Trust and Love or Fear and Loathing

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”

– Russian author Anton Chekhov –

The single most daunting thing about becoming an adult is knowing that people suck 90-percent of the time and realizing that you still have to rely on them and/or want them in your life.

Of course, that 90-percent includes me, and most of you, too. If you’re one of the 10-percent who doesn’t suck, go ahead and stop reading.  You’re probably doing something awesome like volunteering in a homeless shelter or donating some “Toys for Tots” or some other philanthropic venture anyway. After all, that’s what you do: non-sucky things.

Me? I try, I really do. I want to be a better person. I want to give more of my time and energy to others. I want to bang the drums for social justice and I want to trumpet from the highest mountaintops my obvious and undeniable love for all people, places, and things. Want to. Don’t.

Why? Because I suck and I am not worth most people’s time. I know it, I accept it and even though I hate it, I fear I’m past a point of no-return for most people. It will take a certain and very special character to keep up with me.

To put up with me might be a more appropriate statement. I’m obnoxious. I’m selfish. I’m self-centered and more often than not I’m lazier than the average person. I don’t like to do things for other people; I like to do things for myself. I hate not getting what I want, even if I know what isn’t right for me or good for me or whatever.

But when I do care about someone? Watch out. It’s overbearing. It’s emphatic. It’s 100mph and if you’re not ready for it, it can be devastating to watch me spin out of control. To me, not you. You’re sitting back, laughing betwixt head shakes asking yourself “Is this dude serious?”

(You do that because you suck, just to be clear.)

I give of myself wholly from the first minute I recognize that someone is worth any of my time. One of the most accurate and almost “whoa” things I’ve ever heard about love is from the movie Wedding Crashers, which is, as most of you knowwidely regarded as one of our generation’s greatest love stories.

“True love is your soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another.”

If, even for a moment, you recognize that counterpoint, are we not almost obligated to pursue it? I recognize the recklessness in that thought, I’d have to be a pretty big idiot not to, but at some point we – the feckless – have to throw caution to the wind, do we not? So what if it fails and fades? What if, just once, it doesn’t? Isn’t it worth it?

I’ve never had a problem getting to know people superficially. I am quick to pick up on what matters to people in conversation and can generally avoid the things they’d rather avoid. I give enough of myself to appear welcoming and in doing so can typically get people to open up to me, too. It’s a “gift” I guess. However, as I’ve gotten older and realize more about how much I suck, one of my greatest fears is that if I truly let someone beyond the superficial aspects of me (which are absolutely awesome, by the way) they will discover the truth about how much I suck. What a vicious and ugly circle.

I want affection, I want love, I want to give it, I give it. Then,  I ruin it because I don’t want to give too much, or I want to give too much, and then I retreat, or they do.

Good job, Jeremy, you’ve failed a fundamental human experience in a completely breathtaking fashion.

I understand that the biggest reason I don’t trust people is because I’ve been untrustworthy myself, and that’s crippled me time after time in my past relationships. That will cripple me in my future relationships if I let it, and that’s absolutely my natural inclination. Fear, push away, lie, hide, create secrets and live in my bubble where the way I’ve been treated or treated others can’t make me feel things. Feelings are icky!

Yes, Jeremy, they sure are. Unfortunately, in this life, I’ve got two choices: feel (icky!) and risk being made a mockery of or prepare myself for a life of meaningless relationships that never edify me, that never challenge me or say to me “Get better! Suck less!”

I have to trust because that’s what makes life worth living. I have to trust not only to the point where someone lets me down, but past that. Forgiving a violation of trust means nothing – nothing – without absolution. To continue to hold on to each and every hurt that anyone has done to me, and to use it as justification for further reclusiveness is hurting me, not them. Especially because most of the people who have affected me are never going to be in my life again.

Love me or hate me. Break my heart or discard it before it becomes a concern of yours, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to give myself to the idea of trust, to the idea of love.

That starts with trusting myself and with loving myself enough to stand up for what I want, and more importantly, what I deserve.

It may not always make sense to everyone else, hell, most of the time it doesn’t make sense to me, but that doesn’t diminish it. There’s no timeline for happiness. When you see it, grab it and if it matters to you, fight for it.

