Letters From the Eastside – Letter Eight

Dear Mother Directional,

I have not shared this idea with anyone. At least, not yet. These letters I write to you are to be held by you with hopes that somewhere, somehow, someone can make sense of this. Maybe then we can understand more about this thing we call life. I am not sure where or when life actually begins. I am not sure if this is at birth or if life begins our rebirth throughout the years. I believe there is a way people can be reborn or at least born again under a new sign or awakened into a new light. I know that this might sound like some religious garble. But no, I think we live each day. I think we are reborn several times and I think we die just as much.

I understand that life changes. People change. Everything changes.
We age and we grow. We move around the world and we go off in separate ways.

I understand that life is a journey. I understand that there are times when stories end and chapters finish. I know that to everything is a season – or as it says in the bible; (or more specifically in Ecclesiastes I think) there is a season for everything. There’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck. There’s a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up.

Sometimes . . . .
There’s a time to move on. There’s a time to start something new. We can let the old doors close behind us and move on. I know this.

Mother, I know that life is cyclical. I can see this as clear as anything. I can see how there were times when everyone was so close. I can remember the days when the carnival came to town – and everything was beautiful, colorful, like the red and white lights around the edge of the ferris wheel – or if you recall, there were the lights from the booths where people threw darts at little balloons to win a stuffed animal. Ah, this was a time of innocence.
This was a time when there was no focus on status, no worries about money or the government. There was a time when it was safe to be fascinated or encouraged to be wondrous and free.

I never thought about a mortgage. I never worried if I was “enough’ or if anyone would miss me if I were gone. No, I suppose my top priority at times like this was the taste of cotton candy or how to eat a candy apple without getting the sugary goo all over my face.
Or, the ice cream cones. Remember them? I was so young then and I had yet to learn the science of eating an ice cream cone without getting chocolate ice cream all over my face or my little shirt.
(To be honest, I often think that the mess was worth the while. Maybe not for you as much – but to me, this is the seasoning to my memory. And this is where the flavor comes from.)

It appears that somewhere in our travels, whether this comes from youth or from the tales of our past; we find ourselves giving into ideas that define our personality. This is not always bad. But this is not always good either.
What I mean is we go through episodes in our life that map out the future of our decisions. Or maybe this is as simple as we felt something once – and we didn’t like it.
So, we swore that we never wanted to feel that way again. We promised ourselves that we would never be the fool or that we would never be hurt again. We swore that we would never allow anyone so much power in our life that we would be hurt by them. We never wanted to be exposed or laughed at – and so, we took on a whole new shape and a whole new persona. Just to keep safe.

I know that as a child, I had bright visions of what I thought life was supposed to be. Then again, I never expected to work the hours I work. I never thought that being grownup would take as much work as it does. And who knows?
Maybe this is why people fail to launch. Maybe this is why no one wants to grow up. We just want the rights of adulthood. Not the responsibility.
Maybe this has nothing to do with the fear of success and more to do with an inherent laziness because everything we do takes work. Everything we have requires attention – like a car or anything worthwhile. We have to care for it if we want to keep it. Otherwise, we risk losing everything.

Maybe this is why people sabotage their friendships or their love life. Maybe this is why people forget the big picture and, instead, they focus on the here and the now of an immediate discomfort.
We do this because the future is simply too far to see – or better yet, why plan for the future if you don’t believe the future is possible.
Perhaps this is the problem for people who are starved for attention – they need more and when they get what they need – who knows how long this will last? Or, who knows who’ll stay (or go). Maybe this is why people are so famously in short-lived relationships. Or, maybe we are so worried about being loved or hated that we overlook what we have. Or, maybe this is just me. Maybe, the thirst for attention is never quenched because there’s a hole inside of people that can never be filled.

It’s amazing to see what the mind comes up with. I can see that how we think impacts how we feel and how we feel impacts how we behave. I get that.
Perhaps this is why people cut off their nose to spite their face. I suppose our emotional decisions are to blame for much of our downfalls. 
I believe this is true.
I know the difference between the emotional brain and the rational brain. I know that the emotional brain can be overrun by worries and doubts.
I know the emotional brain is where we store assumptions and where we jump to conclusions. I know that this is where we can blind ourselves and be blind to our actions.
The emotional brain is where need overcomes strategy and how intimidation keeps us from stepping up to the plate and giving the world the best that we have.
This is where we talk ourselves “into” or “out of” our decisions.
This is where compulsion lives. This is where the need to be stroked or soothed or caressed takes priority over rational thinking. Or more accurately, this is the kid in us. This is the kid that needs attention or who will cry until they get their cookie. This is where we ruin the appropriateness of our relationships and how we overlook the feelings of someone else because our compulsions and need to “be safe” blind us from our mutual priorities. 

