I Am Enriched

I was looking through my Facebook feed the other day, and I saw a comment from one of my online friends, Mikey Mayweather.    He always has something nice to say whenever I post, always filled with love and humor.   Mikey lives across the country in California, is a DJ and an artist… filled with amazing energy.    He’s also a black man.   We have quite different interests and backgrounds, but my life is enriched by his presence, there’s no doubt about that.    We both “love” love, so in that alone, there’s enough in common to forge this virtual bond of sorts.  I do not know if we’ll ever meet in person, but it’s amazing what he’s taught me without even using words.    One recent morning I saw his response to one of my posts, and I thought about how blessed I am that the color of our skin doesn’t separate us in anyway at all… if anything it brings us closer together.   I know that he’s got my back and I have his so to speak, and perhaps that’s what we’re actually saying in the few phrases and salutations we do exchange online.    The events of January 6th made me realize that so many individuals in our country are missing out on some amazing human beings and the lessons they have to teach us… all because of race.   This brought me great sadness, however at the same time, brought to light that my life is truly enriched by embracing diversity… and we all could be.

“Still, there’s a wonderful world waiting for us that dare to acknowledge our inner workings… interactions with a rainbow of peoples and cultures, each and everyone waiting to pass along information that will only enrich our experience on this planet. “

I don’t want to sound self righteous here, that’s not the place this post is coming from.    It’s coming from a very happy and joyous awareness, a type of excitement from knowing that the human experience is fully open to me, free to learn as much as I can during my lifetime.   I’m also not going to be naïve, I know there are elements in my psyche that still contain racism, we have to acknowledge them in order to work against them.   But my openness to explore and address what these feelings have to say, only makes my acceptance of others even greater.  I learned that lesson while reading a book called White Fragility, introduced to me by another amazing online friend, Annmarie Slater.   Being raised as white permanently programs us in ways that we can’t fully comprehend, especially since there’s so much we’ll never experience, primarily because we’re living as white people in a nation that favors us.   Still, there’s a wonderful world waiting for us that dare to acknowledge our inner workings… interactions with a rainbow of peoples and cultures, each and everyone waiting to pass along information that will only enrich our experience on this planet.  As someone that lives my life as an up-lifter, I just wish others could share this kind of love with me.

Ma Rainy – The Mother of Blues – This photo is over 100 years old.

I have photos on my wall in my home office, of people that have inspired me all my life.    Most of them are African American woman, as their personal struggles and battles they’ve fought have given me strength to move forward on days where I’ve felt like giving up.   Each with their own story, none of which I would have known if I had closed the doors of inclusiveness into my life.    As I’m writing this post, I’m looking at the photo of the latest framed addition, that of Ma Rainey.  Known as the Mother of Blues, she wasn’t just a strong-minded person, she was ahead of her time as a woman… not just as a person of color.   Ma Rainey was also open about her sexuality, and sung about her same sex experiences with her lovers.    The positioning of her photo makes it appear as though she’s smiling down at me, separate from the other photographs in the room, just the way she was separate from so many of her time in history.   I had seen the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix just the other weekend, and the awareness of her has enriched my life even further.  For some reason, her energy fully resonates with me, almost as if I knew her back in the day.    Her voice fills the room as I’m writing, her words available to me through the technology of Amazon’s Echo devices.  Almost a hundred years after her songs were recorded, they continue to move, inspire… and enrich. 

That’s definitely the word of the day for me.

This Christmas

This Christmas will be the first one I celebrate without the awareness that my mom is just a phone call away. I remember last year, when she called me to have Eric and I go to her home, so she could give us the gifts she purchased online. She was always addicted to watching QVC, and the last Christmas gift we would ever receive from her would end up being a food storage container, one each for Eric and myself. We still use them today, I can almost hear my mom explaining how they go straight from the refrigerator to the microwave and how covenant they are. From watching QVC so much, she had learned to sell a product just as well as the hosts she loved watching for hours on end. She would even go as far as to record QVC on her DVR… a very dedicated fan for sure.

“There’s no room to complain this Christmas, we are truly fortunate despite everything and fully aware of what others are experiencing, and there’s a certain responsibility that goes along with that level of awareness.”

I also remember how difficult it was for my mom to breathe last Christmas, and how living life day to day become a constant struggle. After she passed away, I had a dream where she came to me and told me how incredibly happy she was, that the body she was in had become so very heavy, and it was weighing her spirit down to the point where didn’t want it anymore. She was so thrilled to be light and floaty, enjoying her new found freedom to the fullest. It was such a happy dream, and it continues to offer great comfort to me. I truly miss my mom, but in no way do I miss her suffering and seeing her spiral into steep decline during the last months of her life.

This Christmas has been one of gratitude, as Eric and I are extremely aware of our blessings and have shared them as much as possible. We have worked with a program called Neighbors4Neighbors, to help families in need, and this has brought home the meaning of Christmas probably more than anything else. There’s also much to be thankful for, as we both experienced COVID19 infections and lived on to talk about it and offer advice when needed. We have amazing jobs and know how so many are without one during this dark time, so we never take for granted the necessity of waking up in the morning to get ready for work. There’s no room to complain this Christmas, we are truly fortunate despite everything and fully aware of what others are experiencing, and there’s a certain responsibility that goes along with that level of awareness.

I hope that everyone reading this post receives a blessing… or even a Christmas miracle if that’s the path you follow. In truth, the only thing we have in life is each other, and it’s important to stick together regardless of the issues which kept us apart in the past. We need to help one another whenever possible, and always keep the spirit of unconditional love in our hearts, no matter what spiritual practice we follow. This Christmas I hope that people realize the true concept of the holiday, and look way past the artificial lines of division society places on us… in the end we all have love and humanity in common.

Christmas and Hanukah are always observed in my home, miracles are miracles, regardless of your faith.

May you be blessed by your creator in ways you never dreamed possible. Blessed be. XOXO

What “Never Forget” Means To Me.

