It’s Easy…

  • To talk smack.
  • To say you’re going to show up (and then don’t).
  • To make excuses.
  • To blame.
  • To avoid.
  • To fail (often publicly).

Conversely, it’s really hard

  • To ask questions and be constructive.
  • To show up, participate, and invest yourself.
  • To take responsibility.
  • To ask “how can I make up for this or help make it better next time?”
  • To be visible.
  • To learn from a mistake, admit it, and improve.

Some things to consider when thinking about these two sets of opposing actions:

  • Which one seems more authentic?
  • Which one is more likely to help create real connection?
  • Which one builds trust?

Circles

Someone recently gave me a tremendous gift, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was until a few weeks later.  All they gave me was a concept: circles.

Imagine you have three concentric circles.  One large one, one medium one nested inside of that, and the smallest of the three nested inside of the medium one.

The outer circle you can label as “strangers” or “acquaintances”.  These are people that have no real bearing on your life.  People whose input or advice, in the general arc of your life, mean little-to-nothing.

The middle circle is probably the hardest to define for a lot of people, especially trauma survivors and people with co-dependent behaviors and habits.  This is the “Friends” circle–people you like to hang out with, people who enjoy some of the things you enjoy, people you don’t mind listening to.  Input here is generally acceptable, but still safe to ignore or take with a grain of salt.  The people in this particular circle don’t really know you the way the last set of people do.

The innermost circle is probably a lot smaller than you’d think.  These are the people you can call in a crisis, the people who will (often with no thought to consequence or otherwise) bail you out, send you money, or hop on a plane to help make something better.  The people who know your deepest secrets, desires, and fears.  The ones who seem to be able to light up your world with just a text message or a phone call.  The ones who don’t balk at the word “intimacy” and whose words and actions speak volumes.  This is the “inner circle”–others might call it your “tribe”.

The people who belittle you, dim your shine, or downplay your excitement aren’t for you.  They’re there for someone else.  The ones that are ambivalent or are otherwise silent in your struggles and successes are similarly not worth the effort.

The ones that show up–repeatedly, doggedly, with purpose–are the ones you’re looking for.  The ones who smile and brighten when they hear your voice across the phone line, the ones whose eyes lift and carry your own when you walk in the room, the ones who think nothing of grasping your outstretched hand and pulling you back to your feet.

Those are the keepers.  It’s your job to find the others.  But it’s no one else’s responsibility to make you happy.  You have to make yourself happy.  Sometimes it starts with figuring out what circles people belong in.

Unbidden

A lot of things have come up since the accident and since I’ve been without a car. Thoughts coming to me unbidden, some realizations, and re-learning some lessons. A lot of them revolving around my perceptions of people and their perceptions of me, but many of them dealing with the future.

Been spending the past couple of days looking at used Ford E-250 and E-350 vans. Finally at a point where I don’t care if people tell me what I want to do is impractical, costs too much money, or “seems like a bad idea” or “poor life choice”. I feel as though I’ve been rediscovering my sense of possibility and some sense of myself.

And what that renewed sense is screaming out to me is a singular word: adventure.

It wasn’t too long ago where I had people telling me all sorts of things, some in a passive, anecdotal, roundabout way of trying to dissuade me, and others actively telling me that what I wanted or was thinking about was impossible or impractical.  At the time, I knew they meant well, and I still have gratitude for that.  That being safe and responsible is acceptable.  That the road well-traveled isn’t evil.

At the same time, I can’t help but look at those admonitions as some kind of low-level fear.  Fear, I’ve since realized, that doesn’t belong to me at all.

It’s not that I feel invincible or that any choice I make is without some kind of consequence or trade-off–quite the opposite.  I’m all-too-aware of them.  I recognize that every day not spent in the pursuit of what makes me happy and what makes my life worth living is time wasted.  As Henry Rollins put it, “Like bucket full of water not carried carefully; wasted.”  When the opportunities to be happy with less, but spent in the pursuit of what matters to me, present themselves… what would be the point in letting it slip?  Putting it off until “retirement”?  Being a weekender until it was too late to make it something bigger?

I don’t know if I could live with myself if I resigned myself to that.  If I settled.

So, given all of the things that have happened the last few weeks, I’m going to start focusing my energy on the build-out and construction of the so-named “Adventure Van”.  Anybody that knows me knows I’ve had a fascination for #VanLife for a very long time.  My first attempt at something resembling this was interesting in every sense of the word.

I learned a lot in that month on the road–lots of things about what I need, what I don’t, what I would do with my time if money and ambition were not insurmountable.  I learned that I have an appetite for these kinds of adventures.  That I didn’t need anybody’s permission or approval.  That even given mechanical problems and logistical challenges, I could overcome them all.  I stretched way beyond my comfort zone (and experienced both altitude sickness and beautiful sunrises as a direct result).

For me, the question now isn’t whether or not I can do it, but more about whether or not this choice (and the huge number of others that will follow) will lead me to the kind of life I want to lead.  It’s leading me to a lot of more complex questions about what I do for work, whether that work aligns with my values and goals, whether or not that work is something I want to continue growing in, or if I want to try and leave and do something completely different.

