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.

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.

The grays…

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and while I think that is likely a positive thing for any of you that regularly read my ramblings – because as you know most of the time what I write possesses little to no actual value – I’ve decided to give it a go anyhow. My selfishness truly knows no limits, and you’re all the hapless victims.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about all sorts of things that are way too heavy for an intellectual lightweight like myself to spend so much time considering, yet I’ve been unable to shut the valve and go back to thinking about beer, tacos and sports.

Rather, I’ve had day after day thinking about life, love, trust, faith, commitment, etc. It’s unsettling and it’s awkward because none of those things are comforting to me right now, despite the fact that each of them would be considered  “good” things independently. When all of them are being bantered about in my brain simultaneously it gets a bit frightening in there.

Honestly, I am not sure what I am pursuing on any of those areas, because each pursuit seems at once daunting and yet irrelevant. I sway between my need for the approval and goodwill of others and my inherently self-interested human tendencies. I, on any given day, care about nothing but others or nothing about others, there is no in-between and I don’t think I care to find one. There are people in my life I do nothing but take from; and there are people in my life I do nothing but give to. I make no effort to correct the balance, despite the occasional loathing I feel about the indignation others perpetrate on me, or the self-loathing I struggle with when I recognize my selfishness.

Do I deserve love? Do I deserve trust from others? Do I deserve the faith and support of those close to me? Do I have the capability to commit myself to a cause, or a relationship, fully? That is the question that has haunted me most of all recently, because I’ve come to realize that years of excuses, years of finding other people to conveniently blame for my shortcomings have done nothing but short-circuit my ability to truly develop into what I should be. At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant, I know that I have been blessed with more natural talents than most people around me, and yet I’ve sat back and watched as others pass me by. I’ve sat on the side of the road, flashers on, waiting for a tow-truck that I don’t need. When roadside assistance arrives, I turn on my car and say “I’ll call you if I get stuck again.”

Why?

I was oddly – and profoundly – struck by a number of things that I saw and heard in this past week, and it’s left me reeling, wondering and struggling to find a place for myself. I’ve noticed that I’ve been sort of  “melting” into whatever situation I am in lately, rather than standing above it and making sure that it’s where I truly am best suited for being. The hardest part of this understanding is that I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary, I’ve spent the time that I normally spend with the people who are important in my life, and yet I feel in the wrong place. Is the place wrong? Or am I wrong? Where the hell is the right place for me?

I’ve lost my ability to trust people that have done nothing to earn my distrust, and I’ve placed copious amounts of faith in people who’ve never shown one fragment of interest in protecting it. I’ve become turned upside down, inside out and yet – yet – I feel calm and at peace with it. Have I just given up or have I have come to accept the chaos that is life and realize – as Heath Ledger’s Joker lamented – I am just “a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one! I just…do things”?

I can’t figure out why it is, however, that I do…things.

I was thinking a bit about my childhood the other afternoon, and I realized that I couldn’t pinpoint a single, solitary moment that “defined” it. There was no moment that stood out; no dead bodies by a railroad track, no emotion scarring accident and no soul-stirring epiphany of light and love and laughter – just a gray canvas full of gray moments. Did I miss out? Is it the lack of those “doing things” that leads me to just “doing things?” I consider where I am now versus where I’ve been, and neither time nor place nor “happy” or “sad” ever felt better or worse.

It. Has. Always. Been. Gray.

The truth is, I want solace. I want quiet comfort and I want love and faith and commitment and understanding. I want pure, brilliant flashes of light; and occasionally – just to make sure I am alive – I’d settle for terrifying blackness.

“The scars remind us, that the past is real,” or “yeah we bleed just to know we’re alive” and all that hokey musical jibber-jab that means yes – the highs and the lows might be a better way to live than the grays. The grays don’t bleed into the conscience. The grays don’t force change. The grays don’t tempt fate.

I am by no means a melodramatic, unhappy person who feels overwhelmed by the dreariness of life and therefore is searching for an escape. On the contrary, I want nothing more than to dive more fully into life, and I am unable to settle my brain until I do. The question, the rub, the issue then becomes more and more simple to grasp: do I live my life for me, for others, or do I actually search out that middle ground that I’ve up to this point avoided at all costs?

There’s change coming, and I intend to be the deliverer of it rather than the reactor to it. What it means for me, my friends, family and more I don’t know, but the grays are not where life is lived, that’s where life is survived. If you’re in my life, and you’re living in the gray, I hope that you find whatever moves you back to color.

Get happy with yourself. No one else is going to make you happy until you do.

What’s Your Excuse?

Painful admission time: I’ve only lived one life. Yes, I know that may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you who consider me as all knowing, omnipotent and eternal, but it’s just not true.

Sorry to disappoint.

I’m just a regular guy with a regular life who lives as much as I can in the moment while trying to learn from the past while keeping one eye on the future.

Simple, yes?

The country is – once again – being torn apart by politicians wrestling for public opinion in light of horrific tragedy. One side blames guns, one side says it’s because there’s not enough; others insist it’s not a gun issue at all but rather a refusal to give heed to the needs of the mentally ill.

