Soundtrack, “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” by Hall & Oats
Life goes on, with or without me. Fads come and go, hit songs become golden oldies, all my insecurities and self-conscious tendencies slip away leaving behind silent movie memories, like puddles evaporating in time—— seasons never end, they just change, a circle of revolving eternities….again I’ll wait for you to come round again—I’m no longer in a hurry, infinity is patient.
I use to give a shit what people thought, but I’ve come to realize that everyone is so self-absorbed that no one gives a damn about anyone other than themselves—-just a cavalcade of egocentric, narcotic sons of a bitches———And they move through life as though everyone else is a hollow prop, a means to an end, a thing to be manipulated for their own good. Why is it so hard for us to see this life beyond our own selfish experiences and desires?
It’s not that far of a walk till dawn, until Mr Sun bumps his head up against that dogged horizon. Ya see, light can’t wait for time to give birth to another day. I awake to find that I’m still here, alive and ready to breathe. I”m not afraid, nor sorry, cause that’s just waisted time, let the sky creep towards blueness and let the dew sparkle like diamonds to decorate the glory of forever forgetting, rebirth brings amnesia——Who were you before this? I think I must have known you from some other place and time, maybe a lover, a brother, mother, my child, aren’t we all somehow connected? Fools are the bitter ones, dismissing miracles, failing to see the expression of god within stars and dust——the lucky ones grow closer to the day, to themselves, to others,——to what is…….
The bathroom mirror mocks me. I dip my chin and turn my head one way and then the other. “Here I am——this is who I am, what I’ve become through choice and consequence. As of late I’ve become keenly aware of my two selves. My private self and my public self. I’ve lived a divided existence, a chameleon, a shape shifter, camouflaging myself into an unchanging innocuous background. I’m struck by the notion of congruency.
Somewhere along the way I’d lost myself. I’d allowed myself to fracture into a million faux personalities. I did this to please others, to protect myself, to fit in, to avoid indiscretions, to appear normal, to simulate appropriateness——I’d been a faker, a fraud—-These days I’d rather be notorious than anonymous. Authenticity comes with a license to be free, to be crazily sane, to be who ever you choose to be!
As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to allow my layered selves to coalesce into a unified me. Such a task requires practice, but at the end of the day it has liberated me. One of the blessings of aging is that it has stripped me of my vanities. I am who I am, no more pretending——the sky is the sky, my dog is my dog, life is life, what is “is” and so on and so forth….The simplest of ideas are the most difficult to grasp!
I’ve been thinking about friendships and it has occurred to me that my closest friends are the ones who allow me to be myself without pretension or expectation. They know me, they get me, and in spite of my faults, failures and foibles, they forgive me. Needless to say, these days I have fewer friends, but the ones I have help me become a better me.
To be understood is to be loved. And to be lovable requires honestly and vulnerability.
It’s not a matter of if you’re gonna fight, cause we’ve all gotta fight——that’s the nature of choosing life. The question is, “How” and “why” are ya gonna fight. To survive requires that you engage in that universal struggle to express your purpose, your life force. To be aware that you are aware, is to be awake……..Without a purpose you are sleepwalking through your days. How do you express your purpose? What is your intention. How do you learn to “know that you know??
”He not busy being born, is busy dying” Bob Dylan
Knowing that you don’t know.
You Are Either “For” or “Against” Something
You can either fight “against” something or fight “for” something. It’s an almost imperceptible difference, but it makes all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between saying, “We’re gonna bomb our adversaries into choosing democracy” (fighting against something). Or saying, “We’re gonna live for and protect personal freedom and liberty” (fighting for something). When you’re fighting against something or someone, you are trying to affect change outside of yourself. When you’re fighting for something, you are fighting to affect change through self awareness and self discovery. If you choose to change yourself, you change your world. You must first learn to “know thy self” before you can have empathy for others. You cannot feel connected to others unless you feel connected to yourself—-so simple, yet complex.
In the short term, fighting against something may be the quickest way to achieve a temporarily victory, but in the long run, a lasting victory comes from fighting for something. Don’t demonize those that believe different than you, but rather champion your truth. Choosing to fighting “against” an advisory is like letting lose a flash flood, you will see immediate results but they’re temporary. When you are on the side of truth it’s like possessing the hidden strength of an eternal water drop. It will wash away mountains, turn deserts into oceans and carve the deepest of canyons. Truth is not connected to a timeline, it always has been and always will be. You must learn to flow with the cosmic current, not against it.
