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.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

dont appease to please

I've been struggling to decide what to write about these past few days. Life is deceiving often times. More often than not things are going in a diametrically-opposed-direction to what we wish they were. But, then again, what do we know. I am glad that things don't always go the way I planned them; if they did I'd probably be rich and have a fancy automobile, like a Kia or something, you know, a foreign car. I know better than thinking things will go as planned anyway. I've learned through years of opting into Plan "B", that often times we must chameleon ourselves into the nooks and crannies of life.

Confrontation verses cowardice has always been a battle; not just for me, but for all of you as well. I'm much more prone to confrontation because I'm stubborn. It often times has absolutely nothing to do with the potential of being right, often times, the opposite is truer. Cowardice hasn't been much of a problem to me. Although, it may have saved me several black eyes and some ounces of dignity as a young man. However, I've always been mightily-quick to speak my mind; often times spending 20% spilling my thoughts and the other 80% of the conversation apologizing or explaining myself. I don't think I'm necessarily off so much as often times severely misunderstood.

I have been known to have immense-difficulties keeping my mouth shut when I witness something I disapprove of. Example? Hypocrisy. I have discovered over the past few years that their are several things that will make me lose my cool; that is most assuredly one of them. My friends are a highly-diversified group of individuals; they come from all over the world, and from many different backgrounds. I didn't grow up around Christians; nor are most of my friends such. However, I've noticed in the past few years that they tend to be the most boisterous; often times not in areas that involve love or grace, which you'd think would be a few of their favorites. I'm not attempting to bash anyone specifically but more so to point out a specific area I've failed to understand as of lately.

In reverse, the rest of the world, especially the atheists/agnostics always find a need to dibble dabble into things regarding Christianity. I'm not saying we shouldn't cross lines and be involved argumentatively or in debates with one another. However, I do find it ironically-comical however that both sides tend to feel like they are the authoritative voice about the opposition. I think that each has their right, but more importantly, the idea of listening to one another should take precedence over debating, maybe many of the questions would be answered by listening. Just a thought I suppose.

Everyone has a voice. Not everyone gets heard. I heard someone say a while back its better to be, "rich and arrogant than poor and insecure..."Obviously, it's one of those pick one or pick all situations, not the easiest to interpret. I understand what they're saying through this phrase, and I sadly agree. However, I'd rather not be arrogant at all, clearly. One important thing to keep in mind is that if we are all so busy chattering and blabbering our thoughts and opinions we ought to be cautious of who we are silencing. I'm not necessarily referencing other people, so much as other aspects of ourselves. Are we so caught up in talking that we aren't even listening to ourselves talk? What message are we sending?

I've been called out a lot lately, surprisingly enough. Friends have been asking me frequently about my life and what I've been up to. It's a tough question to answer. I'm not on par with my life goals; nor do I feel like I'm where I want to be. I don't own any islands yet. I'm not married to a Russian speaking super-model. I don't have fat-wads of doe to blow. But, then again, are any of us where we're supposed to be? I guess I could sell all my possessions and start an orphanage to feed hungry children in Africa. That would be noble, right? I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm not a completed project. So, if your not content with the product I've turned out to be, it's very simple, return it. In other words, if I'm not pleasing you and your every need and that legitimately bugs you, please, I insist, move on. No need to wait for little old Ben (not little), he'll catch up eventually to your prolific prowess of awesomeness, in due time.

I don't mean to be harsh. But, if I can speak bluntly, I've let you all down. And, if somehow I haven't, just give me enough time, I most surely will. Life often times is one big disappointment after another. However, it's how you bounce back from those and shift into the success that follows that makes you tough. I know that I've got thick skin on a lot of rigid and raw areas of life; however, let down is not one of those. It breaks my heart when I feel like I've let people down. I'm not the good and white-shirt Christian many of you wish I was. I attend church often times out of necessity more than desire. I'd rather swear than swear not for the most part. And, to be utterly-truthful, being around Christians too much makes me nervous. Nothing within me barks out a need to appease, nor a need to please, so their is no point in attempting to through force or strain to bring such a feeling to the forefront of my desires, just to see everyone else happy, and me depressed. I know that I've got a defense mechanism within me, it's called selfishness, and I am working round-the-clock to disarm it, just be patient or move on, that's all I'm asking of you, and I say it with love in my heart and hope in my eyes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What I Wouldn't Do For a Klondike Bar...

