And here we are, Project Earth, the world’s biggest conveyor belt, literally, as it moves around the sun. Things will be mild soon, up here on the northern hemisphere. We will lean in and move closer to the sun.
Why, it was just a year ago today that Project Earth was at this very same position. Time sure flies when you’re moving through orbit. We age and we grow, and look at it this way, a year has gone by since this very day.
But what does that mean?
If it were up to me, we would never grow old.
If it were up to me, everything would feel as good as the first time my Grandmother told me a bedtime story or fed me a meal. Nothing else in the world ever feels like grandma’s bedtime stories. Nothing tastes as good as when Grandma makes it.
If it were up to me, everything would be as easy as an afternoon I once spent in the autumn months. The air was neither too warm nor too cold. The sun was on its way down and the world was quiet. I could see the golden hue from the sunset reflecting against the trees in a field as I walked home from a moment that was (shall we say) less than comfortable. But yet, the afternoon was somehow by a beautiful moment before the sun went down. God, that was perfect.
As parents, we have hopes and dreams. We have ideas of what we want our children to become. We wrap them in their little blankets and we tell them bedtime stories. We hope and we pray to keep them safe.
We teach them all they need to know to the best of our ability. We teach them their A B C’s, the 1 2 3’s, and all about the itsy bitsy spider and the wheels on the bus that go round and round.
I have news for you.
There is always a way out. There is always a way to be better and there is always a way to improve. We may not always like it. We may not always believe in it. We may not always think this is true or that anything can help. But that does not mean that improvement is not available.
Beware the angst of youth.
When you have no other way to voice yourself, then you have no other language beside your actions. And you try. You try to fit. You go along to get along but the frustration in your heart makes it impossible to play along.
Know what I mean?
Next, you find yourself in compromising positions, doing things you know you’re not supposed, which is fine, until you’re caught —until you’re cornered by someone, maybe it’s a teacher, maybe a principal, maybe it’s a cop or your parents, and then they ask you the most commonly asked question.
They ask you “Why?” to whom you answer, “I don’t know,” of course because there is honestly a part of you that doesn’t know why you do what you do. You’re not even sure why you say what you say. You just do it. But deep down, you know there’s a reason. You know there’s something in there but it doesn’t have a name or a face or anything you can describe.
Exhale, whew. And now we begin.
It is not right that we say, this is it or this is all we’ll ever be. It is not true that we cannot or will not improve or change because everything changes.
Socrates said that change is law and no amount of pretending will change this law. And he is right.
No negotiations or compromises will be made. Life will happen. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. We will rise and fall more times than the sun or the moon, and yet, time will not regard us.
Life will give us the unfortunate accidents the unexplainable misfortunes that range from minimal to modest or sad to tragic.
We will live and we will learn. We will encounter tragedy. We will both overcome and succumb to habits and routines.
I used to work an early shift that began at 6:00 in the morning. The good part is I finished at 2:00 but the bad part is I was up every morning before the sun.
Each day I’d arrive at the building about an hour before my start time because the trains only ran at certain hours.
This was okay because I’d start my day slowly, drink a little coffee, read some, write some, or watch the news some.
Each day, I’d see the same people on the train. None of them were happy to be where they were. No one was happy to be awake.
There is a house over on Prospect that has never taken down their Christmas decorations. The house has been this way for years. Then again, I moved away years ago. Perhaps this has changed. Truth is I’m not sure.
Year round though, the house was dressed with an old holiday spirit that was never removed. It is unclear if anyone lived in the house. I’ve never seen anyone come in or out. The house is aged and weathered and the landscaping is unkempt to say the least. I’m sure the neighbors on either side do not appreciate the look. The houses in the community are moderately priced. Prospect Avenue is a main street, although, the neighborhood is otherwise suburban and the town is the place I grew up.
I was ready to quit after my first class. I couldn’t help it. All I could do was look around the room and listen to the others introduce themselves. Everyone in the meeting room had letters after their name. They had titles and credentials. They had professional history, and worse, they all knew each other.
They were all players in the mental health field. They were all on a first name basis, and then there was me, passed the midway of my 40’s with a limited education and wondering if I could make a go of a new direction in life.
The world is connected by a body of water. We might be separated by the continents, but no matter how far away, no matter how distant the sea, connection is still connection.
I saw we are the same way. I say the same as the oceans have tides, so do we. We pull in and we pull out. Some days are calm, and some days our seas are rough. Such is life.
More than anything, I get it; you want to find a way out from the hole that you’re in. More than anything, you want anything else except for more of the same.
