Here we go!
Before I get into the mix of all this, I’m going to be pretty open. There are some things that I’ve really wanted to talk about lately. Some of which are pretty heart heavy. So, who knows what I’ll really want to say. Maybe I’ll figure it out when I say it.
Who is familiar with the Greek legend of Pandora? For those who don’t know, according to legend, she was the first woman created by the Greek gods. She was created by Hephaestus and Athena as punishment for Prometheus going rogue and imbuing man with the knowledge of fire. But, that didn’t stop the Hephaestus and Athena, along with the others, from granting Pandora their qualities and traits.
We too, are a lot like Pandora.
We are built of earth and water. But, for the purpose of this entry, we are essentially made up of dirt and blood. The dirt that is our indiscretion, evil, and injustice alongside blood, which is the life we’ve taken because of those injustices. Despite being possession of the best intentions and most endearing qualities that we could have been graced with, the fact of the matter remains: We are the sum of our parts. There’s no escape from design.
Much like her, it feels like punishment to be made up such things. Honestly, who plays in the dirt? What appeal lies in building something out of it? One could say that they have no other choice and for a great many of us, there isn’t much in the way to dissuade us from agreeing with them.
Personally, my hands have been filthy. There is so much garbage that I’ve dabbled in and I’m not proud of it. Even worse, there are things that have tainted me on so many levels, I’m not even sure how I’ve managed to find them again. I’m not sure if even I know what it is I’m truly looking for or if I’ll ever find them again. I’ve been hit time after time with no relent and I’ve really wondered why I’m here and what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
I suppose that I’m rather fortunate to be in the company and protection of some people who know more than I do.
Ever since December, I’ve had struggles with these three things: Love, forgiveness, and how to reconcile my storied history with the unwritten future. These three are the biggest perils to me and try as I might to contain them, they continue to elude me. The real bummer is that in my effort to capture these things, everything that I’ve managed to keep a lid on manages to flee.
The further along the story goes, the more and more I find that Pandora and myself have a similar tale.
According to the legend, Pandora was offered by Zeus to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus as his bride. As a wedding gift, Pandora was offered a pithos, or a jar if your Greek is rusty by Zeus himself. Intrigued at what it contained, Pandora opened it and released all of the evils into the world.
Little do we understand just how much we have in common with our dear friend Pandora.
When we offer ourselves to others, we give them a gift. That gift being everything we were, are, and could ever hope to be. The things that make us special, unique, and give us the power to positively affect the world; however, along with those things are our individual perils that can put everything at risk. Try as we might, there’s nothing that we can do from others opening that gift and letting all of those things loose upon those for whom which we care.
In a frantic, Pandora quickly tried to close the jar (which is “pithos” in Greek) with all of the perils and evils voraciously escaping and forever being a pestilence and plague upon mankind.
We too, share Pandora’s urgency when trying to contain our perils and evil. We desperately try to keep those things contained when we realize what they are capable of doing and the damage they can inflict upon others. The inherent guilt and shame of being responsible for releasing the essence of those things can be overwhelming. Who wants to walk around with that burden? I sure as hell don’t. I don’t think Pandora did, either. I guess that’s why she was so determined to put the lid back on that jar.
To end the story, Pandora did re-seal the jar. Much to her chagrin, all but one of the perils that would now go on to plague mankind forever was contained. That one “evil spirit” was called hope. Depending on what version of the story you read, it is implied that she either was able to keep it captive or it stayed of its own volition. Either way, it is the singular blessing to ease the burden of being what we are.
Me personally, hope was very much so fleeting. I thought it was gone. I thought it fled away with no chance of being caught. It was so disheartening because in spite of everything that we have to offer, whether it is a means to incite peril or protection, hope is the one thing that we must not lose. Everything else can be damned. So long as we don’t lose that, everything else is negotiable.
The point is that there are going to be times when we feel like Pandora did. There will be times when we let all hell break loose and find ourselves trying to contain all the havoc we’ve wrought upon the world and in our own lives. But, the one thing Pandora did that we have to do as well is not let everything escape. We have to hold on to hope. We have to protect that at all costs.
Because if there is a moral to this Greek legend, I find it to be that hope is the most costly thing to lose. Even in the midst of that has gone awry and the price tag that comes along with it, I find it even more costly if hope is lost as well.