I say they are all right. It’s all of those things. But does it really surprise you any more or does it really matter? When we come to terms with the fact that we can only change ourselves – and not others – we’ll likely all end up much happier.

As I lamented a time or two before – and will try to reiterate quickly before I fall into a full-fledged diatribe on the atrociousness of the human condition – the world is basically falling apart. We’re subjected daily to the most awful things we can imagine and the next day see it bested by the next tragedy more awful than we can imagine.

Is it any wonder that so many people are anxiously – almost hopefully – talking about the dumb Mayans and their inability to find additional rocks for the next part of their calendar? Why on earth are so many people so anticipating their end, knowing that their lives are – up to this point – unfulfilled?

I truly believe that there are a good number of people who hope that we’re rocked by some giant asteroid as a fitting conclusion to the failed experiment that humanity has become solely so that they will not be held accountable for their own shortcomings in whatever post-life they prescribe to.

It is far easier to shrug your shoulders and kick the dirt and walk away exclaiming “Yes! I would have done it tomorrow, and then this big stupid meteor got in the way of all my grandiose plans! Darn you planetary excrement!” than it is to strap on the weight of your expectations today.

Snooze button

How many times are you putting off what you want or need?

How do you justify procrastinating day in and day out, putting off the things that you need and want to be truly happy in your life? What are the excuses that you allow to hold you back?

Do you work too much to find happiness in your personal life? Do you work too little to find happiness in your professional life? Why? Why do you keep letting things that don’t matter prevent you from handling the things that do?

I think that most people, if they are truly honest with themselves, can identify the single biggest reason that they are unhappy; and 90-percent of the time the biggest culprit is staring back at them in the mirror. You decide each and every day when you wake up whether or not you’re going to let your circumstances get the best of you, or if you’re going to step outside of yourself and demand to be happy. Does that mean you get a little less sleep in order to see someone who matters to you? Does it mean you cut back on your nights out partying with friends in order to pay your bills on time? What are you not willing to do in order to make your life, and by proxy the lives of those whom you share your time, better?

If the world did end tomorrow – which of course it won’t, at least not for everyone – what did you do today that made a difference in the lives of others? Have you taken the time to tell those who matter to you that they do, damning the consequences if they don’t requite it? Why not? What do you have to lose? A little pride, a little dent to your self-esteem?

It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that the world in general, and this country in particular, can easily be broken down into two categories. No, not the “haves” and “have nots”, or the “republicans” and “democrats,” but rather those who wish to be happy and put themselves on the line to do so, and those who live so in fear of seeing themselves hurt or let down that they shut down and close the world off.

There’s nothing easy about living your life as a person who takes responsibility for your own success and happiness. It’s a risk every single day to open your heart, your mind and your soul to other people, knowing what we all do – that people generally suck – yet choosing to do it anyway. It’s challenging to accept blame and hard to be let down when you know that you are the reason it’s happened. It’s tough to find out that the person you love, the career you’ve chosen, the family you’ve tried to build, etc. isn’t working out because you’ve not done enough or are simply not good enough at what you do to make it work.  When your best isn’t good enough, when you’re too much or not enough and there’s no one to blame but you. That is not an easy position to voluntarily submit your self to, yet every day many, many people do it.

But guess what?

When it works, it’s truly rewarding. To see that your love was enough, your passion was a fuel for success. It’s invigorating to find out that your hard work and commitment to a job, a friendship, a loved one or your family was the driving force behind it thriving. It’s thrilling to wake up next to someone that you love entirely and without question, knowing that they will never doubt how you feel about them. It’s satisfying to punch the time clock at day’s end saying “I did my best, I gave my best today.” That is why we live!

Don’t get me wrong now friends, because I see the value in being the latter,  and I’m not afraid to admit that it’s a path I’ve chosen from time to time. It’s much easier to live your life when you won’t let others impact your day-to-day life. It’s much easier to be “in control” of yourself when others don’t matter to you. It’s much less messy to keep people at arm’s length so that you’re not making yourself vulnerable should someone end up not being all that they seem to be. It’s easier to contend that the world has let you down rather than acknowledging that you failed to do what was needed to succeed. It’s convenient to have a scapegoat that doesn’t look just like you.

But guess what? You’re the one who is losing. You’re the one who will find yourself wondering “what if” when you wake up on your last day lonely, unfulfilled and wondering how it could have been different if only you had spoken the unspeakable, acted on the impossible and tried to accomplish what you thought was too hard.

I realize that most of the time when I write these little blogs, I end up ranting incessantly and it’s entirely possible that the big picture for which I am striving gets lost in the details and verbosity of my prose, but that’s just the way I am, so take it or leave it. The point of this is to implore you – as a friend who reads what I am saying – to stop waiting. Act today. Grab the person you love and tell them you do. Don’t settle for a job that you are not passionate about. Don’t wait for tomorrow to do what you want to do today. Nothing is guaranteed past what you’re willing to exert, and certainly nothing is promised even when you’ve put it all on the table, but at least you’ll look back and live without regrets.

The world is ending tomorrow anyway, right? Let it loose.  Make today count.