Well, what wouldn't I do for a Klondike Bar? Geez...that's a tough question. I suppose I wouldn't kidnap a relative, harm a midget, cheat on a free-survey, cut in line at the DMV, use a turn signal in California, hit on an Armenian girl, wear sworts (sweat-pant-shorts), do Yoga in public, put EggNog in a camelbak and hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, be the guy that says "$1" on the Price is Right, mud wrestle an Episcopalian Priest, take one for the team (on any level), wear a blue-tooth in public while holding my phone in my hand, watch Fever Pitch 2 in English or Spanish, chug Mayo, eat Korean food in Korea, hand feed a cheetah, try out for Olympic Javelin Catching, be a meter-maid, change the channel when my sister is watching Ricki Lake, date a woman who prefers the 6hr British version of 'Pride & Prejudice', battle rap someone on Venice Beach, be a USC fan (any sport), and that about tops it I think...

I also wouldn't leave California. As in, move away. You know, like when you pack your bags and bounce outtie 5000 to a whole new plateau; trade in these moccasins for another man's (aka-move.) I am too stubborn. Even when I see things falling apart I refuse to run. I'm like Harry Truman, understanding of the danger but caring less about its destructive abilities; so long as I finish what I started. I've always had a knack for competing things; even if they were things I should have left alone in the first damn place. For instance, stealing a box of baseball cards from the 7-11 as a 12 year old boy; I didn't just steal the cards, I unwrapped them in the parking lot and got caught.

I love how Franklin D. Roosevelt looked at the idea of giving up; "When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on..." Their is something to be said about perseverance. Their is also something to be said about being stubborn. Friedrich Nietzsche said that, "...many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal..." I love how stubbornness is defined, "...obstinately unmoving, difficult to manage or suppress, stiff, tenaciously unwilling, perversely unyielding, bullheaded..." Their are a plethora of terms I wouldn't mind being defined by; however, none of them are listed in the previous sentence. I feel like I've allowed a mundane-learning-curve to define me with such terms on multiple levels instead of pressing through to embrace humility, the true antidote to stubbornness.

Everyone has a gift. Everyone has a curse. I don't mean a curse like the ones you see on documentaries about Ancient Rome or in a Magic the Gathering Card Game. I'm just attempting to profess the reality of us all having apparent strengths and weaknesses; and we need not fear our weaknesses, but moreover, embrace them. I understand that in my life I've been mightily slothful in several areas, most specifically, finances and health. Those seem to be two major areas. It's not like I just said spelling & knitting, I said finances and health people! So, as of the last five months I've been on those two areas like Ugz on a Cougar (not the animal...).

It has been a total life transformation; but not like the Tony Little one. Same idea, different hair. Less awkward I suppose? It was a weird feeling. I remember just looking in the mirror one day and feeling like I didn't like the person I saw, and felt genuinely that I'd lost complete control of my life. I wasn't being smart with my money; blowing it on eating out all day every day. I wasn't taking care of my body; struggling to do mundane tasks as my weight was starting to take over and skyrocket. I was the heaviest I'd ever been at 337, and I was the unhappiest I'd been in years. It is one thing to be unhappy with appearance, it's a whole different thing to feel like your out of control; struggling to regain some direction in life.

So, here I am, some five months later and I've bounced back like the economy. Okay, maybe that was a bad example. I've bounced back like Brett Farve's career? Well, lets just say I've bounced back, and leave it at that. I'm down as of today from 337 to 272. That's 65 pounds of awesomeness gone from this still 'pearish' figure. Going slowly from ashy to classy and working dilligently and not only losing weight, but losing stubborness. I'm still learning how to trade in my bad habits for the good ones. I've learned most importantly how to be an extremist for good habits as opposed to an advocate for bad ones. I'm incredibly thankful to friends and family and God for the support that has been unwaveringly-concrete during this immensely transformational time in my life. I look forward to embarking on many a greater journey's in the future, but, for now, this is the path I'm on and I'll continue on it faithfully until the next challenge arises.

So, one day I just woke up and decided it was about that time. I started hitting the gym up 5 days a week, 2 hours a day, and doing an online calorie counter to stay beneath 2,500 calories a day. I started adding swimming & running in the evening for an hour. I practically stopped soda, candy, fast-food, cold turkey. I gave up those desires to binge eat on foods that were destroying me and started to rebuild what I knew was a severely unhealthy interior; pounding down the veggies and fruits. I started to become more educated on the dangers of greasy and fatty foods, aspartame, and various other processed foods. Attempting vigorously to go practically alkaline in my dietary structure-with a healthy dose of meat mixed in throughout. I began after a mere week or two to notice a boost of energy and a much stronger desire to stay disciplined.