One coach may rally his team by saying “We’re gonna destroy those loser’s we’re gonna kill them”. While another coach may motivate his team by saying “We’re gonna win for our school, for ourselves, for the love of the game”. Fighting “against” something requires an emotional energy that’s impulsive and angry. Fighting “for” something requires an emotional energy that’s patience and compassionate. You will know the difference between the two energies by following the trail of emotions that proceeded your actions. Are you being selfish or selfless?
Operating Out Of Fear Or Love
We are all either running towards something or running away from something. It’s the difference between acting out of fear or actin out of love. Fear causes you to run away from what is different or new. Fear will cause you to fight “against” what you don’t understand. Fear says, “They are not like us”, “They are inferior”, “They are a threat to us”, “We must destroy them before they destroy us”. Fear is rigid, intolerant of diversity and egocentric.
Love will cause you to run towards something. Its a motivation that comes from a desire to better understand and learn from a new experience (to evolve and grow). This type of motivation transcends from a higher calling. The byproduct of love is compassion and a belief that we are all connected, that we are all here to help and serve one another, that we are more alike than different. Love is fluid, accepting of change and seeks understanding. Love is collaborative and inclusive, fear is competitive and exclusive.
Operating from a place of love requires courage, risk taking and an openness to new experiences. Conversely, fear manifest its self through ones insecurities, weaknesses, and narrow mindedness.
“Having To” Verses “Choosing To”
You see them on Monday mornings hanging out by the coffee machine in the break room. They’ll be wearing frowns and carrying on about how they wish they didn’t have to be there. They’ll be moaning about how they “have to” do this and “have to” do that. They see themselves as unfortunate victims of fate, mere pawns in the game of live. Well, I’ve got news for those mired in victimhood and “have to do-ness——–“You don’t have to do anything, zip, zero, nada”. You don’t even have to breathe, just put a plastic bag over your head and you’ll put a stop it all——the complaining, the self pity and the awful-izing. A “have to” mind set creates resistance and negativity, it robs you of personal power.
We all need to find a “why” (a purpose) for the things we do. If it’s a job that you don’t particularly enjoy, then you may find a “choose to” or a “why” by telling yourself that the job is putting a roof over your head and food on the table. Or, perhaps the earnings from the job is paying for your education and health care. Or, for now it’s helping you provide for the ones you love. The “why’s” in life are temporary and changeable. Use the discontentment for where you are currently, as fuel to energize you and move you towards your desired goals.
Once you let go of the“have to’s” you can come from a place of gratitude. Before moving forward and wanting more, its necessary to take a gratitude inventory of all the things the gifts you’ve already been given. This will empower you to take the skills and gifts you already possess and apply them to achieving higher aspirations. One percent of life is what happens to you, the other ninety nine percent of your life is how you respond to that one percent. What you “choose to do” with your life is totally up to you. To some this may be seem overwhelming and frightening, but it can also be liberating and empowering.
Figure out what you want to do and start working towards that goal. You may choose to go back to school, or apply for a more fulfilling job, or to leave a relationship that’s unhealthy. Don’t waste another day feeling defeated and controlled. You are the narrator and star of your story, you have the power to change the script when you change your attitude and thoughts.
Some may respond by saying—— “But that’s gonna take a lot of work on my part”, “I’ll have to take some uncomfortable risks”, “I’ll have to take personal responsibility for my life!” Note to self, “The hardest thing about changing your life, is changing your life.” And changing your life is something no one else can do for you, but you. Nothing is forever, not even your life. If you don’t like where you are, or what you’re doing, then do what football teams do at half time, make adjustments and changes to your game plan. Be creative and try new strategies for achieving your goals. Most importantly, be aware of your attitude and thoughts—–all life changes begin and end there.
Beliefs, Personal Verses Philosophical
We all have beliefs, but until we’re required to apply them at a personal level, they’re just words. We spout off about how we believe this is right and that is wrong. We blather with bravado about our political and religious judgments with little or no personal investment.