I remember being in my office on September 11th, 2001, and my co-worker Fred saying a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.    At first this didn’t strike me as anything big, I remember hearing about a small plane hitting them before, and the damage hadn’t been that significant.     Fred decided to pull out his small portable TV, and we all huddled around to watch it unfold.    I will never forget seeing the images of the first plane hitting and the explosion that followed.    It was completely surreal.    At the time no one knew what was going on, it appeared to be some kind of freak accident for sure.    Our small group then decided the television set in our training facility was much larger, and would allow us all to see what was going on without being cramped into a small cubicle… standing shoulder to shoulder around a four inch screen.    So we ran down to the 11th floor and watched in dismay, as the building burned.    We watched in absolute horror as the scenes unfolded… and then absorbed the news that our country was under attack from terrorists.   I had to run to the bathroom and on the way back to the training room, I saw my co-worker Karla nervously running out of the room with a frightened look on her face, telling me she was going to get her kids.   Trying to hold back tears and clearly panicked, she quickly uttered “They just attacked the Pentagon.

One by one the towers fell and more reports came in about other government buildings being attacked.   The decision was made to send us home, and I remember my close friend Tania telling me she would drive me home.    With her toddler Anthony in the back seat, we took back roads to avoid the chaos of drivers trying to reach their families, just as we were.    The news on the radio was grim and frightening, so much was going on and there was much misinformation about what was actually happening.   After Tania dropped me off, I logged onto AOL to see how the online world was reacting and what they were saying.    Smartphones didn’t exist back then, so life “connected” was usually experienced in the privacy of your own home, something I had been doing for over a decade at the time.    I had found some friends and they were freaking out like everyone else, wondering if people they knew were safe.   As the day progressed more reports came in, and we mourned collectively as nation.   We didn’t know what the world was going to be like the next day, and everyone went to bed that night with a certain level of uncertainty.  

The next couple of days saw our nation rallying together like I hadn’t witnessed since the Gulf War.    People were grouping up on street corners waving flags, holding up posters and cheering on drivers all times during the day or night.   We were helping and supporting each other, looking past any and all differences to demonstrate that as a united nation, we were unstoppable.    Many people initially wanted to turn the middle east into a “parking lot” or a “sheet of glass,” as descriptive examples of nuclear warfare littered conversations.   However, many people realized that doing so would make us no better than our attackers, and during this time of crisis, we needed to make sure we targeted only those responsible for the pain and suffering so many had experienced.  I remember interfaith services in the lobby of my employer’s headquarters, people hugging, crying and consoling each other.   We were making promises to never forget and to remain united and strong for all time.  Still, many found it very acceptable to demonstrate hatred and rage towards people of the Muslim faith, while at the same time professing unwavering patriotism.   

Friday marked the 19th anniversary after the September 11th attacks.    I started to write this post and suddenly decided I needed to re-experience the events of the day by watching it on YouTube, almost as a way to honor those lost… and the day we all joined hands.    It doesn’t take a college professor to realize that September 11th changed us a country forever.    We began to torture our captives to get answers and information about possible threats, while our freedoms and rights to privacy were attacked by our own government in exchange for perceived safety.   Hatred was given a license to operate by many, and that permission has grown exponentially… all in the name of patriotism.   The horrible events of September 11th had been burned into the collective psyche of so many, that any demonstration of anger or resentment to our own country or people, was akin to being a traitor.    I remember this kind of mentality even inserted itself into my own consciousness for a while, after becoming so incredibly upset during a phone conversation I had with a guy I was courting online.    I was literally scared that his anger towards the United States would cause him to be flagged by law enforcement, and I quickly found myself avoiding him at all costs.   I considered him to be radical, and in retrospect, he was simply being truthful about our nation’s involvement overseas.   His remarks weren’t any different from what many commentators and journalists say on the news today, it was literally just “too soon. “

I find myself feeling angered at times when I see younger people posting about geopolitics online, and what we should or shouldn’t be doing about certain situations abroad.    I know it’s not fair to them, but they’ll never know what it’s like to be so aware of the events of September 11th as they unfolded live almost twenty years ago.   Many of them were still watching Saturday morning cartoons and knew more about brands of cereal than they did about the names of countries in the Middle East.     They will never know about how our country used to be like, how it was to walk your family members directly to the gate of an airplane, and kiss them goodbye with your shoelaces still tightly secured.    They will never know how unified we were, and don’t realize the hatred they spew towards flag kneelers has part of its roots in that awful day.   Their version of “freedom” is not the same as mine, and they’ll never know the world used to view us as one of the good guys, and not just a military power kicking ass everywhere.    Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’ve learned when they say to “never forget” September 11th, it wasn’t about holding a grudge towards a certain faith, it was about how we felt the day after… a nation undivided.

Saying Goodbye to Mom

In the early morning hours of June 9th, I found myself almost sitting up in bed, my arms reaching out into the darkness, trying to grab, or even hold onto, a female presence.   I didn’t know who she was or what she looked like, only that something was concluding… a dream of some kind maybe.  I didn’t put much thought into it and fell back asleep.    I’m often visited or have interactions of some sort while sleeping… sometimes they are subtle, just an awareness of someone watching me or present… sometimes it’s a loud voice yelling, sometimes a whisper.    Strange as it may sound, I’m seldom frightened and usually tell who or what ever it is, to just “go away, I’m sleeping.”    I still wonder if the interaction that morning was actually much more than it seemed, perhaps it was even my mom… saying goodbye.  

I was working from home when I noticed the phone call from my brother in Atlanta.    He usually texts me, so immediately I knew something had to be wrong.    I instantly thought of my mother, recent events having me somewhat anticipating this call.    I wasn’t thinking of what happened much earlier that morning, but I had known for some time my mom was giving up on the battle against the lung disease that would claim her life.    For over six years she had been tethered to an oxygen machine of some sort, having been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis… basically scaring of the lungs.   Little by little breathing had become more difficult for her, while her desire to live less and less.   About a month before her passing she had shared my post on FaceBook, probably the first time she had done so, about my Uncle Joey that died in World War II at the age of 21.   “I remember the day you picked me up from school…”  she had written, and I immediately knew what she actually was saying.    It was like I could translate her words into some kind of higher meaning, and I began to sob at the dinner table the evening I read it.    My partner Eric became extremely concerned and asked me what was wrong.   I explained to him that my mom’s post was actually her way of asking her brother to come pick her up once again.     I sobbed and expressed my sense of knowing she wouldn’t be around much longer.  

My brother’s voice on the phone was very caring and at the same time almost professional sounding.    Being a minister for a large hospice organization, he had done this many times before…  although never for his own family.    

