Archive for April, 2010

Finding Your Place in Life

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

As I was strolling down the hill last night after hitting some golf balls and launching some arrows it was hard not to notice the tractor-trailer minus the back-end pulling into the driveway.

I knew who it was because the person told me a week earlier that he would be in town. I was interested to hear about his life and where it had taken him over the last few years.

The last time we spoke I was in my driveway on Rainbow Trail when he drove by and swung in for a chat. It was good to see him back then as it would be on this night, too.

We grew up in the same neighborhood. You can call it Frog Hollow, although I was from on top of the hill above the hollow. There were many kids in the neighborhood that were all within 4-5 years of each other. Some had more than others, but we were all kids in search of friendship and wild adventures that we could share together. As with any kids we did our fair share of arguing and making up. A few fist fights here and there were all part of the growing process as well. All in all I think we learned small things from one another as every year inched us closer to adulthood.

Eventually we started falling into our routines and life began sending us in many different directions. Some of us remained close and others seemed like they were swept away in a funnel cloud. A few of us even married and gave that a whirl until we figured out that it just wasn’t meant to be. Now that we’re all adults it’s neat to see who ended up where and it’s even more amazing that most of us still have contact from time to time. It’s nothing like it was when we shared the larger part of every summer day together, but it still says something in a simple way.

Well, anyhow the “coke-bottle” (as they called him in school because of his lack of shoulders) slid down out of the big rig. His hearty and genuine smile welcomed me as I had made my way down to the driveway. I’m not sure how I could tell, but almost instantly I knew that after many years he had finally found his place in this world. He didn’t have to tell me and I didn’t need any time to figure it out. His aura made it perfectly clear. It made my soul warm right to the bone. If anyone deserves to find their way he is definitely one of those people.

All of us experience different upbringings. As I watched from a distance his was a little rougher than normal. He lost his mom at a very young age and was left to fend for himself in the years that followed. He hit a few too many speed bumps along the way and ended up in trouble more often than not. He spent some time staring out from behind the bars, probably wondering if things would ever turn around.

I agree that you are a product of your own environment. However, there comes a time where you ultimately become responsible for your actions. You can’t continue to blame the status of your life on other people. Everyone is faced with choices and it is our responsibility to choose things that will put us in a better place.

I asked where home was and he told me that he now lived in South Carolina. I couldn’t have been happier for him. He went on to tell me that one day he just had enough and decided to head south. He didn’t know what he would find, but he knew he had to get away from the life that he was so accustomed to in this area. Instead of letting things spiral any further out of control he decided to finally take control and make his life better. Shortly after he arrived in South Carolina he realized that long-haul trucking was what he was destined to do.

He told me that there’s no better way to see the country than through the window of an 18-wheeler. I was excited to listen to him talk about his experiences on the road. As he spoke of the many places he has traveled in this great nation it was almost overwhelming. I know that I’m very fortunate, but it made me appreciate it even more when he was talking.

When we were kids I didn’t know if he would ever find his way, especially as we grew into our mid to late teens. While I’m sure that some others in the neighborhood will never find their way, I am absolutely positive that he has finally arrived in the place that was meant just for him.

One of the other kids in the neighborhood is moving to New York City next week. While I’m not close to this person and don’t know hardly anything about her I’m almost certain that she is searching too hard for her place. She’s taking a risk that might not be worth taking. Unlike him, she doesn’t have that clear sense that it is time to go. Instead of knowing, she’s taking a leap into an unknown land almost hoping that something will find her instead of  finding something for herself. It’s a scary situation at best.

I’ve watched some of the other kids move from house to house to house in search of material wealth. The more I own and the more expensive my belongings cost the better I am. It’s very sad to watch from afar. It’s hard to believe that people base their happiness and well being solely on material gain. This reminds me of a quote that one of my friends told me his grandfather told him as a child. It reads something like this: “Be very careful of what you become in pursuit of what you want.”  I’ve watched people with my own eyes become so self-absorbed that they can turn their backs on people that gave them everything and walk away without anything as good as a simple good-bye.

I’m not sure that I’ve found my “spot” yet, but I know that I’m not far from it. My mind is at rest and I’m at peace inside. In all reality I couldn’t ask for much more than that because those things bring me happiness. I don’t need money, a fancy home, fancy car or anything material to show that my life is good. I base the success of my life on the people that constantly return to see me. It makes me realize that somewhere along the way that I must have been a good friend to these people. I always gave people an honest opinion even if I thought it would hurt them. I called a spade a spade which I believe earned the respect of others.