I suppose I’m fortunate to have been able to hang onto it for so long. Even in the echoes of legends long since departed.
As well as something just like this…
Often times, I’ve really wondered just what the word “living” actually meant. I mean, there’s gotta be more to what we do every day, isn’t there? I would hate to think that eating, breathing, sleeping, or working is very much or exactly what “living” is.
I am willing to be the first to admit that I haven’t done much living. Sure, I eat a lot. Sure, I breathe an excessive amount. I don’t sleep much. I never really did. As for work, I find myself spending a lot of time there. But, even in the midst of all of those things, I still have been wondering just what makes “living” so important.
Over the last five years or so, I’ve really had to come to terms with a lot of things that have happened. I’ve lost so much and I’ve gained so much. But, the manner in which all of these things have changed the sum of my life very often elude and confuse me. I still don’t quite know how to take everything. I mean, is this all too good to be true? Have I lost perspective? Am I being toyed with? All the questions that raise doubt and insinuate that things aren’t what they appear to be linger moving forward still exist. I suppose the real question is, “How do I endure without letting these questions change my motive?”
As I mentioned before, lots of things have changed for me over the last five years. But, it’s only been over the last three years that I’ve begun to understand what it all means. I’ve had to realize that it all means something and that it all has its place in the scheme of it all. Saying that all of these events haven’t impacted me is an understatement; but, their effect on me now versus what it could have been still feels like I haven’t learned anything about being where I am. Granted, I’ve gained some perspective and some wisdom (hopefully) about all of these happenings but one thing I haven’t learned (or understood) is how all of these things let me “live.”
Before this phase of my life I’m in now, I didn’t have much of a life or even one at all. It was devoid of meaning, purpose, and relevance. It was empty… damn empty. I wasn’t living in any sense or interpretation of the word. I lost my life.
One of my best friends said to me that if there was going to be any hope of recovering from the pain and salvaging what was left of whatever it was that I had, it was going to happen being around the right people. I didn’t know who the right people were. I had no idea what kind of situation that would look like. I had no idea. But, for me to figure all of that out took one big thing: risk.
The catch about taking risk is that we don’t really want to take that chance of giving up whatever we have, no matter how great or small, for the sake of something that may be better. If we felt that we had a better choice, we wouldn’t risk anything and just appropriate the things we wanted. Taking a risk makes us feel that we are vulnerable. Taking risks means that we are desperate. Taking risks means that whatever we have just isn’t enough…
It’s a difficult admission to make to anyone, especially ourselves, that our current state is inadequate. It naturally extends into our mindset and eventually our decision making. We protect whatever it is that we have because we don’t want to risk losing it and ending up with nothing. Or, ending up with something far worse than what we had in the first place…
That was me. That was my shitty life. Well, at least it used to be.
Learning how to take risks… take the chance… is a skill that I have yet to even begin to say that I have any level of proficiency. There are so many parts of me… about who I am… about who I used to be… that say that you haven’t really risked anything and that everything that has been granted to me is a result of being a desperate, lonely, and scared man. Someone to be pitied… someone to feel sorry for… and someone that deserved every cut, scrape, scar, bruise, and broken aspect of everything that was going on.
I chose to believe that. I wasn’t able to risk them being wrong. So, I didn’t. I couldn’t take that chance that I would lose. Lose what very little I had… lose my sanity… lose my Humanity. I couldn’t admit that I was vulnerable. Who wants to admit that? Our first thought is to admit that it is a sign of weakness. Totally not true. Admitting that you’re vulnerable doesn’t mean that you’re weak or inferior. Admitting that you’re vulnerable is a simple declaration that you’re nothing more or nothing less who you are. Everything that you have or don’t have… everything in abundance or in scarce supply… nothing more or less the person you are. That, in itself, is a HUGE risk.
Without going too much into it, I can say that taking risks are what “living” is all about. Sure, there are an infinite amount of reasons to choose not to do something. There are so many reasons to not… Nobody talks about the one reason… one… to take the risk… to take the chance on something that could ultimately lead to something so life-changing that everything changes.
