Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dawn of a new Era

It has been a while, 2 years and a week since I wrote a blog. It has been far from 2 years since I've written though. Life sure flies, doesn't it? Life sure changes, doesn't it? 

The last few years have been plastered with ups and downs, the predictable and the unpredictable, the common and the uncommon. Thankful that throughout thick and thin their has been one constant, and that's change. 

I could attempt to recap my life in a few paragraphs but for those who know me well, you know where I've been. I could attempt to give you a full sketch of where life has taken me, but for those of you who know me, you already know where I've gone. 

Togetherness. I suppose that's the opposite of loneliness. Togetherness. Thankful that my life looks so drastically different. About a year ago, my life took a crazy gorgeous turn. Smack down in the middle of my heart landed this amazingly talented, ridiculously beautiful, God-fearing, life loving, bundle of hope, my sweet Jaimee. Jamie wasn't the norm. Many of you who have known me over the years understand my struggle. If you've read this blog, and only God knows why you'd put yourself through that, you know that for years and years I've battled the unknown. 

What was unknown to me? My future. My ability to become a man. Not that I even knew what a real man was, I had an idea. I knew that being a man was taking care of your family. Loving others more than you love yourself. I knew those few things. What I didn't know was that part of being a man was learning how to be loved. If I've learned nothing else in the past 2-years of my life, I've learned this... how to love and how to be loved. 

I say this with the most transparent of hearts... you never know how bad you really are until you let someone love you. I guess that's a weird way of saying, through being loved you learn yourself. I've learned more about how much darkness I've let in, far more than I've learned about the light inside. Through that, the filtration process has started. Through that, the journey has truly begun. It's an impossible pain to understand when you hurt someone you love. Even in the most infantile and minute ways, a simple poorly placed word, a sour look, can feel devastating.

Loving someone doesn't mean its all roses. Loving someone means thorns. Lots of thorns. Their truly is nothing new under the sun. My dad loved 3-women mediocrely. 3 marriages, 3 divorces. My mother the same. Divorce has plagued my family for generations. Why? Because the thorns continued. A thorn is always a thorn, never absent from the rose while growing. Sometimes in life you have to live among the thorns. What does all of that mean to me? It means that being loved by someone has shown me that the thorns are worth it... I think I appreciate the rose more now than ever before.

2 years ago I could have never pictured my life where it is today. Working my dream job. Living my dream life. Loving my dream love. Knee deep in the most incredible ministry opportunity I've ever known. Helping teens make the most critical decision of their eternal lives. I can't say thank you enough to the creator of the cosmos for the life I'm currently living. We have no guarantees in life, so I'll just enjoy this moment while it lasts.

Thank you for your for reading,

God Bless,

Ben H. Strength

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Throwback to a bygone era

A throwback to a bygone era

Wow. It's been a year and a few months since I've sat down with a pen and some ink; scribbling onto lonely, blank pages of a moleskin journal. I'm sad that I've let this once daily discipline fade into non-existence. May of 2012, almost 18 months have passed since I last shared my real thoughts with the outside world via cluttered and often-times unnecessarily confusing linguistics.

I'm going back through Portland native and literary extraordinaire Donald Miller's, "Blue Like Jazz". It makes perfect sense. About every 5 or so years something happens to me and I start to freak out like Ricky Bobby, running around in some tighty-whiteys on a vacant race track yelling for Tom Cruise to, "Get the vodoo witchcraft off of me!". In other words, identity is constantly changing. As we change, as does our identity. I'm sad that I haven't shared this last year and a half, as so much has transpired, so many twists in the story, so many plot line addendums.

How come we love stories of brokenness? Why is it that we as a society, more so, a generation, desire to read/watch/listen to stories about broken people? Broken things? In the first chapter of, "Blue Like Jazz" Don talks about being raised by a broken family. Don talks about a father who smelled like beer and called him every three or so years. Yet he talks simultaneously about the wonder of this majestic beer mustache stained muscular emotionless face of a father, and how that made Don feel.

Brokenness is a fascinating concept; it derives from a belief that at one point in time, something or someone, was 'whole'. I was intrigued by the definition of whole. " unbroken or undamaged state, being in one piece." That brought liquid to my retinas when I first drug my mind across those words.

This all reminds me of a section in another one of Don's books called, "Searching for God knows what." The chapter is titled, "naked", don't get too excited, its not what you think. In "Naked" Don talks about the Fall of Man, The Pilot Episode of Brokenness, so to speak. Don talks about how it must have felt when shame made its debut on earth. How God must have felt to see the initial chink in the armor of the whole, the perfect creation that he made. A being, perfected and made whole, was broken from the core, by a desire to do life on their own...master their own destiny. It must have been a hollow feeling when the creator of the universe watched his hand-crafted naked perfection fall into shame, crashing loudly upon his ears like a wine grass on a concrete floor in a quiet room.

