Archive for January, 2011

Inner Strength

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions for the last few months. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others during this time. I’ve also come to understand how differently certain people can react to the same or similar situations. It just goes to show you that no two people are the same. That’s the beauty of life.

I had a long talk with one of my close friends tonight. I don’t think a topic was missed in the conversation. It started quickly and gained speed as it continued on. There were happy faces, sad faces, confused faces, laughter, blank stares and tears. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but it wasn’t uncomfortable either.

I’ve learned over the years that conversation can be as easy or as difficult as the person you’re conversing with. Some people make talking easy and free flowing. They make you feel comfortable from the start and you do the same for them. Other people make conversing a much larger challenge. It can feel like you’re trying to pull a tooth just to get the person to say something. Then, it can be all but impossible to disagree because feelings are hurt and it ends up in a blame game. Good conversation with honesty is very hard to find. I feel very fortunate to have found that with a few people lately.

I’ve been trying to help a few of my friends lately. Both of these people are facing very similar challenges in their day to day lives. I’ve always been good at giving advice, but I rarely listen to it myself. My actions aren’t always on par with my advice.

People have always told me that they think that I have a tremendous amount of inner strength. A few days after my ex-wife decided she wanted to get divorced we sat down in the living room to have a civil conversation which was one of the last ones I ever had with her. I was reeling with pain. I felt like a total failure in all aspects of my life, but I stored something that she said in the back of my mind. She looked at me and said, “I know you’ll be fine. You’re really strong and you can handle anything.”

For months and months I laid in bed without an ounce of ambition. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide on the world. I didn’t want people to see me suffering because I finally lost my image of being strong. Now, I looked and felt completely vulnerable. I was vulnerable. I almost think that I had convinced myself that I was strong. Heck, I had practiced meditation, Tai-chi and studied many of the Buddhist beliefs.

Then, those months of hell came. I was lost on an island in the middle of nowhere. Although I had all sorts of people to turn to I was as weak as a mortally wounded soldier. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who to ask for help. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror because I felt so horrible.

Before long one day led into the next and the days started piling up behind me. After all of the court battles finished and I got the final paperwork I began my new life. Not until that time did I realize how strong I must have been to make it through the trials and tribulations that I faced. The strength that I thought I didn’t have led me to a really good place. Although I didn’t know that I had the strength others told me I did. I didn’t think I would make it out the other side, but they all knew I would come through. It would be tough, but I would make it. I was amazed that they were all right in their assumption. I did have the strength even if I didn’t know it at the time.

At that time I found a quote that I’ve held close ever since. It reads something like this, “When one door closes another one opens. It might be hell in the hallway until you get to the other side, but don’t stare too long at the closed door that you miss the one that has been opened for you.”

So many people think they have no strength. They actually have the strength, but they let fear rob them of their strength. It’s the fear of the unknown that sometimes causes the paralysis. We get into a comfort zone and we’re too afraid of change that we plod along and accept things as they are. Instead of trying to better ourselves we stay with the routine. Before long the routine leads from one day, to one month to one year to a decade. People become “satisfied” with their lives even if they’re not truly happy.

We are soley responsible for our own happiness. If we are unhappy it is up to us to do something to change things. Our decisions will never be popular with everyone. We can’t live in fear of what others might think or how others may be affected by our decisions. While we have to keep our loved ones in our thoughts we also have to make decisions for ourselves. We can’t get into a pattern where we’re making our decisions based on what we hope the other person will do. When we become adults our personalities and behavioral systems are already formed. When we are adults we can’t continue blaming someone else for our problems. There comes a time when we have to stand up and be accountable for our actions. Many adults never find this ability. It can lead to poor relationships, poor behavior and a lot of anger. The anger comes because they want to blame someone else for the way they are. They might blame a spouse, a parent, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a coach, a teacher or even their pet. No matter who they blame the pattern will continue.  They very rarely blame themselves. They degrade people, call them names and turn things around so it looks like something or someone is the cause of their outbursts. As these things repeat so do the “I’m sorry” speeches after the fact. It could be within minutes or it might be the next day. It always comes following the storm.

Some people live with a lot of guilt. Some of the guilt is probably deserved while much of it probably isn’t. Guilt is a fine edged sword. If you have a loving heart and are truly concerned about others you will most likely experience guilt if you do something that can hurt someone close to you. That’s only natural. However, you must think about the reality behind the situation. When you’re feeling guilty for doing something to better your life is that guilt deserved? You might not have done it the right way, but you are testing the waters to see if you can improve your life and bring things into it that you know you need to fulfill your life. Then, as we’re beating ourselves down we forget amidst the noise and confusion that we might really finally be on a path to something much better and more rewarding for us.  Should you feel guilty at that point? At the point where you found out the hard way that there is more out there for you. There are things that can fill you full of joy and bring great happiness into your life. Should you feel guilty because you’re trying to better yourself and your life?