Syrupy Sweet, But Necessary Nonetheless

This past Tuesday, to my chagrin, was “National Beer Day,” a day I didn’t know existed and subsequently failed to celebrate accordingly. I am sure you can imagine my disappointment as a free-thinking – and usually – free-drinking, adult.

I digress.

The point of this post is to take a moment to ensure that I don’t let today’s “National Day of Something or Other” pass me by in a similarly embarrassing fashion. As an avid social media peruser and user, I was told by the collective that today is, in fact, “National Sibling Day,” a day where people pretend to give a crap about their family just a bit more than they usually do. In some cases that means an embarrassing photo from your childhood, in others it means a text message to say “You’re not the giant loser I think you are the other 364 days (365 in a leap year!) of the year, in fact, today you’re A-Ok in my eyes.”

Birmingham Clan

Siblings are often as overlooked as a breath of air. For most of us, they’ve just kind of been there. They’re not often appreciated, and in some cases we don’t really think about them until they’re suddenly taken from us.

I know that I personally don’t always take the time to appreciate each breath I’ve been given, and I certainly don’t take the time to appreciate my abnormally large group of abnormal siblings. I hope that this, in some way, will shed some light on how I feel about you all.

JOHN

I believe that you are one of the single most intelligent people I’ve ever met. You’ve got more insight and knowledge into more topics than even the most diligent and hardcore academics. Your commitment to being an active and involved father, despite the heavy toll that it takes on your personal life and – I’m assuming – your self-esteem from time-to-time. You have always been a supportive and understanding big brother who has often times put the needs of the family and the responsibility that comes with the family name ahead your best interest.

Don’t sell yourself short, find your happiness and live your life.

MICHAEL

In a family like ours, there’s bound to be a “black sheep” and it’s a badge you’ve always worn with pride, and rightfully so. Sure, there’s differences like your insistence of rooting for Notre Dame just to be different from the rest of us, but that’s hardly where the things that make you unique start, or finish. You’ve worked tirelessly over the last 20-plus years to become your own man, to do the things that you want to do and to never owe an apology to anyone for it. You’re dedicated to your future, your business and your daughter’s well-being and have a focus and follow-through that is rare in our society and rarer still in our family.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

JOEY

In the last few years, you and I have gotten much closer and have allowed the difficulties that we’ve faced to, in some ways, strengthen our bond as brothers. That is not taken for granted. I know that life is as often frustrating for you as it is rewarding, but I’m proud of the steps you’ve taken – often with intense physical pain – trying to improve the lives of your family. You’ve been selfless when your family needed it and put your needs, and occasionally your pride, on the back-burner for your kids and your wife.

I hope that your family continues to grow in happiness and peace of mind knowing that the sacrifices you’ve made will provide a lasting, positive outcome.

JOSH 

I am exceedingly proud to call you my brother, even though in the last two decades or so I’ve probably seen you the least of anyone in our family. The reasons we don’t get to spend as much time with you as we’d all like, however, need no explaining, no excuses. Your commitment to your wife, your kids, your job and your faith – while still allowing yourself to be the same affable, fun person you’ve always been is an absolute model to be emulated by each and every person you meet.

Remember that where you came from doesn’t have to impact who you are today, or where you’re going, but that as brothers and sisters we are always here for one another.

JAMEY

The work and energy you’ve put into becoming the man you are, being a model husband and father to seven kids, your relentless pursuit of knowledge, both spiritually and in your secular work, is remarkable. Combining those factors with your new – and certainly not asked for role as our family’s de facto leader – is even more impressive. You possess a patience and kindness that is unrecognizable in a world gone mad and you’ve earned each and every blessing that God has given you to this point and those you’ll receive in the future.

I hope that at some point you are able to sit down, take a deep breath and know that it was all worth it: in this life and the next.

TRISH

I realize that things have been harder for you these last few years than people know. You’ve displayed incredible strength against tough circumstances physically throughout your entire life (I mean, you’ve had what, 45 brain surgeries?) and yet you’re still beating the odds and doing things that no one ever would have assumed you’d do. You’ve sacrificed repeatedly for your family and have worked hard to change the direction of your and to do something that you and your children can be proud of.