To bring it all back in, it's been a year of being whole, and a year of being broken. In no specific order. I've been tested like never before. I've been blessed like never before. The financial highs, the emotional lows, and everything therein. I look forward to sharing my thoughts again in an effort to discover more of the story that is unfolding within. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Journey-the event, not the band.

Phew. (Looks at metaphorical watch) Its been a journey.

I feel like I've already lost the two-faithful readers that actually paid attention to this nonsensical nonsense (point proven), either due to old age, or some sort of rare foot-fungus (Don't ask, everyone has fears ya' know?). Since my last update a lot has changed and what I've included is a day by day outline of what has transpired since then.

Just kidding, that would be nonsenseness.

So, for those of you who said I'd never amount to anything, and all I'd ever do with my life is spend it working at a glass blowing tent at the Puyallup Fair being stuck begging for scraps of food on an I-5 offramp somewhere north of Yreka (mom), you were kind of right. I'm working as hard as possible at amounting to less and less daily, and by amounting, I mean weighing. I know what you're thinking, "Oh look, another fat kid trying to lose weight. Maybe he'll publish his journey and amass a following (not a fat joke). However, you are all wrong. I've just been doing a bit here and there to cut back the fourth-meal (in the morning), and hit the old pipes (Again mom, I'm not gay (not that their is anything wrong with that)) at the gym, pumping some iron (Please see aforementioned parenthetical comment).

I've been shipping up and shipping out, or whatever its called when you start to take up less space in an elevator. I've made some major life changes in the past six-months and that's what this is supposed to be about. Like, for instance, I bought a pair of ridiculously overpriced headphones that were made for hip-hop, and I listen to jazz in them just to mess with myself. I also bought a pair of runners shorts just to see the girls reaction at the register in the Lady Footlocker (she gave me one of those, I just 'threw up in my mouth' looks). But, I got her number anyway (in all fairness, her store number is printed on all receipts, apparently). I got a car repossessed off the streets of Hollywood for failing to have registration, insurance, or tags. In my defense, I bought it for way under the blue book from a guy who didn't speak English and seemed intimidated by my broken spanish.

Let's see, what else. Oh yea, I can't forget. I did a bunch of stand-up comedy. If you haven't seen it, what it is, is it's a morbidly obese person (me, in general), on stage talking about life (how bad it is) and telling crazy stories (one-hundred and thirty percent factual) about their fictional families (again, completely factual) and talking about how poor they are (Please see aforementioned parenthetical comment). I got some really good exposure (no, not near elementary schools), people laughed a lot at me (sometimes they laughed at my jokes). I found out how much my friends actually cared about me. They drove (mostly drunk) too and from my shows in Hollywood and paid outrageous amounts of US dollars (a few of them used pesos) and sexual favors (that never happened, to my knowledge) to see me blast the crowd with unfathomable amounts (quite normal, if not sub-average) of laughter and hilarity; to the point of standing ovations (they were all standing, when they walked out).

I found out how much I loved hipsters. If you've never seen one, they look like the kids we used to beat up growing up in the 90's. I found out they don't appreciate my American Flag t-shirt that says, "These Colors Slow Jog" but they did appreciate my tear drop tattoo on my scrabble playing hand. I spent a lot of time (about 2 or 3 total hours) familiarizing myself with the homeless community of Hollywood; even the crazy ones (love you Ted!). I became a bit of a local hero (unspoken, so to speak) in Hollywood for my incredibly brave and courages service (at Denny's graveyard shift). I don't want to say that people came from miles to see me (mainly because no one ever came from a mile away to see me). I saw a man get stabbed by a butter knife in the abdomen; well, in all fairness it might not have been a man.

I got invited to a private screening of, "The United States Treasury Department v. Ben Strength" at the Los Angeles Courthouse a while back, it didn't match up to all the hype (warrants and such). I opted out of going, they kept sending me invites and then borrowed some money to help fund the project. Looking back, this may not have been a movie.

I traveled to a vast multiplicity of lands to do comedy (Washington and Oregon) and they had to block off streets for my arrival (they were under construction also, but that was merely coincendental). I sold out a mostly evangelical crowd filled show at an underground bar called diablo's; I guess the lord works in mysterious ways (or down right awkward and incredibly creepy manners). I finished my tour after several successful shows of me standing in front of large audiences and talking, sweating, and begging little eight pound six ounce baby Jesus to make the faces turn to smiles.

I let go of all that talking in front of crowds stuff for a while, since then I've moved back to the glorious republic of Valencia, a land full of soccer mom's and desperate housewives (redundant). This place was self titled 'Awesometown' according to some studies recently released from an unknown source that I made up. I would say that name is relatively false considering its lack of anything related to 'awesome' in any way, shape, or form. However, in their defense, they do have a Del Taco (and they say we are dreamers).