It's been about 4 1/2 - 5 months and here I sit at Starbucks. I feel like a changed man. I've gone from a 46 to a 38. I've dropped from 337 to 282. I feel like above all, I've lost my stubbornness. I no longer feel like the guy who wants to live selfishly; eating what I want, spending what I want, doing what I want. It seems that by developing some healthy habits of discipline I've become a much more thankful person; as well as a much more gracious person. I can't say I'm more humble, because boy would that be an ironic statement; I think just saying that would make me unhumble? I've realized that losing weight and staying healthy is much more a science than an art. It seemed like algebra for me for years; I couldn't figure out why I was getting bigger. Although it seems obvious looking back, you can't eat 8,000 calories a day and run once a month and lose weight; trust me, I tried!

So, I'm a little over halfway to my goal of 100 in a year. I haven't publicized much of this journey as I didn't want to make it something it's not. I didn't do this for peoples approval. I did it because I don't want to die young. I've watched family drop like flies due to heart related disease and knew my ticker was going to expire sooner than later if I kept up my reckless lifestyle. So, here I am, typing away at Starbucks, feeling lighter and embedded with a true thankfulness to God's grace and provision in these past four or five months. I am more appreciative now then I've ever been and understand fully that every day is a gift, and I want to make sure I 'act accordingly.'


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

redacting reality

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one..."
~Albert Einstein~

I don't suppose for even a second that I'm the only person to sit and ponder the concept of reality. Many a movies, songs, and lives have been mere-searches for a clearer understanding on the definitive nature of reality. Soren Kierkegaard had this to add to the conversation of reality: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced..." Our cultures experiential approach has left it somewhat empty handed in regards to solidified knowledge, and still has us debating experiential knowledge vs codified logic. '

Everyone's experience on earth has been uniquely different. We are like snowflakes in the sense of not having been formed or molded like any other one; our lives are as different if not more so. I have always enjoyed thoroughly the ability to hear peoples stories and make a truly-diligent effort every place I travel to do so. I attempt with pristine-vigor to make acquaintances in most places I frequent; its most certainly better to have more friends, than not enough friends, right? I've noticed that I understand my circumstantial state-of-being with a significantly higher level of clarity when I take time to find out where others are.

Reality is defined as such; "all of your experiences that determine how things appear to you" or "the state of things as they are or rather than as you wish..." I tend to affirm the second one, as it seems to be less about what you 'think' and more about what you 'know'. Thus begging the question of superiority of reality vs fact? Or do the two-coexist and operate on the same level, not only in semantics, but in operational function as well? I tend to lean towards the idea that whatever occurs is reality, and if it has occurred, than it's a fact. But, I know the intellectuals of our culture would like to make reality an individualistic ideology that is more privatized in it's nature, not a shared experience as logic would assert.

It's one of the saddest aspects of our culture today is the desire to individualize everything by making everyone, 'unique', and desiring no 'unison' amongst people. We all fight so ferociously to be 'ourselves' that we opt out of any opportunities to be brought together, united, or in agreeance whatsoever. The arguing and debating runs so rampant in our culture that even a simple term like, "bless you" is deemed offensive and removed from normative conversation. We cannot even say "merry christmas" without being fearful of lacking the necessary political correctness; God forbid (oops..should be a lower case 'g') we impose our religious zealotry upon someone's individual-reality.

We've all been told to be 'open-minded' yet modern culture is societies biggest hypocrite; wanting no openness whatsoever, just a bunch of closeness (improper word usage, obviously). We utter the dire-necessity to be diverse yet we stifle any progress in that direction with elevating the importance of our own agendas above what's good for the majority; which, in a democracy, would seem to make the most sense logically.I guess that when we converse in regards to reality we must come to the table under the pressumption that we are all viewing it from a biased-position. However, reality in the end, is just, well, I guess, reality? So, let's not focus too much of our brain-power fighting, debating, and filibustering one another to death with big words, bad logic, and a pitiful lack of grace.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
~John Lennon

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rhetoric Ramblings

Life is complicated. Life is beautiful. Yet, somehow and someway, life is simultaneously-simple. What we make of life has a unique way of 'making' us. I love to head downtown Los Angeles mid-week with just a camera and a dream-attempt to catch a glimpse into the temperature of society; not on a climatic level, but on an internal level. I always say people watch instead of watch people because it seems substantially less-creepy.