“Where are you right now?”  he asked with almost a quiver in his voice.

“I’m at home, I’m here.”   I responded with an escalating level of anxiety as the sensation of deep concern and loss began to build up inside of me.

“Mom has passed, Bibi found her on the floor.    She’s on the other line.”  

My heart sank so very low.   The moment my sister and I had dreaded since we were young children had finally arrived.    The knowledge of how it would occur, where we would all be… it was all known in the present moment, part of my awareness… and part of my life forever.    My brother connected my sister to the call and I could hear her sobbing loudly and painfully.    The memory of it brings me to tears as I can clearly hear her voice… and the pain, with amazing clarity.  I doubt as the years pass it will ever dull, become less loud, or become a whisper as so many memories often do.    I became choked up and called to my sister, speaking about how much I loved her, how sorry I was… and that I would be over there soon to be with her.    My brother began giving me instructions and for some reason, I can’t hardly remember them.   He wanted my sister’s children to be able to see their grandmother one last time, but that would mean removing her body from the floor and placing her in bed.    The wise decision was made to leave my mom where she was until the police could arrive an conduct their investigation.

After hanging up the phone I immediately called my partner Eric and told him what happened.   The memories of calling others to pass on the information of my best friend’s death over twenty years ago came flooding back to me.    This was a horrible but necessary action, one that would potentially become more frequent as I got older.    Eric was completely shocked, the emotion in his voice easily recognizable.    He said he would immediately leave the office and meet me at home.    I ended the call and jumped into the shower… the first ever without the awareness of my mom being alive and just a phone call away.

When I arrived at my mother’s home with Eric, there were a couple of police cars outside and a female officer standing under a tree in the parking area.    As I approached the front door, a neighbor approached me, masked and keeping her distance, as most concerned people do during the COVID19 pandemic.    “I’m so sorry to hear about your mom, I loved her very very much.”    It was easy to see the expression of sorrow in her eyes, even though she was speaking through a facial covering.    I felt bad I didn’t recognize this neighbor as I was somewhat in a state of confusion.    I thanked her and walked inside, immediately catching a glimpse of another officer standing by my mother’s bedroom door which was shut.   My sister immediately ran up to me and we hugged, sobbing as we embraced each other.    My brother Gary and his wife Ana we also there, and after embracing them as well, we all sat down, having the conversations one does after losing someone unexpectedly.    What happened… who saw her… who didn’t want to see her… did she look bad and the like.    It was such a bizarre feeling and at the same instance, a time of coming together and knowing this was a part of life, and that we weren’t experiencing it alone.    Yes my father had passed away decades before of cancer, but the experience was completely different in every way… this was our mom, the matriarch of the family.

My mom in Napa Valley, the trip was a retirement present from my sister and myself. I copied the written message scanned from her own handwriting, that was in her personal notebook my sister found only days after her death. She had copied this poem down possibly a few months earlier, something she often did when she found inspiration in sayings she liked. We included the complete poem on the back of the memorial card we distributed to friends and family.

I don’t think two days had even passed when Eric came up with the idea of heading back to the Florida Keys, and enjoying Key West together as a family.    Eric and I had taken my mom there in 2014, and she so enjoyed the drive and the food.    The keys was actually a favorite place for her, having taken many road trips there with my Aunt Olga and Uncle Gene.   It also wasn’t uncommon to take my mom to the Keys for spontaneous lunches or Mother’s Day, she loved looking at the water and she absolutely loved seafood.   My entire family embraced the idea with a level of enthusiasm never seen before.    It would be such an appropriate tribute to my mom and the very first time ever… yes ever… that we would all be together for a period longer than a few hours.    It seemed like my mom’s spirit was thrilled as well, to have most of her kids together at the same time.    The only possible exception would be my eldest brother Jon, whom I hadn’t really spoken with or seen in over ten years.  A complicated history of family trauma, hurt feelings and anger had been keeping us apart.    The question in everyone’s heart’s and minds was whether my mom’s passing would be the spark of love we needed to begin healing… in more ways than one.

Weeks passed and the news was suddenly flooding the group text chat on our phones… something we had done for several years, with an occasional lapse in participation mostly by me, in an attempt to assert my individuality and or importance.   Being the youngest of five children isn’t easy at times, and I’ve often felt like an afterthought in the grand scheme of family politics and social interaction.    Still, recent revelations had brought us all together with one exception, my brother Jon… and we were all missing him tremendously.   “Jon and Michele are coming to the keys!”  one of my brothers, I can’t remember which one, texted in a joyous excitement that could be felt in the illuminated characters on the screen.    We all became instantly excited, not only because we would see him and his wife again, but the prospect of being all together for the first time in a very long while.    Of course the prospect of being a family again was also on our minds, something my mom would be credited with as one of her final accomplishments.   The knowledge of all this coming together with such ease and a minimal amount of effort could not be overlooked.   Our family was absolutely horrible to plan anything with, and in the time frame of just a couple of weeks, had managed to locate an open resort in Key West during a pandemic, charter a sail boat for my mom’s memorial service, and reunite with my brother Jon and his wife Michele.     Truly amazing, and clearly a miracle of divine proportion and design.

“Holding back tears himself, he described how my mom brought us into this world through our birth, and in her death, brought us all back together.”

I so love walking down Duval Street in Key West, it has a unique energy that has this kind of charm to it.    It’s within a part of the island called “Old Town Key West” and it’s perfectly named since so many of the buildings look the same as they did a century or more earlier.     As Eric and I were walking this particular Friday afternoon, I received a text message that my brother Jon was with the rest of family walking in our direction.   I had a mixture of feelings… apprehension, excitement, even a little bit of anxiety thrown in for good measure.    As we turned a corner, there he was, looking much the same as I last remembered him.   He smiled and approached me with love and open arms.    I gave him a huge hug and started to tear up with emotion, holding onto him tight and letting him know I didn’t want him to ever leave my awareness again.    Michele, Jon’s wife, was there too, complete with her infectious smile and a welcome equally as warm.   It was the first of many miracles that would occur during our time in the Keys together, one that I know my mom extremely was proud of.     Her spirit and energy was readily felt during our entire stay, and at times I found myself looking for her as if she was somewhere to be seen.

