Thursday, December 20, 2012

Remembering the good times- RIP to my cousin MIchael

It's funny how when you're a kid, a day can last forever. Now, all these years seem just like a blink-

Hearts in Atlantis

“When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood

Sam Ewing

I woke up today in a very sentimental mood. Something about being home and seeing so many old familiar faces wakes up a kind of nostalgia, which is rare for me because I am more of a “present” oriented person.

I started the day at my grandpa’s old farm, pictured here-

I had so many good times here as a kid, and for years I had a recurring dream about returning. I even featured it in a book I wrote called The Empath. It’s funny seeing it now. What’s left of it anyway. A whole childhood of memories and now it’s just a rundown old barn. I wonder if the current owners ever think about the history of the place. If they knew what a pleasure it was for my brothers and sister and I to play in there and feed the animals, and look out into the almost endless backyard and watch the sunset. Probably not. That was our time, and now it’s their time. Still, every house has a million stories. This one certainly did.

As I was sitting here thinking about these things, I got a text from my mother, telling me my cousin had died. I was shocked. Although he had been sick for a long time, he was a young man. Younger than me even, and it didn’t seem possible. People from my generation aren’t supposed to die. Not yet anyway. I found myself angry at the randomness of it. It just seemed kind of unfair. Eventually my feelings drifted from anger to sadness, and I cried some tears for my cousin Michael. We had a lot of fun growing up when I saw him, and I wanted to try and remember that.

So I found myself driving to my other grandparent’s home, where he and I and my family had spent the most amount of time with him, pictured here.

It seemed so big growing up, and now it just looked like a little house on a little street. I could see a Christmas tree in the window, and guessed that a family probably lived there now. I probably looked pretty strange just sitting there parked in front of their house with tears in my eyes, but I wanted to remember. Remember the good times, and the trouble we used to get into and the many, many Christmases I spent here growing up. I wanted to go back again, to be young, and dumb, and free from my responsibilities and bills and worries. But mostly I wanted to go back so I could see my cousin Michael again.

Eventually I had to start the car and move, as a strange man sitting parked probably looks a little odd to people. They didn’t know.  We never really know. We pass by people and nod and smile and wave, but we don’t really know how their day has been. What their pain is, and what it is they might be struggling with.

Mostly I think about how my cousin could possibly be gone. The last time I saw him he was a kid, and now he had three kids of his own. I hoped that they knew that fun guy I used to know as a kid. That they laughed a lot and made a lot of memories and that he taught them some things that they would pass on to children of their own. That’s all life really is in the end. A lot of little days, and moments, and memories, that somehow in the end all adds up to a lifetime.

It goes too fast.

At least it did for my cousin Michael. I do believe there is a kind of our immortality in our shared memories however. We pass these little moments down from generation to generation, and do our best to remember. For me today it was about remembering the good times with my cousin. Rest in peace my friend. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Little Things

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

“You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.

Field of Dreams

I’ve been thinking lately..

I’ve been thinking a little bit about pride. How it makes us a little snobby, a little guarded, a little slow to say things, and get involved, and reach out and reconnect with people.

I’m convinced this is a mistake.

I’ve been thinking this because I don’t think it’s a good use of our time. My time anyway. I’ve been thinking this because I know, in my heart of hearts, that we don’t have an unlimited amount of time.

I’ve been thinking this because lately I’ve become more attuned to the little things. It took some big things to make me think like this. A visit with my aging mother. A frank look at my own health. A horrific school shooting. It led me to a deeper understanding of my own mortality. And what I concluded was something a little unexpected.

I have a tremendous amount of power. Actually we all do.

I realize this because I got a letter the other day from a person telling me so. I didn’t expect this, and frankly, I didn’t realize I had even affected this person. It reminded me of something I keep forgetting. We have a LOT of power when it comes to influencing the lives of other people. Somewhere, right now, there is somehow longing for an encouraging word, a compliment, an affirmation about how they are living their life. Somewhere there is a person in need.

And you have just what they need.

This is where our power exists. All of those things we would love to hear? We can wait around for them or we can give them away instead. When we give, we get back. That’s how it works. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but it comes back around.

So personally, I vow to make 2013 the year of the little things. The year I don’t take things for granted. The year I take the time to notice when someone I normally don’t notice is in need, or in pain, or just needs a kind word. I’m not gonna wait for them to ask anymore. I’m gonna try and stay ahead of the curve, and not get complacent or lazy or apathetic.