But god bats last and he’s always on the side of truth. And, just when you think you got the world figured out, god will throw you a curve. Example, so you believe a gay lifestyle is evil and homosexuality is a sin. Then one fine day, Bam!—— out of the blue your son or daughter discloses that they are gay and they desperately want your acceptance, support and love. Then what are ya gonna do with those self righteousness beliefs and judgments?
Or, maybe you’re a flag waving military hawk, always touting how we need boots on the ground to kick the asses of those un-American, non christian sons of a bitch’s. Like any good patriot, you encourage the young to march off to a foreign land and fight for god and country. You’re filled with a sense of pride as your son or daughter enlists in the military. But what will you do when you find out your child has been seriously wounded in some country that you never even heard of a couple years ago. What will you do when they return home with a traumatic brain injury or other serious wounds, or maybe they’re never coming home again.
Ten years later they’ll erect a solemn memorial with the names of the dead and wounded chiseled into its marble edifice. Historians will give the war a name, but no one will remember what we were fighting for. Your child ends up living in your extra bedroom because their physical and emotional wounds prevent them from being able to work. After all the medals are handed out, the uniforms mothballed and the flags neatly folded, then what do ya do with all your cherished political and religious beliefs? You don’t know, until you know.
Be mindful of your beliefs and judgments, because one day they may be be tested in reality. Remember this, gods cosmic sense of humor is fueled with irony.
Know that you know.
You may choose to go “Against” rather than “For” something. You may choose to act out of “Fear” rather than “Love”. In life you may feel that there are things you “Have To Do” verses what you “Choose To Do”. You may never have to test your beliefs with a personal investment. But, if you are placed in that position, know the “hows” and “whys” that you employ to construct your life.
Buddha was not a Buddhist. Jesus was not a Christian. Muhammad was not a Muslim. They were teachers who taught love. Love was their religion. Author unknown
(This piece is intended to be read while listening to the attached song “Lessons in Love” by Level 42)
The doctor traipses through the door wearing a somber expression. It’s the face he saves for moments such as these. He looks to be in his late sixties with gray thinning hair, wearing a white lab jacket over a dress shirt and blue Dockers. A pair of silver rimmed bifocals are resting towards the end of his nose. He thumbs through my medical report and shakes his head in confirmation of what he’s reading. Without looking up from the final page he sighs “I’m truly sorry, but, well—-there nothing more we can do—-”. He’s a picture of detached professionalism, he might as well be telling me that my car transmission is shot. I squirm on the crinkly sounding paper that covers the exam table “What do you mean, there’s nothing more you can do?” He puts his hand on my shoulder and wistfully responds “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it’s terminal.”
A fight or flight response kicks in and I feel a jolt of adrenaline shoot through my veins. I instinctively jump to my feet escaping the examining table with its protective paper that clings to my sweat glazed skin. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. There’s gotta be other alternatives, other options—-experimental treatments—-.” He offers me a weary nod that expresses a sense of futility. “I’ll change my diet, join a gym—-become a vegan? I’ll quit the beer. I’ll fast. I’ll drink vitamin shakes!” I’m not schooled in all the stages of death and dying, but I was obviously in the bargaining phase. “I’m still young, I feel better than ever.” The Doc rubs his wrinkled forehead and then removes his glasses “This is very common, one day you’re running a marathon and making future plans and the next, well—-” his voice trails off as he grimly shrugs his rounded shoulders.
Feeling emotionally and physically exposed, I self-consciously fuss with my hospital gown in an attempt to better cover my backside. I mumble under my breath, “You’d think with all the advances in modern medicine they’d come up with a better way to cover your ass than one of these flimsy butt curtains. I swear, you’ll see more ass in a hospital corridor than a strip-club.”
