Friday, June 19, 2015

Life Taken

A few nights ago I got a call that broke my heart. A friend of mine ended his own life. I hadn't seen him in a couple years, and honestly was never super close with him. But such a thing always jolts your universe, even if just slightly. It was 3:00 a.m. when I heard the news. I messaged a friend that was closest to him, and went for a walk. I didn't know what to think or do. I moseyed a few blocks away to an apartment complex, purchased a can of soda and sat down on a couch in the open lobby. I was as alone as a drifting piece of ice in the arctic. I didn't drink the soda. I set it down, put my hands on my face and prayed. For the first time that night tears swelled up in my eyes. But I was comforted. Suicide is a terrible and oft misunderstood thing. I couldn't wrap my head around why he did it. I could not comprehend why he didn't reach out, or how he could leave two beautiful daughters behind. But I found solace in knowing the Lord knew, and in knowing my friend was no longer suffering.

For the next couple days an unquiet  feeling persisted in my heart. I had to write something down. I grabbed my notebook, went for a drive and feverishly jotted down what was in my head. I didn't change a single word, and I am not even sure if it is a poem, if it's an homage, or if it's just an emotional journal entry, but here is what I wrote:

"We can see the top. It's distant, but there it is, visible and possible. But we also see the fall, we see the cracks in the rock and the hopeless plummet. Is there one life bereft of meaning? Is there one person undeserving of life? No matter, for life passes for better or worse. For some a swift end comes. The beats of the heart go silent, and though the rest of the world goes on, it is forever changed. No life is immune to this difference. For a life comes and changes. Death comes and it changes. A life whether given or taken, gives and takes. But oh the glory of the give, and the horror of the take."

I am saddened and confused. But I know my friend will be seen and embraced again. For this life is not the only life.






Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prayer

A certain thought woke me up. I imagined at the end of my life a sort of demonstration of all the prayers I had given, a physical scroll unraveled, revealing every word I ever uttered to my Creator. I saw before me the scrolls of other people, some seemed to stretch on forever in tiny print, while others had but a few lines. I wondered whose would be most interesting to read. Then I wondered if mine would elicit any real intrigue.

Were mine beautiful words sent heavenward in both times of defeat and triumph? Or were they lifeless repetitions haphazardly hurled above me with wavering consistency? My scroll was hidden, for my heart still held a beat. But I feared for the latter. I feared that when I met my maker my scroll would be inadequate for Him that saved me.






Thursday, May 28, 2015

There is Nothing Wrong With Failure

It's not a simple solution. Failure plus failure doesn't necessarily equal success. Nor does failure plus failure plus failure definitely equate to some higher plateau. So how many times do we have to fall or fail before we overcome, before we triumph? I don't think there is any certain number, nary an exact equation that will reveal when success or victory will come. And that can be outrageously frustrating.

The petulant reality is we don't know for sure if this so-called success will actually arrive. We don't know if the odds will ever be beaten. And that is okay. Life is not an exact science. We cannot measure all our suffering and sweat and somehow determine the prize that we deserve. Failure may come in waves, and it may seem more like a way of life. So how do we find solace in having our face in the dirt?

Though I am not certain that failing again and again will lead to the precise outcomes we ultimately desire, I know they are not all for nothing. Not all of us have the mental dexterity to turn dozens of failures into winning ideas like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein, but what we can do is find beautiful lessons and moments of love and clarity in the heat of our defeat. Maybe we will never be as wealthy as we want, and perhaps we will never stick to that diet like we know we should. But if our desires are important, altruistic, and rooted in passion we will find joy in the journey, and we will learn to embrace failure. Because all failure means is that we are trying. If we never fail, we aren't trying hard enough, or we aren't expanding the talents and abilities we were blessed with.

Like I said, there is not a certain amount of perspiration that will turn into results. But perspiring, opening up our lives to the attempt of things, shedding tears, loving with everything we have, these things are what success really is. So, in a painfully ironic way, failing is succeeding. The true failure is being scared to fail, and wallowing in a sad cesspool of mediocrity for the rest of our days.

If your heart is broken, let it be broke again. If you can't lose that extra weight, look for a new way to fail. If your career is not where you want it to be, take courage in knowing that many failures await you. As much as the vision and allure of success should motivate us, it is often a glass ceiling. Let failure motivate you. Failure will never really go away, so let it give you joy and push you further than you ever imagined.


"If Failure don't hurt, then failure don't work." ~Boy & Bear




Monday, May 4, 2015

The Perfect Week

Last week I attempted an impossible feat. But I think it is important to attempt the impossible. I tried to have a completely perfect week. I didn't even have in mind exactly what that would entail. But I knew I wanted an excellent seven day period full of triumphs, new friendships, unforgettable moments, with only a modicum of folly. I wanted to minimize error while maximizing joy and efficacy. I scribbled down a handful of specific goals, and thought about my basic loop of things I need to accomplish. But then I started to think more abstractly. I thought about the experience of the week in lieu of a check-list of accomplishments. I decided the first step in achieving a perfect week was in realizing that it could be perfect. I had to change my thinking. Instead of dreading the idea of waking up and going to work, I looked forward to the moment the day could start, another fresh canvas begging to be painted. Adjusting my attitude didn't change facts. Work is work, and any problems I have in my life are not vanished from existence just because I look at things differently. But the experience is wonderfully better with a slight change in perspective.

Monday started out great. I got a large amount of things done, and managed to toss in some fun. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with even more victory. I met some wonderful people, and found tiny moments of joy that I would not have even noticed had I not been in the search of a perfect week. For a perfect week, to me, was more than making no mistakes and dominating to-do lists, it was about observing and appreciating. A perfect week can be much easier than we think.

Thursday and Friday as one could expect brought a few moments of weakness, some tarnished edges to the painting I was creating. But I quickly jumped out of the gulch I had slipped into and decided that perfection was not about endless bliss and cloud-hopping, it was about learning, about growing, and about being better.

As the week came to a close I stepped back and looked at what I had. I stared into the canvas now rich with thick and vibrant colors. It wasn't perfect, but it was beautiful, and it was something I created.

The great expert of meditation Burgs speaks so eloquently on the subject of experiencing, and observing. For these are the things that really give us happiness and open our eyes to the greatness around us. He reminds us that,

"The invitation is not to show how inventive and imaginative you are, but how much you can notice what you're already part of. And appreciate it and share it, and care about those that are around you, look out for their welfare while looking out for your own. That's it. Then you'll come to the end having had an awesome time."

He goes on to explain how most of us came to earth and in the chaos of life we forgot what was most important, and started focusing only on ourselves and our own problems.

"When you came here, you came here with a sense of awe and wonder, dying to just see what it's all about. Like, 'What would it be like to be down there, to be a part of it.' And you came here with that sense of wonder, and somehow the wonder of it wasn't enough or you stopped wondering, and started wondering about yourself, and in your wondering about yourself you forgot what you came here for, what you came to be a part of."

I guess for me, the key to this "perfect week" is not in all that YOU accomplish, but it is in seeing things like you never did before, and experiencing each day as a gift. And I hope you can realize that a perfect week does not have to start on Monday, and it doesn't have to start when you wake up. It can start this instant. And maybe you just search for the perfect day first, and move forward from there. At any rate joy and goodness create momentum that can carry you much further than you realize. A "perfect" day can turn into this "perfect" week, which over time can become a "perfect" life.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes by Neil Gaiman. This is the sort of quote you read over and over as you start your New Year's Resolutions. It pertains to the future, but I think it can be broken down to weekly and daily increments as well,

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks your'e wonderful, and don't forget to make some art--write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can and I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."