You want to wake up someplace else or be someone else. Maybe the problem is money or your lack of finances cause you to believe that this makes you a failure. Maybe it’s the lonesomeness. Maybe it’s the hopelessness. Maybe it’s a feeling or better yet, maybe it’s an idea that tells you, “This will only be as good as it gets.”
More than anything, you want the thoughts in your head to stop spinning around and adding up, one by one, and more than anything, you just want a break from it all.
You want the symptoms to slow down so you can catch your breath instead of running away all the time.
More than it seems, there is no more use for the ideas of stigma. But either way, stigma still exists. Either way and on either side, good or bad, judgement is a natural process. Isn’t it?
I was a guest on a local radio show last night. The show is called “The Connection Hour,” on WFDU, 89.1fm.
I love the host, a man by the name of Anthony Greene. I love the name of the show because everything we have, everything we do and think, and everything we are to one another is based upon a connection to an idea, thought, feeling, or a need.
I began to wonder if anything was even real.
Are you real?
Or, are these just words formed in a sentence to fit into a trained opinion of how life is supposed to be?
Or is this just how things go here?
Sometimes, I feel like I’m just a passenger in this place, down here on a circulating conveyor belt, which I call Project Earth.
People still amaze me. At least, I want them to. At least, I hope they will because above all I don’t ever want to lose my belief in amazement.
I want to be amazed because I still want to be surprised every once in a while. I want to be amazed and see new amazing things, which are not even so new at all.
Take a child for example. I want to see kids play, and I mean really play, not with a handheld device or something automated —instead, I want to watch a child play with a toy that actually needs human interaction.
I want to see kids in a playground, screaming as they slide down the slide or swing as high as they can on the swings. I want to see this and feel as if hope is still alive and not reprogrammed into an app on a cell phone.
It’s hard to see you this way, but hey, this is part of the game, right?
We signed up for this, remember?
There is me on my side and you on yours, which is not to say that you or I are against each other, because we’re not.
Not at all.
There is no line between; there’s just a wall you’ve built, which I understand because I have my own walls too.
We all do, as a matter of fact.
I spent most of my life trying to build mine, only now, to take them down.
I have a rejection email from a magazine submission. I rarely submit poetry and with work, life, education, and with my schedule being the way it is, I rarely send out poetry submissions at all.
However, the idea of rejection or that my submission was withdrawn stuck with me. First and foremost, they believed my submissions were fiction, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I make it a point that everything I write about is real or true —or at minimum, everything I write about is real or true to me.
There will always be something for us to remember. Whether the moment is small or quick or if the time is bigger than ever, there will always be something for us to remember.
I take this idea to heart. And you should too.
I sat in a classroom for 8-hours, learning about mental health with the main premise, based on a few different acronyms. One idea above all stood out to me. They called it the four L’s.
Two instructors alternated, subject by subject, which I thought was brilliant because their upbeat energy was enough to keep the classroom alive. They complimented each other very well and kept the information interesting, which is good because an 8-hour class is a long class to be in. All the while, both instructors stressed the four L’s, which are Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn.
I hate those words . . .
The problem is what if this is true? What if this is all in our head like everything else is? The fears and the doubts and especially insecurity are in hour head, which I get, and which is not to say that none of them are valid. Instead, I say everything is valid if we believe in it.
I say reality and belief is not always the same thing, which I get as well, which is why I ask the main question in the first place.
What if this is true?
What if all this is really in our head?
We took the trail between the crevice of Eagle Rock and Limekilm Mountain and headed closer to the Ladentown and then over to the second reservoir. This is where we set up camp. The hike itself was several miles and the terrain went from mild to steep in different spots. It was summer and the winds were extremely warm. The trees were green and the air was sweet from the dew and the mountains. It was hot for sure but the climb was well worth it.
I have this idea, which comes to me when the moments become too intense. I think of this when the anxiety builds up inside and next is the claustrophobic feeling that happens when you feel like you just can’t away from yourself.
And then there was silence.
No words. No noise, nothing to say.
He was a happy man, somewhat round and somewhat short, with a round face and shaggy, salt and pepper hair that fell across his head in the shape of a bowl-cut hairstyle. This was the kind of hairstyle one would expect to see on a Franciscan Monk, or a priest, or whichever the proper term may be. His voice was friendly and happy.
I suppose no one would ever know by looking at him. I know that I had no Idea. Why would I, right? After all, the guy was a priest. What would he know about addiction or alcoholism or anything in between?