The next day we all boarded a beautiful sailboat that my brother Gary had located online.    My sister had chartered it for the late afternoon going into sunset, a perfect ending to my mother’s journey in the physical.    My father’s ashes would join her too, having been stored for years in the garage and even lost at times.   We had never settled on a time and place to honor him, and this seemed like the perfect place for my mom and him both.   In retrospect it almost seemed like their spirits planned this from the start, as a kind of perfect farewell.    My father being an avid fisherman (even commercially at one point) and my mother loving the sea, made this all seem like a carefully orchestrated event.  My brother would deliver a beautiful service, dressed in his ministry robes as my mom would have wanted… and been so proud of.    Holding back tears himself, he described how my mom brought us into this world through our birth, and in her death, brought us all back together.   The words couldn’t have been more appropriate as we gathered together once again as a family, our bonds stronger than ever.     As my mom’s ashes went into the water, the winds on the ocean picked up fiercely, as a very dark and ominous thunderstorm approached…  black massive clouds against the backdrop of a beautiful orange and red Florida Keys sunset.   My mother’s spirit couldn’t have felt more present, she might as well have been there in the physical, as my memories of that evening seem to reflect that very notion.

All five of us together again, with our significant others.

The weekend continued onward with countless expressions of gratitude from every member of my family… my cousin Barbara and her husband Tom had even joined us, and even though their religious and political alignment are in stark contrast with my own, there was no shortage of love and compassion.  My mother would have wanted no less, she was such a firm believer of forgetting the past and loving everyone for the person they are.    She loved my cousin Barbara very much, often recalling how she took care of her and her sister Debbie when they were babies.     I guess being the little girls of her own sister, they both had a very special place in her heart.   Of course this gathering had to end eventually, and we found ourselves hugging and saying goodbye that Sunday afternoon after lunch.   Although something was very noticeable… we were all very different people from when we arrived to these chain of islands in the Atlantic and Gulf waters… we were a family once again with he awareness and responsibility that goes along with it.    Vowing to never be separated again, we parted ways looking forward to the next time we would all be together.  

Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday, and I could see no better tribute than to publish this account of our journey.   As I put my final words together, tears are running down my face, reminding me of the love that I felt for my mom.   They aren’t tears of sadness at all, they are a reminder that special people exist in our lives and when they’re gone, their memory holds a special place in our heart.    As human beings we are never perfect individuals, we make mistakes as we learn and continue to grow until our very last day on this planet.    My tears reflect not only the memory of my mom, but the joy of knowing what it is to be a family once again.     There could be no better gift to give my mom for her birthday other than the emotion of complete gratitude… for my life and for those that surround me today because of her.  

Happy Birthday Mommy.

September 1st, 2014, the last time my mom would visit Key West. She so loved road trips, especially driving to the Florida Keys. Eric and I took her there to celebrate her birthday, and as you can tell, she’s very much enjoying this pina colada. This restaurant, although opened to the public, belongs to the resort we all ended up staying at during her memorial.

I don’t want to know anymore.

I don’t want to know how racist you really are.

I don’t want to know how your world view is based on a meme that validates your fear and ignorance.

I don’t want to know how much you devalue facts, reasoning and logic.

I don’t want to know that you don’t have single friend that isn’t white as a bed sheet.

I don’t want to know that your religious beliefs include supporting and promoting sexual predators that boast about their behavior.

I don’t want to know that you get all your information from a single source.

I don’t want to know that you’ve never spent hours with your head buried in an encyclopedia.

I don’t want to know that your vote is based on how big your paycheck is.

I don’t want to know that you don’t know the difference between fact and opinion.

I don’t want to know that you consider science and mathematics the enemy.

I don’t want to know that years of research, study, statistical analysis, empirical evidence and observation mean nothing to you.

I don’t want to know that you have no idea what the previous statement even means.

I don’t want to know that you stop caring about your fellow human the moment they’re born.

I don’t want to know you don’t like animals.

I don’t want to know that you crush spiders even though they’re saving your world from destruction by insects.

I don’t want to know that you have a closet filled with weapons designed for war, to kill as many humans as possible in the shortest amount of time, and claim it’s for hunting.

I don’t want to know when your child is murdered at school, because the weapons in your closet are perfectly legal.

I don’t want to know that you think it’s okay to lock humans and children in cages.

I don’t want to know you’re clueless of how blessed you are, and you look down at others with so much less.

I don’t want to know that I was right about that something which bothered me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I don’t want to know that you fell in love with someone you never met in just two days, and now you’re crushed and don’t want to live because they’ve blocked you.

I don’t want to know so many people can relate with that kind of relationship.

I don’t want to know that you hate anyone with a faith in a higher power.

I don’t want to know that you don’t even believe in yourself.

I don’t want to know that you claim not to be homophobic, but you’ll vote for someone that actively fights against my right to love who I choose.

I don’t want to know that you don’t realize voting has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do about how people live, work and survive.

I don’t want to know you don’t vote.

I don’t want to know anymore.

Before social media, I was so much more hopeful for our planet.

Before I knew, I thought we’d overcome just about everything.

Before I knew how diseased we were, I thought we were somewhat healthy.

I don’t want to know anymore.

A Quarantine Fable… Or “How did we get here… again?”

One day, in a beautiful little community, a neighbor named Bob elected to paint his house with polka dots because he saw it on a tv show, and thought it would make for even greater curb appeal. It looked really cool on TV, but when he finished the job it didn’t look so great. He thought to himself “Maybe it needs some time to get used to…” and he left them on the house. His family wasn’t so sure about them either, but they went along with his idea.

As days turned into weeks, and then into months, it became very apparent that the dots weren’t working. They were horrible. The neighborhood started to complain and the exterior design of the house became an eye sore. The family was embarrassed at first, however as the anger up and down the street grew, so did their defiance. They just couldn’t admit to themselves that they had all made a huge mistake. The paint was expensive, the process arduous, and to change it back now would be an admission of their complete lack of good taste. They began to tell others that they would keep the dots, and in fact, they actually loved the dots and planned to add more in the near future. Before long, they actually found themselves liking the dots, since they had put so much time and energy in defending them, and they saw the dots as a statement of their individuality.

