Page 2 of 4

On chasing your dreams

I’m fond of looking for advice in strange places.  Heck, I tell people one of my favorite quotes is from “Pokemon:  the First Movie”.  So I was hardly surprised when I found this little gem this weekend while cruising video game videos on YouTube:

And as I listened to Sky, I realized:  he’s absolutely right.  If you really want something, you don’t make excuses – you pursue it.  You chase it.  You prioritize it.

This coming December is the sixth anniversary of when I started writing.  In that time, I’ve posted nearly 1300 unique poems, published 5 books with enough content to fill 2 more, and earned enough money from my writing that I’ve had to pay taxes on it.  I feel comfortable enough with my achievements to call myself a writer, and even an author.

But am I really serious about it?  Is it really what I want to do with my life?

I don’t writer every day, but there was still a time when I had poems prepared months in advance.  However, these days I’m lucky if I have Tuesday’s post done by Sunday night.  And I wonder to myself, “What happened to me?”

I feel like if I really wanted to be a writer, I should be spending every waking moment on my craft.  But I don’t.  Instead, I’ve spend the past year pursing several fruitless romances, thrown myself into supporting others and their pursuits, and come home from work only to bury my nose in games or books or television shows.  I keep my queue filled, but most nights my writing is untouched.

I’ve been critical of other writers I’ve known in the past for not writing.  I used to meet with a group once a month, and some of those writers would set writing goals only to meet the following month and say that they’d written nothing.  And I would ask the question, “How can you call yourself a writer when you don’t write?”

Harsh words, I admit, but there’s a measure of logic behind them.

And when I levy those words against myself, I can’t help but feel like I fall short too.  Last December I spoke about my ambitions to use this year to write longer content for 2015, and while I’ve kept to that…I’ve only written one thing that hasn’t posted to this blog.  I have to-do lists of story ideas that I’ve never started or left unfinished.  And because of this, despite all of my successes, I feel like a failure.

So how do I live up to my dreams?  How do I rise to meet the potential I see within myself?

  1. There are no shortcuts.If I want to be a writer, I must write.  If I want to be an author, I must publish and get published.  The only way to get there is to dedicate time and myself to the task – everything else will fall short.
  2. It’s OK to focus on yourself, and say “No” to others.I like helping people, but throwing myself behind others’ causes and ambitions has come at the cost of my own.  So once I finish up with my current set of promises and social obligations, I am going to think long and hard before picking up any new ones.
  3. But all things in moderation
    While it’s important to make writing a priority, it’s more important to remember to do so in moderation.  Take breaks.  Visit friends.  Go out to dinner, or to the movies.  Live a life.  Making writing – or anything – the one and only thing you do in your life is not healthy.  Remember to keep things balanced – it will make you happier in the long run.
  4. Experiment
    I spent 2013 and 2014 focused on shorter writing styles – haiku especially.  This year I focused on longer styles, and wrote blog posts or short stories for every week.  That’s good, and a good way to stretch myself and see what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Acknowledge when things don’t work
    And I HATED writing blogs this year.  Precious few were on topics I was passionate about, and fewer still flowed as smoothly as my poetry.  All of them too substantially longer to write than a poem, and that cut into time I could have been working on other projects.  I’ve been thinking of abandoning blogs for MONTHS, but I’m going to keep at them until the end of the year.  But after that…I doubt I’ll focus on blog posts again.
  6. Don’t give up
    You’ll always hit setbacks and snags, but don’t stop because of them.  Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keeping you from trying.  Have faith.  Believe.

And that’s the sentiment I want to end this on:  believe.  Don’t give up, keep trying, and believe.  We are greater and grander than we give ourselves credit for – and it’s time to show the world what it’s been missing out on.

So fight on, oh Dreamers, and believe.

On self-love

Recently, a friend shared this article with me in a discussion about self-love, and it got me thinking about the world, the culture in which I live, and myself.

I don’t have a great self-image, and my self-love is rather lacking as a result.  I have times when I feel so low that I ask the few close friends I have to “tell me something good about myself”.  And while their words cheer me up, can I honestly say that I take them to heart and believe them?