As the guilt builds there’s nothing you can do to stop it, but the fire still burns on the other end of the candle. The guilt usually hangs on because your heart is so tender and caring. You might have done the wrong thing, but at the same time did the other person feel guilty when they spewed off at the mouth. Did they feel guilty when they put you down? Did they feel guilty when they called you vulgar names? Did they feel guilty when they yelled at you for doing things for your kids? Did they feel guilty when they grabbed you by the arm? The answer is almost always no. The other person might have felt guilty for being an ass, but not for crushing your heart and demoralizing you  with threats. Yes, these threats seem harmless, but they were said with a reason. Although they’re harmless they’re said to hurt and gain control of a situation where they have no control. It’s a very thin line that this type of person walks on.

I’ve probably ranted long enough. I guess I’m just worried about my two friends. They both deserve better than what they’ve experienced in life so far. They both deserve to be happy. If someone lights your candle don’t snuff it out because of the guilt that you feel. Hold your finger close to the light and feel the heat. If you have a long enough nail you might even be able to see a star appear in the flame. If that happens wish upon the star and never forget that you are someone’s star no matter where you are. Be proud of yourself and your ability to realize that you’re just trying to better your own life. You can only take care of someone else so long before it becomes time to take care of yourself. Don’t lose your own identity while you’re trying to help someone else find theirs.

Fear, Hoping and Dreaming

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I went to bed late last night. My mind was full of thoughts that wouldn’t stop dancing through my head. No matter what I did I couldn’t push them aside. Eventually I fell asleep and slept like a log. When I rolled out of bed I felt rested for the first time in a long time.

I worked for a few hours in the morning and spent the rest of the day on the road. I drove and drove some more. As I circled Lake George my mind was preoccupied. The mountains were absolutely beautiful and the lake which was dotted with people fishing was even more spectacular. The sun shone brightly and the sky was completely blue. As the day headed towards evening I knew that the time to rest my head on the pillow was only a short time away.

A few days ago I spoke to one of my friends about the night hours. She’s going through a rough patch and no matter what the day brings the night is an animal all its own. When the night arrives our minds slow down. We aren’t active with a lot of things going on around us. When our head hits the pillow we are there all by ourselves. Even if someone is sharing the bed next to us we are alone with our thoughts.

When times are tough the mind runs at a frantic pace. No matter what we do we can’t escape. It’s a time when we become overwhelmed. If we’re alone we sometimes feel tears roll down our face and find a home on the pillow underneath us. If we’re sharing the bed with someone we usually roll over, get in the fetal position and think all sorts of thoughts and all we truly want is to be alone.

At night there is no comfort. We are all alone. The people that comfort us throughout the daylight hours are nowhere to be found. We have to fight the battle on our own so we lay there and think some more. Before we know it one hour leads into the next and we know that the chance of getting any amount of substantial sleep is all but a wish. The body is tired, but the mind won’t rest. It wants to find peace and tranquility but one thought opens up so many others that must be addressed. Finally we become lost in our own thoughts, our eyes become heavy and we fall asleep. Within a couple hours we wake up and the cycle starts over.

Why do nights have to be like this when we’re struggling? We allow it to happen. Instead of finding quiet time for ourselves throughout the day we keep busy so we can avoid those thoughts that we don’t want to face. By the time nightfall comes around the thoughts are building into a mountain inside of our skulls. Then, there’s no escaping them. We begin to fear the night hours. We don’t want bedtime to come so we stay busy as long as we can.

Many years ago I took meditation classes. I gained a lot from them. I learned that the ability to center the mind controls a lot of other things within the body. When meditating we let thoughts come and go. If a thought jumps into our heads we should acknowledge it, but not address it. Once we engage it we’re all done. At that point we begin to analyze and think. We should let the thoughts come and go to practice the art of letting things come and go freely in our mind.  Some people can get to the point where nothing enters the mind at all. Their minds are in complete peace. At that point they have a quiet mind. Great things can be accomplished when a person is able to quiet their mind on a daily basis.  When you find internal peace, happiness usually isn’t far behind.

I talked with a friend today about hurting others. Many times we make decisions in our lives that hurt us and others. Sometimes we’re put in a position where we know that no matter what we do we’re going to hurt multiple people. It paralyzes many people and leaves them walking along a tightrope. They don’t dare do anything because the fear has overtaken them. They become so afraid of hurting someone that they forget about themselves. They forget that they are ultimately responsible for their own happiness. As time starts passing more quickly they become so lost while thinking about others that they forget about themselves.

