Thursday, October 20, 2011

Milestones in Tiny Steps

A few days ago, I did the marketing must of a good business and sent out a newsletter to my email list.  Although there is little income for my efforts at this point, it was remarkable to notice how busy I am, how many pies have been created for my fingers to nibble.

            Days slip through our grasp and race around the corners of each season.  Before we know to look in the mirror, grey hairs and wrinkled skin overshadow the youthful vigor still so rich in our thoughts.  Insidiously, we consider more often the big decisions in terms of how much time we have left instead of with the open-ended assumption of how much lies ahead.  As the sense that time runs out grows stronger, the urge to evaluate proportionally vies for control.

            Not yet supporting myself in this time and therefore accountable to my father and family for his help, the pressure is even more severe.  By the measuring stick of not paying bills from my own pocket, I fail to meet standards that have been in place for millennia.
            With time and money in short supply, it would be easy to dwell in depression. This two year anniversary of my fall from the scaffold celebrated last weekend could have been the milestone of an event that spiraled me onto a couch from which I might never have risen.
            Instead, the best parts of my family heritage kicked in and I have not only restructured my concept of myself, but taken bold steps to embrace the man who has emerged from his cave, creating opportunities from disaster.  The process of the newsletter provided a summation, in part, that declared to myself more than anyone else that I am already fully recovered.

            Regardless of time and money, my head is full, my heart is open and I move forward every day on the projects that bring joy to me and seem in some small ways to have values to others.  Rather than sitting around with the television droning on and on, with the amazingly fortunate support of my father (giving credit and appreciation where they are due), no matter how frustrated and bewildered he might be, I have the rare gift to transform the "y" in busy to an "i" in business.
            A more important measurement than dollars and days is value.  Here the increments have no relation to quantity, but flounder and thrive according to the perceptions of each indidual.  Nearly desperate to justify the price others have had to pay for me to change in these last years, I can easily be my own worst critic.
            The newsletter puts forth in a sudden blitz of apparent ego a list of activities that would make any mother proud.  Several manuscripts are fast approaching publication.  A CD of original songs nears completion, a project for which I even dare to request your financialsupport through kickstarter. 
            In addition, this flurry of self-promotion includes appearances on public access TV and online interviews.  Suddenly I am producing videos and a tele-seminar about staying spiritual during the holidays.  Creating connections to make this happen requires a full time job of networking without pay beyond laughter and benefits more solid than friendship.
            The most difficult piece in the puzzle is the very central notion that the product of my business is me.  Manufacturing myself as a commodity, I have to also produce the unmitigated gall to imagine my songs and words have value and my efforts are worth publicizing.  Asking for the donation of your dollars, and more importantly, your precious time, requires a leap of faith on my part, an inordinate trust in your good patience, kindness and understanding as well.
            Only the result makes the difference between a hero and a fool.  Attitude and motivation are not so easily quantifiable as the money and time we are so comfortable using to judge the actions of ourselves and others.  What we do with ourselves, how we spend our precious time, whether we help or hurt those around us, should bear far more weight on the tablet of our lives than the size of our bank accounts and the facade of our house.
            Time will prove if I have the ability to push these projects to completion and time will also tell if the general public approves the effort. Between the two, there is a huge difference and a life to lead.
            This essay began for me as a commentary on how we decide if we are good enough to strut our stuff, but as in life itself, has evolved from what I first imagined.
            Like the days when whole families depended on my payroll and houses stood or fell with my decisions, I awake this morning with rampant thoughts of all the things needing my attention, but at long last, am sleeping well through the night.  Dollarless and years beyond the life expectancy of the Middle Ages, for better or worse, I find myself in a renaissance of my own and have never been happier.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Houses of Glass

     On Tuesday evening, my life will be the focus of a two hour discussion on the internet. While there are nooks and crannies too personal or involving others that will not be voiced, most everything about my inner heart and soul is on the table.