I don’t feel like America takes self-care and self-love very seriously.  The impression I get from corporate culture is that it’s one that asks for constant sacrifice from us:  “Give 110%,” “Work through your breaks, your lunches, your weekends,” and “Put the company first.”  I feel like these words are rarely spoken, but often implied.

And while these work ethics are helpful in staying ahead of the corporate curve, constantly sacrificing yourself to any greater cause inevitably martyrs us.  You can’t give 110% if you’re skipping all of your downtime.  I’ve even heard from people who play video games as hardcore hobbyists preach about the importance of taking breaks every two hours or so.  And when the people whose hobbies are practically a second job stress the importance of breaks, I take the advice seriously.  It’s OK to work hard, but there has to be a balance.

The critical take-away part of the article for me was in paragraph two and said that developing self-love requires the support and assistance of others.  No amount of positive self-talk can replicate the benefits of having others tell you that they think you’re the cat’s pajamas.  Love, respect, and confidence have to be nurtured, and by those closest to us.  Those feelings do not spring, fully formed, from the void.

But nurturing each other in such a way also feels rare in our culture.  People are guarded, and moments of intimacy – genuine, real, you-can-get-hurt intimacy – are sparse.  I think many would agree that confidence is sexy, but how many of us are willing to be vulnerable enough to build that confidence in ourselves and others?

The only solution is to take a leap of faith.  We cannot expect trust from others without extending trust first.  Intimacy will only come from others only after we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them.  Feeling love requires that we first offer it ourselves.

So be kind to others.  Tell them that they’re important – that they mean something.  Tell them you miss them when they’re gone.  Praise their virtues over criticizing their vices.  Help them to cultivate a positive voice within themselves.

Personally, I want to make the world a better place.  And helping people to love themselves seems a good place to start.  So let’s get started.

I lie for a reason 2

A writer friend of mine recently told me about a Reader’s Digest writing prompt to write a story that begins with the phrase, “The difference is, I lie for a reason.” I found the idea inspiring, and below is my second story based on that prompt.

*******************************************************************************

“The difference is, I lie for a reason.”

Jane sat there, a contented-looking smile on her face while she listened to her husband boast to his coworkers at a corporate dinner party. They’d had some hard times recently, a few lean years, but things were turning around for the two of them. And with the way things were at Tom’s law firm, the two of them weren’t in any danger of decline.

“Our clients do the most ridiculous things, and then they start mouthing off to the first person who will listen to them. But me – I lie to get them out of the messes they make for themselves. I say, ‘Your Honor, my client would never be so foolish,’ but in reality, they’re probably already digging themselves a deeper hole. I swear, some of them are probably making their next mistake before they ever even leave the courtroom.”

Tom’s coworkers laughed at this, and the closest of them gave him hearty slaps on the back. All but one of them were Partners – her husband’s peers. But they were joined by Robert Mullivan, Senior Partner and one of the members of the firm’s Leadership Committee, and it was his endorsement that catapulted Tom to his position ahead of more tenured employees. And with the way he was laughing along with the others, Jane’s husband still had Robert’s support.

“You crack me up Kid,” Robert said with a guffaw. “I had a hunch you had something significant to offer this firm, and I was right. Congratulations on your success!” Robert raised his glass, and the others joined him before swallowing their drinks in a toast.

After finishing his drink, Robert checked his watch. “And as much as I’d like to spend the rest of the night celebrating with you youngsters, my old bones and this watch are telling me I need to be on my way. If you’ll excuse me?”

“Of course Sir,” Tom said, shaking Robert’s hand in farewell. Robert turned to leave, and the remaining partners turned back to Tom to talk shop. As they closed ranks, Jane leaned in close to her husband.

“Honey,” Jane said, “I’m going to go powder my nose.”

“OK Jane – you’ll be back soon?”

“Of course Love,” Jane said, planting a peck on Tom’s cheek before walking away.