Now I live in Newhall, CA. I don't speak Spanish but I seem to skate by on my limited knowledge of the soundtrack of "Only The Strong." I'm gaining a bit of a fan base, mostly ceiling, but its a start. I would love to write more but I finished all my beer and don't care enough about what I just wrote to spell check, edit, or even bother re-reading. I will continue updating you (WORLD WIDE INTERWEB WORLD) on the happenings of your friend Ben Strength (or arch rival). If you find any spelling errors, please do me the courtesy of writing them on lead (led?) paper (if that exists) and then swallowing that paper, then go put on a Lynard Skynard album backwards and tell me if your dad held you too much as a child (not sure why that took a nasty turn, like I said, I'm out of beer).

God Bless and such fourth

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Committed or Admitted

It's been about four-months since I last wrote in this blog~I'd be a fool to say I planned it that way. I think their was a time in my life long ago where the opportunity to spend my days at coffee shops typing away my inner-thoughts was plausible; not its simply not practical. Granted, I still endure those same introspective thoughts-yet now I try to find ways to choke the comedy out of em' instead of being beaten by their brutality.

I've been in Hollywood over six-months now and I am so incredibly thankful for the progress thus far. The opportunities are seemingly endless in a city where everyone bitches and moans that you have to, "know somebody to get a job." However contradictory this sentence may be to the aforementioned people-you do indeed have to know, "somebody." You have to know "yourself." I've never before in the entirety of my so-far-semi-futile existence seen a city with the powerful prowess and ability to chew up and spit people out so rapidly.

Hollywood is the place where dreams come to die. I know that sounds sad. But hell, if everyone made it, can you just imagine how many rich homeless people their would be? (*its tough to wrap your mind around that*) Seriously, I'd rather chew on an obese man's skin-tags than see everyone who comes to Hollywood, "make it." However, such is the beauty of this city-nothing is guaranteed. I have friends back home in Spokane, WA who are married with families-working normal jobs-providing-doing their best. For those who's dream was to have a family-congrats-you've made it. But, for those who's dreams are bigger and they've settled, shame on you.

I've rediscovered lately how mean life can be. Don't get me wrong-its beautiful, but damn sometimes life likes to kick you right there in the ole' baby-maker if ya' know what I'm saying. So back in March I broke my ankle playing basketball at a Hollywood gym; not going to lie, I broke it on Taye Diggs foot, which means something to some people (*not really, but its true*). I didn't have the opportunity to afford medical insurance so I manned my way through it-wrapped it up, kept it iced, kept it elevated, didn't play any sports (*more because I'm lazy*). Then it happened. A few weeks ago I'm walking to my car to go to work at the wonderful republic of Black Angus Steakhouse-and BOOM-there she blows. That ankle snapped like superman falling off a horse. No beuno.

So, after further examination from the community hospital's wonderful x-ray machine-It's broken. The fun part is-it broke where it was already broke-which you'd think, two negatives would make a positive, but it doesn't. It just sucks, double the amount of a regular "suck". So, after getting my splint on I came to grips with the harsh reality of how screwed I really was. Broken ankle, no funds in my savings account, a couple mediocre paychecks on the way, I knew life was about to get mightily complicated mightily quick. So, I started plotting and planning-finding things to sell-even going as far as calling "1-800-JNK-CARS" to sell my vehicle.

So, the junk company was supposed to show up on Monday to take away my sweet 1995 Nissan Altima GXE (*not trying to brag*) .But, a little plot-twist here for ya, the Los Angeles Police Department apparently wanted it more. They impounded it off the street for having expired tags. How much to get it out of impound (*including DMV fees*) about $600. How much were they going to give me towards Strength Family Rent (*my rent*), $450. So, there was that opportunity down the drain.

It's been one little thing after another going on. Hysterical at best. I mean, it feels like a bad movie; except their aren't any vampires or people from the ghetto using horrific, "one-liners". I'm out of work. Got no car. Struggling to pay rent. This is the hustlers lifestyle I suppose. All the while the comedy career is going fantastically well-getting gigs left and right, having incredible opportunities to perform at clubs I never thought they'd let me into. It's just been awesome. Therefore, despite all the nonsensical-bullshit going on in the Strength Family Life (*my life*) I'm feeling overall-optimistic.

I've always knew that my life was going to be difficult-and that nothing was ever going to come easy. I think I realized that a very long time ago, swallowed that pill, and moved on. However, there are most certainly times and places, like the last few-weeks for instance, where that rigorous vigor is challenged and tested. Thankfully, tested true. But, I fail on a daily basis. I let myself down, I let others down, and pushing through those feelings of failure to embrace a stronger me is the end-goal. The end product, seeing all the trials and tribulations of my life not wasted but made into gain by an opportunity to do comedy for a living-to make a living with something that could've killed me.