This angered the neighborhood even further, and one day someone threw an egg at the front door in protest. The egg splattered and quickly spoiled in the summer heat, making a huge stink. Sally, the neighbor next door, hated the dots as well, but she didn’t like the idea of someone throwing an egg at the house and making such a mess. As a form of support, she began to tell others she liked the dots also, and she wanted them to stay. At first, Sally thought this would help stop the constant bickering in what used to be such a peaceful neighborhood, but it only made it worse. Shortly after, someone threw an egg at Sally’s front door and this bothered her tremendously. She decided she would paint her house with dots as well… after all, they were throwing eggs at it anyway, and it was a painted lovely shade of pink without any dots. Sally thought to herself, “I’ll show them!”

So Sally painted her house with dots, and her friends began defending her, and soon the entire neighborhood started taking sides. Like a contagious disease, dots were going up on houses everywhere, and neighbors were fighting against neighbors daily. Dotted houses began to appear on every corner, and the neighborhood started to look pretty ugly… at least to half the neighborhood. The other half began to boast it never looked better! Someone with no dots suggested that a law should be made so that houses could only be painted approved designs, and that just made things even worse. The idea of someone telling someone else what they could or couldn’t paint on their home, didn’t go over well with homeowners with dots and even some with no dots… and so even more arguments began ensue.

One day, during the hottest of the summer months, a hurricane was forecast to hit the small town. The weather service warned everyone that this was one of the worse storms to ever hit the area, and they needed to prepare their homes, taking appropriate action such as placing shutters on the windows. At first everyone agreed and people actually stopped arguing for a while, and started shuttering their homes. Unfortunately Bob was taking way too long to put up his shutters, and when one of the neighbors brought this to his attention, he became very upset. Especially since the comment came from someone with no dots on his house.

Seeing this as yet another attempt to tell him and the others with dots what to do, Bob decided he wouldn’t put shutters on his house, and would ride out the storm as if it were just an afternoon shower. The surrounding neighbors got very upset, since if Bob’s house got destroyed, the resulting debris would affect those around him. When the complaints and concerns rolled in, Bob just stood his ground. Sally also decided once again to support Bob in protest. Clearly this was just another attempt by the neighbors with no dots to tell the ones with dots what to do… after all, they were obviously still so angry at the dots. So Sally refused the shutters, and eventually, all houses with dots had no shutters, even if they had already put them up when they had heard of the approaching storm.

Days later, the strong hurricane made landfall and hit the tiny divided community at nightfall. The high winds easily broke through Bob’s windows, shattering them into thousands of pieces, allowing them to barrel through his home. Bob and his family tried to hang onto anything they could, but it was no use. The winds were strong and they were blown out the beautiful bay window of their living room. Just moments later the structure succumbed to the high winds, and sadly the house was destroyed.

Meanwhile, Dave, who lived down street from Bob in a lovely 3 bedroom non-dotted house, was sheltered inside and listening to the eerie storm noises coming from the exterior of the home. His family was safe, having shuttered his windows and properly prepared for the hurricane which had finally arrived. Suddenly, Dave heard a loud crashing noise coming from the upstairs, and his family became very frightened. Unfortunately, Bob’s baby grand piano had flown into his roof, just one of many pieces of furniture and debris flying around since his house was destroyed. With a large hole now in Dave’s roof, the tremendous winds rushed inside and quickly destroyed his house within minutes, producing yet more debris. Little by little, dotted and non dotted houses were destroyed, as they didn’t stand a chance against the high winds and debris, which acted just like armed missles.

The next morning, the rising sun revealed the full damage of the hurricane which had passed during the night. House after house was destroyed, and corpses lay face down in muddy puddles. The tiny community was completely destroyed. There were no more houses and far less people, regardless of who had dots and who didn’t. Without any houses, the surviving residents had nothing to argue about and they began to wonder why they were arguing in the first place. After all, when push comes to shove, they were all just people… without their houses to display who had dots and who didn’t. Sadly, they gathered together and waited for the emergency response to arrive, which brought much needed supplies and water to the fractured town.

Sally was still alive, although, like the others, she had no home. She was very happy to see the assistance being provided, and the remaining members of the community all agreed that she should act as a liaison between emergency crews. She had lived in the neighborhood all her life and she knew everyone that lived there. Sally could tell rescuers where to look and how many people should be found in each house. The neighborhood placed their complete trust in her to make decisions in the best interest of the town… the thought of houses painted with dots or no dots, was the least thing on their minds. Later that evening, crews were dropping off a pallet of food rations for dinner, before moving forward to help other communities around the area. Sally met with the director of the rescue efforts and although exhausted, felt empowered and honored to represent her town. As Sally looked at the brightly collored orange uniform the man was wearing, he looked back at her and asked, “Beef or chicken?”

Attempting To Take The Path Of Least Resistance… And Not Succeeding

I’m so tired as of late. There are so many things that need fixing on this planet, and I tend to be a fixer kind of person. This used to even manifest in my relationships… I would meet someone and if they were troubled in some way, holy crap I would catch myself falling for them almost immediately. Their good looks coupled with a hard luck story was too much for me to resist. Luckily I identified that predisposition at a very young age, so I was able to diagnose what was behind that almost magical attraction later on. Still the innate urge to be an activist, to fix a neighborhood, address a community issue, campaign for the individual that will bring about change for the greater good and of course advocating and being a voice for others weighs heavily on me. More than ever. Not being able to somehow throttle these urges when we’re more connected via technology than ever, rapidly leads me to exhaustion. With every waking moment I could be helping dogs in China, kids in Syria, Koalas in Australia, Wolves in North America… and the list goes on. I need to somehow learn how to focus my attention on something that’s important to me, and limit how much energy I expend on them. I’m not bragging about this as if it’s a badge of honor, it’s quite the opposite. It’s almost a curse of sorts.

Collecting signatures to help elect our first female Mayor Of Miami-Dade County. Is it shallow if I note what a bad picture this is of me?

I know where this all happened. This is all the fault of Dr. Seuss and his creation, The Lorax. I still remember the first time I ever watched the animated film in what I believe was the first grade. I remember the film projector in the classroom having issues in the very beginning, and how happy I was when my teacher got it working. This story of a creature being a voice for something that couldn’t speak, shaped me from that day forward. “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.” would be a phrase I would never forget. The only problem is now I am trying to speak for everything and everyone and while I take short breaks, I always find myself back where I started. Of course Dr. Seuss is only one part of the problem, the other is having the ability to know about so many things in such a short amount of time… yeah we call that Social Media.