     Uncomfortable with braggadocio and self-importance, I have spent much of these past years examining my motives for writing this blog and book, singing songs and telling such personal stories, even speaking out on national public radio about the loss of my home due to a sub-prime mortgage. The airing of such laundry can be humiliating and embarrassing to me, mortifying and shockingly inappropriate to others who are somehow related, and a red-flag for friends and lovers who might want to get closer.

     The subject of this conversation ostensibly is about joy, the pursuit of happiness and love conquering all. I am fascinated by the dynamic between dreams and expectations, looking at the way I have lived my own life in alignment with or deviation from the passion of my heart and am moved to share my story as one humble example in the way of the world.

     The real matter of interest to me, however, is the deeper topic of truth and honesty and the suspicion that glossing over certain details blocks energy that holds us back from the dreams that drive us forward. Some people are more comfortable with their dirt under beautiful carpets, but I find the joy rings falsely without acknowledgment of the effort it takes daily to sweep a life clean.

     Given my external state of affairs, and the trail of hurt bodies and flimsy finances in my wake, my burning desire is to understand how such a strong intention of love could create so much pain and frustration. More importantly, I am petrified that not facing the reality condemns me to awful repetitions.

     Perhaps a result of growing up in a home where floor to ceiling windows stretched across the entire expanse of the living area, exposing our family at night to the gaze of any passer-by, and often displayed in home design magazines, I have always been more comfortable than most with exhibiting very personal aspects of my life, cringing only a little when boundaries have been crossed. Strong enough to take responsibility for my actions, I am also willing to take the risk of wearing my heart on my sleeve, making fun of my foibles even more than celebrating my worthy traits.

     As a bonus, the more I wrestle with my own emotions—both appropriate and unseemly—and expose them to the judgment of others, the more hearts open in response and share themselves with me. In many blessed and beautiful relationships, we are both the better for the exposure.

     The scientific definition of inertia works perfectly here where once set in motion, a much larger force is required to bring an object back to rest. People yearning for connection welcome and admire one’s willingness to take a risk and step a little further out themselves onto that scary platform of their choice.  
     I am comfortable to bear my own soul with humility, to take those first bold steps in trust that I will not be abused, in confidence that my truth is honest for being my very own--if not always exactly aligned with another in (or out of) the room--and in honor of the sacred act of healing.

     This attitude, which may be fine for me, is clearly not acceptable to everyone. The consequences of being too honest sometimes can shatter the appropriate boundaries as easily as a dog bone launched from a lawn-mower once broke the twelve foot span of glass in our home. Simply confessing, “I meant no harm,” may aide the healing of an emotional scar, but does not get the glass back into the opening any more quickly. When two separate lives are inter-mixed, the danger increases fourfold.  Damage can easily be done that cannot always be repaired. 

     The actual details of my individual and very personal circumstances are much less relevant to this story than is the more universal characterization of one man’s journey across very slippery slopes that so many of us in our own stories might have to navigate. Beyond a little voyeuristic entertainment, what is valuable to you, I hope, would be your own particular path, the similarities or differences more  than any particular left or right turn I might have taken or person with whom I might have danced along the way.

     As an individual, how I personally have been affected by my interactions with others who contracted to be a part of my life is what interests me here. Each step together changes the direction and moderates the tempo of how I dance and all the dances together add up to one beautifully sweet and sometimes bitter song.

    No matter the impact, however, having once danced together, I will forever tread lightly for fear of stepping clumsily.  I trust that others in my life will understand that in telling my own tall tales, I usually consider my words carefully, having no cause or willingness to crush your tender toes or throw stones into your own very private and precious home.

     And to whom it may concern, when the glass feels broken anyway, I extend my sincerest wish that we may embrace the misunderstanding as an avenue of truth that leads to healing, no matter how careless I at first may seem. Where I have truly been awkward, I am now better able to own it and say simply, "I am sorry." without attempting to justify my clean carpet with the excuse underneath that I meant no harm.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Call to Arms Embracing

My version of facebook tonight is loaded with clips and quotes about the movement to occupy Wall Street and its spread to other cities around the country.  "Something's happening here, and what it is..." is very exciting.

