Monday, February 18, 2013

Get Busy Living

            Are you happy? Do you feel alive? Are you fulfilled? Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to another day, or do you wish you could just close your eyes and go back to sleep? Is your life filled with hope and wonder or regret and disappointment? If you are not taking responsibility for your own happiness and well being who is? The answer is no one, it’s your responsibility.  
In the movie, Shawshank Redemption, one of the main characters is released from prison after spending 40 years of his life behind bars. Upon his release he realizes that through his life in prison he has become conditioned to have all of his decisions made for him. He’s forgotten how to live. His ability to make decisions for himself were taken away.  
After being paroled, he falls into the dreary routine of going to his job every day as a grocery bagger and then wondering home to sit alone in his little apartment. His life has become his personal prison without walls. Life for him has little meaning or purpose, he’s simply going through the motions. He realizes that he must make a decision, if he chooses to stay everything will remain exactly the same and he will continue to simply exist. If he chooses to leave his future is uncertain. He will have to take responsibility for his life and the unknown that awaits him. However, he also recognizes the potential that awaits him if he so chooses to pursue it. Either way the choice is his and only his to make. He decides the risk is worth the reward; he takes responsibility for his future happiness and makes the bold proclamation “either get busy living or get busy dying.”
Life is like that. I have certainly found myself facing that same predicament as I am sure most of you have. Whatever condition our lives are currently in, whether it’s the life we want or the life we don’t want, it is the life that we have created for ourselves. Yes, there are outside circumstances and conditions that affect everyone one of us, but how we deal with those circumstances and conditions is our sole responsibility. That is the ultimate power, to control one’s self. It is a power that very few people master, but those that do master it live lives of complete abundance. Their happiness is not predicated by what they have or don’t have, how they are treated or not treated, or by the current circumstances or challenges they may be facing. Their happiness is based on their state of mind and their willingness to take full responsibility for their lives and the declaration, through their choices, that they will take positive steps to move forward and face the uncertainty that we all must inevitably face. That is the price of happiness, personal accountability.
It is my unwavering belief that we are so that we might have joy. It is not a guarantee; it is a gift that must be earned. We earn it through the lives that we choose to live each day, the impact we have on the people around us, the love we show our families and the commitment and dedication we attempt to live our lives by in making today better than yesterday.
I believe in the power of the human spirit. It transcends our physical limitations. It is what elevates us to see beyond ourselves and recognize the inalienable power that they have to be the source for goodness and light and intelligence. Choose to be, it’s up to you.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reason for Hope

Reason for Hope

            I had a friend ask me yesterday why I have decided to share the challenges my family and I have faced over the last couple of years through creating this blog.
Without any condemnation or judgment he simply told me that he would be too embarrassed to share his personal failings and struggles with people that may turn around and criticize him for his public admissions. After our conversation, I asked him if it would be okay to use our discussion in the introduction to this post. He kindly obliged and here you go.
I used to be extremely embarrassed about going through bankruptcy and the many hardships we have faced along the way. I have always been self-reliant and proudly self-employed. I considered myself to be someone that people could go to for help rather than someone that needed to be helped, and then everything changed.
Like many of the struggles we face in life, mine has been an eye opening, pride swallowing experience. I can’t necessarily compare my challenges to those that other people face, my only contextualization has come from my own state of mind; where I was compared to where I am now. It’s through that emotional context that I have been able to relate to other people and their challenges.
The reason that I have decided to blog about my experiences is twofold, one it is cathartic for me to do so. There is truly an emotional release that occurs after I write down my experiences. It’s like slowly releasing air out of a tire. The second is by sharing my experiences I have discovered that all people are dealing with some kind of a challenge. I remember driving down the road one day and I saw this family at a stop light, as I watched them I thought, “They really have their act together. They’re not a complete failure like me.” Upon reflection however, I realized that I had become extremely good at hiding my problems. I had put on a happy face and hid behind this mask so that people wouldn’t really know what was going on with me. Maybe this family was good at doing the same. The true problem is that we have been conditioned to hide. We not only hide our challenges, we hide the life lessons we’ve learned through enduring those challenges that we all face in life. I decided I was going to throw it out there; I’m tired of wearing the mask. If describing my challenges and the lessons I’ve learned helps someone else then it’s worth it. If it doesn’t resonate with them in some way they’ll quickly become bored and move onto something else.

It’s my contention, that especially in the challenging times we live today, people need hope. That hope is not going to come through some loud mouthed politician telling us that some proposed new bill is going to make a difference, or watching countless hours of television in a mind numbing attempt to simply be entertained out of our challenges.

The solution although difficult is very simple; take responsibility for own lives and realize that our lives, our very futures, are what we choose to make them. Secondly, serve one another. Hope is fostered when people know that they are cared about by other people.

The world is an incredibly challenging place. The moorings of safety that we all long for have been washed away. That does not mean that hope is lost, it means that we must choose to be hopeful! Tomorrow is new day, no blemishes, no scares; it is what we choose to make of it. We must choose to seize the day; we must choose to seize the moment.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Gloves

The Gloves

            The first time I saw Billy was on a warm spring afternoon in 1980. His grandma pulled up to the baseball field and Billy nervously climbed out of her car and started walking towards the dugout.

His grandma called through the open passenger door window, “I love you and I’ll pick you up in a couple of hours after my hair appointment.”

I was the little league baseball coach and Billy was a last minute add-on. I didn’t know anything about him, but I admit I was agitated that I would have to make some last minute adjustments to accommodate this little boy.

            His hair was a Sunkist blonde and he had a bowl cut that shaped his head like a little helmet. Underneath that helmet of hair, starring out at me were two of the saddest blue eyes I had ever seen. He wore a pair of Tough Skin jeans and an old pair of tennis shoes. All of the other parents had bought their kids practice uniforms and cleats. Little league was serious business. We meant to win.

Over his shoulder he had an old bat. The handle of the bat had been run-through the webbing of two baseball gloves. One was smaller than the other, the size for a small boy, while the other was a little older and more worn, definitely the size for an adult.

            “Get out on the field and warm up.” I said a little too gruffly. I had to force one of the other boys from the team to play catch with Billy and from that moment on I knew he was going to be an outsider.

            He was awkward and slow, I was impatient. If he weren’t sitting on the bench, I would put him out in right field to keep him out of the way. That became our routine for the next three weeks.

            One day he showed up a little late at practice, all of the other kids were already paired up to play catch and warm up. Frankly, I’d been hoping that he wouldn’t come.

            “Alright,” I said, “I’ll play catch with you, but take it easy, I don’t have a glove.”

            He removed the two gloves from his bat and handed me the bigger one. I could smell the saddle soap that had been applied to it and see all of the creases in the leather.

            “It was my dad’s.” He said quietly. “He used to play catch with me everyday after he got home from work before he died.”

            I looked at his little face outlined by his Sunkist colored hair and his piercing blue eyes. I knew that I had failed him. He needed a father figure, instead he got me.

            I slowly took the glove, “I would love to use your dad’s glove if it’s alright with you.” I said.

            He nodded his approval and, for the first time since he started coming to practice, he smiled.

            I held the glove up to my nose and could smell the sweat of warm past summer days mixed with leather. I looked at Billy and understood that this was one of the ways he felt his dad’s presence. I gently put the glove on my hand understanding that Billy was trying to hold onto his dad, he was trying to connect.

We played catch not only that day but everyday after that.

            Today, twenty years later, I went over to Billy’s house just to see how he’s doing. As I pulled into the driveway, Billy’s out on the front lawn playing catch with his son and I immediately smelled the sweat aroma of sweat mixed with warm past summer days and leather.