If you’ve ever put yourself into the place of appreciating what a wonderful planet we live on, and how wonderful people are, you know how great that feels. You see so much light in everything and even the people you see on the street seem like they’re smiling more that usual. However spending only a couple of minutes on social media and you’ll see people talking about things which horrify you… and they might be boasting about it. I remember how gut wrenching it felt when I realized an online friend of mine was pretty much a racist, or when I was seeing family members spread stories filled with misinformation and downright lies. How could this be possible? How could so many people… special people… people you love and admire, have such skewed views of the world? They obviously need fixing too and it just so happens I’m great at that. Fuck, here we go again. Yet before social media, I never knew they needed to be fixed. They were only comfortable in displaying this side because they had found other racists to back them up and share racist ideas with…. so they were happy and felt safe sharing their true nature. Perfect, perhaps I can work with them and help them understand what’s wrong… Lord help me.

So what if, as this post title suggests, I just try to take the path of least resistance? What if I just let the world go to hell in a hand basket and sit back and enjoy everything I’ve been blessed with? I’m a huge fan of Law of Attraction, and my day to day life is shaped around trying to be in the place of allowing good things, people and experiences to come to me. The expression, “what you resist will persist”, probably came from someone that observed the Law Of Attraction working, and perhaps even consciously knew of the concept. After all, we all know of a friend or family member that’s always walking around saying “nothing ever works for me” and guess what, nothing ever does. And no one is really surprised. They’re acknowledging the presence of Law Of Attraction without mentioning it by name. So technically, if I resist all these things that are upsetting me, there will actually be more of it in my awareness. That’s just not a statement in spiritual practice, it’s mathematical. If I’m working to save the trees, then I see a lot of trees, and a lot of tree destruction to go along with it. Still, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

” I need to find some kind of sweet spot, somewhere I can make a difference and not feel exhausted, but also not feel like I’m just being a disconnected individual with a very myopic view of the planet. “

Law Of Attraction goes on to say, that if I’m thinking about the positive aspects of the world, I will attract other people that also feel the same way. Then all of us happy thinking people will attract cooperative components that will help us work together, almost effortlessly, in bringing about the world that we’re thinking about so positively. In other words we become the change we’re looking for, and like a magnet, attract people and situations that will help us spread this attitude… thus effecting change. And that’s amazing, because I can enjoy my blessings, sip my margarita on my cruise, and me enjoying life is going to help kids in Syria… and save trees. And believe it or not, I sometimes go to that ideological place when taking a break from my activism and fixing people. But then something creeps into my awareness… something called “spiritual bypass.” Why oh why did I need to learn about this? Dr. Ding, this part is completely your fault. 😉

My view while marching in a pride parade alongside my partner. Marching is a time honored tradition for those seeking change.

The concept of spiritual bypass is super easy. It’s when you give up on trying to change or work on something… anything… a condition on the globe or even something within yourself, and use religion or spirituality as an excuse to ignore it. This can seem pretty benign at times, or even comforting. People use phrases like “It’s God’s will…” and that pretty much wraps up any feelings and or emotions for the faithful, or so it would seem, because a deity ordained it as some part of a bigger plan. No use in fighting city hall, or God in this case, it’s all good. Time to move on folks, there’s nothing you can do about it. Or, in extreme cases, spiritual bypass can be used as way of explaining some pretty horrible experiences, which is probably where it’s most dangerous. Some religions blame bad things on the devil, while others, especially in New Age circles might refer to “soul contracts” as a way of explaining why you were raped by your uncle. Yeah no shit, this is really a way of thinking in certain circles. Kind of makes it hard to express anger when you both made this deal before being born doesn’t it? Yeah so I can’t spiritual bypass my way out of wanting to help people… that would be completely contrary to who I am.

Who doesn’t love a bay cleanup?

So here’s my dilemma… I can’t save the world, it’s making me so tired trying, I love Law Of Attraction, but I want to be involved and actively participate in making the world a better place. Because I’m a multipotenialite and have so many varied interests, I care about a lot of different causes. I need to find some kind of sweet spot, somewhere I can make a difference and not feel exhausted, but also not feel like I’m just being a disconnected individual with a very myopic view of the planet. Abraham Hicks often speaks of a cork floating on the surface of the ocean, and that’s the sweet spot I’m supposedly looking for. You can view the problems of the planet from there, but you’re not getting wrapped up in the problems and “sucked down” into them. But how is it possible to be involved in an issue and not get wrapped up in it? I don’t want to spiritual bypass my way through life, I want real world solutions and answers. And yet the more I practice Law Of Attraction, the better my life seems to get. And the better my life gets, the more I want to help others get their lives together and share my blessings. What a fucking mess. And please, I can hear some people saying “get off the cross, someone needs the wood.” Again I have to say I’m not trying to boast or brag about the type of person I am, because I know plenty of people just like me, and they’re much more successful at getting things done… and much much more deserving of praise. What I’m trying to do here is balance a spiritual / Universal premise, with a logistical, interpersonal, socioeconomic, environmental nightmare.

Any advice?

The Governance Of Your Soul

It’s amazing what can happen to a society when you threaten their concept of the afterlife. Humans are so terrified of death and the unknown, especially the finality of it, that many turn to a faith which insures their continuance of life. Even if historically and that faith tortured, raped, murdered, and continues to do so. Many if not most of these incidents aren’t even isolated, they are widespread and extremely well documented. Yet organized religion has this fail-safe that I find fascinating and I have spoken of so many times before… “follow blindly and dare not question your creator.”

