Modern Disease or, Chronic Dissatisfaction

At first glance, you might believe this term to be relatively new; reserved for millennials and a generation of spoiled, entitled young adults who have had the world handed to them. Upon further review, I can look back to past generations that may have had the same affliction. We just did not label it back then. You go back, at least, to the baby boomer generation and among them, you will find a longing for a life different from the one their parents had.

As usual, I will ask a few questions and try to answer them with logic and a little passion.Do people today have it too easy? Why are so many of the people I meet unhappy with they have been blessed with? Is the idea that there must be something more to life an anchor around the neck of a future without internal struggle? What does it take to find happiness in the crazy, disjointed, hectic world we live in; and how do we find peace with what we have? Is there something more?

Let me say a few words about why I think life is too easy. I find the whole idea of not having to get off your couch for anything…very disturbing. Because we have such significant technological capability, we don’t have to reach very far for anything. You can have anything your heart desires without leaving the comfort of your home. Telecommuting has pervaded the workforce, and even a workplace friendship is becoming a thing of the past. As connected as the world is, we are getting more disconnected every day. This, ease of access is feeding a world of loneliness. Not that there is anything wrong with living a life of solitude or a monastic existence as an individual, but we are quickly becoming a whole culture of isolation and disparity. The human connection is dwindling before our eyes, and no one seems to realize it. Or maybe they do, and just don’t care. I think that having the world at your fingertips is one of the causes of “modern disease,” along with the fact that we have comfortable lives, and have too many choices, is dividing us.

The only people I meet that are truly happy are young children. The ones that have not been exposed to the hardships of everyday life. The ones that see endless possibility because they haven’t been told that most of those possibilities are out of reach for the average person. Teens, young adults, and adults, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of that spectrum. It seems that most people, of every age, I meet are missing something. At some level, they aren’t happy with either what they have or where they are or who they are with…or something. But let me say this. With the level of sophistication and intelligence, it takes to get through this life and navigate the complex society we live in; we should consider everything we have as a blessing. Not to trivialize the amount of effort it takes to just get out of bed in the morning when you feel that your life is lacking.

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing. I mean, seriously, since the dawn of man we have been searching. There has always been something driving us to want or search for more. At first, it was basic survival instinct; a need to eat and live beyond being a meal for some other animal. After that, our collective and individual frontier and innovative spirits motivated us to find and conquer new lands, new heights, new worlds; to build civilizations and propagate as a species. But with that, there were things that needed doing. That is to say, everything was unknown territory. We didn’t know what lay beyond the horizon and didn’t care if there was a threat. In fact, we relished the danger. It made us feel alive. I suppose that this idea, of nothing more to conquer (at least in our daily lives), is just another cause of our modern disease.

Are we doomed to travel through this existence with the weight of dissatisfaction pulling us like an anchor to the bottom of a vast ocean of ordinary life? Of course, we’re not! There is a large number of people out there that have found what it takes to get through it with a happy heart and a bright outlook. If you meet one, you know it. They are the benevolent souls. The ones that put others right up there with themselves, if not a bit higher. They are the ones that, as Joseph Campbell put it, have found their bliss. If you haven’t heard of Joseph Campbell, I suggest you look into him. Deeply. Anyway, find your joy. Help others. Write the great American novel. Create art (whatever that is in your eyes and in your heart). We all start out so bright eyed and bushy tailed. Then we lose something along the way. Rediscover a part of you that used to drive you, make you passionate, get your blood pumping again. Get out there and do something hard, even if you fail. Failure fuels desire, desire breeds passion, passion inspires creativity and creativity feeds your soul.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge alluded to an idea of having and needing a dragon to slay. My interpretation of this idea is that we all need that reason to get out of bed in the morning and do something that satisfies our soul. A passion to feed on. Me, I like to hear myself talk, or write, as it were. I hope people will like it, or not, but it makes me happy in either case. It does not have to be the loftiest goal, especially something that leaves you feeling like you didn’t do enough. Although whatever it is should be hard enough that it takes some type of effort. The only requirement is that it gives you a sense of inner peace.

People find most of their dragons within themselves and generally that is where they find their bliss. To slay them, some go to church, some do yoga, some paint, some play bridge, you get the idea. Go find your bliss and slay your dragon. Try to find meaning in the things you already have in this life. Family, faith, love, hope, earthly possessions, your crappy car….everything. It is all good, every last bit of it, you should let it be enough. There most certainly is more, but the majority of it is already inside you; waiting for you to let it out and share it, even if it is just with yourself. Your passion could bleed over on to the person next to you, and the next one, and the next one. Before you know it, we will have eradicated “modern disease” and discontent.