Thanks for your continued support, I know this is long-winded but I wanted to make an effort to keep everyone updated on things. Life is good for me right now. Incredibly challenging and laced with uncertainties, but good nonetheless.

~be good & do good~

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

comedy; not just a laughin matter

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I decided that I was going to go full-force toward a career in comedy. I know I came to the realization that nothing else in life was going to satisfy my deep need to divulge therapeutic comedy via a life full of tragedy and awkwardness. I had a strong feeling that by unveiling the comedic intentions deep within that things would get irreversibly more complicated. And, well, to say the least, they have. I suppose its a natural cause of action for a comedian-have an insane life-uncover what it means-tell others about it-repeat as often as necessary. I guess just making people laugh is seemingly so arbitrary; the real power is found in the juxtaposition of laughter and tragedy.

I've always laughed at life's trials. Laughed out of joy, out of pain, out of minor-hysteria. I've found with surgical precision routes to my own pain and attempted vigorously to line them with humor. Comedy is so utterly-revealing and allows comedians to be systematically peeled back like an onion. Each layer being exposed fully for what it is, and for what it is lacking. Each joke inching closer and closer to the vest.

As this life in comedy progresses I begin understanding at a deeper level how we as human beings adjust to life and all its beautiful complexities. We aren't so different then those in the animal kingdom, we have defense mechanisms. Some of those we are born with and others we've added to our arsenal to remove us from possible exposure to the elements-whether that be mother nature or mother in law.

I've always been able to judge life based on the results. I've made my life more about the external success then the internal progress. The tangibility of forward momentum has always been the highly-palatable desire I've ran after. However, comedy is so unorthodox in its revealing of self that I've been abruptly taken aback by it.

Comedy gives me the sensation of being in a dream, trying to run but not being able to move; which, is actually how it feels like in real life for me. However, you get the point. No matter how many times I drag this cheap bic pen across the lines I cannot by will or by force make good humor. I can create potential laughs. However, raw and unadulterated humor, insightful comedic brilliance isn't forced, or willed into existence, it just comes when it comes.

The most incredible feeling I've ever experience next to beating CONTRA (without cheats), is writing and performing comedy. Their is most assuredly no greater sensation in all of existence. Even bombing is an out of this world experience. Nothing compares. The hi's and low's are at such great extremes its mind boggling. This is why comedians are either in Blockbuster hits spread all across the TV, or suicide victims spread across the morning paper. I am thoroughly convinced that finding balance and control of the reality that some days are great, others are terrible, is what makes a good comedian great.

I am enjoying this process and am insanely thankful for the progress thus far...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hollyweird; love it or leave it

"eew." "gross!" "nasty!" "Disgusting!""Worldly!!!" These are descriptive terms, and no, they aren't related to me with my shirt-off untanned, these are terms I've heard in the past few weeks to describe Hollywood (aka-Hollyweird). People have all sorts of presuppositions about Hollywood; most of them accurate. It's dirty, it's dangerous, and it's full-of-trouble; again, not terms describing me, but the soon-to-be-city-of-my-dwelling. I've got friends from the northwest that didn't even realize Hollywood was an actual city, but more of a state-of-being, which, when you look at some of the weirdo's down here you may wonder if they think their in a physical literal place or a simple, "state-of-being."

I've spent the last 16 months, 3 days, 6 hours, 24 minutes, and 13 (and counting) seconds living in the 6th safest city with a population of 100,000 or more (according to a report conducted by the F.B.I.). In other words, Santa Clarita is about as dangerous as a box-of-kittens. Whereas Los Angeles has over 275 homicides last year, and that was a fifty-year low! They said it hasn't been that low since, "... the Beach Boys were in peach fuzz and crew cuts has it been so safe to live and play in the City of Angels..." Santa Clarita had approximately 15 last year apparently, which I believe that means that they quit counting after ten, and probably just figured a round-number is a better looking stat.

Either way, it's kind of like moving from Germany to Baghdad; apparently. However, I am not so concerned about these rates. As alarming as they may be, I'm from Spokane, and as many of you may know it is the, "Meth Capital of the United States." Yes, you heard that correctly, they don't kid around in Spocomton; they go big or go home. So, it's not as if I haven't been around weird stuff before, but I must say, Hollywood takes the cake for weridness. And to top all this off I got a graveyard shift working at a Denny's on Sunset Blvd smack down in the middle of the craziness. So, just when I thought I couldn't quite possibly see anything more awkward than a transsexual dressed up like a clown riding a unicycle with a ghetto-blaster on his/her shoulder listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, I was wrong.