Jane heard her husband’s coworkers teasing him over that kiss as she walked away. She didn’t look back, but kept walking: past the buffet, the bar, the restroom, and out the front door. She kept a brisk pace, and caught up with Robert just as he was getting to his car.

“Robert.”

He startled, but quickly recovered. “Jane – you surprised me. What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for my husband,” Jane said with a smile on her face.

“Oh – oh, you’re quite welcome,” Robert replied, looking a little anxious.

“Do you have a few minutes to spare, before you have to leave,” Jane asked, lowering her head and looking at Robert through her lashes.

“No, I really have to go,” Robert said

“We won’t be long. I promise.”

“No Jane. Tom needs to make it on his own. If I intervene every time there’s an issue, it will get out and reflect badly on all of us.”

“But there won’t’ be any issues, will there Robert?” Jane asked in slow, measured words as she approached him.

“He’s a fucking idiot! Did you hear him in there: insulting his clients in the middle of a very public setting?! It’s a miracle he’s come this far! I refuse to be a part of this any longer!”

“Now Robert, we’re just so grateful for your support. I only want to thank you on behalf of the both of us,” she said, beginning to stroke him lightly.

“Jane – we can’t…”

“Shh. Don’t worry. Everything will be OK,” Jane said, as she lowered herself to her knees and reached for Robert’s fly.

“I promise you Robert: I’ll make everything OK.”


 

Fifteen minutes later, Jane returned to her husband – her makeup as immaculate as her smile.

I lie for a reason

A writer friend of mine recently told me about a Reader’s Digest writing prompt to write a story that begins with the phrase, “The difference is, I lie for a reason.” I found the idea inspiring, though I took some liberties with its execution. But below is my story based on that prompt.

*******************************************************************************

People tell a lot of lies.  Some lie to others; others lie to themselves.  Some tell white lies, while others spread the darkest gossip.  I’m not like any of them though.

The difference is, I lie for a reason.

I lie for a man, a father, on his deathbed.  I tell him, “I love you.”  He smiles – I’m not sure if he knows I’m lying.

I lie for a woman, her hair streaked with grey.  I tell her, “You were a good wife, a good mother.”  She says nothing – I know she knows I’m lying, but I lie anyway and hope that I can convince her otherwise.

I lie to a girl who lied to me.  Once upon a time, she told me she loved me.  She didn’t.  Now, she tells me her boyfriend doesn’t beat her.  He does.  But I lie to her, and tell her that I don’t remember the last time I saw him.  I do.

The last time I saw him, the whites of his eyes shone like two full moons right after I told him a truth that left the night hushed like the twin kisses of a double-barrel shotgun.  The last time I saw him, he looked like a Jackson Pollock painting of the Invasion of Normandy.  The last time I saw him, he ran out of lies to tell me as I threw one last shovelful of dirt on an unmarked grave in the middle of nowhere.

“How could you do it?” you ask?  Maybe I’m just a stone-cold bastard.  Maybe not.  Anyway, that’s not the question you should be asking.

“Did you get the girl?”  No – but I keep an eye on her.  I listen to her lie to her acquaintances and say that she left him, and lie to her friends and say that he ran off with another woman.  Neither are true, and she knows that.  But she lies to them and to herself, out of habit or maybe just to make it through the day.  But that’s not the right question either.

“Do I think I’ll ever get caught?”  Of course not – most criminals don’t, not that I think I am one.  But for all the red this confession seems to paint on my hands, no one will ever find a body.  Even if the cops bring me into the station, they’ll never get the story out of me.  Nothing will come of it.  Anyway, that’s still not the right question.

“Why did you do it?”  Ah…now that’s a better question.  Maybe I did it for the girl; maybe I did it for myself.  Maybe I’m mad, or maybe I’m just the last righteous man in a world full of liars.  Maybe you’ll never know.

Because when I lie, I lie for a reason…

And what if I’m lying to you tonight?  That…that is the right question.  Because anything else…?  Well, how can you believe anything I’m saying?

After all, I am a liar.