One of my most influential memories is equally one of my most painful. However, the lesson I learned is unforgettable. More accurately, the one thing I learned is that we tend to hold onto things.
We carry the imaginary weight of our assumptions that lead us to conclusions. We argue and we fight when meanwhile, there is an entire world out there, just passing us by and then one day, we snap out of it.
We wake up. We turn around and wonder what happened or where the time went.
Unfortunately, regret is only in the aftermath and by the time we wake up, it is too late; we have allowed the trivial moments to take priority of times that really matter.
Everyone has their own life’s story. And sometimes I am approached with a frequent idea that begins with something like, “So I heard you’re a writer.”
I am often told about life from someone else’s perspective, which I appreciate. More often, however, I hear the most popular idea which is, “If I wrote a book about my life, I guarantee you it would be a best seller!”
There would be a lot of best sellers out there if this were so, but nevertheless, this is when I refer to my stock response, which is, “So then write it.” This changes the energy of the conversation almost instantly.
I was walking down a long hallway after turning passed the corner near the principal’s office. I was making my way to a classroom with a few teachers and some counselors that helped me navigate through the halls.
They were taking me to to a class where a roomful of seniors were waiting to hear what I had to say. This was part of a police initiative that was created with the intention to teach students what drugs do. This was to keep the student’s clear of the drug life.
I have to admit it. I was scared. I was afraid of what they would think of me and how I would sound. I was afraid I would be a flop.
Then it would be exactly the way it was when I was in school, uncomfortable and awkward, with me being the brunt of someone’s joke.
We have to come to an understanding between us. Life will only be what life can only be.
Nothing will ever be more, which I say with an emphasis on the word more because we will always want, we will always need, and although there will be moments when we are satisfied, truth be told, there will be times when we did not get our way.
There are places I have seen that I never believed I would see. There are beaches I have walked along and sunrise as well as sunsets that I have witnessed. Take for example, one of my last trips to the west coast, Imperial Beach, in San Diego California.
I was up at the sunrise each day and there to watch the sun go down.
I never thought I would be here, but yet, I was there.
I never thought I would have the opportunities that came my way, but yet, I did have them, regardless to what my thoughts were.
I remember back to when I wore those great old clothes. The nightlife was something special to me. This was me, back in the day, trying to sport my outfits like I was something out of a movie.
I was searching for something and weaving through the enigmatic version I had of the city and the scene of downtown, cobblestone streets, and the Merc Bar, which is where I found myself a few times, late at night, wet streets after a summer’s rain, and there was me, looking to find something a bit more than just the average occasion.
I remember a night when I was walking down Broome Street because I decided to step away from the crowds.
I looked up at the buildings and wondered what it would be like if I lived up in one of the lofts. What would I be then? Or maybe the thought was what I could have been.
It’s not just the stigma. There is a reason why people don’t come forward and talk about their life. There’s a reason why people suffer in silence and struggle on their own, never daring to tell anyone else what they think or feel, because God forbid someone else knew. And it’s not just the social stigma. The problems run deeper than the marks of shame.
The topic in yesterday’s empowerment class was to talk about positive ways to make ourselves feel better.
The idea is to talk openly about this. Also, the idea is to talk about this honestly because the truth is everyone knows the right thing to do. Everyone knows the “Best foot forward,” answer and everyone knows what they should do, which is great however, life does not always play fairly. Life comes with unexpected twists and turns. Life has unexpected problems and fake friends. People are less than honest. Disappointment happens all the time. Life can be heartbreaking sometimes and downright cruel as well.
To be honest, I have always had a fascination for this, and you, and the idea that there is a life out there, still waiting for me, no matter what my age might be. I fascinated with the idea that I am still able to change, to dream, to be and recreate.
I have this idea of me, driving along and turning off from a long, empty state road, way up in the Upstate Mountains.
The sky is as blue as it will ever be. There are scattered formations of white summery clouds, as bright as the mind could imagine, and the sun beams down across the mountainsides.
I have heard the sound of desperateness. I have spoken on its behalf in my own terms and I have seen the lost and misplaced look in the eyes of tragic souls, hoping for something to come along and give them hope. I have had lengthy discussions about the idea of hopelessness, and, as well, I have listened as friends of mine and strangers too, looking for a reason to change their plans and regain their former life.
I was sitting on the trunk of my car just around the time when the sun came up. I was tired. I was young but not so young anymore.
I was on the tail end of a long night, which was not unsuccessful by any means. But yet, I was stuck in a pattern of thinking.
I had just come from a night out with the boys. I had encountered a new girl with a name I never thought of or cared to ask about.