           Only a month ago, I heard someone from Vermont mention heading down to participate and offering to carry donations to help the protesters.  A veteran of Viet Nam era rebellion, I commended his effort, proud to see someone so willing to take a stand, and went about my day.

            Currently, too swept up in my own drama and healing, I admit ignorance as to how this protest started, but am thrilled to see the commitment many are making to see it continue, transforming it, it seems, into a movement.  Like a spark and a wildfire, the streets are alive with voices clamoring for change--not so very different as what we saw in Egypt, Tunisia and even Libya, and yet very different to see it on our own shores and hear the slogans shouted in our own language.
            The plutocracy is all too nervously aware and so it is inaccurately reported by the mainstream press.  On cue, the flock, with their eyes closed, bleat silly jokes about "the Flea Party," even as they scratch at their own itches.
            The argument that the 1% can no longer have 50% of the income and be supported by the rest of us adds up to a lot of cents jingling very true to me.  Wall Street represents ridiculous wealth in the hands of a few and there are finally some among the rest of us fed up enough to shout "NO".

            Thus far, I am not aware of big names and famous people at the head of this.  No one particular voice has stepped up like a Lech Walenca to represent the body, but those many, many more gathering, moving and shifting, showing up to add their voice and going home to their families, are powerfully more eloquent. While the mainstream press focuses on spoiled youth, dirt, debris and festivities of fun for welfare abusers, from alternative sources I see articulate people of differing ages and colors, and across cultural and economic strata, a union of angry souls who love their country and want to see us do better for ourselves, each other and the rest of the world.
            "The times they are a-changing..." and this is not some idealistic movement of left-over love from the Sixties, but very real today and with a broad scope of well-spoken points.  It is full of Americans who have bought into the Dream with their hard earned sweat and blood of student loans and mortgages with none of the jobs left that had been promised to pay for them.
            "Enough!" they cry because they are not content to live their lives anesthetized and subdued by the entertaining sexploits of reality shows and bigger-than-life sports stars who are still just kids with candy in a store.  The 90% (there are 9% who are still doing pretty damned well) who struggle every day are tired of just having the cake and no chance to enjoy it.  Something is rotten in the state and there are finally some citizens beginning to make a stink about it.

            As one who scrambled himself silly and ultimately had to sell his modest home out of a sub-prime mortgage, I applaud the voices that are rising.  As one who sends out countless resumes without the slightest response and knocks on doors only to hear "please, send us your resume online," I have noticed at every level, we have accepted the notion that it is okay to answer only the emails that can help us out, ignoring all the rest.
            Even in Vermont, where it is celebrated that we all know our neighbors, the headlines last month gushed about the out-pouring of kindness for strangers in the wake of disastrous hurricane damage as if surprised that we would stop to help each other.  Still a part of the problem, I shamefully justify my own pitifully small contribution to the cleanup by citing the effort it continues to take just to heal and take care of myself.
            As life goes forward, there are many who predict apocalyptical results for those who join in and help each other as well as for those sheep turning a blind eye who do nothing but make silly jokes and/or "earn" lavish incomes.  Amidst the joy and celebration of the inauguration of our first non-white President, I feared not much would actually change.  Perhaps my fear made it so. 
            My inaction is a more likely a part of the cause.
            As voices rise on Wall Street and march down more and more Main Streets (remember that phrase?) across this great country, my hope is refreshed, my commitment to join hands and become a part of something important revitalized.
            What can you do to help?
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Letting the Sunshine In

One of my biggest fears, I admit, is spending the working part of my life in a 9 to 5 cubicle, a rote sort of drudgery that might grind the joy in my soul to dust.  Of course, this is obscenely unfair, a phobia generated out of early television shows, ignorance and my own well-nourished determination.