With all the melodrama carved from a climatic scene of a soap opera (sweeping organ arpeggio not included) I blurt out “How much time do I have left?” The old Doc straightens his starched lab coat and takes a deep breath “When it comes to these sorts of things, well—it’s hard to say. It could be today, or you might have another fifty years.” “What?” I stare at the report in his hand, “Well, what does that fucking report say?” He nods with a sheepish smirk “Oh this, it says you’re perfectly fine. I’m sorry if I’ve confused you, or frightened you.” Folding my arms over my chest I respond “As a matter of fact I am confused, and more pissed than frightened. What the hell are you trying to tell me? Am I well, or am I dying? What the—-” In a gesture of sympathy or perhaps pity, he puts his left arm around my shoulder. “There’s a little secret us doctors keep from our patience.” My voice is becoming louder and more frustrated “Secret, what little secret?” “Son, we’re all terminal. We don’t like to spread this kind of medical diagnoses around.” He squints his eyes displaying a painful grimace, “It’s rather—how should I say—–well it’s—–it’s bad for our professional image—–and it’s really not good for business.”
My sense of anxiety is replaced with a feeling of shock “So I have a reprieve, I’m gonna live?” He slips his hands in the pockets of his spotless lab coat “Why no silly, like I said, you might stroll out of here today and be hit by a Mac-Truck or have a massive aneurism. Or, you could carry on healthy and strong for another fifty years. But make no mistake about it, you are terminal and your days are numbered. And when that day does come, there’s no magic pill or fanciful medical treatment that will extend your life another year, another day or another second.”
He glances down at his watch “Times a wastin, I gotta get down to the commissary, the Women’s’ Auxiliary is having their annual cheese ball sale—Oh my God, they are to die for—-Oops, sorry for the poor choice of words.” He gives me a hand shake and a wink. And with that, he turns and walks out whistling a lose arrangement of “American Pie” by Don McLean.
Later that night I fall asleep and have pastel colored surreal dreams. I’m in a strange cosmic flow between reality and fantasy. I surrender—-I no longer fight against anything—-I desire nothing. I feel no need to assert my will, The “I” in “I am” is gone. There’s a sudden sharpness to the existence of nonexistence, awareness of unawareness, the un-conciseness of conciseness—-I’m at a place where all things intersect—-there’s a nothingness toall that is, and an everything-ness to all that it isn’t. That gibberish is hippy-talk for saying—I feel good,—all is as it should be,—–I’m in the flow—-
I wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and born again—-I finally understand that esoteric term “born again”. I pick up the phone and call my office. The operator connects me to my boss “Hey John, yeah its me, I’m not gonna be able to make it in today. No—I’m fine, in-fact I’m feeling great. I just feel too damn good to spoil it by coming to work.” I snicker to myself “I guess I’m calling in well.”
There’s a long pause “Did you win the lottery or are you drunk?” I laugh “Yeah, I feel like I’ve won the lottery and I feel drunk too, drunk on life—baby.” John’s voice becomes more curt “Now listen here, those quarterly reports are due next week and all those spreadsheets of yours need to be updated and posted. Cut the crap and get your ass down here—-now!” “No I’m sorry John, but like I said, I’m calling in well. I just feel too damn alive to be holed up in a stuffy cubicle all day staring at a computer screen—-it would bum my stone man.”
There’s another long pause. I hear a deep sigh come over the receiver “So, you’re calling in well. Now isn’t that some crazy shit—–. Okay, I’ve gotta hand it to you—-you’ve got balls. And I hate to say this, but at some crazy-ass, luny level, I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? I don’t know. But I’ll take your lame honesty any day over someone’s phony ass hoarse voice, whimpering to me that they’re sick. I guess ya got to do what ya gotta do.” I think to myself, damn—this honesty is some powerful shit!
I’m not sure if I want to take a shot of Jager or a shot of wheatgrass. I put on my baggy shorts, tank top, flip flops and head off downtown. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the plate-glass store window and damn, I look pretty freakin good. I’ve got my tunes blasting from the speakers in my backpack. I’m diggin on the song “Lessons of Love” by Level 42—I never even use to like that song, damn—where the fuck did the 80’s go? I’m walkin in rhythm, I’m shakin it down like Ellen Degeneres (now, that’s kinda creepy too)—-but who cares, cause baby I’m movin and groovin—I start clapping my hands and laughin out loud like some sort of crazed madman.