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Be you again

 

Identity

Are you who you are because you are identified with someone else or because they are identified with you? Has your identity been confused with someone else because people can’t think of you as your own entity without another person being attached to you? There have been many country songs written about “without you” syndrome. Without you, I’m nothing. Without you, I can’t go on. Without you, my heart is broken. And so on. You are something, you can go on, and your broken heart will heal.

If you are with someone for an extended period of your life, you start to become associated with them in the eyes of others. If something happens that separates you from that person; it is hard for your friends and family to start to see you without your partner. They don’t see you as an individual any longer. They can’t remember a time before your partnership with that person.  Maybe you can’t see yourself that way anymore either. It can be a difficult task to regain your sense of self after being part of a couple and then go back to being single. Many people struggle with restoring their identity after a union with another person. It doesn’t help that those around you don’t see you as your own person. It is even worse that you can’t get through the day without thinking of the person who used to be with you.

You hear a song that sparks a memory of a particular time. You read an article that prompts you to recall something that was important to you when you were together. You see another couple holding hands in the park on a crisp fall day amid the falling leaves. You see a movie that makes you cry because “ He/she would have loved that.” You wish that they were they to share it with you. These things make it hard for anyone to regain their sense of self. How can you put them behind you? You can’t put them behind you; you just go on. The trick is to keep your memories of the past with the love you lost. Hold them close and dear. They are a part of who you are.

Your memories don’t define you; they are only part of the definition. Just as your past relationship with another person was part of your life, that correlation doesn’t make up your identity. It is now part of who you were. In time, you will begin to see yourself as an individual again. The people around you will start to see you that way too. Be patient. In the meantime, find something to do that satisfies your soul. Find a dragon to slay, something you’ve always wanted to conquer but never had the time or inclination to do before. If you look into yourself by doing something you love, you will start to recover your identity. You were someone before the other someone. You will never be that person again because you have grown and changed over time. You will, however, discover a part of yourself that was lost or perhaps you didn’t know was there in the first place.

via Daily Prompt: Identity

A Case for Contrition

Death is the last, great, desperate act of man.

I have heard testimony about a man who lay in a bed in hospice for over a month.  His hourly deterioration matched only by his denial for his imminent demise. He clung to his life with zeal, yet declined treatment. He fought hard but, at the same time, refused a feeding tube that may have saved his life. He must have had a glimmer of hope to hang on for so long. He declined surgery that may have prolonged his life and possibly eradicated his cancer just the same.

He wasn’t what you’d call a pleasant man. In fact, he was a cranky old curmudgeon. He smoked like a chimney, dietarily dysfunctional and he was also entirely averse to change. He went places that most of us only dream of going. He grasped concepts and imagined possibilities without fear of being called a “kook.” In his early life, he was a selfish man that did whatever necessary to obtain what he wanted. He stepped over and hurt a lot of good people along the way. In his later life, the guilt of his past consumed him like the cancer that ended up taking his last breath.

It is pure speculation, but the people who were near him when he died believe that he preferred to live out his last days in pain to atone for his sins. Could his past have been so horrid that he would refuse treatment and nourishment to instead languish in pain? Even animals are euthanized to put them out of their misery. I can’t begin to describe the confusion that this causes my little brain. The concept escapes me. How can anyone hate themselves that much? And leave his loved ones wondering why. The graphic pictures of his slow decline indelibly marked on their minds forever. His last act of trying to achieve redemption for himself was also as selfish as anything he had ever done. His family watched in their agony as his muscles melted from under his skin. He became a distinct skeleton covered by a thin film of derma. As rigor set in before death, his extremities turned gray from lack of blood flow and oxygen. I wasn’t there and, yet these images haunt me as is if I were.

Still, his loved ones felt compelled to be by his side. They tried to comfort him, or maybe comfort themselves. To this day, that is a unasked, unanswered question. Perhaps it was to give his act of contrition some validation. Maybe it was to give his entire life some validation. I am at a loss to explain why he didn’t just let go. He could’ve set himself and his family free. Maybe it was a delusion that he would miraculously pull through. Or was it an adamant denial of his mortality that made him cling so desperately to his life. I have to believe that no human being could’ve led such a wretched life as to put themselves or their family through that much anguish.