But for now, focusing on work and simplifying my life are the best first steps I can make in any direction.

If Only

Let us not be strangers when next we meet; instead I pray we should greet each other as kindred spirits.  Ancient souls inextricably and inexplicably linked together by gossamer threads of existence.

Experiences shared would be our bread, emotion and empathy our wine and aperitifs.  Fortunate indeed would we be if we could pray in our own ways in this temple of the universe, our religion of sharing and professing a deep and abiding love.  To wildly careen into an ecstatic and and effervescent dream with you would give the universe pause.

To what end these desires seek?  To set hearts ablaze, purge despair, and slay anger.  Is it a mission? A directive?  No, merely an imperative bestowed upon us from aeons past.

I weep inwardly, knowing well the depths of my own darkness–knowing that you too possess such a well.  The agony of such a wound, irreparable by any hands untempered, that know nothing of your struggle.

I would know it, if you would but venture beyond yourself.

Grant me sight into that well and know that these hands are tempered in the fires of love, quenched within the depths of compassion.  Breathe with me, and I would make it so.

If only in seeking solace you would come to honor yourself, your struggle, and hold space and love for yourself.  I would have you smile and be heard.  If only you would begin.

If only.

I’m afraid

Afraid of going it alone.

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of what people might think (or already do).

Afraid of my giving my all and going nowhere.

Just like a lot of people.  Maybe even just like you.

What would happen if you admitted your deepest fear to someone you cared about?  Someone you trusted?  Someone you admire or are inspired by?

What if they admitted that they felt that way too?  What if they told you their deepest fears?  Would you be able to give them the same in return?

Admitting our fear is one of the many steps we all have to take to take the next step.  If we let F.U.D., whether from our inner critics or from the ones in front of your face, make our decisions for us… we’ve given away our agency.

Let me be among the many to admit that I’m afraid.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  But that struggle hasn’t blocked me from chasing what I want.  Hopefully you can find it within yourself to keep struggling too.

Generations

Someone came before you. A hundred-thousand-fold came before we were even close to being present. Some would argue that many of us aren’t even “present” now: staring at our phones, our televisions, our computers–anything but each other. Which is a shame because the immense miracle that is our history on this planet is a tale that is worth remembering.

This planet formed as a consequence of the inherent mayhem of the universe. Millions of stars have gone before us, forming the dense matter that permeates our very bodies to our core and forms the basis of life as we know it. That life was borne into pools via simple forms like bacterium and viruses, and slowly we evolved from the millions of other species that evolution provided and the chaos of the universe saw fit to sweep aside.

From our earliest days on this Earth, we have survived and thrived. We have struggled and adapted: tools, agriculture, culture, technology, and ultimately civilization. What we fail to remember is the untold generations that lived and struggled and fought to bring us to where we are today.

I would hope that if there is an afterlife, and my ancestors can see me and know my story, that they would be proud of me. Just as I hope that yours would be proud of you. You are wired for struggle. Embrace it. Lean in.

Teach them well

You’re a parent even if you don’t realize it.  A parent to friends, coworkers, others’ children, maybe even your own children.  A parent to your own inner child, even.  I wish someone (anyone, really) had been a better parent for me—including myself.  I say and do things that aren’t the least bit flattering to observers.  I berate myself for small mistakes, I don’t give myself even the slightest leeway in creative or physical pursuits, I am unable to be a hundred percent present.  All of which might understandably give someone the impression that I’m an angry and uncompromising person one-hundred percent of the time, which isn’t always true.

There are an incalculable number of things I wish I could have done to make things better, a huge number of lessons I wish I could have imparted on the people I’ve met throughout my life.  Allowing the children you see to have a sense of mastery and purpose, fostering a sense of purpose, granting them the space to explore themselves and their surroundings, uninhibited, in the inseparable interests of discovery and growth.

Let them have the opportunity and space to fail.  They’ll ask for help when they need it.  They’ll surprise you as they learn to do what may have taken you years to learn, and you might even surprise yourself.  I wish I could have discovered earlier that what drives my criticism of other people is the intense criticism I hold for myself.  Failure was either too expensive or criticized ruthlessly by parents or peers.

Grant them the courage to ask the hard questions and speak on their difficult and thorny truths.  The worst that you can do to them is to stifle their ability to tell you how they feel by making them feel unsafe.  I wish I would have had the space to be able to say “you make me angry because you live such a small life and it doesn’t seem like you really try”.

Don’t just be a bystander–be involved.  They’re in your life for a reason, and it’s your job to figure out what that reason is.  Similarly, you’re in their life for a reason–and it’s your job to help them find their joy and to be present with them in it.  I’ve had to struggle with the fact that I never had someone involved in the things I was interested in or anyone to encourage me growing up.  Having to find my own motivation for things and struggling with finding validation outside of myself instead of having my own validation and a sense of fulfillment.

In short: be the person that you would have wanted others to be.  Be the parent that you’d wished you’d had.  Be the friend that others see you as.