Their are immense benefits to taking some time to just sit and be still; in public. Their are obvious perks of doing so in the quiet of your own home and enjoying the overall pleasure of just being able to escape the chaos of everyday life. However, when you sit and be still in public your perspective is shifted from internal to external and you begin to develop a more intricate-sensitivity towards others, instead of primarily to yourself. Their is something disturbingly-poetic about viewing into people's lives by a gaze into their countenance. People's poker faces grow worse and worse, day after day, and they cannot hide their true state-of-being from the intense-onlookers.

Although culture and societal structure as a whole has made way for everyone to be 'themselves', very few will ever find confidence in doing such. One must put themselves into a condition of exposed and radical vulnerability to truly be 'themselves'. Just think, how often are you true to what you know is right? What is noble? What is just? How often do we shed layers from righteousness for personal gain? Or to avoid embarrassment? It's not as easy as the media tells us it is. Being true to yourself is so much more about understanding your failures and adjusting them than it will ever be about boasting in your accomplishments; creating glory for yourself as if you deserve a golden statue and some incense burned in your name is not the path to a better understanding of self.

I love to jump on the Metrolink from Newhall to Union Station, than head over to Hollywood&Highland. You walk a few steps and get onto an escalator and out you peek out to the walk of fame and all the other chaos at the Kodak. If you've never been people watching before this is an abominable place to start; theirs everything from midgets with Mexican fighting masks to full-grown men dressed as Superman and Spider-man. You'll see a peace protest, an Armenian trying to sell you a Hollywood Star Tour, an attempted up-and-coming hip-hop artist trying to pawn off his terrible mixed-CD to you, and twenty homeless people with signs they think are 'unique & entrepreneurial'. It's overwhelming. However, each face has a story, each person a name, and everyone of them is worth your time and observation.

One thing that I find fascinating and captivating about photography is the unique opportunity to capture a single-moment in time. To think, that no one else will ever be able to duplicate that time in place, that event, that angle, ever again. When I people watch I like to think that when I see certain people that it may be the only time we ever see one another and for some reason our lives have brought us together for a mere-moment and here we are. A smile can carry a memory further than a frown. I love to smile because in my heart I'm happy, even when in my mind I may be struggling. So, when time and space brings me into connection with someone like that I want to impact and influence their lives with whatever joy I can; even if that only means a smile to brighten a minute-fraction of their life.

The fiercest of strangers can be turned into a friend often times with the simple-diffusion of distress by a mere-smile. So, why do we find the need to make other people's lives worst by swearing at them in traffic and cussing them out from behind our steering wheels. We use hostility in whatever form it takes us over to show our inner struggles; whereas in reality, we should be operating more self-control instead of making others lives miserable. I love life. I have my issues as do whoever is reading this blog. However, their is something insurmountably beautiful about bettering those around us by choosing joy despite sorrow. When I people watch I often times consider how fortunate we all are to be engaging in freedom without the oppression so many nations face; I look to other faces to find the contentment that I've discovered, hoping I'm not on this island of thought alone.

"Strangers are friend you've yet to meet..."


Friday, December 03, 2010

lutulent pondering

"Life's real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up..." -Unknown

I've been captivated in thought the past few months about dreams, passions, career ideas, family trials and struggles, seemingly inevitable singleness, and plethora of other issues. My mind has been Prefontaining it up nonstop to develop a scheme or a blueprint for the next few years. I've been challenged by quite a few people in the last months to pursue what I love to do. However, the burden is I'm having a strong desire towards so many things that I'm really fighting the ability to simply 'pick-one'.

Then it hit me, yesterday as I was riding along with Deputy Davis of the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Department, (yes, I went on a ride-along) that just picking one thing to do for the rest of your life isn't necessarily the way it has to be. We spoke about how I've been poking my head into multiple careers and just attempting to uncover one that fits me; he told me it may be more of a conglomeration than a singular path. It made sense, the things I love will rarely be diametrically-opposed to the 'other' things I love. Especially when considering how I want to spend the next 40 years of my life, perhaps its important to consider how the ambitions I have can work in unison, not in competition.