There are no decisicions that are easy, especially life altering ones. When we make life altering decisions we’re usually afraid beyond belief. We don’t know what the future holds and all we can think about is failing. Instead of realizing that each decision creates a new opportunity in life we sometimes think that our decision might end up putting us in a worse place. That’s when we begin to over-think things and over-analyze things.

When we get into that pattern it’s very hard to move forward. We get in a rut where fear controls our lives. We don’t have the ability to do things that we should because we don’t trust ourselves. Instead, we keep plodding along and try to figure something out. We want something to drop out of the air and take control, but it never does.

Sometimes we question if we’re doing the right or wrong thing. Nobody really knows that except the person making the decisions and even then it’s a gray area. I would like to better my life in all areas. I leave my options open and I address every situation differently. If I come across something that I think can make my life better I give it my undivided attention. If I found a million bucks on the sidewalk I wouldn’t walk past it. I would try to find the rightful owner, but I wouldn’t ignore it. The same holds true for things that we encounter in our lives. When something presents itself in front of us we should acknowledge it and weigh the options. If I come across something that might make my life better I will give it a whirl. Although I never minded shoveling snow it would have made by life better if I got a snow-blower. That is the type of thing I’m talking about and it exists in all parts of our lives, from moving on in relationships to changing jobs. We have to do what is best for us and our future. That’s why it’s so important to look at the big picture instead of through a small window.

If someone can help you on your journey take their hand and let them lead you. We can’t always do things for ourselves. We have to know when to leap and when to stay put. There’s a very fine line there, but it’s one of those things you can just feel. I’ve ridden on my parents’ backs many times in my life. If someone offers their back, whether it’s your parents, siblings or friends, don’t live in fear. Jump on their back and let them carry you as long as it’s someone that you would do the same for in return.

The last few weeks have been tough for me. I’ve kept a low profile and I’ve been extremely quiet. I’m trying to address all of the thoughts that are racing through my head. I’m trying to determine whose back I should jump on. I would like some direction but I don’t know where to find it. I’m a little lost on my journey right now. I’m lost, but I know exactly where I want to go. That is the most difficult part. It’s like walking a trail through the woods. There’s a beautiful lake at the other end that is totally peaceful. I can see it and I can imagine it, but it seems so unlikely or impossible to get there right now. The lake is calm and the sun sparkles brightly off from the water. There are some huge blown-over trees on the trail. I know I want to go to the lake, but the blow-downs are getting in the way and slowing me down. I’m going to try to cut a few of them out with a saw and slowly continue on my way. I’m sure there will be many more things I will have to clear out of the trail, but I am absolutely positive about the place where I want to end up.

Never stop hoping and never stop dreaming. For now I have to be a dreamer while I plod along. One foot in front of the other while I breathe in and breathe out. I’ll keep hoping and dreaming because that’s all I have right now, that’s really all I have. I hope I get there.

Why? Because Miracles Happen!

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Well, here we are in the new year. What’s the old saying? Out with the old, in with the new? I think it’s something like that. The new year usually brings about a lot of hope for many people. Within a few weeks that usually fades and people find a way to get back into their same old routine.

The last couple of weeks have been mind boggling for me. I haven’t slept very much. I’ve been staring at the ceiling quite a bit and asking for answers. I’m not sure whether I’m asking the ceiling, myself or a higher power. No matter what I’m doing I know it’s something I have to figure out on my own. After all, we are all responsible f or making our own decisions and standing by them as time moves forward.

I’ve decided to write another book. I know that it will take a lot of time and dedication to complete the project. Unlike many others, I will finish the project that I have started. I’m sure it won’t be easy and at times it won’t be fun, but the finished product will be worth the effort. In some small way the support from friends and family along the way make the journey that much sweeter.

Last Thursday I had to go to my buddy’s house in Saratoga. Many years ago he called me for archery lessons. I had a business card in a few different places and he picked one up and gave me a call. I was more than willing to help him because I could tell that he truly wanted to learn how to shoot better. After a brief discussion I learned that we had both graduated from the same college, but more than a decade apart. He was much younger than me.

I started helping him and he quickly caught on. He was a very good student and I enjoyed helping him. That incident was about 10 years ago. Since then we have become very close friends. When I was in the bottom of the barrel he had the ability to make me laugh no matter what I was feeling at the time. I really believe that everyone needs a friend like that.

Anyhow, back to my trip to his house. I have known for a while that he and his wife have been trying to have a child without much success. They’ve experienced some highs and lows in the process, but right now things seem to be at a stand-still where a little negativity might be creeping in.