I’m very fortunate to be in a situation now that affirms the importance of taking chances. I’m very fortunate to be in a situation where risk, whether it has yielded either positive or negative results, has affected change in my life. It has enabled me to have the vision to put aside things I have certainty in and have faith in my doubt and misgivings. It makes not knowing what the future holds okay. I don’t think I, or anyone else for that matter, could live knowing exactly how it all turns out. It makes… living… dull, boring, and predictable.
Earlier, I mentioned that I had no clue about what I thought “living” was. Maybe, now I do. I lost my life. I ceased living. I could have died. Some would argue that I did die.
But, in losing my life and being close to death, I found life and I am beginning to understand what in means to be living.
Because I understand what it means to be living… I also understand what it means to live.
Nobody ever became a legend by not.
Every single person who is one took the risks and chose to be.
And if they could, we can too.
Gotta risk it to get the biscuit.
Anybody who knows me worth a damn these days know I’ve had two major issues that I’ve been having problems resolving: Getting older and feeling guilty. The getting older part is obvious but the feeling guilty part… not so much.
It’s been almost three years since one of the most human guys I’ve ever met passed away and I still haven’t gotten over the shock of it all, really. There isn’t a day that goes by where something is said or done that doesn’t remind me of him. Because of it, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel guilty.
It wasn’t his time. Bottom line. It. Was. Not. His. Time.
I don’t care what anybody says. There’s just no way I can accept that conclusion.
Sure, close to three years have come and gone. There isn’t much I can do about it now, right? I mean… I see his parents and friends post pictures on Facebook and wonder just what experiences he doesn’t get to be apart of because he’s gone. It makes me sad. It makes me sad for them because I know what that absence feels like. I feel it every single day… and then the guilt sets in. Not because he’s gone… not because I don’t wonder about those things myself as it pertains to the relevance in my own life… but because the one thing that makes it all what it is… I wonder if it will even be there when that moment arrives.
Since you’ve been gone, it’s been a wild goose chase trying to hunt you down. It’s been tumultuous, at best, trying to keep you around. It’s been an uphill battle fighting to grow an environment that could let you thrive and flourish.
When you left, you took my heart with you. I desperately wanted it to be me. I didn’t want to be here. To this day, there’s a pretty big part of me that still doesn’t. But, yet… here I am… and here, you are not. I have to accept that and I have to move forward with that realization.
But, if there is one positive thing that I can take from you leaving… it’s this: There is an awful lot of you around. I see you everywhere. A witty remark… a squirrel running up a tree… and… close friends speaking to me like you did that one night…
I’ve been assured time and time again that there wasn’t anything I could do or that it isn’t my fault… and maybe they’re right… but it doesn’t change that I really am guilty. I’m guilty of being heartless. I’m guilty of not taking care of it when I did have it. I’m guilty for letting it run away and more to the point… wishing it would go away… and hoping it wouldn’t come back.
There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re far better off where you are than you ever could have been here.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve struggled with the idea of actually getting older. Especially considering that I am firm in my belief that I shouldn’t even be here. But, since I am, I kinda have to be able to look at myself in the mirror everyday and come up with a good reason as to why I should drag myself around like I do.
My world, along with so many others, is far darker and colder because the affect you had on it has been long absent…
However, my heart was in a better place because when you took it, you gave so many pieces to other people who could take care of it far better than I ever could have on my own. Who, in turn, saw the opportunity to return it back to me with a kindness that does nothing but make me smile… because I just know it’s something that you would have wanted me to have… and something I’ve desperately wanted.
It’s been a long road getting from there to here. Perhaps one day soon, I can find it in myself to say that the guilt I feel with this whole deal just left. Maybe I am worse off for having it…
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that my heart has always been my favorite thing. It added so much color and emotion to everything. I’m just in awe of what it all could be now instead of what it was or… what I felt it should have been.
Perhaps, this isn’t a better place since you were here.
Perhaps, it’s a better place since you left.
But, that’s alright because you’re here anyway… and so am I.
Inspired by Rachel Platten’s song titled “Better Place.”
It’s amazing just how much you can learn about yourself.
Whether it’s being at home or abroad… there’s always something new that your environment can educate you to about just who we really are. I’m not necessarily talking about personality traits or instances when we defy our own norms but revelations that can create irreconcilable differences between the person we are as we exist now and the person we are meant to be, can be, we once were, or whatever else we can think of that allows us to give definition to existential differences.