I’m proud of the person you are and I hope that the efforts you’re making to better yourself result in a more complete, happier family because ultimately that is how you’ll measure your success; but I know you can’t consider that until you’re happier with yourself. Get there.

JUDI

You may be the single most brave person in our entire, messed up family. Your life has never been easy, and lesser people would have let the challenges and disappointments break them down to an inescapable sadness, and you refused to. Every time I see you now I marvel at the inner-strength you possess and the way you’ve grown capable of always having a smile on your face; a stunning departure from the girl who “hated this whole family” for years. You’re a remarkable woman and a great sister.

I hope that you never stop searching for the things that make you happy.

JACKIE

You are a true super-woman. Your path to this point has been as difficult and as heartbreaking as anyone, anytime, anywhere, yet you persist. You fight against the odds and you win and you’re only just getting started. There’s absolutely nothing that you’re unable to do when you allow yourself to, and you’ve never allowed yourself to because the single greatest thing you’ve ever done is be a rock star mom to six kids who would not have made it through a week without you. You stand up for yourself and your beliefs and you make tough decisions that most others would never make, and I’m never not impressed.

Do not settle. Ever. That is the only way you’ll ever fail.

JULI

Just because you’re the baby, doesn’t – and has never meant – that you were the least of anything. You’re diligent and hard-working, smart and savvy and as talented as anyone in this entire family could ever hope to be. You’ve defied your self-applied odds and become an absolutely incredible mother to a child that is as special as you are. You’ve seen the darkness in the hearts of people and chosen the light and that is a testament to a type of strength that can’t be learned. You’ve become a measured, well-reasoned adult that still believes in wonder and fairy tales and the power of song and that’s so rare anymore.

Continue to love fully, and with your whole heart, and the world is your oyster.

I love you all.

Questions I’m Afraid to Ask

This may come as a shock to many of you, but I actually spend a lot of time thinking about faith, and not just football and tacos. Not faith, generally, but Christianity, specifically.

You see, I consider myself a Christian – I always have and I imagine I always will – but more often than not I feel “unqualified” to speak about my faith. Unqualified because I recognize in myself a number of questions that cloud my faith, which in and of itself isn’t a reason to mute myself. It’s those doubts – those questions that I have – joining up with the guilt from a bevy of mistakes I’ve made and pain I’ve caused others that silence me when I want to speak.

How can I, with a litany of poor decisions, stand before anyone and espouse the virtues of a faith that I so often struggle with? Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite of the highest order? I’m a Christian, but each and every day I sin, I fall short of His demands and my own expectations, yet I want to tell other people about my faith? What kind of faith do I have if that’s what I do? Ironically, it is my recognition of those mistakes, those struggles, that keeps me feeling closer to God, yet further from the majority of Christians. It’s waking up every morning knowing that I’m broken and that I need His hand in my life that gives me hope that I’ll be one day free of the chains I’ve oppressed myself with.

1

I know a number of people in my life who are “better” Christians than I am. They wake up, publicly proclaim their faith, splash it all over their Facebook walls, stick it on the back of their cars in the form of a fish or a creatively displayed cross and scream it from the rooftops. “I’m better than you!” they scream without saying a word. It’s not that they are intentionally trying to best me, or you for that matter, it’s just the way they approach their faith. It’s hard for anyone to notice their scars or their pain if they’re beating you over the head with their “goodness,” right?

The thing that I’ve noticed about those people, more than anything, is that in the event that their faults get recognized (by someone else, of course, not themselves) they are by far the least likely to accept any criticism someone may have about them. The piousness is so thick, so deep-seated, that they refuse to even hear about any of their potential shortcomings. After all, they’re better than you so how dare you try and give them a lesson in morality or Christianity! You, who drinks a few too many beers on the weekends, or cusses at a football game, you’ve got no right telling them they’re not perfect. They are better than you because they don’t do stuff – ever – that displeases God. So, you, who have made mistakes and continue to do so, can’t do anything but hang your head over your mistakes for the rest of you life. You’ll never be able to speak to the better about faith. 