I can feel the pain, but in a very different way. I always wanted my own children, but I chose not to have them because I just didn’t feel that it was the right thing to do at the time. I can’t say whether I’m glad or sad that I made that decision. I do know that I have missed out on one of the greatest things in life, which is giving love to a child that love created. I mean really…………..does it get any better than that? I’m sure you all have answers to that question and some of the answers might not be positive, but I like to think that it would have been awesome.

My friend and his wife are two really good people. On top of being good people they are a great couple. There’s not many couples that deserve to have a child as much as they do. I pray for them every night that it will happen when the timing is perfect.

The whole ordeal brings up a question for you to think about. It’s very easy to see that death has no favorites. When it’s your time it’s your time. Cancer doesn’t just happen to bad people. It happens to ALL types of people.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair and in all reality it’s not fair. I’ve watched my mom struggle from day to day for the better part of 20 years. She’s the greatest woman in the world with the largest, loving heart that anyone could ever imagine. Why does she have to suffer? It might be because she has the ability to overcome where so many others do not. So many others just want to quit the fight and give up. Quitters never win and winners never quit.

I also don’t understand why people that can’t bring a child up in a loving environment are able to have multiple children, yet my friend and his wife are having an extremely hard time and they would be some of the most loving parents in the world. I used to wreck my brain trying to figure out why these things happen. Over time I’ve steered away from it because it can bring you down if you let it in for too long.

I’ve thought a lot about their situation. Something inside me tells me that they will be able to have their own child. I’m not sure where the feeling comes from, but I feel very confident that I’m right.

However, if they’re not able to produce a child on their own there must be some underlying reason because you always hear that everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t know the reason at the time. Of course I always search for the reason for everything. That’s why people say that I’m an over-thinker.

When I was thinking about this subject last night while I was staring at the ceiling I came up with one possibility. My friends are some of the most wonderful and caring people on the planet. As I said before, many people that shouldn’t have kids do and they are lost in an uncaring, unloving environment. I thought to myself that just maybe the two of them are supposed to help someone see how great life can be if you are loved. Many of these kids that I write about end up in foster homes or elsewhere. There are thousands of children waiting to be adopted. Although it’s nowhere near the same as producing your own child on an emotional level, the love you can give to a child can be the same. I have a few friends that were adopted as children. They have wonderful parents and these friends are thankful for their parents. It’s almost amazing for me to watch from a distance. If I’m wrong about my buddy and his wife being able to have a child I hope they keep this option open, just because of what they could give to a child.

No, life is not fair. Sometimes it makes me angry and other times it makes me sad or happy. You never know what might happen from day to day. Every day is a chance for you to start on a new adventure. You’re in total control of what you do with your own life. You might not be able to control some of the finer details, but you can control how you react to certain situations.

I’ve had many things happen to me in my life that I will never understand. It all started when I was quarantined in a hospital room when I was 6 years old. I had to wave at my family outside from my third room window. I was only little, but I went along with it because I didn’t have a choice. Then, I found out I was diabetic. My parents cried because they thought they had failed as parents. They didn’t know what they were going to do and they felt bad because they thought it was their fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault because there are no favorites in this world. I’ve experienced a handful of traumatic events in my life. Still, to this day, I wonder “Why me?” about a few of them, but I don’t over-analyze it. If I did, I would drive myself crazy. All I do is hope that the people that truly care about me will accept me even with all of the faults that I have, whether the fault was self-induced or genetic. For some unknown reason I was chosen to battle against some strange things that many others were not. I’m not sure if these things have made me timid, shy, self conscious or a variety of other things. The only thing I do know is that I’m a good person inside. If people pass that by that’s their own decision and I can’t do anything about it.

When I was talking to my buddy the other day I thought about a quote that someone gave me when I was going through my divorce. It read something like this: “Sometimes the most devastating and traumatic events in our lives bring us the most amazing and unimaginable blessings.” I can only hope that this becomes true for this couple. I know there’s something waiting for them even if I don’t know what it is yet.

I learned another thing during that rough patch of my life that oddly enough came up in a conversation I had earlier this week. No decisions are hard, especially ones that are really close to your heart. No matter what decision you make there’s always going to be someone who is hurt. I was hurt very badly by that one decision that was made, but my life has taken an unbelievable turn. I’ve been able to write and publish a book and now I’m beginning another one.

Simply put, there are no answers for many things that happen through the course of life. It can cause us great pain and sadness if we let it consume us. We can also do things to help ourselves and others on the journey. Never give up hoping because without hope life is nothing. Miracles come from everywhere. Sometimes they’re gently placed in our laps. Sometimes we have to be beaten down to experience them. Sometimes they drop out of the sky without warning.

Just as life isn’t fair and it’s hard to make sense of……………..Miracles do happen. It’s our job to never give up and recognize the miracle when it appears. Sometimes it’s not as obvious as other times. Don’t miss your  miracle when it shows up.