The Sun and The Moon

Do you know of Tarot?  These cards are often used for fortunetelling, and can be divided into two sets:  the Minor Arcana, which became our modern playing cards, and the Major Arcana, which are often used to depict Tarot in films and stories.  And while all the cards are rich with meaning, today I would like to talk about two in particular:  The Sun and The Moon from the Major Arcana.

The Sun is a masculine card.  It represents day, enlightenment, and intellectual advancement.  All the things we associate with academy and philosophy are attributed to The Sun.

The Moon is a feminine card.  Some descriptions of Tarot depict The Moon as a negative card: representing wildness and unrestrained instincts.  However, I see it as intuitive – representing a deeper understanding of the word.

While The Sun burns, The Moon is cool.  While The Sun radiates, The Moon is still.  While The Sun speaks, The Moon is silent.

Some pains are born of sound and fury.  They cannot be healed with more of the same.  You cannot treat a burn with more fire.

Some nights, there are two moons in the sky: one without, and one within.  And on those nights, there exists a pain that cannot be cured by words or deeds.  It must be borne in silence – but not necessarily in solitude.

So friends, will you join me?  Will you listen, and help to bear this pain?  Will you stay awhile in my company?

On finding yourself

The journey to find ourself is a persistent cultural trope.  And with good reason – with each generation that succeeds, there is another generation who follows them and needs to take their own journeys.  And while the goal is the same, people pursue it through many different means.

There are people who look for themselves by saying, “Yes.”  They say “yes” to everything that interests them, and pursue themselves through new experiences.  By learning what they like, and what they don’t like, they attempt to find themselves.

There are those who look for themselves by saying, “No.”  Some give so much of themselves that they lose their sense of self in the pursuit of helping others.  By saying “no,” they free themselves from the perception that they must help others, which gives them time for their own journeys of self-discovery.

There are those who look for themselves in solitude – with the quiet and the isolation allowing them to process what they think and feel.

There are those who look for themselves in others – and revel in immersing themselves in cultures and communities.

And there are those whose journeys are complex and multifaceted.  Some may immerse themselves in saying “Yes,” but make time for solitary moments of self-reflection.  Others may revel in their interactions with others, but maintain healthy boundaries by learning when to tell people, “No.”  Some may be immersive and explorative, while others may need boundaries and solitude.

There are many different kinds of people in the world, and many different paths we could take in search of finding who we are.  I don’t believe there is any “one true path” that we all must take, but many open for us to explore.  And while there are roads that lead to ruin, I believe that there are fewer of those than our fears and insecurities lead us to believe.

They say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and the journey in search of our self is perhaps as complex as any we’ll make in our lives.  But like the quote says, these journeys are long, but can be completed one step at a time.

So step.  Step with faith.  Step with confidence.  But step forward – your journey awaits.

Life is meetings and partings

Life is meetings and partings.

It’s full of people we meet, and how they move us. Some people inspire us, some encourage us, and some love us. But others may scare us, doubt us, or break our hearts.

And these interactions are both good and evil, but beyond them. Though we may curse the one who broke our heart, that pain will help us to grow. Sometimes those who encourage us prevent us from fully letting go and moving on.

I’ve met a lot of people in my life.  Some became friends, some became enemies, and most faded into dull, gray obscurity.  But all who remained left some kind of mark on me, for better or worse, and helped me become the person I am today.

And that interaction reminds me of a poem I like by poet Shane Koyczan, titled “Tarot”, which is about The Fool, and ends with the line:

The Fool steps blindly, reminding us we cannot simply bear what is necessary, we must love it.

That feeling is sometimes bittersweet – loving the hard and heavy things in life like letting go, like saying goodbye, like getting our heart broken.

This weekend I spoke with three women I knew, and know.

The first was someone I pursued romantically for a summer – without success.  I still think highly of her, despite the rejection, and wish her all the happiness and joy life has to offer.  I expected to see her this weekend, and was happy to be able to spend a little time with her, though it was bittersweet.  But even those small pains are lovely, in their own way.