I taste the diesel in the air and I suck it in with a smile. I cruz past kids walking home from school and they fall in behind me smiling and dancing,. Birds chirp, horns honk, an alley cat creeps by. A stray dog sniffs the air and then prances in rhythm behind the kids. I drop a dollar in a homeless guys cup—he falls under our spell and joins in, dancing and snapping his fingers at the end of our urban conga-line—. As we pass a Starbucks, a throng of patrons empty out of the patio and find their place at the tail-end of our looney parade. Out of the corner of my eye I see John my boss staring down from his corner office window, he shakes his head and gives me a half hearted thumbs up sign——-all of life is sweet and beautiful—-I’m in it—-we’re all in the flow.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” Jack Kerouac
I’m west-coast. I was born and bred to perceive the world in a west-coast state of mind—sorry Billy Joel. I’m a walking, talking stereotype of that laid back, have a nice day, flip-flop wearing, life is good —–West-coast kind-of-dude. It’s how I roll man, so to speak. I recently returned from a sojourn to the east coast to attend a wedding with the in-laws and I am once again reminded of the differences between the two longitudes. Neither coast is better or worse, its like most things in life, its all about the environment you’ve been marinated in—-we are all alien when entering foreign territories.
My memories of the East are pretty much incidental and insignificant. On our day trips throughout the north eastern states I was taken back by the beautiful green lush landscape. It was pretty in a dreary, sweltering, damp sort of manner. The humidity made the car seat sticky and the air was stale and muggy. It seemed strange driving through the gray rainy streets of Jersey with the windshield wipers flapping while the AC blew cool air across the beads of sweat on my forehead. This paradoxical weather was a new experience for me. I guess what they say about the weather is true, “it’s not the temperature, it’s the humidity”.
The busy schedule of attending dinners and family functions left me anxious and unsettled. I’ve never been much for small talk or cursory discussions about the fickleness of the weather. I like Mark Twains quote regarding the weather, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does nothing about it”——although many of us sure wish we could do something about it.
In my state of nervousness I either say to much and come off as loud and obnoxious or remain quiet and appear aloof and haughty. Alcohol relaxed me but it can also relax me to the point of falling down, but that’s another story yet to disclose.
What Starbucks is to the West coast, Dunkin-Doughnuts is to the East coast. The East has a prodigious showing of Dunkin-Doughnuts, all night Dinners and family Italian restaurants. The food is good out there, not all that vegetarian or vegan crap that is heralded out West as being the savior of modern civilization. You can have your raw Sushi and bland tofu, I’ll take double helpings of the deep fried clam cakes with a side of cannoli.
One of the older Italian joints we ate at had a retro-sixties motif and was equipped with a waiter sporting a thick Jersey accent. He introduced himself as Pauly. Jersey is the only state I know where big burley guys add a “Y” to the end of their names just like little boys often do. It is sort of endearing in a weird gangster kind of way. From deep down in his throat he would roll his syllables into drawn out “ahh-s” and “Ohh’s”. As traditional accordion music played in the background he addressed our table, asking if we wanted “wahh-ders‘ or “cahh-fee’s”. He boldly gestured with his hands and smirked with a self-effacing nod of approval after explaining in detail each special on the menu. His hoarse voice and sleepy Italian eyes portrayed a man who was passionate about his food.
The red sauce was almost a dark brown color with veal and large pieces of garlic providing a southern Italy flavor. The bread had a thick crust on the outside, yet moist and soft on the inside. The place and its food was old school—-I loved it.
I imagined that our waiter “Pwauhhl–eee” was most likely a respected, yet dangerous thug from neighborhood and undoubtedly a “made man”. I made a mental note to tip him accordingly. The restaurant must be a front for a numbers racket or an after hours speak easy. Who’s to say what goes on in the basement in the wee hours of the night. Like they say, what happens in Joy-zee stays in Joy-zee.
I fought off an irresistible urge to done a long black leather jacket, accessorize with gold jewelry, comb my hair back in a greasy pompadour and slap the locals on the back and comment loudly “fooh-get-abowt-it”. That’s a bit of a stretch from the weak west-coast greeting of “Peace out brah”.
The wedding was a classy affair. The bride was beautiful and the groom dashing. The reception was complete with excellent food, music and dancing. I luckily found a seat next to Ed the family patriarch who is 92 years old. He is as sharp as a tac except for his loss of hearing. We made a good pairing as he requires little conversation, he wouldn’t ask me to dance and he’s well connected. In other words, he’d protect me from any cigar chomping, violin carrying, trench coat wearing uninvited guests.