The thing is, I wake up every day and give thanks to God for the chance to see another sunrise, and I go to bed every night and pray to Him for strength to get through another day of horrors, doubts, fears and weaknesses that cripple me; and that’s good. I feel comfortable in my understanding of most scripture, and I try to live a life in accordance with that knowledge, but I know I always fall considerably short. I may not have a verbatim of His word – I don’t know exactly who begot whom – but I’m not ignorant of it all.

(Side note: Do you think “Begot Ya!” would have been an awesome name for a Biblical reality TV/practical joke show? I do.)

I acknowledge God’s right to rule but other than that – through the rest of the day – I pretty much question every single thing I read, see or am told, and that’s bad. I question daily why God continues to allow suffering, hatred and evil to thrive in the world and lets children starve, or entire civilizations of people be held under the violent thumbs of ruthless and vile dictators. I recognize God’s power and I know that He could wipe away all of the injustice and pain with a blink and yet He won’t. That pisses me off, and yeah, I’m just an insignificant smudge on the canvas of life eternal who has no right to question His methods, but I do. I question it. The Grand Experiment to prove His sovereignty appears to have reached a conclusion, because more and more people have turned away from Him, and I don’t think it’s because they truly want to, but rather they lack a fundamental understanding of the term “seeing is believing.” No one has seen evidence of God’s existence for many, many years and if He did exist, they’ll argue, He’s certainly gone by now. At the least He still exists but has turned Himself away from us.

Sometimes I feel that way, so I can see their point. Sometimes I feel that God no longer cares for us individually, as His children, as He used to because simply put, we don’t deserve it. We never have. That doesn’t, however, change that I see God every single day. I see God in the sun and the stars, I see God in the face of loved ones and strangers. We are built so uniquely, so complexly, that the notion it all happened by chance – and without a Divinely Inspired Creator – is so foreign to me that I’m incapable of understanding any other concept; and not because I don’t want to. To exist in this world without believing in God and His promises and His expectations would no doubt be easier than to live in it with the weight of His existence and His requirements.

Still, knowing those requirements, I fail, in spite of my desire to succeed. I believe in God’s plan, but I question his means of achieving it occasionally. I don’t know if the people who don’t question His plans are more acceptable to Him, but something tells me He’s not impressed by “yes men” who blindly do whatever He decrees as way to serve themselves rather than serving Him. What value to Him are we if don’t live? If we are screaming our faith from the four corners of the earth in order to be recognized by others as Christians rather than because we love Him, is it true service? I’m not suggesting that those who regularly do whatever they want, disregarding His commandments at will and without remorse are in any way preferred by Him, but I do think it’d be silly to ignore that Jesus very regularly preferred the company of tax collectors, prostitutes and generally broken people in favor of the church leaders in His time. I don’t think that was just because the sinners were “more fun” but rather they recognized their need for Him and His influence in a way that the Pharisees refused to, adhering more to their pride and tradition than His grace. There are two diametrically opposite sides of Christianity today (and of course those who deny God altogether, who have likely stopped reading this a while ago or aren’t impacted by these thoughts regardless so they don’t really “matter” to me as I write this) and I think that both are taking different roads to the same place.

There’s the in-your-face, I’m-better-than-you Christians and the I’m-so-flawed-that-no-one-could-love-me-so-why-try-anymore Christians. The former seems to need the latter in order to feel superior, and the latter are so brow-beaten by the former that they begin to resent Christians and turn further and further away from God, who is innocent in the blame game but guilty by association.

Both sides of the aisle look at the other with this disgust on their faces and scoff. “If those people are Christians, then why would anyone want to be associated with them?”

The disparity between people who have the single greatest connection in the history of the world devalues everyone involved in Christianity. The vast majority of Christians fall somewhere in the middle of those two sides, constantly vacillating between overt righteousness and hidden shame. I think most Christians are like me, I do. Afraid or embarrassed to speak about their faith because they harbor guilt over the many mistakes they’ve made and don’t want to risk being labeled a hypocrite by those Christians who still think they’re “better” because their mistakes remain in the dark.

I don’t have answers, I have questions, a lot of questions, and I’m going to try harder to be less afraid to ask them.. I have doubts, I have concerns. I’ve made mistakes, I make mistakes, and I will continue to make mistakes. If the mistakes I’ve made in my past prevent you from taking my questions, or my perspective or thoughts seriously, then perhaps you should ask yourself some questions about what being a Christian means to you.