The second was someone I worked with previously, and also romantically approached.  I was unsuccessful with her as well.  When we both left that company, I never expected to see her again – yet I did this weekend, and I was happy to see her.  She seemed happier too, compared to how I remember her.  I’m glad.

The third was also someone I’d previously worked with, but not someone I’d ever asked out or pursued.  Ironically, I met her on the dating app Tinder.  We’ve been talking since then, and we’re planning on going out for coffee or something in a week.  Maybe it will turn into something, maybe not.  It’s too soon to tell, but I look forward to finding out.

Because life is meetings and partings, and the World spins on to reveal the next minute, the next hour, the next day.  And sometimes the best that we can do is greet the future with open arms and a smile, whatever it may hold.

It’s hard to choose love over hate

This past Labor Day weekend, I was visiting a friend and she wanted to put on John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight.  We watched two episodes from…approximately March of this year.  One had March Madness as its topic of the night.  The other had an exposé on fees attached to parking and traffic tickets.

I watched these shows, and while the jokes were spot-on, and the humor flowethed o’er, I wasn’t really laughing.

I got angry instead.

The March Madness story discussed how a billion-dollar industry used athletes to generate that revenue, and paid those athletes nothing.  More than that – the industry penalized players who attempted to benefit financially from their collegiate sports career, all while some coaches racked in salaries in the multi-million dollar ranges.  And the underlying racial narrative of rich white men making money off of the physical activities of young African American men carries connotations that I do not have the tact to describe in any fairer light than this:

I think it’s fucking disgusting.

The exposé on parking and traffic fees showed how, if payments were not made on time, the fees on those tickets could balloon up to levels magnitudinally larger than the original ticket.  It showcased how some police departments were encouraged to give out as many tickets as they could manage, and how several municipalities drew a large portion of their budgets from the fees collected.  The predation of the poor and disenfranchised by those who should have cared for them is unforgivable – and it brings me to the topic of today’s blog post.

It’s hard to choose love over hate.

It’s hard to watch the evening news some nights and feel anything but rage.  It’s hard to fight the slow nurture of hatred at seeing what people do to one another.  It’s so very easy to hate the perpetrator – to let your outrage build like pressure in a kettle until you’re whistling at the seams.

Love, on the other hand, is much harder to cultivate.  Other feelings can easily be confused for love.  Love is not pity, not even for a victim.  Love is not keeping someone safe, not if it means building a cage around them.  Love is not something that exists in ignorance – we cannot turn away from all the horrible things in the world and say that we love it.

Hatred is grudges, and pain, and harshness.  So love, to counter that, must be forgiveness.  Love must be healing.  Love must be gentleness.  Hatred is the swiftness of a tempestuous storm.  Love is the long, slow waxing of the seasons.  Hatred is the seduction of instant gratification.  Love makes no promises – it speaks the simple honesty that any, and all, relationships take time and work to develop and maintain.

And so, it’s hard to choose love over hate.  It’s hard to let go of the moment and live for tomorrow.  It’s hard to set aside our anger and forgive.  It’s hard to let go of our prejudice and build.

But love is worth it, even if it is hard.

Destruction can only remove what exists, but creation can bring forth something that has never existed before.  Hatred can only destroy lives.  Love can save them, and create them.  But love must be nurtured, in arid soil during the bleakest of droughts.

However, the fruit of such endeavors is sweeter than that of hatred, and far more nourishing – for not only our souls, but also for the world.

The root of all Evil

People can be quick to place blame, saying someone is bad because of something someone has said or done.  But what is bad, or evil?  Anyone can point to a list of actions and say one or another is evil – sometimes without much argument.  But what is Evil?  What is it that makes us choose these reprehensible actions?  What is its essence – its root – and why do we care?

In my opinion, I think the old adage is correct:  “Pride is the root of all evil.”  But why?

Because I think all evil comes from an idea – that we are special, so special in fact that the rules do not apply to us.  But why is that evil?  How does that create all the rest of what we collectively call, “Evil”?