It has always been a fear of mine to die alone. I can only hope I do not incur such a fate.  I will prefer that my contrition take place long before I am dying. However, I would rather be alone than having my family watch me die a slow, painful death.

If I may, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions. If you’ve hurt someone, try to make amends as soon as possible. If you aren’t able to take that step, then make peace with GOD. Whatever your higher power, you must seek forgiveness long before your deathbed. You have to be able to forgive yourself first. Be honest with yourself. Be fair to your loved ones. Some of our mistakes will never be forgotten. But our lives are also measured by our successes, no matter how small we perceive them to be. Ask yourself the hard questions every day. And be sure to give yourself honest answers. Tomorrow is a new day, with a whole new set of problems and new solutions. Don’t let your obstacles keep you from your honesty and integrity. When your conscience calls your name, reply with enthusiasm, “HERE.”

 

The struggle

There is a constant struggle going on inside each of us. Between what we should do and what we need to do. Where is that line drawn? All is not black and white. In fact, our moral “pencil” writes in grey on a grey background, making it difficult to see what is written. The shades of right and wrong blur into each other as we try to navigate our way through this life. We want to be our best selves for ourselves, but also want to be our best selves for those we love. With every decision comes indecision. Was that the right thing to do? Could I have done more? Should I have done less? Our selfish and selfless selves are always at odds. A dichotomous curse.

Our happiness isn’t ours alone. It is all of ours, interlaced with every other person on the planet. We all see clearly with hindsight; the future holds a better perspective. It’s hard to live in the moment when we are so unsure of the effects of what we do. We tell ourselves things like, “It was a good idea at the time.” or “I did what I thought was best” to help us justify our deeds. Not one of us can be positive that what we are doing in the moment is the right thing. Our best judgment isn’t always on the mark. Often it isn’t our best at all. It isn’t until we feel the repercussions of our actions do we truly see. The heat of the moment can’t be felt until the heat has cooled. We don’t always have time to weigh the pros and cons.

Time. Against us in the moment and for us after the fact. If only it were slowed when we need to be decisive, when pressure seems insurmountable and cathartic moments arise. There is too much asked of us. More times than not, the pressure comes from within ourselves. It doesn’t come from circumstances or from those around us. We all fear that we will disappoint. If there is love, ultimately there can be no disappointment. We can’t be afraid that love will subside or diminish when we screw up. We are, after all, human and prone to mistakes.  No one is perfect, but beautifully imperfect. The beauty lies within the ability to forgive each other our imperfections. Forgive and love, be forgiven and learn from love.

We live and hopefully learn from our experiences. However, old habits die hard and we revert to feeling like we must do everything ourselves. How do we find a way to overcome self-doubt and realize the fact that we aren’t alone? Can we find a way to circumvent disaster? Can we always determine the outcome of our actions? The obvious answer to those two questions is: No, we can’t. There is no such thing as complete certainty in life. There are two things we can turn to in times of doubt, they are trust and faith. Trust that if you have doubts about a course of action, that you are not alone. Take the time to consult someone about your concerns. Trust that despite your past perceptions and experiences; there is someone who cares, someone who will be compassionate, someone that will stand by you and see your point of view. And have faith that you won’t be judged for your doubt, thoughts or mistakes. But instead that there is faith and trust in you.

In the end, we must live with our decisions; whether they are made in desperation or calculated and methodical. We all make mistakes and affect others by what we do. Have faith in yourself and trust that there is someone who loves you. Love forgives you your humanity. The best we can hope for, is the love of another human being who is all loving and forgiving of our mistakes. Sometimes that love can come from a stranger or other unexpected source, But, it is out there.

It is quite a thing to have such love in this life. I am blessed to have this miracle in my life. My sister, who would swear that I was innocent if there was a dead body in front of me and I was holding a bloody knife or a smoking gun. My innocent six-year-old daughter who believes that her daddy is the best man to ever walk the earth. And my wife, who knows me better than I know myself. She knows my dark and she knows my light. She is strong enough to carry me when I am in doubt and there to give me an extra hand to help me to be my best.

I’m sure that none of us wake up in the morning and ask, “Who can I hurt or disappoint today?” Yet, inevitably, we do; it is virtually impossible to please everyone and be all things to all people. But we can’t walk on eggshells our whole life. We can’t succumb to our internal struggle. So just go out there and do it. Move forward with your life and do the best you can. Do it with the best intentions and love in your heart and you can’t go wrong. Be brave. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying. If you’re not trying, you’re not living.