Letting Go

This post is for Christians. At least, those who select that little radio button on those “Which celebrity should you have a beer with?” quizzes.

There’s a familiar sentiment echoed by many outward religious folks that goes “Let go, and let God.” I presume you’re familiar, yes? Good, then let’s carry on.

It’s a reasonable enough statement. Suggesting that as imperfect people we ought to stop working so hard to control every facet in our lives. I mean, we’re failing anyway right? Instead, we told to let God, The Big Cheese, The Man Upstairs; whatever you call him, take control of our existence. At this moment, all the worry in your heart and life will melt like the polar ice caps (just kidding, they’re not melting,) they say.

Isn’t that just blissful?

Yes, I reckon it is, in some way, a terrific idea. You should allow yourself to trust a bit more in His grand plan for your life. You should consider that as a loving Father, he hurts when you hurt. He wants your pain and suffering to make like the dodo (their extinction was legitimate after all.) So, if let go of the pain we’re feeling and get our minds and hearts right, things will improve just like that. Perhaps the advantage of letting go is that when you know, no matter what, things are just not going to go your way, you’re still going to be OK. No matter what you do, some days are just going to leave you feeling like screaming and/or punching an inanimate object.

So yes! Let go and by all means, let God.

This is all assuming of course that you believe God’s preference for your life is complete and utter apathy. If you think disregard towards the plight you’ve no doubt created for yourself is God’s preference, you’re all set. It’s my belief (and I presume I’m correct, as it’s my post so I control the narrative, ) that God would prefer to work hand-in-hand with us. We have to 1) accept our role in our mistakes and free ourselves in our attempts to blame others, and 2) make supplication to God for His help. I think you’ll find there’s comfort in knowing that we are not capable of getting by on our own.

So, it’s not “Let go and let God.” It’s “Shut up and understand you suck sometimes and you need God’s help – along with your own willingness to change – to make a better life for you and the people that you love.” I realize that’s not quite as warm and fuzzy as the idea that you can completely give away your troubles to someone else. It’d be nice to have God absolve of your responsibilities, but I don’t think that’s how it works. What lesson would learn and how would that strengthen us as people later? That’s life, Cupcake, sometimes we’re the problem.

There are many people, myself included, that think we’re infallible. Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that every shred of evidence suggeststhe contrary. We hide ourselves from the people who love us because we’re afraid they’ll not play along with our charade. You know the charade, right? It’s that “I’m almost perfect and nothing is wrong in my life,” charade. We’ve all played that game at one point or another.

Rather than turning to the people who can help us, along with God, we make ourselves victims to basic acquaintances. People who have no right knowing half of the garbage we make them privy to, because we’re only making them privy to half of the garbage! We don’t provide the whole story because doing so would only underscore the real problem. What problem? That we suck sometimes. That we can’t do everything on our own. That we need the support of something greater than our understanding.

My advice? Yes, go ahead, let go and let God. But also, grab on tighter to the people that are important to you. Hold them as close as you can and let them know who you are, faults and all. It’s only when we “let go” of the idea that we’re blameless can we help the people we love the most (not yourself either, other people.)

Maybe it will give them an insight into you they hadn’t had before. Maybe your willingness to ask for help opens up dialogue with someone you’ve been desperate to. Maybe that person will return that vulnerability. Maybe they won’t. At least then you’ll know you’ve done your part. God can do the rest.

The Gift of Giving

I like to consider myself, for the most part, as an optimistic person.

I’ve seen enough negative to be able to recognize the positives in life. On the other side of that coin, I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to have avoided the constant and soul-deep misery which has the potential to eliminate our ability to see good at all. We are in a recurring battle against ourselves, one that requires us to simultaneously love and hate everything around us – and including us – to a degree that makes true love – or true compassion or true anything – difficult to believe in.

I’ve struggled so mightily in the last few years trying to define myself. I’ve spent far too much time trying to discern what I needed for me to be happy, for me to be successful, for me to be find purpose. It’s a stunning realization (bordering on depressing; because of the wasted time and empty efforts, actually) when you’ve awakened within yourself the truth of these matters: Maybe we should stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about how we (the royal we) can be of service to other people.

