. I’ve been feeling a bit unworthy of the task I have taken on. The telling of my journey is far from complete. Often, I can find myself crawl into a very, very dark place. It’s that secret place where the darkest and most painful parts of me live. And like a wounded animal it often lashes out.
This isn’t a very positive way of promoting a product, but it is what it is. While I would love to see my work be successful, that has never been my ultimate goal. My goal was to find myself and let go of all the poison I’ve kept inside. I’ve seen and read about a lot of people that seem to have it all together. Only to discover they were no different than myself. Find yourself an outlet, be honest with yourself, forgive yourself, and forgive others. Being angry or sad all the time isn’t life. But being self-aware and balanced is.
You ever get in one of those moods, were you don’t want to be particularly friendly to anyone? Believe it or not that’s been me for the last few days. It’s like I’m speaking to people out of obligation and not because I want too. To a lot of you my attitude maybe quite understandable. But for a needy yak, yak like myself; it can seem a bit awkward. I guess I just have one of those weird personalities that thrives on conversation. But given the world we live in today; I suppose I’m the exception and not the rule.
My life generally revolves around just a few people, in the public sphere. The majority of people I know are through online experience, and in a way, that’s kinda sad. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but through my façade of Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, I isolate myself because due to my past I can be a jackass. Just ask my kids. My oldest reminded me yesterday that I seem to be a different person in public than at home. And to be honest, I don’t have a good answer as to why?
Maybe I shouldn’t let shit like that bother me, but it does. Through my mindfulness practice I’m trying to be a better person, I want to be more grounded and genuine. I don’t like being domineering or bullish. I never thought of myself as an Alpha Male, but then again it could simply be one of the many masks I wear. Living my life honestly has been my savior. It has given me the freedom to face my demons and my sins. But to be human we must learn to forgive. Without that then are all truly lose.
I've worn this bandage on my hand a little longer than I should. I suppose it's to remind of yet another vein being pierced in the name of diagnosis. I shouldn’t let these things bother me, and they usually don’t. But rather it was the truck acting up or the downpour I had to drive thru, this doctor visit wasn’t a good one. With a poor mix of encouragement and foreboding, my doctor is concerned about me having a whole new problem.
I guess that’s what slapped me most, with all the lifestyle changes I made; at worst case they were probably a moot point. Oh don’t mind me, I’m just having a pity party. I discovered a while back that if you just go ahead and have it out. It’s better long run. So now I’m faced with yet another doctor visit to my friend the cardiologist. To see if the medication to mend one problem is creating another.
As the nurse pierced the skin for the blood work she mentioned, “You must be an old pro at this”. Funny isn’t it, the one thing I feared most as a kid, shots. Now I could care less. She filled three vials for the lab. Put the bandage on my hand and walked away. The doctor had already left, leaving me with the receptionist scheduling yet another appointment.
As I drove home, windshield wipers going full speed, keeping an eye on the damn temperature gauge; I wondered, had my luck run out? Where things just going too well? My last stay in the hospital was over a year ago. I suppose this is just God’s way of saying, “One way or another you’re mine you little shit!”. Or maybe it’s just another roadblock, another lesson. Or is it all just as random as the wind? Whatever the case at least I got good veins.
Paranoia and fear can cause us to “close ranks”. To go in a defensive stance that we’ll defend till the end. I’ve seen this in my life and in the lives of those around me. Fear and paranoia are powerful tools, used by the mind to defend itself. For me it was the fear of death, of pain, of insignificance; that drove me to “shelter in” and hide myself.
Other than the obvious political tactics of paranoia we see every day. More and more of us cloak ourselves in these veneers or “brands” to sell ourselves. I don’t know maybe it’s all well and good in this materialistic world. I mean, I’ve used branding, I even researched and studied it in grad school. But all I ever got out of it was a sense of falsehood and out right lying.
I don’t mean to put down or insult those that use branding to sell product and thereby make a living. I suppose what I’m saying runs deeper than that. Maybe I’m just an outlier on the scale of who I am and what I value. It’s just that I enjoy living a life of honesty and expression. Where the demons of fear and paranoia are exposed for the cancer that they are.