Three little words

Do these thoughts enter your mind? They do mine. Maybe she feels that it is an unspoken truth. Maybe she thinks that I should just know. It is, and I should. But the sound of it gently escaping her lips, or a tender reminder written in correspondence elevates me. Have you ever asked yourself the following questions? I certainly have. I ask them to keep myself humble and grounded. Do I need reassurance? Am I insecure in her love for me? Maybe a little. We are all insecure about such dear things for fear of losing them. But not so much as to bring the question of whether or not she loves me to bare. Does my frail humanity need to hear it for its own vanity, or validation? Quite possibly. Maybe I just love to hear the words, or read them on a page in their poetic simplicity. Since I am human, all are true.  There is really only one answer to my questions;  that I have no power over love or how anyone shows or gives love to me. I only have the power to give and receive it. Very humbling indeed.

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t tell her (that I love her) as much, but that would go against everything I feel for her. I want her to hear it, she has the right to know that it is as constant as the revolving of the earth around the sun. And that the warmth of it is hers to hold. Three tiny words. They carry all of the might of God, all of the splendor of nature, all of the innocent wonder contained in the heart of a child and all of the gentleness of an evening breeze. Three little words of no consequence, except to those who have ever felt, or long to feel their impact. I pray that everyone has the good fortune to feel love received in their lives; and give it back freely, out of having received it and having knowledge of its depth. For once received in the heart and retained in the soul, it is a gift that begs to be returned, to be given. Not to be trivialized in three little words but felt in the furthest reaches of our innermost selves. And not to lessen the meaning of those three little words by saying them too much. If you feel love within you, the truth of the words cannot be diminished by the over-telling of them.

I believe it is a basic human need to feel that we are loved. Even when we know we are loved. We need to hear it, have some proof of it, although we know it is there and true. Whatever the reason, vanity, insecurity, human need, or just because we like to hear it, it needs to be said. Not by the ones you love, not for you; but by you, to the ones you love. And not to solicit a response. Though our loves may not reciprocate in words, text or action; it is not for us to do anything else but say it to, and show it to them. Not to expect anything at all in return. Would that it grow tiresome for them, tell them anyway, whenever the moment moves you to do so. And keep close to you, the hope that the love you give is returned. For your voice to not be heard on the matter is much worse than not hearing it yourself.

Always consider that Love is so much more than three little words spoken or written. Let your actions be your words and let the spirit of your love move you to be heard in ways beyond voice. Show your love through acts of service and kindness to family, friends and strangers. When it comes to your mate; don’t let your love be quantified by physical touch, let that be your worship to it. The physical union of lovers is a beautiful and intimate extension of your spiritual and intellectual union. And is an eloquent language all on its own.

Do not let your mind be in the way of your heart. I you have reservations about saying it; whatever your reasoning or fears, never let yourself be afraid to tell or show your loved ones how you feel. They too, long to hear and feel it. Three little words, they take no time at all. That few seconds of your time may make the difference in someone’s moment, day or life.

My First Blog Post

I am starting this blog because I have things to say. I want to share my thoughts on relationships, art, music, literature, people, places and much, much more. I have poetry and essays I’ve written that I want to publish. You my get good recipe or movie review out of me. At times you will only get a short poem. I have things I want to get off my chest.  I have been around a long time, maybe I have some wisdom or experience to share that will help someone get through their day, or week, or life. I will be sarcastic, funny, blunt, informative, emotional and always caring and compassionate. I write with my heart as much as my brain. Sometimes my heart is bigger and my thoughts can be a little abstract. Challenge yourself to look beyond the words. I am challenging myself to become a better writer.

I hope you enjoy my content. Writing brings me great joy and is good therapy. I know that, at some point, you will find yourself on common ground with me. You may not always agree with my perspective. I may not always agree with yours. But I will always write with respect to your intelligence. We are human beings on a planet that is increasingly smaller. Technology has brought us together in ways that we never would have even fathomed 20 years ago. I feel blessed to be part of it. In this global village we should all act as brothers and sisters and raise our children to believe the same thing. If in some small way I can spread the idea of love and peace, and touch even one person in a positive way; then this platform has served its purpose.

I love discussion. Please comment, bash, praise, raise questions.