I guess in a lot of ways the weirdness is what draws me. Their is only so much creativity to be found in the 6th safest city; theirs not much mystery to the cookie-cutter people or the somewhat boring and monotonous lifestyle of Santa Clarita people. It's not to say their aren't a lot of phenomenal people in the area, that couldn't be more untrue. However, the majority of that region is happy to settle, and comfortable with the compromises they've made to achieve the lifestyle they have. Good for them. That's what they wanted, that's what they got. The security and safety for the family and the lack of surprise, that's what draws people to a city like Santa Clarita. However, for single 25 year old's it like an elephant graveyard; a land of nothing but married people and kids, which can be somewhat awkward at times.

I know the stigma that floats above the heads of those who attempt to "make-it" in Hollywood. As I go to bars, diners, cafes, laundry mats, tourist shops, and many other stores here in Hollywood they're laden with working actors and comedians. Also known as semi-unemployed 40 year old guys who dress like they're 20, and still want to date 20 year old girls. We have a term for that in America, its called, "a creeper." I am doing everything in my own power to not be like, um, well ,"That guy." So, as I inch closer and closer to a career in comedy I learn to appreciate more upon each step the weirdness of the community I'm in. I officially moved in about 2 hours ago and I've never been more excited about being thrown into a fire.

I know many things are refined by fire, like gold for instance. However, I also know a lot of things are burnt by fire, like my sleeves when trying to burn off the tags of clothes I have on. But, to get to the point, this so-called and highly-metaphorical "fire" isn't going to be quenched by mediocrity but only by holistic abandonment of laziness and genuine pursuit of hard work and utter-creativity. I know that this move is only a mere-shift in the long term need to find the path I was meant to be on; so, as I embark on this exciting new journey my hopes and prayers are that it would be as fulfilling as it has the potential to be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

a transition

So, it has been one hell of a heavenly month; that's about the only true way to some it up, while still adding a bit of grit to the equation. I have made some monumental progress in these past few months to get to where I'm at; and, comically enough, I've only just begun. Life often times hangs in the balance of beautiful and unbearable, its truly somewhere in the middle that I find myself this morning. It's about 4:30 in the morning and I've already driven for about thirty-minutes to get to where I'm at; and, metaphorically speaking, I'm still so far from where I know I need to be. However, I haven't lost faith in the journey; I still believe in the process, the pursuit of this 'dream.'

To clue in the relatively clueless, I'm in the process of moving from the comfortable and quaint Santa Clarita to the polar opposite city of Hollywood. I've never had more people tell me I'm crazy; it is kind of, surprisingly enough, somewhat energizing. My move date is February 1st and I see it as the beginning of a beautiful career doing something I love, something I'm passionate about, and something that not many people think I can do and make money doing. So, for the supporters, bravo. For the skeptics, bravo as well. You may both have your day, just be patient.

I'm trading in this somewhat structured and tragically monotonous life for one much more daring; a life with way more variables, less securities, far less fall-back-plans. It's hard to explain on paper (internet paper?) because I can usually only show my excitement with my happy-hands demonstration. Anyway, in other words, something about this transition has me bubbling over with excitement for the unknown; but not the unplanned unknown. I've locked down a graveyard shift working at a prestigious establishment on Sunset Blvd known to many, as simply put, "Denny's." I know what your saying, but please, it's fine, I don't want to brag.

I've had the unique opportunity over the course of the past few weeks to meet and speak to a man who is a well-known comedy & acting coach here in Hollywood. He has some incredible connections as well as the possession of a deep-well of understanding in the successful methods of comedy/acting. He has taken me on to a 12-week course that will include mentoring & coaching from him personally; I am truly hoping that this will help me to better understand my potential. He is known for his ability to help comedians take it to the next level, I'm so new, any level is a new one. However, whatever I learn in the 12 weeks will most assuredly be invaluable and monumental in my career in comedy.

So, life as I know it is rather exciting to say the least. Dreams of comedy are slowing becoming reality, I'm just "livin the dream."Things that I've always wanted to do are slowly becoming possible as time progresses, as training increases, as understanding is furthered. The move to Hollywood is a bit of a risk because their are most assuredly no guarantees in this industry; but, in all honesty, does a 25-year old with a lot of energy & creativity need a guarantee? I am much more convinced that the hustle and grind of comedy, the requirement to be creative, and the demand to be original is what makes me wake up in the morning and spring into the jumpsuit of optimism.

I'm not taking life for granted anymore. I've come so far in the area of health and fitness these past 5 months, mentally and physically, I've discovered that life is better lived in size 38 jeans that size 46 stretchy-pants. I know that with the help I have from my new mentor/coach that I will be able to reach my own personal best in the area of comedy; that's not a guarantee of success, but more so a guarantee of my achieving the best I'm able to achieve. I hope that my best is enough. I'm truly thankful for all my friends who support me in this new endeavor, your few and far between.