I love to write. Believe it or not. I actually don't have to force myself to show up to Starbucks everyday for a couple hours just pounding on the keys to scribe out blogs, skits, scripts, stories, etc. It brings me immense joy and significant contentment; I don't get bored, or lose interest. I love the camaraderie of the coffee shops frequenters; the idea of realizing that you're not the only one plugging it away, day in, day out, just striving to believe in the potential for something greater. However, it can also be an 'elephant-graveyard' of 40 year old nobodies who have been working as background actors since 18, and still drive a 1990 Ford Fiesta with a missing hood.

The industry in Los Angeles California is so broad and so closed it can be mightily deceiving. By industry, I'm merely referencing the film industry. It's definitely more of a "who ya know" and less of a "what you know." So, for people who don't make any connections and enjoy living in their mother's basement playing World of Warcraft, eating cheese-balls, and occasionally dying in a zombie movie as an uncredited-actor your career is pretty much going to be worthless. However, if you're a mover and a shaker and really enjoy making connections and networking than it's an open door. I am hoping that with the right amount of work and a decent amount of luck that I can see some prosperity unfold; not simply financial, but overall as I develop more into the person I was created to be.

I look at friends who I graduated college with and so many of them are 4 deep (four-kids) and married, working as an associate pastor (church) or a door-greeter (Wal-Mart). They seem content. I don't see them blowing up facebook with regret. I don't notice them bitchin' and moanin' (as my father would say) about how tough life is or how they feel shortchanged. However, I do wonder often how many of my friends chose the norm for security sake; took the sure thing, did it just because everyone else was doing it. I'm not saying they took the easy way out whatsoever; their is nothing easy about grinding it out day after day with the responsibility of a family resting on your shoulders. What I'm saying is that I wonder how many people actually chase after the internal-ambitions that drive them? How many of us are settling with normalcy and compromising greatness for comfortability (not a real word, FYI)?

Maybe I'm the town drunk, metaphorically speaking, perhaps I'm the one who thinks he's got it all figured out? I've always thought about how I meet far-above-average people doing normal day-to-day mundane and menial jobs and feel so bad for them; I realize somewhere along the way they just got the shovel out, dug a hole, and got in. However, maybe that shovel was used to beat the dreams out more than to dig a hole? Or both? I don't know. I have no problem with a blue-collar approach to life; it has been my family's approach from generation-to-generation. I can roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty, but it's not always about the grit; sometimes its about the wit.

"Work smart...not hard..." I'm not saying don't work hard, I'm simply saying that doing it smartly will save you a lot of heartache in the end. I am not completely sure what drove me to write this blog, I'm not saying anything new in it. I guess my intentions were to make it more than obvious that we need not compromise because society has shown us patterns of normality that lead to a steady paycheck; we can live on that balance between certainty-and-the-lack-thereof. It isn't going to make you rich; it'll probably leave you broker than broke for a while. However, I think the end product is greater because your then molded into a greater you, not just another fallen soldier of meaning.

"Success builds character, failure reveals it..."
-Dave Checkett

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Familiar Fragility

The old phrase goes as such, "no news is good news..." I must concur. I bet their are some people who get accustomed to getting good news from the home-front when they're abroad; I've never been that person. With 99.9% of your living relatives being senior citizens a call from home isn't usually something that's direly-anticipated; I love to hear from them, but primarily when things are good. Nothing in life comes before my family and that's clearly known to all those dear to me; however, as much as I love my family I can't protect them from everything.

My Uncle Ray is my best friend. He has been ever since my father passed away back in 2001 during my sophomore year in high-school. Unc, who was born in mid-October of 1934 has seen a lot of things in life. Was a kid during WWII, was a soldier in the Korean War, lost a brother in Vietnam, and watched the first man walk on the moon. He drove cross-country for Allied Van Lines as a long-haul truck driver for well over 25 + years and did so with enjoyment; always calling home to speak to us kids (his nieces and nephews). After retiring when I was in the 6th grade Unc would be at my house every morning to have coffee with my dad before work; they were the closest of brothers.

My dad's death really hit my Unc hard; it rocked his paradigm and left him feeling like the rest of us, hopeless. Unc remained as a strong source of encouragement throughout that tragedy and continued on as the back bone of our family; even when we all felt spineless and embedded with sorrow. Unc stayed in Spokane and was always, like my Aunt Benita, a sure place to stay and a guaranteed good laugh, a pedestal of love to rest upon when weary. Unc has always had a good heart; metaphorically, but not physically.