The big examples are easy to describe.  Murder?  Whatever the motive, the murderer cares more for their motives than they do about the legality or morality of their own actions.  The same can be said for any kind of sexual crime.

But what of lessor evils?  Stealing?  There are certainly times when theft is the lessor of two evils (so to speak), but anyone who makes their living off of stealing is frequently seen as a villain who doesn’t care whom they hurt with their actions.  Lying?  The same – there are exceptions, but serial liars care more for their reasons than anything else.  Even white lies can be similarly criticized.

What about speeding?  Can we really justify driving over the speed limit, or are we just making excuses for reckless and selfish behavior?  I know we’re not saving much time – I worked out the math on how much time we save by speeding, and the results are sad.  (Short version:  it’s not worth it.)

Even bitterness and spiteful words – actions that are completely legal – still darken the world bit by bit.  And what are our justifications?  That it doesn’t matter?  That everyone does it?  It reminds me of lyrics from Radiohead’s song “Creep”:

Whatever makes you happy,
Whatever you want,
You’re so fucking special…

And that’s what Evil is, in my eyes.

Now you can be and feel special – that’s OK.  But when you start treating people like you matter more than them…  When you act like your ideas and ideologies matter more than the people who have to be sacrificed to support them…  That is Evil.  It is microscopic and titanic, widespread and pervasive.  It’s…seductive.

Because it tells you that you’re special.  It tries to make you feel good about doing things that you should question.  And, unfortunately, sometimes it succeeds.

Starved for affection

Today, I’m going to give a detailed talk, which will touch upon a topic I rarely address here: sex.

Specifically, the concept of edging, which Urban Dictionary defines as:

Coming nearly close to climax or ejaculation, then purposefully stopping sexual stimulation in order to delay the same, so that the ultimate climax will be more intense.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

“Oh God!
What is wrong with you?!
Why do you know about that?!
Why are you telling me this?!
La-la-la-la-la-la-la~”

I’ll respond to those in order.

“Oh God!”
Yes my child.

“What is wrong with you?!”
Probably a lot.

“Why do you know about that?!”
I am widely traveled, and broadly studied.

“Why are you telling me this?!”
I’m glad you asked! *cracks knuckles*

Edging is a technique I’ve heard of people using to not only intensify the sexual experience, but also as a means of permanently increasing sexual arousal.  The principal behind it is that by extending your time in that moment before climax, and stopping before you do climax, your body gets acclimated to being in that state – all the time.  And while that could be fun recreationally, excessive and addictive use of this pretty much ends like all excessive and addictive use does.

So again, why bring this up?

Because the concept is one of unfulfillment:  you almost get what you want, but then stop just before you achieve it.  As a result, you begin to crave those feelings and sensations with increasing intensity.

I have a hard time connecting with people – personally, socially, and romantically.  I make attempts, but I’m often insecure.  And that contributes to some very serious issues in my relationships with others.  I give too much, and when unnecessary.  I take things personally.  I get clingy.  These personality traits and actions have eventually destroyed some of my relationships.  And afterwards, I get back up and try again, more desperate than before.  Sound familiar, hm?

They used to say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but also remember the phrase, “All things in moderation.”  It’s OK to want people to like you.  It’s OK to want to be loved.  But eventually, the attempts to connect and the unfulfillment of those wants and desires start to become obsessive.  And the more desperate you become for those affections, they less you are able to nurture them in a healthy manner.

So what should you do?

Believe in yourself.  Be confident.  Stop trying to use other people to fill the holes within yourself.  The only thing that can replace the missing pieces of you is more you.  Other people will not suffice.  So nurture yourself into the kind of person you want to be.  It’s OK to focus on yourself and the things you want in and for your life.

Don’t give to the point of self-destruction.  Take care of yourself when you’re having bad days.  Find positive ways to talk to others openly about issues in your relationship with them.  Respect others, and respect yourself.

Cultivate the best in yourself, and others are sure to notice.

And finally, ” La-la-la-la~”
That’s silly. You’re silly. I like you 😉