No one wants to do bad things. At least not for the most part. Although evil exists, I do believe that no one really wants to hurt people – at least not regularly.
But still, there is this fear that we won’t be heard. There’s a fear that we’re wrong or that something about us is flawed. There’s a worry that we won’t have what we want; that we won’t get our cookie, or that we won’t be loved or wanted. Because this is so, we find ourselves revolving around the ideas of being rejected.
We try so hard and in our efforts to be loved, wanted, or included, we push the world away – and either this happens because we grip too tightly or because we assume that since the worst is going to happen anyway – the self-fulfilled prophecy begins. And there we are, the result of our own equation. 

Mother,
I don’t know much but I do know that I do not want to be alone. I know that there were times when I was most lonely in crowds. I know there were times when I was accepted and wanted (and included) yet there was something so unfitting about this to me. There was something uncomfortable and awkward. I never felt right in my skin, which by the way, I am sure that I am not the only one to experience this.
Or take Cousin Contagious for example – he is in a prison cell with the worst cellmate of all: Himself. There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. There’s only him and his thoughts and the four walls around him. I suppose the only difference between Cousin’s cell and the prisons other people live in are the definition of walls. 

We all have a prison of some sorts. Some are more literal and physical while others is more of a mental state. This is more like an invisible shield that keeps us separated and confined.
If Cousin gets in trouble, Cousin goes to solitary or the Special Housing Unit or the SHU. I am going to offer that there are people who live in places like this and their prison is out in the open. They are free to walk the world and as free as they are, they are imprisoned by their thoughts and their own mind.
  

It’s amazing what we focus on – who likes us? Who doesn’t? Who cares? Who we assume never cared at all – but either way, all of these are concepts of the mind. All of this is the need to be wanted or included. Nobody wants to be excluded. Nobody wants to be picked last or be the odd one. No one asks for the role of being the reject and as sure as I stand, nobody wants to be uncool.
But this is how people are. We want to be wanted. We want to be invited and regarded. But for whatever the reason is, there are so many of us who are afraid – there are countless people who believe that there’s something wrong with them. There are people who literally believe that they are unlikable and unwantable. 

This becomes the focus and, next, we find ourselves in the bias of our thinking.
For example, you might start to wonder who your friends are – or who they aren’t.
The world is an imperfect place. And us? Well, we’re imperfect people. No one can really judge.
(But yet, we do.)
No one can point fingers.
(But we seem to do this all the time.)

I often go back to times and places in my head – and I wonder what happened or how we, us, or so many people move on or go out separate ways.
I wonder why fear and insecurity pulls its trick and then we find ourselves alone – even if we never wanted to be alone, we find ourselves in the ideas of peaks and valleys.
We ride the waves until they crash and, sometimes, we hope that we’ll never come down.
But the crash is inevitable. 
I think about my part in the way things seem to happen. 

I think about the things I did or the parties we threw, I think about the times when we went absolutely wild. Then life happened. The waves crested and fell and as much as we knew this was part of the deal, the crash hurt us the most because we knew this was coming. We didn’t do anything to prevent the injuries to us or to those around us.

Life happens and next, the weeks pass and become months or maybe even years. Time can heal all wounds. Or, at least I’ve been told this. 

I know there is love for me the same as there is love for you. I know that life takes us on a journey. Furthermore,  wherever you go or wherever you are, I say that no one can erase the triumphs or the victories. I can say that no one can erase what we’ve done; whether good or bad; nobody can take away what is truly ours. 

I think about old friends and the people who no longer speak to each other. To them I say may the wind be good to you and may the sun be kind to your face. When the mood strikes – just remember there was a time when we laughed and we roared. We lived and we went crazy.
To them, I say to remember there was a time when we honored each other as friends. And friends may grow distance – but real friendship never ends 
It’s ongoing, eternal, endless . . . 

I am hit with the nostalgia bug from time to time. I see pictures that show up in our memories and so-called anniversaries on social media.
I think about how life gets busy. Maybe that’s it. 
Life gets busy…. Yeah. That’s right.
We move on in different directions. And I get that. 