Males in my family have multiple patterns. First, they all have receding hairlines at birth (blessing and a curse...). Secondly, they all have a great sense of humor (I don't mean to brag, but...). And last but not least, they all have genetically inherited or developed heart problems (not good...). I have to admit that I can't blame the cardiovascular related issues primarily on genetic-malfunctions; their have been numerous additional factors that I'm sure played their significant roles in the issues. For instance, my father who passed in 01' due to post-surgery strokes had multiple heart attacks and a major bypass surgery earlier in life (1990's, in his 50's). My Uncle Jim had multiple strokes as well and suffered substantial cardiovascular damage in his life, also during his 50's. And lastly but not least, Unc, has had multiple heart attacks as well as an angioplasty surgery and a Quadruple Bypass back in the mid 90's when he was in his 60's.

So, being a 25 year old 300lb male in the Strength family was like trading needles in Africa; a near death sentence. Their are easier and more entertaining ways to die if one wanted to so badly; like a trapeze accident or trying to wrestle a black bear just so you can hug a cub. I don't want to die, so, that's why I've completely changed my life in the past four months; eating healthy, working out intensely and often, and fighting to regain good health. However, my Uncle Ray, ( *Unc* ) has been battling a lot on the home-front to regain some health for himself as well. Unc isn't as fortunate as I am. He doesn't have youth on his side.

I've talked with Unc on the phone almost everyday for about the last 6 or 7 years; practically ever since I left Spokane for Eugene, and continued doing so when I made the transition to Los Angels last year. The conversations vary; everything from a simple two-minute check up to a two-hour story telling session. However, none of them are meaningless; they all serve an important purpose, they unite whats separated and help make a bond grow despite a lack of geographical closeness. I've always had the thought in the back of my mind that the reality of his age and mine, being so drastically different, would catch up in a painful way. That all seemed to become more real and raw last night after receiving a call from him about some bad news from the doctor.

Apparently Unc is on some borrowed time. It's hard to even type this. It feels as if the numbness from my hands isn't temperature related, but more so an internal response to the facts they transpose into this blog. He is in what appears to be the late stage of congestive heart failure; the left side of his heart is failing to produce and perform, practically dormant. It was devastating to digest his sorrow through said-words from so far away; just holding a phone to my ear when I'd rather be holding him close. To think he sits there night after night by himself, watching TV, now with all this news on his mind I just attempt to put myself on an emotional level in juxtaposition with him; perhaps bare some of the burden so he needn't not carry it all on his own.

I think about the fragility of life, wanting to hold close to me those I love all the while realizing we are all on 'borrowed-time' so to speak. It is when we hold life with a closed grip instead of an open hand that we forget the vulnerability of life is exposed primarily in death. Our culture embraces life and fears death; but perhaps life should be a bit more feared and death should be a bit more appreciated. I think if we had a higher view of the importance of each life, we would see death as more of a blessing than a curse. So, here I sit thinking about how the reality of death isn't as painful as the reality of regret. Its the one thing I didn't have to deal with after my father died was regret; I knew how much I loved him, I told him everyday and never forgot to make it known.

So, I'll call my uncle on the phone tonight and he'll give me hell about how even though he had lasik surgery he still thinks I'm ugly. He will try and convince me to send him some money even though he has plenty; just to see if I'm a pushover. I'll listen as he tells me some of the same stories he's told me a hundred times about how he and my dad beat the hell out of people in the south when they were tanked out drunk at the local vets clubs, when they were kids. He will ask me about my day, I'll tell him, and he will listen. He will encourage me in my endeavors instead of challenging my calling; he will love me despite my failures and flaws, which are often times mightily evident. He wont tell me he's busy. He won't make excuses on why he doesn't have time to talk; or act preoccupied. He is my best friend because as much as I disappoint him, let him down, rush him, forget to call him, he would rather forget it and move on than use it to regress a progressive relationship; he loves me as is. "As-is". What a beautifully intriguing concept; to think someone can so unselfishly love us, a great lesson to be learned by this example.

I hope that whoever you hold dearly in life that you hold, dearly. I know that in his current stage my Unc could have a month, or a year, or ten years, and it isn't depending on a heart so much as a creator. We all are on "borrowed time"and should act accordingly. I'm encouraged by the news we've received this week and refuse to be defeated by grief when I should be overwhelmed by grace. I will appreciate every last minute I have with my Unc and will never forget how much he's influenced my life and made me a better person by being far above average and always choosing to do what's right despite trials and tribulations. And remember folks, shortcuts, aren't.