It’s a simple idea, but incredibly difficult to execute on a micro and macro level. Difficult because it goes against our intrinsic human nature, difficult because it certainly doesn’t yield as much applause and attention as it’s worth and well, because generally speaking, we just don’t want to. Why would we spend so much of our precious time focusing on the lives and happiness of others when it seems the big ol’ world doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about us?

I don’t know. I wish I did.

The obvious and immediate benefits of selfishness are often too tempting to deny, and it’s clearly how the majority of people would prefer to live. Aside from just “getting stuff,” we’re also limiting the amount of self we risk losing to others. Others, who like us, are far more likely to take the kindness of others for granted and use it against us. We hate to be weak, we hate to be vulnerable, we hate to give not knowing if we’ll be receiving in kind. If we’re giving of ourselves for any reason other than with the truest intention, then we’re not really giving at all. What value is a gift you give, whether it be material, emotional, verbal or otherwise, if it’s actually just your attempt at bartering for something that you gain? Stop fooling yourself. Either submit to the knowledge that everything you do for others is for your own gain, or change yourself from a wolf in sheep’s clothing to just a sheep, ready for the shearing of others and not giving a darn if you end up naked and exposed. That’s the risk we run, and that’s the only way we’re actually able to enjoy what we give. Sitting back, waiting for your return is no way to live, and it’s certainly no way to give.

I’ve been fortunate to spend the last week in Lowell, Michigan with my brother and his family, a family that is as unique as any you’re likely to find these days. With seven children; three biological boys, each wildly different from the other and four adopted kids (ranging from 18-years-old to 4,) the house is constantly filled with music, laughter, fighting, tears, and screams. Somehow, rather than finding it to be a horror-show, I have been able to sit back and observe it and all I can truly see is a pervasive graciousness and humility of spirit, from the top to the bottom.

Sure, there are traditional family power-struggles especially among the younger three kids,) and yes there is playful antagonization by the older kids, gentle reminders that they are smarter, bigger, stronger, etc., but from sun up to sun down there’s an unmistakable air of giving. Giving of time, giving of support, giving of themselves and their personal self “needs” and wants so that as personal growth happens among the horde, they will develop with an others-focused attitude.

Being around that sort of attitude really helps brighten my eyes to the challenges I face within myself on a daily basis. I struggle with the basics and I generally can’t even fathom the more advanced levels of sacrificing my wants for others, but when its so obviously presented in front of you, how can you ignore it?

Have I been selfish by being away from my family to pursue my own family in the last decade? Have I been selfish by being away from others in the past few years who needed me to be there? Have I been selfish by not walking away when I am told I should just “move on?” Have I been selfish by thinking I should move to Columbus or anywhere else recently? I suppose the answer to all of those questions, on some level, is yes. Each choice, while not entirely awful or egregious in its self-serving nature, has been made with my best interest in mind. Does that mean I’ve not considered the needs of others as well? Of course not.

It is acceptable to want things for yourself, but that doing them without considering how those needs impact or hurt others that you love, is not acceptable. The challenge becomes discerning from inside of your own consciousness what your true motivations are.

As long as we are the guiding force in our own lives, the motivations we rely on will always be wrong. There has to be something bigger than us that gives us hope beyond this life. We give in this life not to receive in this life, but because we’ve been given this life. The only way to honor He who gave it to us through Grace is to give back back to others because of Grace.

I’ve got some very large decisions looming in my own life and while I fear the unknown, I know that everything that happens, if my heart is being guided by the proper motivation, I will be ok, no matter the outcome. This is not to be confused with some misguided sense of “what’s supposed to happen, will happen,” because I don’t for a second buy into that hokum. Our paths are not predetermined, we choose what happens next, but remembering that what happened before, now, or next doesn’t define who we are.

We, through our actions alone, define who we are. What will you do? For what reasons will you do it? When it’s done, when you’ve accomplished the things you never imagined possible, who will you give the credit to? Will the credit go to the same places you direct your blame when things go wrong? It’s either all you, or none of you. There is no in-between.

Give of yourself for others with no concern for what you get in return, or continue to take from others with no regard for the damage you leave in your wake, and make no mistake, that damage is considerable.