Our ancestors across the plains of Africa and the frozen continents of the North, used fear to survive. Even our Christian beliefs tell us to embrace fear and overcome it. So why hide behind these masks we create. Let us bring down the walls of paranoia and fear and embrace who we are, individuals all trying to survive.
I’m writing for no particular reason. I’m laid up in bed after a restless night of tossing and turning. I’m feverish for God knows why and my insides twisted in a knot. Wondering if this either a new avenue for my panic or if I’m genuinely sick. The irony of all this is, I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. But the way I am feeling, there was no way I could drive myself there.
After a little relief, my insides are hurting again. But I know eventually I’ll have to eat something. Looking in the mirror this morning, I saw a tired old man. His face sinking from gravity and weight loss. I know I should be happy about losing weight, but part of me just feels like I’m melting away. Forming a puddle of who I was underneath my feet.
But as I write this confession a small twinge of hope crosses my mind. Release I suppose has been the key to my healing. A “come to Jesus moment” as it were. Still I wonder, is my life best served without thought or direction? I mean four years ago I had to pull myself away. But as the moments pass, am I now only letting life slip between my fingers?
“Confession is good for the soul.” So I wonder where am I going? I have my book to complete, but is it enough? I mourn for the man in the mirror. Is he a reflection of moments past or an image of things to come? Only time will tell, as I continue to step forward with what I’m doing. Believing somewhere that there is another lost soul that understands.
Even after making myself aware of it, I still find myself grinding my teeth. It’s the last bad habit, stress reliever I have left. Considering I don’t smoke, drink, or overeat anymore; so I suppose I could do worse. But even with mindfulness and mediation, sometimes old habits are hard to break. You know, things like “flying off the handle” when things don’t go the way you want. Or when a colleague at work forgets a deadline. Hey, stress triggers happen all the time.
For those of us that live with chronic stress and anxiety, it often feels like isolating ourselves is the best option. But even than stress can still creep in, ruining an otherwise pleasant day. Even now I couldn’t even tell you what I am stressing about. I live a life that even now could be full of potential. But the stresses and anxieties I carry hold me back.
I suppose it would be easy to say, just let it go. But it’s not as simple as all that. When the pressures of life push you so far, you can often develop a “hair trigger” when it comes to panic and stress. For 20 years I have lived with this chain hung around my neck. I’ve went to therapy, joined group sessions, taken all kinds of medication. But the clear winner in all that has been awareness and forgiveness.
Through awareness of my situation and forgiveness for my faults, I am learning to deal with my stress and anxiety. Lord knows, I wish I could just snap my finger and make this all go away. But honey, that ain’t gonna happen. Positivity is all fine and well, my oldest often preaches at me to quit being so negative. Well “old habits die hard” and this old dog is stuck in his ways. I can’t fix everything about myself, I just ain’t got the time. What I do have is the ability the be aware and ask forgiveness when I have too. It’s all I have left.
What’s an hour? That’s what I’m telling myself this morning. As sleep rolls away from my mind. My bride sleeps quietly next me as I am once again awaken by wonderful, yet disturbing dreams. But it’s 5:30 in the morning, so what’s an hour to waste just letting my mind breathe. Staring into a blue filtered digital screen may not be your idea of breathing. But for me it’s the release and distiller of thoughts.
I open my mind to endless possibilities as I place a finger to the keys. Never quite knowing how the story will end. Straining thoughts as they come. Extracting from them the inner most parts of my soul. Releasing the impurities that so distract me. But in many cultures, nothing is wasted, for they believe there is value in everything.
Sorting through dreams may seem Freudian at best, but for me it offers view into my subconscious. Like I said, tonight’s dream was wonderful and disturbing. Within its layers were moments of pure joy woven between layers of fear and frustration. But isn’t that how dreams work? A cornucopia unfiltered thoughts and ideas swimming around in our minds.
Creativity, art they live here between the folds of everyday life. Not only as therapy and thought for those that see it, but for the creator as well. I am often surprised by the thoughts that pour out of my head. I am equally surprised by the actions and comments I receive. Life is more than just stagnate water afoul with the mundane and predictable. It is joy, surprises, unpredictability. Don’t allow efficiency and time to steal the spontaneity that gives us life.