            My father led a large architectural firm and traveled for business and pleasure around the world, my mother always by his side spreading peace and love in her own gentle and unique way. Yet my experience of him in my formative years was going to and from the train each day.  Most nights, he sat quietly at the table, not to be disturbed, in contemplation of each peanut mixed with gin and tonic, too tired to say much to any of the rest of us.  Knowing no better for barely ever seeing the inside of his office, I came to dread routine as much as the nights he swept aside the placemat after dinner to pay the monthly bills.

            Even at a prestigious college (that he paid cash for me to attend) that trained us for the successful commute into the city from well-to-do neighborhoods, I contracted a disease of irrational dislike so intense I failed to understand the forest of life for all the trees of monthly tickets. My one interview in a New York City high rise office, finding plenty of cubicles full of friendly people with real smiles and genuine hearts, ended nevertheless in polite acknowledgement that such a life was better left to my classmates.  They all embarked on their own commutes to success while I remained rigidly in refusal to join the club.

            Every attempt to work for someone else has been short-lived. I have been continually nudged by circumstances and opportunities to choose my own entrepreneurial path instead of the security that my name on a payroll with benefits might provide. Each chance to reconsider and take the proffered hand has been met with resistance that makes us both know that I am not truly interested.
            Instead, I have always harbored romantic dreams of inventing characters and writing fictional tales around them that would inspire others and bring me happiness, meanwhile in reality scrambling day in and day out to make ends meet between a hammer and nails.  My obstinate fear of the mundane poisoned two marriages with the bottled up frustration and sits me down today in contemplation from my basement apartment on the wrong side of the tracks.
            Love and fear, as always, are at the heart of the matter.
            In his tired face, I could not see the love and devotion my father practiced every day, the variety, stimulation, challenges and successes he met with between the train rides in and back out.  I was afraid I might end up with my own head in my hands after dinner and children tip-toeing around me, another generation taught to be seen and afraid to laugh too loudly.

            This morning I lie awake at dawn, thinking of the many tasks screaming for attention, the bills piled up, the pantry emptied out, the child home from college (on scholarship and her own hard work) who will not come to visit, my family at a wedding from which, because of my relentless drama, I was un-invited.
            On the bright side, those dreams of writing tales are coming true to life.  Instead of invented, however, they are about myself, laundry boldly placed online to describe the battle between love and fear that we all face in different ways, the struggle to find happiness, satisfaction and contentment even in the places once regarded as so frightening.  In my own story, I hope, comes inspiration to others.
            In fact, I realize, this very leap daily from bed to sofa, pen scribbling dreamy thoughts into words and computer networking before teeth are even brushed, is no less of a commute than any seat on the stop-and-go train.  No matter the chafe and bristle and the search for other forests, we still look upon that single tree and compare everything we do, for better or worse, to the mothers and fathers who brought us into the world.

            Worse than my fear of being swallowed up by the ladder of larger and larger corporate cubicles, I am afraid of my father's disapproval.  In turn, ironically, his sadness and frustration seems to stem from the observation that I am more disappointed and ashamed of myself than from any judgment on his part.
            Fear is a powerful force that creates comfort in disguise.  We embrace addictions like drugs, sex and compulsive work, self-medicating to protect our hearts in obdurate and self-sabotaging beliefs that in brief happiness we can find a lifetime of meaning.  Thinking too hard, but not heartfully enough, we can settle into patterns that ultimately create nothing of value at all.
            My mother and father worked together as an incredibly supportive couple, a love story that lasted more than sixty years.  They provided each of us with a childhood of vibrancy and love enough to give us the very best start in life.  The very fear that I might not do so well for me and mine gave that possibility breath, raised and nurtured the chaos and delivered me to this cluttered apartment and place of humble contemplation.