I never want to forget where I came from and who was with me when all “this” began. I don’t ever want to look back at a person and feel regret. But Mother, if I am being honest, I can see where I mistreated good people and honored those who were less-deserving.
I can see where my emotional mind took hold and how my subconscious thinking stepped in and degraded us both. I can see where my fears kept me from taking a chance. And dammit! There are so many times I wished I had taken the chance when I could have.

 The difference between the emotional brain and the rational brain is that the rational brain only thinks in plans or strategy. There is no emotion here. There’s no fear. There’s no connection to memory. There’s no worry that somehow, love will drain us away and that vulnerability is like a sharp knife, just waiting to pierce the back or puncture the spine. 

I think fear can be excellent motivation. Yet, our motivations can be misdirected and because of this, we run the risk of acting out in accordance with our desperation. 

No one wants to be desperate . . . 

Mother, I have seen people lose to themselves. I’ve watched good people lose to bad ideas; only to find themselves on the losing end of an investment that never promised them anything more than a quick fix.

You know, come to think of it; we go to school to learn the essentials in life. But no one ever teaches us how to honor each other. No one ever explains why we feel insecure.
No one teaches us how to live or interact and now, or especially now, our methods of socialization have become so distant and remote that no one understands the values of a good relationship.
No one ever teaches us how to value a relationship. And I can’t say that I had the best teachers either. Not that you never tried.
But most of my learning came from a street-like nature. I never learned about romance or how to be intimate. I didn’t learn this from a person like Shakespeare, I learned from people named Johnny the Rug or some guy named Victor (remember him?) who ended up stabbed to death on the subway. 

We don’t teach love. We don’t teach strategies on how to create better, smoother relationships. We don’t teach how to hold hands anymore or how to share or take turns. It’s a me-first world out there. Maybe that’s the problem because if you’re not first, then what? What does this leave for the rest of us?

I am writing this to you as an honest assessment to tell you what I see. I am also writing this as a helpful description to explain why people struggle to live. This has nothing to do with the rational brain. This has nothing to do with who we are. However, this has everything to do with how we think, which leads us to how we feel.

Improve your thoughts/Improve your life.
I was told this a long time ago. As I was told this, I thought to myself, “No shit, genius!” I didn’t need to pay you for advice like this.
Change your thinking/change your life.

Well Mother, this is what I am trying to do.

By the way, I saw Brother Exceptional in a picture with Daughter Daring. How much they’ve grown. They look so happy. I suppose this is why I stay away from social media these days. So many people seem to be doing so well. It’s not to say that I’m not doing well. It’s just to say that these social media feeds give off an unfair example of life. I think this triggers depression and people wonder to themselves, “Why can’t I be just as happy?”

But Mother, I know that this is not real. None of this is real. It’s all just a concept of the mind – it’s a fixation or a supposition. Or better yet, this is just an irrational concept from an emotional mind that worries too much and fears that we’ll never get an invitation to the party. This is the fear of being excluded, not included, not invited, unwelcomed, or unwanted. 

Perhaps it is best if we learn to question these assumptions and stick with our rational brain. There’s no pain here.
There’s only plans, logic and strategy. 

I love you Mother.

Thank you for taking this from me.

Love always,

B-

Dear Son, 

Like you asked, I am keeping this letter in your files. However, I wanted to place this note at the bottom in case you circle back and find this on your own.
I agree that we all think too much. I agree that we are not necessarily taught how to love each other or how to honor one another. No one is trained to live life. We just learn as we go.
Of course it is clear to be kind to one another. Maybe if people understood more about themselves and had a better education about their own mental health – maybe then, we would understand more about the motivation behind our unkindness. Maybe we could learn how to get along better. 

I was thinking of that book you told me about and the writer, Robert Fulghum. I agree with him. The saying he writes about is true. “Sticks and stones may break my bones . . . but words can break my heart.” 

I think this is why people are so quick to protect themselves. It’s not that they don’t want to love or be loved in return. It’s more of a case that no one wants to be hurt again. No one wants to be the fool or be so vulnerable that just a word could tear them apart. 

Son, pain is part of life. So is joy. So is love. So are the memories from the carnival when you were young. It’s our job to improve our focus and to see something better so that we can smile
(or at best, so we can be happy).

Love always, 

Mother Directional.

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