I've received such a vast-multiplicity of texts and facebook messages about this decision. The idea of pursuing comedy is such a shot in the dark according to so many people. But, if following our dreams is described by others as a, "shot in the dark" than so be it. It doesn't offend me, the skepticism, that is. As far as I'm concerned their will always be naysayers attempting vigorously to conform us all to their redundant and infantile monotony. I will live my life attempting to avoid that conformity and do things that maybe most wouldn't even attempt; I guess as much as I am plagued with fear of failure, I endorse it as a method and placebo for growth. I wish you all the best, be good and do good.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

my ratiocinate revoking of your ridiculous resolutions

"Well Laddy' Friggin' Da" as the late-great Chris Farley would have said. An even later-greater had this to say in regards to these resolutions that you've all made so nonchalantly; "New Year's Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual" (Mark Twain). I have never made a New Year's Resolution that I couldn't achieve, mainly because I've never made one. Therefore, in accordance to that ratiocinate approach I am currently undefeated in my efforts; yet to be thwarted by progress or the lack thereof.

Jay Leno made this quaint observation: "Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average… which means, you have met your New Year's resolution." I used to love watching friends in high school and college maneuver up mentally these intense schemes and plans to overcome the greatest of trials with mere-resolutions. In all of that time I never saw one develop into full-fruition; they were usually dismantled by a unique concoction of lacking-discipline and overwhelming-frustration. And, more often than not, if the person was at-all overweight their goal was to lose 150lb's in 2-3 months, you know, something reasonable and humanly possible like that. I think they'd probably have to die and decompose before they achieved that goal in the ninety-days desired.

However, year after year people spend all that hardly-earned Christmas money from grandma on personal training sessions, miracle diet plans, and dvd's with Tony Little on them. The gym is the emptiest place in November, but the busiest place in January. It's kind of like watching the biggest loser; it's a bunch of fat people running around and crying in brand new shoes and work-out-gear (I can say that, I've been there). The most comical aspect of this push towards skinniness (not healthiness, they could care less about that) is that after about two-weeks of sweating like Reginald Denny at a South-Central-Stoplight they call it quits. It's funny and sad at the same time. All that hard work blown by unrealistic expectations and severe lacking in the area of genuine accountability.

So, you still want to make some New Year's Resolutions? What are yours? You want to be nicer? You want to save more money? Here is an idea. If you want to be nicer just quit being a jerk. If you're trying to save some money then actually use your check register and track your expenditures; that will be all the reality check you need. So, wow, I just helped you accomplish those goals and you didn't even have to wait until January to do it; but, you did. Now you can't sit back in full-recline on that grungy Cheetos-stained lazy boy shirtless, diggin' out a skittle from the cushions while you complain about how you can't find the channel-clicker-thing. You've got the knowledge and now you just need the motivation.

So, here is the point in the blog where your starting to feel a little risky. Your thinking to yourself, it is the year, this is the year where I'll conquer this seemingly-inevitable poorness, or fatness, or whatever'ness. However, just because you think it's going to happen doesn't mean it will. I thought I'd be an astronaut; and now I carry meat around on a plate for people who don't like to tip. Mere-desire is not the fuel needed to carry anyone to overcoming years of gluttony, poor spending, or any other long-term developed bad habits. Planning. It's planning that will make the difference in the end; "the man who fails to plan, plans to fail..."

Perhaps this blog seems harsh, rude, uncharacteristically poignant, or just flat out mean. Well, the most important question to ask then is this, "Are you offended?"If you are than your exactly where I expected you to be if any of this blog applies to you. Why? Well, it's simple. We are reactionary beings, as well as creatures of habit. So, for those of you fighting the urge to send a bomb to my home or pop-my-mini-van-tires, calm down and slow your role.

I used to get offended easily when it came to people cracking jokes about the obese, the poor, etc. However, then I started realizing that more times then not, it's earned. Not noble or polite, but earned nonetheless. I'm not saying that it's always as such but it is more often than not. Their are rare situations where the economy, or genetics, or hereditary transferring, or something else can be blamed. In those somewhat less-often circumstances then grace is deserved and given; but, for the ones who are eating themselves to death and spending money like MC Hammer circa 1990's, their is no grace here for you.

Happy New Year! I guess I forgot to say that earlier in this blog and I'm not going to revise it or attempt to sneak it in somewhere towards the front of this rant slash motivational speech. I wouldn't want to falsify the overall desired feeling of this excerpt by starting off on a joyful phrase like "Happy New Year!" I have killed myself physically over the past five months to whip myself into some shape; it's still a circle. I have crushed any ounce of remaining offended'ness to drown out the sense of entitlement that once drenched my every part of being. Now, some five-months later, and fifty-plus pounds lighter I've uncovered the real me. I don't mean it physically, but more so metaphorically; under layers of laziness and self-pity.