As the saying goes, “treat people as you want to be treated and it will come back to you ten-fold.”  I have to agree. I’m glad that many of my childhood friends come back, even if they disappear from time to time. I’m not the best friend at contacting people, but I’m very thankful that they are. There are a few others in the neighborhood that I wish hadn’t left us so soon and others that I will never understand, but I’m thankful that I shared my early years with each and every one of them no matter where the journey of  life has taken them.

As he clicked the lights on and fired up his big rig I turned my back, walked up the driveway and smiled. I was truly happy for him. If anyone needed to find the place he was destined to be in, it was him.

I wish a few others could learn from this and realize that happiness comes from within. You don’t need substitutes such as drugs, alcohol or material gains to find happiness. The secret lies deep within us. We hold the key to happiness and we’re the only one that has the power to unlock it. We can’t find happiness in others until we find it in ourselves. However, some people jump from person to person to person to find a perceived happiness. It only lasts for a short time because it’s simply impossible to live through someone else. It sets us up for disappointment and failure.

It should be easy to look in the mirror and see if you’re in “the place.” If the person staring at you isn’t smiling chances are you should keep on searching. Better yet, don’t search so hard. Instead, focus all of your energy on doing things that make you happy. If you enjoy shopping go shopping. If you enjoy golfing go golfing. If you enjoy spending time with certain people set time aside and ask those people to do more things with you. You have to keep growing inside as you age. That’s the secret to finding your way.

With every passing day the vision gets clearer. I’m waiting to walk into a dream to see where it might take me. Heck, dreams only last a few seconds,

A Heartbeat from Heaven

A Heartbeat from Heaven

so I’m sure I’ll end up someplace that I can easily escape from if I don’t like it. One foot is in………………………………..and the other is dangling.

The Blinker and the Gas Pedal

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Last week I woke up before daylight and got ready to head south. After I organized my archery stuff and loaded it into the truck the sky was slowly becoming gray.

Before long the darkness disappeared and blue sky welcomed me for my trip. As I pulled out of the driveway I quickly planned my route in my head. I knew I had to go to the bank to get some money. Since the bank shares a parking lot with Stewarts I would be able to  grab a cold drink to start the day.

Before long I was on the Northway. I’m not sure why, but traveling on the Northway first thing in the morning is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve never thought about the reasons that I like it. It might be because the day hasn’t started for so many people and I’m already on the go. It could be because I’m on a road that thousands of cars will drive on before the end of the day, but for the moment I share it with only a couple of cars here and there.

I also love this time of year when the air has a brisk chill to it. It’s probably nice because I know that as one hour leads into the next it will gradually get warmer. When the cold air enters my lungs it fills me with positive energy. I’ve never pursued the reason why this happens. I accept it and take it all in.

The weather has been nice lately. Many of the activities that I enjoy are starting, too. I’m trying to get my bows ready for outdoor archery. That has been trying my nerves to say the least. I’ve had a few days where I want to wrap my bows around a tree or two, but I push forward. Maybe I’ll figure it out one of these days. I would really like to shoot well this summer. It has been a long time since I’ve put a bow together that just fell into the right place without much work going into it. That’s what I’m hoping for over the next few weeks when I change some strings and cables.

I started practicing for summer softball leagues. Games start in two weeks. Although the leagues only last 10 weeks a year it ranks up there as some of the best times that I experience throughout the year. Hopefully I get the same enjoyment out of it this year once it gets rolling.

As I looked in my rearview mirror the miles began to pile up behind me. Still, not many people were on the road and my solo journey continued. I knew where I was going, but it also felt like I was on a road to nowhere. The truck was quiet as I chose not to have the radio on. I enjoyed each and every minute of the silence. I felt the vibration of the tires on the pavement and the gentle hum was enough to quiet my mind. I would like to say that I’ve had a quiet mind lately, but in all reality I can’t. I guess I could pretend if I wanted to fool myself, but I have no interest in doing that.

I take the time to address the random thoughts that criss-cross through my head throughout the day. I might not give them much attention, but I do acknowledge that they are there.

I’ve had a recurring thought that seems to sit on my shoulder like a pet monkey. He jabbers in my ear and I almost think he enjoys sitting there. I don’t ask him for anything and I don’t talk to him when he speaks. However, I do listen. I try to make sense out of the random things that spew from his mouth. Sometimes it’s harder and takes longer than others, but I always find a way to understand.

Well, that’s a topic I could spend a few days on so I’ll leave that behind me for now and come back to it when I feel like sharing my thoughts in more depth.

As for now I’m going to enjoy the spring and all of the wonderful things that there are to do. I’m going to give golf a whirl once again this year after last year’s mess. I hope that I can find enjoyment in the game again because I really like the challenge and the peace and quiet that being on a course can bring.