I realize this because I think the universe has a kind of rhythm to it. Like we have our own personal soundtrack designed just for us if we only take the time to put our ears to the ground and listen.

I had a personal experience with this last night in a most unexpected place. Yesterday I wandered into a little bar. A place I never go, but oddly, felt a little drawn to. I wasn’t even going to go out last night, but all day I had a feeling I just couldn’t shake. I felt devastated by the news of the school shooting in Connecticut, and I felt I needed to be around people. So there I sat. Alone. Sad. Disconnected.

And as I sat there staring at my beer, a most unexpected thing happened. I heard the door rattle, and all of a sudden there were 40 people inside, and they spontaneously burst into song. Christmas Carols. Just a lovely little pick me up that was exactly what I needed to feel a sense of hope for the human race again. 40 people who had given up their Friday night to sing. To make Christmas a little nicer for other people. I was one of those other people. It was one of the nicest things I can ever recall actually.

It was just a little thing..

So I make my vow to pay it forward. To remember that somewhere there is a person in need of some little thing I can do to make their life more bearable. You get what you give. You can sit around waiting or you can be the change you want to see in the world. I hope I can remember this. I need to remember. A little thing can change a path. Alter a life. Right a wrong. Maybe even save a life.

I’m gonna try and remember.. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In search of the Binary Sunset

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
Norman Cousins

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't it is of no use.”
Carlos Castaneda

Growing up with the original Star Wars franchise, I remember being completely enthralled with the worlds that were created for me to watch up on the screen. At one point I made a homemade light saber. My brother had the coveted model Millennium Falcon. Star Wars was a big deal in our house.

One scene I remember in particular was where Luke, anxious for more adventure in his life, steps out at dusk and sees a binary sunset. The scene conveys a sense of longing for something more that was one of the most powerful in movie history.

And watching the scene, I always wondered if I would ever have an adventure, or if I was doomed to spend my life longing for a life different than the one I seemed stuck in at the time. I wanted to grow up, to move away, to be older and take trips and get out of my little town and my little life. Sometimes I would even look up at the sky in search of the binary sunset.

I never did find my sunset, but I did manage to see the world. I realized a lot of my dreams while some others never quite materialized. And now I find myself working as a Psychologist in the city of Chicago, a place I always wanted to go to growing up watching the Cubs play on WGN. It was one of the places I always wondered about on those evenings such a long time ago, and now I’m here. The dream materialized, but I still kind of feel the same. When is SOMETHING going to happen?

What I have come to realize is that nothing ever happens when we don’t take the initiative to make it so. Watch any movie and you are reminded of this. The hero doesn’t get the pot of gold without failing, probably getting his ass kicked a few times, and falling down, and the pretty girl doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to go get these things.

What separates those who do get these things is that these people demonstrate an unusual ability to persevere, despite the setbacks. These are the Michael Jordans, cut from their High School basketball teams, who go on to become the greatest ever in their sport. The Ray Krocs, who failed over and over again, who ultimately created the most successful restaurant of all time. Ultimately this is the quality that seems to predict much of success. The ability to endure. Too many of us, including myself, have a tendency to give up when things get hard, and our gratification is less than immediate.

But this life is fraught with peril. We focus on what’s wrong with our lives, our families, the world around us, and our lives become one constant complaint about the things that we don’t have. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I sometimes catch myself being one of these “feverish selfish little clods of ailments and grievances” and when I do, I usually laugh at my arrogance and try and make an attitude adjustment. I ask myself, what are YOU going to do to change the circumstances in your life? No one else cares that much.

So ultimately, I think I have come to find my own adventure in helping other people try and find their own. Of course I understand that people truly suffer from depression and anxiety and any number of other conditions, and I will continue to treat these things with the seriousness that they deserve. In the end though, I hope we can all come to better catch ourselves in the moments when we are pouting and whining about how the world won’t change itself to make us happy.

It’s just not how it works.

My hope is that at least one person who reads this will contemplate how their own personal adventure may have gotten derailed, and the personal choices they can take responsibility for to begin fixing these detours. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. So if you’re hesitating, enroll in that class you’ve been thinking about, volunteer somewhere, get to the gym, extend a kindness to someone, pick up the phone,  get out those old paintbrushes and find a canvas.

It’s your choice..

And may the force be with you..