So, you want a New Year's Resolution worthy of your time and efforts? Ok, get a pen and some paper and write this down. Post this in your rear view mirror, on your bathroom mirror, on your computer screen at work, and wherever else you think you'll see it multiple times a day. It's very simple, so here she goes, "Try." That's it, did you catch it? I'll say it once more for those of you who may have skipped through the writings to get to the good stuff (as if their is any), "Try." I know it seems ludicrous that I would give you that minute-piece of simplistic advice, but I can't convince you enough how much of a game-changer that is.

Their is a minutely-and-intrinsically fine line between motivation and laziness. It isn't some broad valley where motivation is on the east and laziness on the west; the opposite is truer. To be motivated genuinely you have to understand the sacrifice prior to making the commitment. You want to lose some weight? It's not a magic trick. No one is going to pull a skinny bunny out of a fat bunny in a top hat; sorry for that visual. You need to burn more calories than you eat, that is the way to lose weight. You want to save some money? Cut out all the unnecessary (or the majority) expenditures that you currently have; especially the residual ones (xbox live, netflix, etc). So, Happy New Year! Take your resolutions and crumple them up and throw them into the fire, they are meaningless. Make some real resolutions for your life, for the long-term, that will give you the health and happiness that you are seeking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

connecting conundrums

I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of focus. I don't mean focus like, a direction, I mean a more precision oriented focus; one that has a true end goal. I've noticed in the past few months how easily a minute shift in focus can drastically change the outcome of a particular course; depending on the severity of the shift. It's so easy to compromise when your struggling. I'm not saying that compromise is inherently a bad thing; it can often times be used a skillful tool of negotiation. However, when one is fighting through the vigor and strife of everyday life, pursuing not-easily attainable dreams, compromise is the dagger in the heart of progress.

I know that within us all their is a strong desire to not give up hope and a resiliency to fight against potential discouragement. It's hidden deep within us, its an innate-grit that keeps us on task and away from distraction. Their are those times in life where your parents (whether bilogical or non) feel a need to help distract you towards a more promising future according to their understanding of life, and of what's best for you. However, it's often times, in these times, that we must decide whether their assessment is valid, or invalid. It's not easy to deny help, but it's also not easy to sell yourself short of something you know that is deep within you, and just hasn't quite surfaced yet. Just because you aren't there yet, doesn't mean your not heading there.

We all have dreams. We all have ambitions. Then again, we all deal with dread and inhibitions as well. I guess what I'm getting at is that despite how absurd, ludicrous, or near-impossible your goals are-don't lose heart or grow weary. Their isn't one of us, who haven't sold out yet, that sit here day after day wondering how and when things will fall into place. We don't sit here lazily-aloof from reality. We sit here, in dire anticipation, wondering when our time will come to step into the fullness of our potential. I've realized that their are so many steps that I've yet to take to get to where I need to be, to position myself strategically to enter into the occupational desire of my heart.

So, I plan. I sit here with a pencil in hand-paper right beneath it. I attempt vigorously to uncover the layers of doubt that hold me back, and slowly but surely write them out of my future. I don't think failure can be easily erased; but it can be written in alongside potential success, using the two in juxtaposition to bring fourth a stronger understanding of the future ahead. I realize that all the things that have made me what I'm not, are slowly but surely making me into everything I am. It's apparent that though doubt has had it's day, success will have it's as well. All things in due time and this 'thing' seems to be rapidly approaching.

I've watched friends give up. I've seen so many people lose heart. Their is nothing sadder to me than knowing someones potential and seeing them settle for something substantially less. We've all seen that guy working out about in some public service job, or food service job, and we know that his potential is about a hundred steps above where he's at. I've always wondered what takes people to the next level? Is it time? Is it money? Is it both? Is it mere-perseverance and dedication? Is it luck? Or is it a combination of all of them?

I think the one thing that separates those who make it from those who don't is knowing when to give up. No matter how much talent, ability, or desire we have it doesn't change the fact that sometimes things just don't happen like you wished they would have. It's not about giving up, it's about moving on. I've given myself an official time frame to make this whole 'thing' work. I'm not going to explain in detail what that 'thing' is, its unimportant for the reader of this blog. But, I've realized that in life it's so important to set realistic goals; gauging advancement in accordance to genuine progression. So, I move on from this blog and seprate myself a bit from the daily writing regiment I've been on to pursue other desires, I hope to continue writing for public view, but right now, I've got some things I need to do for me, wish me luck (and prayers?).

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination..."
-Jimmy Dean

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Friday, December 17, 2010

the rigor of vigor

"It's better to be lucky than good..." I've noticed over the years that often times skill takes the bronze and luck takes the gold. I don't know who ends up with the silver, to be quite honest, I heard a famous poet once say, "If you ain't first, your last." I guess we'll just have to take their word on that. Anyway, I remember as a kid being told, as I sat Indian-Style, cross legged in the Stevens Elementary Multi-Purpose-Room that, "I could be anything I want to be..." That's where things started getting complicated I suppose.