Something, somewhere along the ocean, is calling me. I’m not sure why it’s calling or what is telling me to go there, but I can hear it. It has been a long time since I’ve been to the Maine coast for rest and relaxation. I feel that it’s time again. Maybe I can sit on the jetty in Wells Beach and figure out what’s going on. Heck, I might not figure anything out other than I just needed to get away to gain a new outlook on things. I was going to go last year at this time, but my plans fell through. This year I think I need it for other reasons.  I’ll have to see how I feel about it over the next couple of weeks.

As for now I’m off to lay my head on my pillow. My body has ached in pain over the last few months when I wake up. I know that it’s a sign of getting older. It’s all of the athletics finally catching up to me. That’s why I don’t say much about it and I don’t complain. Although it hurts like hell some days, I accept it for what it is. My body is beaten, but I do the best I can with what I have. It could always be worse.

As the traffic becomes heavier as one hour leads into the next, life also becomes more difficult with the many decisions that must be made. Cars try to merge from one lane to another while others dash to and fro. I’m content to stay in the middle lane for a few more miles, but I know I’m on the verge of putting the blinker on, putting pressure on the gas pedal and moving on out. Your instincts always have a way of guiding you through the traffic if you sit back and trust them. They’ll show you the way and before long you’ll be back on the empty road in the morning hours.

The Journey

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

For the first time in a very long time I left work after 8 hours yesterday. It felt a little strange at first, but it didn’t take long to feel at home. Since I’ve been leaving during the peak of rush hour lately the ride home as been slower than normal.

Yesterday I encountered a sight that was hard to put into the back of my mind. As I sat at the red-light on South and Glen streets my thoughts drifted from parts of the day that were behind me to parts I hadn’t reached yet. When the light turned green I slowly accelerated and made my way down the street in front of the Queensbury Hotel. As I glanced out the side window I caught a movement that drew me in and held me there. The movement was an older man walking down the sidewalk. It was clearly visible that something wasn’t quite right. If I had to guess I would say that the man suffered from a stroke. His balance was off and one side of his body seemed limp compared to the other. I felt sorry for him for a moment. The sight of this man made me realize how fortunate I have been up to this point.

I hear people complain every day about everything under the sun. I’m guilty of this as well. However, I also have a great appreciation for people who struggle mightily and still find a way to stay positive. Although I didn’t know the man and don’t have a clue how he acts, I gave him a life of his own through my thoughts after I passed him and turned onto Ridge Street.

I put myself in his place and imagined what I would do in that situation. My life has revolved around going here and going there. I’ve never had any physical limitations other than my battle against diabetes. I wondered if I would have a positive outlook if something came about and suddenly changed the way I had to live my life.

It made me go back to a few different periods of my life to find an answer. It was only seconds before I understood that I would be a fighter. I would battle moments of depression, but I would make it my goal to find a purpose. I would try to use the experiences in my life to help other people who dealt with the same type of thing. I’m not exactly sure how I would do it, but I would probably begin by writing my story. It wouldn’t matter whether it was fiction or non-fiction as long as I could bring the reader along with me through the ups and downs.

Every journey, no matter where it starts, is going to have bumps and potholes that we must navigate around. There are no journeys that are stress free. In some ways every day that we wake up is a new journey. We may think we have a routine that doesn’t change much, but in all reality there isn’t one person out there that can predict everything that will happen in their life from the time they wake up one morning until the time they fall asleep that night.

We must allow ourselves the ability to adapt to changes. Some changes will be life-changing experiencing while others will be nothing more than a simple detour on the way to work.

Sometimes the detour might lead us to something that we need. At the time we might not be able to acknowledge it, but it finds a hiding spot inside of us. The man that I saw on the sidewalk could be something that I needed to see. It brought out some thoughts that I might have misplaced along the way. It made me realize that I should help others more and complain less. I have many battles to fight, but there’s always someone who can use another soldier in their army. It’s never good to do it alone. I used to think that one good friend was more than any one person could handle. I’ve changed my mind about that over the years. I have people that are very close to me and I’m sure they don’t know how much I rely on them to get me through each and every day. They give me hope and enlighten me when I’m not feeling on top of the world.  I often wonder if I do the same for these people. They make me feel alive and worthwhile.

In the last 3 1/2 years I’ve become great friends with a few people that I never would have had the opportunity to be friends with if I hadn’t encountered a major detour on my journey. I hope they know how much they have given to me. Sometimes I’m not the best communicator in the world and I shy away from being serious which is probably a downfall. I like to act distant and hard to read.

It’s tough when your journey leads you over the continental divide and across the western prairies. You just keep walking and walking and walking. There’s nothing in front of you and nothing behind you. The antelope graze on the prairie while the tarantulas scurry across the pavement in front of you. It’s tough traveling when you really don’t know where the road your on is going.