It seems like a pretty simple choice.

No Time To Kill

You’ll never know unless you try it.

How innocuous. How simple a concept.

Yet, how tragically difficult an idea to consume when you’re so afraid of everything. Afraid of your thoughts, afraid of your actions, afraid of your dreams, your nightmares and your waking moments. Afraid of failing, afraid of succeeding, afraid of hating something and a fear of loving something even more.

This is how we as people continue to turn our greatest asset – our desire to learn, to wish and to hope, to grow and to engage – into our biggest weakness; the desire to never – ever – let ourselves be viewed as simple, acquiescing or worse: complicit in our undoing in the event that we fall short of our dreams. It’s maddening and it’s heartbreaking and terrible. Stop it, all of you.

I’m guilty of it, and I know it. I spend my time in bed awake, thinking about the shoulda, coulda and woulda, and I spend my days needling myself to stay awake because the world torments me with its endless possibilities and its desire to see me do something. Yes, do anything at all. Just stop standing still and put one foot in front of the other (I think that’s a song, somewhere, in fact I am sure of it,I just can’t fish out the proper words, chorus or melody from inside of my currently hibernating left-brain’s deepest gray matter,) and get off your ass and do something.

I don’t want you, the reader, to consider that my melancholy, “woe is me” nature is a permanent condition. It’s not, I swear. It’s just the introspective, take a good hard look at myself state of mind I’ve found myself in so often in recent years. Ironically, and perhaps unbelievably (even to myself, honestly) this state is a departure from a jovial, unassuming, almost positive person. I am usually the guy who believes that all things will work out “as they are supposed to.”

Which is another one of my least favorite cliches, for what it’s worth.

Things never, ever work out the way they’re “supposed to,” because there is no “supposed to,” there is only what is, and what isn’t. Sure, we could debate for days, months and years on what is and what is not, the ability to discern tangible from imaginary, but that’s not why we’re here. This isn’t a theological debate, this isn’t some metaphysical garbage about life lived “half-full.” This is the story of what we do, and what we don’t do. There is nothing else. There is no ability to predict the future or change the past. There is us; you and me, the world and all of us in it, living (are we?) and hoping (we are) for sunshine in a world gone crazy, a world that’s lost its bearing and has thrown us all for a big, fat, horrible, loop.

We are the lost generation, but we’re not the first. We’re the beginning of a new place, and a new time, and each and every day provides us with the chance to grab the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns (because surely grabbing a real bull, by the real horns, would result in a real gorging that none of us are interested in attaining.)

We are the only ones capable of changing what we think, what we feel and what we yield. We’re on stage, each and every day, but somehow, we’ve also become the listless audience waiting for something – anything – to happen.

Today is the day I have dreamed about. Today is the day I was born for. Today is absolutely the best day it can be, and that is solely – and simply – within my power to control.

I have gone back and forth with myself almost daily in the past few years, contemplating what’s right and what’s wrong for my life, and somehow all that bewilderment has just left mired in ambiguity, sitting in neutral. I imagine a life where I had said “Screw it, just do it,” all too often, realizing that only my decisions have kept me standing still. I’ve long been a believer that in life, we’re going forward or we’re dying – yes, we’re dying anyway – but at least moving forward we’re not constantly battling ourselves about what to do or not to do, we’d just do. Where would end up if we all got into our cars, right now, and drove 80 miles per hour down the freeway of life, only to spend the entire time watching the rearview mirror? I reckon we’d up in a ditch, overturned and likely on fire. That doesn’t sound like how I want to live my life.

Move forward, look forward, you can do that and pay homage to the past, to respect and learn from the decisions we’ve made but stop letting it control you, right? It should just be that easy, but we all know it’s not. We’re bound to things, people, and places and those ties that bind prevent most of us from just up and doing what “we” want, often to our never-ending frustration, but also to our betterment a lot of the time, whether we want to believe it or not.

Few of us want to, or choose to, acknowledge the most damning and simple fact of all: the mistakes we’ve made, the decisions that have put us where we are – where ever you are – are yours. They belong to no one else. No matter how many other people, circumstances or things we want to assign the blame to, each and every part of your life, as it is currently constituted, is because of your conscious choices.