But, one thing I’ve learned “studying abroad” was that we, as human beings, are never going to be unified in that sense. There are just too many crises that we face that create moments that we are forced to agree or disagree with our contrasting identities. Now, don’t confuse this with multiple personalities or anything that may imply mental illness. We are all crazy in our own way. Very few of us are by definition “sane.” Hell, I don’t think any of us are. We go at it with ourselves so much that I don’t think it’s possible to look at ourselves and not make the accusation. However, the inevitable inclusion of those around us and consequently those we care for makes us wonder.
I’ve come to hold true that whatever our journey is for, the space between where we are now and the destination is a battleground. Whether we question the dignity a beard may add (as men) or does wearing lingerie inhibit a woman’s ability to be modest (if you’re a woman)… or extending beyond the superficial and asking questions that challenge the very nature of your own being… whatever the road you travel, the lengths you’ll go to find resolution will create plenty of opportunity to see just how divisible we really are.
The doubt and insecurities that being in a transitional phase bring can be crippling to the personal going through it. However, there will always be those who take sides. There are those who feed the necessity and value of either one of those identities and the conflict between those aspects deny the idea of being a unified entity. However, there’s always more going on than meets the eye and that element gives us hope.
The apparent schism plays an important role in our overall growth. The split doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us. It just means that we have an internal conflict of interest and those aren’t always bad things either. There are things we may want to accomplish that aren’t always conducive to our personality construct as it stands. Conversely, there are things that we have already done that compromise our future. It’s a part of the growing pains we go through. It’s a fact of life. We will be at odds with ourselves. We are what we are.
In the midst of all of that confusion, there will be a time that someone will ask who we just happen to be… perhaps the hardest hitting question we can ever ask ourselves would be, “Do we really want to know who is responsible for saving our own ass?” Sure, I think we would all like to know. But, is it honestly necessary? As a Christian, we acknowledge that God can move in mysterious ways and we can’t always put our finger on where and when things were set in motion. But, we can feel comfortable attributing that to Him.
Sure, I can go with that. Faith is important and it shows. Nothing wrong with having it and putting it to use.
However, there are critical moments… and we may not know who is who… that will have everything hanging in the balance… and we won’t know who is really doing what is necessary to achieve the goal. I’ve had more than enough of those instances in life… and even some now… and I’ve been left asking that very question. I can honestly and truthfully say that God hasn’t always been that answer. It’s not a bad thing because I understand that He can be “that way.” Sometimes, He just wants you to do things yourself. It is quite a talent to be self-sustaining. It’s an even bigger talent to be able to choose not to be.
I can save myself. I’ve been trained and given the necessary equipment to just that. It’s part of my journey… and I’ve made some friends being on this path. I’ve made some enemies. I value the person I was as equally as I value the person I am now because I’ve been made whole by them because they compliment each other. I don’t have to grant God the reverence He may deserve. Not because He doesn’t deserve it but because I know How he works with me. I understand how it works and I’m not necessarily the guy to mess with something that isn’t broken. Furthermore, I don’t need Him to tell me He’s around. Just like He knows I know my way Home.
I don’t need to know who the hero of my story is. Maybe I don’t want to know. I never have been central to my own life and it doesn’t seem like a good time to start.
It’s a common preconception that we have to be extraordinary to do extraordinary things. Jesus was and it’s a hard example to follow. I won’t lie. Extraordinary people are most tempted by the most ordinary things. Even Jesus was…
As true as that is, even ordinary people did extraordinary things too.
And I’ve found a little peace being just that.
Things have a habit of just happening. A lot of the time it’s when we least expect them to and we aren’t ready for the impact that these events carry. However, there are a few times in which these events are welcome and embraced as part of our ever-changing identity.
Recently, I had just begun to be intentional about a lot of things. One of which was keeping a journal. It isn’t about my daily activities or my feelings, well… not in the sense that we would write about them in a diary. Rather, how these feelings manifest themselves in the two biggest facets of my life: Personally and Professionally. Truth be told, I didn’t have a lot of faith in the idea that critiquing and documenting the way I live my life wouldn’t inspire much change in it.
Boy, was I wrong.