As the sun rises every morning in the east it’s a gentle reminder that all roads lead to the same place. Some of us take longer journeys than others which can cause some confusion along the way. I’m pretty convinced if we have a plan it doesn’t matter how long it takes us to get there as long as we try to make progress. When the skies are dark and gloomy we must visualize the end of the road. If we can keep this within sight the walk becomes easier. If we can’t the darkness can consume us and spit us out the other side.

I’m a traveler and I’m a blurry figure that blends into the setting sun on the road behind me. For now I’ll keep on walking no matter how sore my feet become.  As long as the mind’s at peace my feet will guide me to a new starting point.

The Monkey’s Last Ride For Now

Monday, April 5th, 2010

It has been a long time since I’ve been here, probably too long. My mind has been running like a crazed dog lately. It’s possible that I’m spending too much time alone if that makes any sense. While I’ve always enjoyed my own company it can sometimes create havoc.

Over the weekend I went for a walk. I had to clear my mind and take in the surroundings. I wandered around for a while with no destination in mind. I let my feet guide me across the field. Once my left foot followed the right one I knew where they were going to take me. As they guided me along I didn’t resist. I needed to go where they were bringing me. I knew that I would end up on the edge of the creek that I often visited as a child.

When I finally arrived I found a spot under a mature hemlock tree and sat down. As I gazed into the water I could hear the gentle and soothing noise of the water making its way over a fallen log. I closed my eyes and began meditating.  Many years ago I told myself that I would meditate daily, but that idea was lost along the way. Although I never totally eliminated it, I don’t do it as much as I should.

I concentrated on my breathing and let my mind drift. When thoughts came in I acknowledged that they were there, but I didn’t address them beyond that. I slowly inhaled and exhaled. I felt the stress elevating from my head and making its way into the sky above me. I was all alone. My mind eventually became quiet, if only for a second. Shortly after I arrived at this happy place my attention was drawn to some rustling in the leaves across the creek. I could here some cutting and putting. A flock of turkeys made their way across the hill. Although I’m not all that familiar with turkey language I’m pretty sure that their noises signified that everything was ok. They were walking through the woods talking to each other.

By that time the sun was beating down on my back. I could feel sweat trickling down my spine and onto the top side of my rear-end. It gave me the sense that I was alive. It wasn’t anything more than a simple reminder that my body was functioning as it should. It was hot out and the sun was making sure that I felt its presence.

There wasn’t a lot of movement across the forest floor after the turkeys cleared out. An occasional bird flew by and every once in a while a squirrel would run down a log or jump from one tree limb to another. It was perfectly clear that I wasn’t the only one enjoying the nice weather.

I sat under that tree for the better part of an hour. I didn’t have anywhere to go. I wasn’t in a hurry to rush off like I so often am. Instead, I decided I would let my mind wander a few minutes before heading back to where I came from.

When I began the trek I understood that something more than my inner being was pushing me forward. Something in the depths of my soul was giving me a gentle push. I could feel it, but I tried my hardest not to acknowledge it………….just as in meditation. The harder I tried the worse it became. It jumped on my back like a desperate monkey in the jungle.

Before long I had to stand tall and let this monkey ride on my back. He gently sat on my shoulder and whispered in my ear. I’m pretty sure he was whispering, but at times it seemed that he was screaming. He told me to get moving. Life doesn’t stand still for anyone and time passes quickly. Too many people live their entire lives without taking that one step out of the ordinary to do something extraordinary. For a while I felt like I was on a good path, but the last couple of months everything has come to a stand-still.

I’ve always taken advantage of every minute of every day. None of us know what day will be our last so we have to try to do everything we can with the time that we are given. Every person has 24 hours a day to do their thing. I’m one of many that has a habit of saying that I’m too busy for this or that. In all reality none of us are too busy for anything. We usually make up an excuse because it makes us feel better for not accomplishing something that we should have.

As the monkey sat there he eventually became quiet. When he stopped speaking the point was taken. The monkey chatter of my mind has engulfed me and it is time to let some of that go. It’s time to center the  mind once again and find peace. All it took was a simple walk to the creek behind the house to figure this out.

With spring comes new growth. New growth for plants and people alike. While I will participate in all of my normal springtime activities this year I will also search for that itty bitty, tiny piece that is missing. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I’m aware that there is something. As one foot follows the other I’ll keep faith that they lead me to this hidden jewel that I must find. One day leads into the next and I’ll surely be up at the crack of dawn to welcome whatever is waiting for me.

You can ride along quietly for now my friend, but your chatter will all but disappear in the coming weeks………………….Mr. Meditation and Mr. Focus are waiting to welcome me into their world and I have accepted the invitation.