Organized religion is a form of government that extends well beyond geographical boundaries which makes it extremely powerful. It’s the governance of a persons very essence, their immortal soul. Just like a political body, it’s extremely competitive, with each group stating their version is the best, and similarly, a source of war, confrontation and death. Those whom do not participate are easily and successfully labeled as outcasts. Even in our modern society, atheists are often looked upon as odd or somehow felt sorry for. Those that wish to acknowledge the forces of nature and balance for their spiritual fulfillment, are usually considered “witches” or worshippers of the devil. “Opting out” of organized religion is not something that’s well received among the masses, surely there must be something untrustworthy of an individual that doesn’t consider their status after he or she perishes from this Earth.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of organized religion, the huge sums of money and wealth behind it, look no further than your local television and Joel Olsteen at work. With a smile that looks like the work of a cosmetic surgeon, he peddles hope, books, videos and of course faith to thousands upon thousands in his stadium sized “church.” His wealth is clearly visible to others, and instead of attempting to hide it as traditional religion often does, Olsteen uses it to propagate his notion that through God and Jesus, “you can too.” When in reality, a positive outlook and eagerness to work, will often result in the same level of success.

While it may sound like I’m an atheist or discouraging participation in religion I’m not. I actually follow a multitude of faiths, as so many aspects of light and how it’s perceived by others fascinate me. There’s way too many examples of kindness and humility in the religions of our planet to acknowledge just one following. What I wish is that more people would be aware about the history and purpose of religion, and act in a way to shift it in the right direction if possible. I wish more people would remember the words of their prophets and deities and act on them, instead of listening to the institutions attempting to represent them, often with ulterior motives.

“Remember the source of your faith is available to you without a building or a dot com, it exists completely and wholly within.”

Organized religion reminds me of coveted ocean front real estate that someone realized people would pay for. Instead of turning it into a park where everyone can enjoy it freely and without cost, they built a hotel on it and charged for the opportunity to engage it. The ocean doesn’t change, it stays the same, but your experience with it is now determined by those that operate the hotel. Your view, the amenities, all arranged by the price you’re willing to pay. Make no mistake that many organized religions operate in the same fashion, monetizing a faith that existed thousands of years before them, in order to profit from the benefits. In the case of cults, they often just make something new up, creating a market where it never existed before.

Remember the source of your faith is available to you without a building or a dot com, it exists completely and wholly within. Find comfort in your own personal connection, don’t feed the monster trying to exploit it for its own financial gain. If asking questions and searching for answers is frowned upon, that’s a good indicator your desire to learn the “why?” is perceived as a threat, and you should probably move on. Your desire to learn should always bring you closer to your faith, not trigger retribution or separate you from it.

Another Decade Ends…Life Lessons Learned

Time is truly perceived in the eye of the beholder. When I was just a young kid and my world consisted of cartoons and playing outside after school, the concept of a decade was unknown to me. It was impossible to understand this unit of time since I hadn’t even existed on the planet for ten years, let alone be fully aware for even half that amount. By the time you reach drinking age, you feel like you know everything there is to know and people in their 30’s are considered old. Holidays like Christmas and New Years become reasons to party and it becomes perfectly acceptable to stay awake the entire night, engaging in behavior you might learn to regret later in life, and of course bragging about it until then. You look forward to the newness of the upcoming year with optimism, excitement and wonder, speculating what it might bring. Then, suddenly, often with little notice or warning, things begin to change. Staying up past 9:30 becomes more of a chore than a luxury, and your view of things, now with a much more larger, detailed and complex data set, begins to change. You start to notice patterns, cycles and the concept of a decade, once this huge block of unperceivable time, becomes shorter, familiar and forms into a much greater perspective of life. Next year I’ll turn 49, and while many complement me on still looking like I’m in my 30’s, I sure as hell don’t feel like it, and the way I view life has changed even more.

I’ll always remember, as I suppose most will, how horrible and anxious I felt the first time I stopped seeing someone I was interested in. As a young closeted gay man, I latched onto the first guy that reciprocated sexual attraction, especially since you didn’t know when you might run into one again. The world was completely different, and meeting other gay men was often risky at best. There was a very real possibility of being physically harmed should your suspicions have been inaccurate, and they ended up being straight and not very understanding of your dilemma. Breaking up, or the gay equivalent, was a horrible process and it seemed like life was over. Now, with a much better frame of reference, you realize that sometimes things just don’t work out, even at times for the better. While at times you may be in the worse emotional state of your life, eventually you will heal and things will improve. You learn that being alone isn’t so bad after all, and when you do have that special someone in your life, you learn to appreciate the time you have together so much more…knowing that life is completely unpredictable, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 40’s, was just only realized this past year or so, and that’s to live in the present. I got around to reading the book The Power Of Now by Eckart Tolle, and then a friend offered to take me to one of his speaking engagements here in Miami. I started to look at life much differently and began to appreciate the “nowness” of what is. And while I still look into the future and hope for a much better one, I have a set of tools to recognize what I’m doing and focus on what’s in front of me before I miss it. This takes practice of course and I’m still very much learning, but I’m getting so much better at identifying everything around me that’s actually going great, and trying to stay in that place of appreciating it. Going for a walk and enjoying trees and sunshine has taken on a completely different feeling, because I’m not wondering if life will be great next month or how I’ll get this or that accomplished, I’m thinking about how nice the warm sun feels on my face and how beautiful the trees are. I’m staring in awe at a humming bird or listening to birds sing and realizing there’s a cardinal in the tree next to me. I’m enjoying and living in the moment itself, not worrying about a future that may never even be available for me to experience. The only bad thing about this frame of mind, is the tendency to wish you discovered it sooner, having wasted so much time thinking and worry about things that never came to pass.

The Universal Law of Attraction has also been huge for me the past couple of years, enabling me with further insight as to why certain things happen and what I can do to change. It has answered many questions for me and created some more in the process. It’s the only principle that seems to fill in the holes of so many belief systems, or at the very least, bridge them together. It doesn’t satisfy every need for me, but it’s come much closer than anything else. It also seems to be a concept that so many practice already without even knowing, and yet illusive in your awareness until you’re absolutely ready for it. I’ve realized the hard way you can’t explain it to someone, they just won’t get it until they’re ready, so I won’t even try here. However I couldn’t write about what I’ve learned during the last ten years without mentioning it.

” I know that my goal won’t give me happiness unless I learn to be happy before reaching it. “

I’ve also learned not to care so much about things I can’t change, to pick my battles more carefully and the power of saying no. I’ve learned that people often don’t have your best interests in mind and the only person that will never intentionally let you down is yourself. And if you do manage to screw yourself over, holy shit it feels bad. I’ve learned I can’t fix the problems of the world or be all things to all people. I continue to learn every day, practicing what’s already come into my awareness… because knowing something is much different than actually applying it… and so I’m learning that as well. Of course I’m also learning there’s so much left to learn and I’m hungry for more. I’m not concerned about being the best at something anymore, I’m concerned about forgetting I’m still a student.