Being able to be honest with yourself is one thing. Holding yourself accountable is quite another and I’ve found that using a journal is a great way to do exactly that. Once it’s on paper, you can’t get rid of it. You can’t deny it. It’s out there for anyone and everyone to see. Furthermore, it’s an expression of what you truly feel and how those feelings alienate you toward what the circumstances regarding them. It’s very hard to express yourself and at the same time be complicit in the notion that how things seem and how they actually are can be different.
In the last two weeks, the general theme that has surrounded the vision I’ve had is acknowledging my fears. The fear of failing, in particular. I’ll be open with you. Most of my teenage to adult life, I have had plenty of reason to believe that I had been an unmitigated failure. I had unfulfilled relationship after another. I’ve been in positions where I wasn’t being gratified in terms of a career. I had lost confidence in hope in the idea of being genuinely happy. I’ve even gone as far as to say that I wasn’t ever going to get married and been vocal about how I believed that life was over for me.
So, as a result of these feelings, I decided that everyday (Starting Feb. 1st) I was going to write down my goals for the day and questions I needed to ask myself that would allow me to search for answers. As a result, every day since then has yielded guidance and a place to go when my path strayed away from my vision. It’s been a struggle, to be sure. But, a welcome one. It’s allowed me to keep myself in check. That’s a new and refreshing change of pace after running rough shot all over the place for so long.
The whole experience for me has been like having a bag full of random things. We carry all of these things wherever we go. Whether it be material things or emotional baggage or whatever the case may be, it goes with us. Whenever we stumble and lose control of that bag, we become panicked and frantically pick up the pieces and pull ourselves back together. By doing so, we continue the project the illusion that we have everything under control when the reality is those very things dictate and manipulate how we portray our personal integrity.
But, God isn’t the kind of guy to trip us up and create a situation where we have to go through that kind of regrouping. I’ve personally experienced (Here lately more so now than I ever have) that He is the type to take what we have in hand and ask, “Why is this so important?” Why do we hold on to such frivolous things? We don’t care if we lose our pen or if a penny falls out of our pockets. We don’t have vested interests in those things. On the flip side, we do have a vested interest in our feelings. They are OUR feelings. They BELONG to us. What makes our feelings so different from that pen we lost or that penny we dropped? They were once OURS. They BELONGED to us. Maybe it’s because that a penny or a pen is “just stuff.”
Anyone who knows me can attest to how stubborn and inflexible I can be. One reason for that has been that I have been unwilling to forgive myself for a lot of things that have happened over the years. I’ll own whatever I’ve had my paws on and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m not afraid to. But, there have been things that I’ve also accepted responsibility for that weren’t mine. In both cases, it’s been an insurmountable challenge to let go of these things regardless of how much or how often it’s put to me that it was necessary.
Today was a little bit different. In these two weeks, I’ve had to learn how to be patient. Being patient isn’t woven into anyone’s character. It’s definitely an acquired talent, to be sure. Throughout this process, one of the lessons has been that it’s unfair to ask God “When?” Asking that question just means our faith and our intentions aren’t necessarily on the same page. To make matters even more squirrly, God’s timing could very well be around the corner you’re about to turn.
When I walked into church this morning, a man that I’ve had bitter feelings toward for a long time now was leading worship. It was already a bad morning for me. I didn’t sleep too long and I was present to offer testimony as to how The Navigators had been helping me grow. Preface: I hate public speaking. HATE IT. But, to have to stand in front of a congregation I’m still getting used to and have to have a heartfelt expression in front of people I wasn’t ready to have that kind of talk with yet made it a lot more nerve wracking than it already was.
When I was at the podium, the first words out of my mouth were that initially I didn’t want to be where I am now. I’m man enough to admit it. I had been hurt enough. I didn’t want to go through that process again. Something my friend Tyler told me was that being around the right people can make or break an attempt at starting over. Throughout the entire process, I had my doubts. I’m big enough to admit that as well. In the back of my mind, I knew it was inevitable.
While I was speaking, I had the realization that all of these failures or “pens/pennies” were exactly that: Just failures. Just another pen lost or a penny dropped. In that moment, I came to know that there was a reason. I was impatient. I was bitter. I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t ready to go. Me… me… me…. it was… just me.