“But Jeremy, you know that some people aren’t born with all the same opportunities, the same chances for a happy life. Why are you being so cold? So callous?”

Yes, there are plenty of people in unfortunate situations right out of the womb, but this blog isn’t directed at them. I know the world is unfair to many, but even those people are not unable to change their situations. Plenty of good has come from bad, plenty of rich have come from poor, and plenty of happy has come from despair so profound most of us in “comfortable” lives could never imagine it.

I’m done standing still, and I hope that the people in my life who read this, who need to kick their own selves into gear, who are fighting against themselves and deciding that life is best lived just “ok,” will wake up a bit, as well. We are not meant for mediocrity. We are not meant for unhappiness. We choose it, we cling to it and we use it to our own detriment. We sit idly by, preferring to say we’re unhappy rather than putting in the work to change it, hoping someone, anyone, will feel bad for us.

I’d rather be someone that inspires. Someone that others see and say “Yes, I could do that, too. I am not defined by my circumstances. I am not forced to be unhappy,” that’s the person I will be. I can only hope that as they have my whole life, my family and friends realize wholly that what I do, I do for all of us, not just myself, and know that no matter where I go, what I do, I’m choosing happiness.  I am choosing to give my life a chance to be what it was meant to be, where ever it’s meant to be. I don’t even know where that is right now, but I know, regrettably, it can’t be in Toledo. I’m meant for something else, and I will find it. I refuse to let gray skies, sadness and most importantly, my own mistakes, prevent me from making my life into something meaningful. I will not be satisfied with life not lived fully.

After all, I can’t let my audience be disappointed.

Without You

It’s not my fault, really. It’s yours, but I don’t hold it against you. At least not all the time.

Were it not for you, there’s no telling who I’d be, where I’d be, what I’d be.

Without you, I could be running in place, a hamster on a wheel exhausting myself for no purpose. Without you, I could have taken on the world and won, becoming great in this, that, or the other thing. I could have looked each and every fear I’ve encountered in the eye, vanquished it and moved on to the next challenge.

Without you, I wouldn’t have spent the last 15-plus years searching for a purpose, wandering aimlessly from place to place, desperate to find something – anything – to fill the hole in my heart, a heart that was ripped from my body because of your selfishness. Without you, I’d never have known the single greatest pain I’ve ever encountered.

I can’t blame you for everything, because as the sun sets on each and every day, it’s my guilt and remorse than holds me hostage, it’s my inability to let go of the pain you caused that has me trapped, suffocating and reaching. You’re the cause, but I am the solution, and it is my fault that I’ve never allowed myself to break down the answer. I can’t blame you for the mistakes I’ve made out of loneliness and sadness, the relationships I’ve ruined because you made feel like nothing more than a dinghy, rocked and battered by the ocean’s relentless, crushing, waves. It’s not your fault I never put out an S.O.S, it’s not your fault that I held on to my pride thinking it could save me. That’s solely on me.

It’s been too long, it’s been too tiring. It’s been too debilitating and too destructive. It’s left me alone, no matter how many people have loved me. It’s left cold no matter how much warmth has touched my face. There’ve been days when nothing mattered because we didn’t matter to you, but it’s been too long. It’s time to let go, but there are some days when the anger and bitterness I still feel gets the best of me, and those days hit like a sledgehammer to a fragile-as-glass soul.  I simply can’t escape the fog that you rolled into my heart on those days.

You’re not the reason I ruined my marriage. You’re not the reason I have been scared of life alone. You’re not the reason I am floundering, begging God to find my heart and give me proof of life. I’ve given you so much power over me, and I am willing to wager that in the last decade plus you’ve not once thought about us, despite how much I have let you dictate my emotions. Unfortunately, you’re not the reason for the power I’ve given you, I am. I am the one who has to learn to adjust, move on, to think about a life that is likely to never include the one thing I’ve always felt I was meant to be. You’re unaware of how much damage you’ve done, how you broke a man who never had a purpose by terminating his only chance at one.  Ripped away so you could live your life freely, without burden and added challenges; so you could live easily.

Without you, I could easily still be lost and wandering, so I guess it’s time to stop making excuses. You’re just the reason for the hole in my heart.