So what do I expect for the next decade? Nothing. Expectations are the mother of all fuck ups, not to mention I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter anyways. Which is totally bizarre because it seems the moment I became aware of the decades I’ve lived and what I’ve learned from them, is the moment I realized to stop counting them. Live in the now and live your best life to the best of your abilities. Enjoy every moment for what it has to offer, be thankful for the days that your back doesn’t hurt and when you have an hour to spare with nothing to do, but to just be. I still have goals but I’m also aware of the many milestones I’ve encountered on the way to them. I know that my goal won’t give me happiness unless I learn to be happy before reaching it. I’m open to changing those goals as my awareness changes, knowing that being flexible will make you a much happier person. So I end this by wishing you all the same for the upcoming year, may you be blessed with knowledge, love, prosperity and health, and the awareness of its presence in your life. So many have everything they could ever want in life, but are completely blind to it.

Happy New Year from The Geek With Muscles. XOXO

The Uncertainty Of Life

Most people don’t like uncertainty. They prefer a life of 30 day billing cycles, along with a fixed rate mortgage on their fixed sized living space which they return to daily. We work on a schedule, have some days off, then go back to work. During this lifetime we’ll have interactions with others, fall in love, make friends, get hurt, and variety of other experiences we value or hate as humans. Much of our time will be spent on ensuring that our journey here is stable and certain… predictable. For many of us, the allure of material possessions keeps us striving and moving forward, while for others, happiness is obtained through constancy and simplicity. Nothing more and nothing less, a no frills kind of existence with the least amount of variables requiring any kind of management or manual intervention. Still, through all these examples, uncertainly is the thorn in our sides which threatens to disrupt and remove any kind of joy we’ve obtained through whatever means.

Enjoying a sunset. You’re living in the present moment and uncertainty ceases to exist. Hey if Eckhart Tolle can do it on a park bench, so can you.

Society goes through a lot of trouble to avoid uncertainty. We purchase insurance policies to take care of situations or incidents which haven’t yet occurred, we start saving for college when our children are born and we even make arrangements for our loved ones before we die… death being the one uncertainty that’s very certain. We also form huge organizations which set forth to guarantee certainty through supernatural means. As technologically advanced as we are as a species, most humans on this planet believe in some kind of supreme all-knowing being, whom will actually grant us certainty… on the condition of praise / worship and or ritualized behaviors. Although we may no longer sacrifice our fellow man to sun and rain gods, we easily opt for a fate just as bad, or even worse, for those that dare to cross the deities which guarantee our certainty… and happiness. Entire cultures and civilizations have been built and destroyed in the process of garnering a sense of security, peace and joy… in other words certainty, by pleasing some kind of deity.

Sometimes bad things just happen to good people and that’s a fact that many find hard to believe. It blows our concept of certainty right out the window when we realize that all the worshiping and sacrifices we do through our lives has little or no bearing in what happens to us. We uses phrases to help us cope with this unsightly truth by saying things like “only the good die young” or “it was just his time.” Perhaps we even suggest that a person’s right to live and exist peacefully was somehow removed by cosmic forces such as Karma, which instantly eases the fear of those practicing what they believe is a righteous path. It soothes the human psyche to know that your kind neighbor, who took care of all the homeless cats in the area, was a ruthless ancient leader in her previous life and that must by why she was killed by a hit a run driver. Yeah it sounds pretty stupid, but even a stupid answer is better than none at all for those seeking closure or absolution.

Although we may no longer sacrifice our fellow man to sun and rain gods, we easily opt for a fate just as bad, or even worse, for those that dare to cross the deities which guarantee our certainty… and happiness

I know this may sound depressing as hell, but there’s actually a silver lining to it all. You see the fear of uncertainty relies on your perception of time and expectations of what’s to come. In other words, the future. In fact the future and uncertainty are almost sisters in relation to their meanings. Not knowing what’s to come and the events which have yet to come, are pretty freakin’ close… if not first cousins. But what if you didn’t have uncertainty because it didn’t have a place in your way of thinking? What if you just lived in the present and enjoyed each moment for what it was, learning what you can and moving forward as time must actually do? If you’re living in the present, then uncertainty really isn’t a thing anymore because every thing that’s around is pretty darn certain. You take in the available information and there you have it. When the information is pleasant, take it all in and enjoy the moment… every last second of it while it lasts. Bad situations may arise, but there’s still information in the experience, and that information may provide useful and offer solutions you didn’t know were there while distracted by the “happy” stuff.

Yeah this sounds a lot of like Eckhart Tolle‘s the “Power of Now,” and even some Law Of Attraction mixed in for good measure. It’s also just me being sick and tired of trying to work against everything for a desired outcome. I’m down right exhausted. I still have hopes and dreams of course, I’m still working towards them… but I refuse to believe any longer that there’s some magical way to doing it all that makes you exempt from tragedy and or disappointments. Life happens and shit happens… there’s no way around it. Don’t spend your days and nights worrying about the future and uncertainty when right this second, you probably have what you need to survive… especially if you’re reading this blog post. Any more than that is icing on the cake. So many forget their existing blessings while pursuing the ones they desire, only to recognize them when they’re no longer present. Don’t ever put yourself through that misery. Live in the now and give uncertainty a big middle finger. When shit happens, learn from the shit, weed through shit… get your hands dirty looking through the shit because maybe you swallowed a pearl at that all you can eat seafood bar.

As for faith, how about having some in the mathematical principles which dictate the eventual conclusion to your losing streak? I think sub-consciously, a person’s belief that a deity will somehow help them, means the opposite belief exists in them as well. Somewhere in the recesses of their brain, the grey matter is doing some spiritual math which states some all powerful being can knock them off their horse as fast as it helped them on it. Why even bother if it’s causing you more pain than it’s helping? Please don’t confuse my anger and frustration with a desire to become an atheist, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m just trying to sort out the emotional from the logical… you know, like Commander Spock. I’m just thinking if we remove the construct of living with expectations to just living and being happy with what we have, we’ll all be a lot more satisfied. And probably in the process attract more positive people and experiences?