I remember hearing stories from my dad and unc growing up; they'd sit there and blow out pack after pack of full-flavor 100 Native Spirits, pound through 2 or 3 pots of generic brand coffee, and just talk about life. They'd share war stories. Not just war stories about war, but often times war stories about their sisters and how much of a pain in the ass they tended to be, apparently. They would trade renditions of stories that often times seem somewhat fabricated and exaggerated only when I was there; and when I'd leave, the stories probably tapered off a bit. However, in a Big-Fish stylistic method they would converse regularly about how many bars they'd been 86'd from and how many people within those same bars that they'd 86'd with their fists.

Out of a family of 8 my dad and Unc were the toughest two. It wouldn't matter if they told the stories or not the endings would always be similar. My aunt, a fragile and beautifully short little white haired dark brim glasses lady would talk often with me as a kid when she babysat me; constantly telling me how tough my daddy was and that I needed to act more like a man. Apparently, being dressed up by my sister wasn't fulfilling my father's dreams of a warrior child; maybe he should have painted my face blue and yelled freedom when I was a baby, that would have sealed my destiny as one bad mama jama.

My dad must have been feeling a bit insecure about his ability to raise me as a fierce a beast as he once anticipated; so he put me into Kung-Fu class at age 7. It went well, for the first few months that is. I don't want to say I was a force-to-be-reckoned with. That would seem a bit precarious of me. I also don't want to say that because it would be a complete lie. After the first few months I had a bit of a life changing incident, it was a monumental piece of my Martial Arts Career. I was in my horse stance, throwing some mightily-vicious punches, counting in broken-Japanese, and it then it happened. I was removed from my feet and placed onto my back promptly. Apparently, in Martial Arts linguistics it's considered a "sweep" and is supposedly used to decipher whether or not an individual is standing properly and firmly; I wasn't. So, I did what any normal warrior child full of vigor and danger would do; I cried. I also refused to ever go back. Hell, I wouldn't even where the color yellow (I was a yellow belt, I don't mean to brag) for a year or two-thereafter.

After that total debacle of a spark into a career filled with kicks and punches, my father decided Judo made more sense. Granted, my dad wasn't dumb by any means, but I did challenge his decision making abilities when he took me from a Shirley Temple Kung-Fu class to an East-side Community Center gang ridden Judo class with a bunch of angry non-English speaking Hispanic kids. The first class titled 'orientation' might as well been called 'annihilation'. I saw kids getting thrown around like midgets in a 1800's circus show. I figured, for a kid who hated being thrown/swept/whatevere'd, this was a downright terrible horrible kind of place. So, I made it about two or three weeks; not even long enough to get a white-belt, which I assumed was given to you at the paperwork appointment quite early on.

So, I wasn't the toughest kid. I wasn't the weakest by any measure, but I sure wasn't worthy of a title like "Maximus Decimus Meridius" or "Inigo Montoya." I just didn't have the killer instinct in me like my uncle and dad; that didn't come til much later in life. I noticed that all the things my dad really wanted me to be were things you learn through living life; internal discoveries as such don't happen overnight, it's a culmination of many trials and strife's interwoven together over time. However, I've also come to realize that it wasn't physical toughness necessarily that my dad used to talk about with Unc; it was much more of an innate-nature of calmness during calamity, consistency during chaos. The sad reality, the irony of it all is that it was uncovered most drastically when my father passed away nearly ten-years ago. All that training as a kid, all the punches, kicks, and sweeps of the world hadn't prepared me to deal with a blow that could kill many; it only knocked me down thankfully. Down, but not out.

So, its years later and I just took up boxing about a month ago. My hands are in pain, knuckles swollen, some open cuts, heavy bag did me wrong I tell ya'. Monday through Friday nights from 4pm to 5pm I'm in a boxing gym being punished as if I've done something terribly wrong. It is the most intense workout I've ever endured. I am sweating, near vomiting, and asking myself every ten-seconds why in God's green earth am I putting myself through this. I don't get college credit for this. I'm not defending my countries honor. I'm doing nothing but submitting myself to the raw and unadulterated brutality of coach Omar; a great man, a tough coach.

I realized last night as I was driving home from the gym breathing like I got tear gassed and beaten in my kidney with a hockey stick, that I put myself into this situation. Somehow and someway, through the intricate maze of life I've decided that the tough road is better the easy one; I'm developing toughness. Not just physically tough but mentally tough. I am pursuing on my own those things that my father so deeply embedded into me through years of doing the best he could, with what he had, right where he was at. I don't feel tough this morning; I feel completely broken. I feel as if I've been physically pushed to the maximum. However, I still went to the gym at 8am and cranked away for nearly 3 hours. I chose toughness. I pray that I will continuously choose the long road instead of the easily accessible shortcuts offered along the path of life; which is a beautifully twisted one indeed.