I heard something brilliant this morning. I had to sop for a second and listen to this again. I wanted to examine this idea before I could share it with you.
“When you’re looking at someone who is extremely successful, do not allow yourself to make them extraordinary at your own expense.”
Life is nothing more than a series of lessons, which means we learn along the way. We learn from birth, all the way up until the day when we pass.
We learn about life. We learn about the basic things and the obvious things. We learn about the birds and the bees.
We learn about love and we are taught what love is supposed to be, what love is supposed to look like, about beauty, how to love beautiful things, and as well; we are taught what beauty is and what beauty isn’t.
There is a quick shuttle ride that I take which brings people from Times Square to Grand Central Station and vice versa. This is part of the New York City underground subway system. I have taken this ride more times than I can count. I have seen all kinds of people on this quick trip.
I have seen everything this city of mine has to offer, right here, enclosed in a few subway cars, which is literally fascinating to me.
There are times when words fall short until you press “Play.”
That’s when the music starts.
That’s when the song comes on to introduce the lyrics.
And the songs that fit us best are is not just any songs.
There was an old tree in front of my home back when I lived in my old home town. The tree was not the prettiest on the block. It was certainly the oldest. I would often regard this tree for several reasons because first and foremost, no matter what happened to the landscapes around it, the tree never fell.
Just know that I am going to leave this here for now. So, before I go forward and assuming you go beyond this point, please understand this was written in the middle of the night. And more to the point, this was written after learning the sad news about a young man that will never grow older.
The worst feeling is the feeling of powerlessness. This is the hopeless feeling that comes over us when we see our friends and our loved ones undergo something traumatic.
The worst part is no matter how hard we try, the truth is there are no right words to say. There is nothing anyone can do that will change the facts or soften the blow of something painful. All we can do is allow our friends and loved one’s to have their right to feel.
Ever find yourself on the bad end of a decision?
Of course you have. Everybody has. Everyone has made a mistake at one point or another. Unfortunately, sometimes, some of our mistakes are costly. Some of our mistakes can be painful. Some of our mistakes will hurt other people and sometimes, our mistakes damage friendships or result in the separation of important relationships.
One of the more popular sayings I can recall when I made my first big life change was never allow anyone to rent space in your head. The idea is to not harbor resentments, which I get and which I have done because after all I am human and I understand what it’s like to be angry or upset about someone or something. But more than this are the other categories that come to mind when allowing people to rent space in your head.
Whenever the times were tough, Mom always made her famous mashed potatoes with chicken cutlets and brown gravy. The cutlets were breaded and fried. She used the best breadcrumbs and there have been others that made the same meal with the same ingredients but for whatever the reason, no cutlets were ever like Mom’s cutlets.
And what I am about to say might be against science and popular opinion, but hell with it. This needs to be said.
Ultimately, food is the best antidepressant ever. And this is not just any food. When I say food, I mean the meals we grew up with. I mean the food that for whatever the reason might be—the smell of the dish alone, mixed with the flavor; it somehow just took away the problems at hand.
I was driving home just before sunrise on a New Year’s morning. The crowd split and everyone went in their own direction. I was longhaired at the time with two silver hoop earrings in my left ear. I wore a black suit jacket with a tuxedo shirt beneath and a black bow tie. I had on a pair of my “Go-to” trusty but faded blue jeans. They were loose and straight around the leg with rips and tears across the right knee and loose threads dangling from the ripped sections of denim. I wore a pair of black Justin cowboy boots, which I swiped to perfect my appearance.
Imagine what it would mean to be free. Imagine what it would be like to be free of worry and free of irrational fear.
Imagine if there was no such thing as self-doubt. Imagine if our happiness was not hinged upon the ideas of “If.” or “When,” and instead of depending upon the outcomes of our daily living, regardless to whatever happens to us; imagine a life free of the dependencies upon people, places, or things.
I walked inside the main doorways to an upstate facility after a long car ride. I was still sweating out the demons of my last ride, so to speak. I was in a fog or, should I say was making my reentry from my last trip out of the atmosphere. As I was coming down from my high, time moved like a stop action film, one caption after another, and the trip I was on was destined to lead me to someplace I didn’t want to go.
I think the beginning of my personal change was the hardest for me. I think the beginning of any change is uncomfortable. Then again, much of my difficulty was a reflection of me.
I was told that if I wanted to build my self-esteem then I’d have to do esteemable acts. To be very clear and with all the honesty I have in my heart, I absolutely hated the one-line helpful statements like this.
I couldn’t stand them.