            When the New Age philosophers advertise that we create our own realities, I (as one human being) am a perfect example.  A life lived in fear produces more fear.  If we live to avoid one vision, we might succeed in the avoidance, but we also fail to live the alternative.  We settle for the mundane, the cubicle with no pictures thumb-tacked to the fabric.
            I have been blessed with glimpses and full showers of love.  I feel it more evident today and am receiving regular substantiation of how much it has always been within my reach. 
            Learning to live with heart, through intuition and faith, and less with fear so well disguised, fortune begins to shine as brightly as the sun rises outside my window.  Awakening in joy, the beams of gratitude shine forth, a reflection from within of all the love so lustrous without and in spite of fear.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Help From Friends

Energy builds and relaxes by the hour, sometimes by the minute.  As we awaken to more conscious living, our heads swim with the pulls and tugs between new perspective and old habits.

            Exploring the potential of ideas that flood through the opening sluice gates of creative life, my mind leaps and frolics with passion for the dreams, long dormant, now coming more clearly into focus.  In some cases, no previous concept had even existed, but the shifting paradigm invents visions of new dimensions, bringing them to light.  I can do this; I can do that.  The possibilities ahead are limitless.
            Just as quickly, and in the name of love, fear pounds the ecstasy into blubbering bubbles of questions, severing connections between all the little ideas that had felt so strong and good only moments before.
            Dependent on my father for financial support as I transform my life, his patience understandably wears thin, and as weak as he is physically, his mental hold on the world as he knew it becomes all the stronger.  The outflow of dollars is easily counted for him while the mass of words are only so many scribbles even to me, so much harder to quantify and value.
            Reaching out with open heart just to check-in for a brief phone call to know how he is doing opens the raw wound and provides him a moment to vent his frustration in gulps of suffocating fear more than compassionate worry.  My own concern for him, therefore, is heightened to see the pain he suffers over my expenses. It boils to a head and neither of us knows how to resolve it.
            "Just get a job," he commands, "Anything.  Work in a grocery store!" as if the fact of a few dollars in each day would be enough to make it all alright.
            The shock hits deeply in my core, tears painfully at my healing groin and mending heart.  Guilt adds to the fear.  Panic accelerates the pulse of the insecurities.  I heard his solution and cringe as though the poison of it, to satisfy him, would shrivel my dreams once again. He knows from his own experience what it takes to build business, yet struggles with himself to contribute more help.

            Clearly my family wants the best for me, but the epic struggle between father and son, dynasty and renaissance, takes its toll on all the members.  My sisters weep at his side and my mother's spirit rallies to provide comfort to all from afar.
            I consider my experience in the construction industry, weigh the dirty hands and broken body against the income to support my family, half-squandered before, and the postponement of passion once again.  Yearning to please father and heritage, I print resumes and map a route to the various office doors of men I have known well in the past.
            It is the right thing to do.
            An email sucks me in, however, just before heading out the door, a response to one I had sent out.  A link is provided that might connect me to leading workshops, speaking and writing about the business of writing, the subject of love, and the business of contracting.  Sitting down to read the one opens more and draws me back out into the internet, exploring these avenues of independence that stimulate the blood flow much faster for me.
            Instead of constriction, my shoulders relax.  My fists unclench.  My eyes open wider.  Dense fog in my brain that slows every movement and reaction begins to dissipate and clears out the heavy feelings of despair.  My breath expands.
            Precious few dollars return from my efforts right now, none in comparison to what necessarily must flow outwards to fund the education I am giving myself, to explore this noble path.  No clear idea is formulated, no rock-solid business plan under-taken to reassure the skeptics in my life.
            Mere intuition guides me forward, some inner knowing that leaves no real choice.  A strong irrepressible, undeniable energy surges within that risks alienating the very foundation of family and friends.  In balance, out from starry recesses of a universe beyond speaking comes union with like-minded souls, new people in my life stepping into their own journeys, joining hands and exploring together this strange, beautiful, bountiful landscape of our own creation.
            This is a new world that stands strong in love against fear, reassuring me, whispering in soft breaths of abundant energy, "The right thing to do is simply the right thing. The heart knows all."

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