At the end, I had come to know what it really meant to be patient. It meant that things will come when they are supposed to come. Being patient meant that things come and go and circumstances change along with them. Being patient helps build your faith in the things to come. There are a lot of moving parts about the future. Rushing them can throw a wrench into those plans and when it happens, we wonder just what the deal is. Looking at it now, it’s a kick in our personal complacency.
At the end of the service, I knew peace. I came to know that being patient would yield its own reward: Forgiveness.
When I waited to speak with this man afterwards, I told him exactly how I felt and that I understood his position and in the contrast, we found that it was definitely a God thing to be where we both are now. Even more than that, to have found some affirmation in that I was where I was supposed to be… needed to be and in the right moment to be there.
And of all the things I had found today, I had found that some of those “pennies” I had been hanging on to for so long… They didn’t matter anymore. They didn’t matter because this man hugged me. He shook my hand, hugged me, and told me how proud he was about how far I had come and encouraged me in the direction I was going.
That’s more important to me. Don’t get me wrong. Feelings are important because they are that bag we carry. But, all of these things that work against us… doubt, fear, anguish, hate, bitterness… you name it… To God, these are the “pens” and “pennies” that we care more about than we should and we can’t get so offended when He asks, “What is so important about this pen? It’s just stuff.”
It’s just stuff, people. It’s just stuff…
Every now and then, I’ll be driving from somewhere to somewhere else and a song will play on the radio that just shoots from the hip and strikes the heart and just holds me accountable.
Part of growth is learning that risk management isn’t always taking chances or making decisions based on numbers. There’s an inherent dynamic that says no matter how much the numbers may or may not favor you, there is always a chance that the opposite outcome will occur. Instead of making decisions for reasons why they would succeed, I’ve been making decisions based on reasons why they would fail.
That really just isn’t a way to live.
Sure, things go wrong but I’ve always been willing to take my chances.
I’ve always been the type of person who felt that there had to be some concrete resolution. Sure, I’ve been known to act in faith and that everything will sort itself out. However, more often than not I believed that whatever that meant would bode badly for me just because that’s how everything else has wound up being. It didn’t matter if I had good intentions or not. Someone had to bear the consequences and I always felt that it would wind up being me.
Nothing worth risking was never worth having. I firmly believe that with every fiber of my being. I don’t think there will ever be a point where I stop believing that. But, I think I’ve grown up enough to say that I’ve lost sight of what I thought was worth having.
Lately, I have been struggling with the fear of loss. The fear of losing my friends, my family, and perhaps even my very essence and what made me special… whatever that may be. I still haven’t figured that one out. Everything of merit that I have, I’ve earned and even more to the point, has chosen to stay. I’ve committed unhealthy acts of sabotage against everything and everyone who has added value to a life that probably doesn’t have any. It honestly didn’t occur to me just how damaging this can really be until I burned through them all and saw what was left.
There’s always a chance that things will turn out exactly the opposite way that we hope they will. As much as we say that it shouldn’t stop us from taking the risk, it is still a very effective deterrent. We can take such a negative view on how we make our daily choices no matter how seemingly insignificant or disproportionately impacting we can make them out to be.
It’s so easy for us to make decisions that we trust will satiate our own selfish desires or the collective interests of a group. It’s a much more difficult think to make decisions that don’t. We have to make decisions that are right for everyone concerned. I haven’t been able to make a decision that was right for me in a good, long time. I’ve made decisions that defended in cowardice what I’ve desperately tried to hold on to with such emotion. What I wanted, whether it be in a social, spiritual, or emotional sense, was never really important. So, it was just easier to place those desires behind those who did matter.
I’ve been so afraid to make risky decisions because of the odds that I will fail and lose them too… whatever the chances I wouldn’t may have been. Instead of believing the odds would have made me miserable, forced me to compromise, or perhaps even just lay down and accept that it was over and I needed to move on, I could have accepted that they could have equally worked in my favor. Optimism was never a strong suit of mine. It didn’t ever mean that I wouldn’t be alright in the sense that I’d be happy or taken care of. It meant that I’d be alright that I’ve learned how to live without those wants and desires and be able to move on from them. After all, they don’t really matter now, do they? Odds are they probably do… then again, the odds are that I won’t have to worry about them.
The odds are that we will probably be alright. Not just alright, but perhaps maybe, just maybe… the odds are we will probably be all right.