Dear Whoever it is that called off work and gave me the privilege of 3 1\2 extra hours,
Hi there. Gosh, what a long name you have. I digress.
I must admit, this is the first time we’ve grown acquainted. Might I say, not the best way to start out? After all, the first thing I know about you is that you don’t show up for responsibilities where they pay you to be there. God forbid I need a ride (I might) or a cigarette (I won’t) or a plastic-lined trunk to hide the bodies (run and tell that)? Here I was, merrily fulfilling my duties, nary a care in the world and with what I can only accurately describe as a spring in my step, good sir! Then came the news from a manager that due to the situation (i.e. you), it was out of my hands. 9 pm became a distant, cheerful memory as I stared into the abyss beyond, 12:30 am somewhere in the mists like a hooded, haunted young girl walking a dreary moor, somewhere behind Castle Dracula on Friday the 13th. I immediately went through an abbreviated grieving process, skipping right from denial into the little known sixth stage of seething hatred. I’m nothing if not accommodating, so here’s a visual aid.
I was just praying to know your name, know when the next time you would be within my grasp. For then, you would truly know the word fear. OH YES.
Then I realized where these feelings were coming from, the anger welling up, the self-pity so close at hand. It was the reaction that made all the difference. So this letter is not sour grapes, sarcastic jibes thrown at the wall to see what sticks, or any of the like.
This is pure, unabashed, completely honest appreciation. This is a thank you.
Life is so much more about perceptions and mindsets than we could possibly admit, or would like to. Getting caught up is such a normal state for us that we seem to not even fight the urge and just hang on for dear autopilot. All I had to hear was “you are going to be in a place you dislike longer, if you don’t like it, tough,” and off I went. “Dammit, I was supposed to be off at 9.” “Why did that asshole have to call off?” “Maybe I’ll just think of some way to get out of it, pretend like I’m sick or something.” “This always happens to me.” Let’s stick on that last one a second. Our reaction when unforseen stress makes its tap-dancing entrance is usually a fist shaken at the sky. We find ways to make it the world against us. We find ways to rationalize stress and disappointment by making ourselves the most stressed, the most disappointed, and lest we forget, the least worthy target of such unfortunate circumstances.
I’m sure someone with a much nicer house than me has said this before, but life has nothing to do with stress. Stress is so intrinsic with life that it doesn’t even bear mention as a worthwhile pursuit, as something to sink your teeth into. You aren’t shocked to wake up and feel pangs of hunger, so why be shocked and hurt when you get a flat or spill coffee on an important document? Life has nothing to do with stress, and everything to do with how you prepare and react for the stressful situations in your life. The differences between people who have “good” and “bad” lives are minute at best, but I’d say if there’s a clean divide that cleaves the two camps in two, it’s this.
People with rewarding lives don’t dwell on stress because they realize it’s as basic a fact as breathing. They move right past denial to acceptance, and beyond just accepting they will have to be determined, they are prepared. On the other hand, people whose lives are “bad” squirrel away their regrets and use them to (irony of ironies) rationalize being even less prepared and determined than normal (“What does it even matter? All I’ve ever done is fail,” etc.)
You gave me a chance to look at a small piece to get a taste of the bigger picture. When we aren’t where we want to be, it’s easy to lose focus and faith. We allow our worst sides to come out because they’re bubbling right below the surface, nurtured by a mindset of anger and resentment. It is my fervent belief that we can stop this.
I am not where I belong, but every thing I do can bring me closer.
I realized that the things that are worrying me is not the stress itself, but everything that surrounds it (getting a ride, other plans, etc.) I saw that I have control over all of these things, and though they may cause a few more bumps in the road, the situation is not a hopeless one. We have a chance to take stress on and let it be a driving force forward, if we take the initiative and let ourselves become more determined, more resolute, more prepared. I took a few minutes to pull myself together, called my friend Justin who was graciously willing to give me a ride and the situation was done. I had gained 3 extra hours of pay and had taken care of all the worries that surrounded it.
I have a message through all of this. We have so much more strength, will and ability than we ever give ourselves credit for. The people who we see are successful did not get that way through sheer luck or with all the advantages of the world in their corner. Sure, it’s small consolation when you’re looking up at the foot of the mountain. I get that. Regardless, we can’t let ourselves get priced out by life. Make a change in your mindset, shift your perceptions and watch how much life will open itself up for you. I’m a huge believer that there is a correlation between confidence and effort. Make your mind work for you! Spend less time shapin’ up your bod and more time focusing on the three most important things in your life – Confidence, Determination, and Preparation. Get those three things working for you, and you will find the life you’ve dreamed of. I promise. I’ll be giving you more of my letters from the road as I take these steps, too.
Thanks for today’s miracle. I wonder what tomorrow’s gonna bring.
The Ecovillage project in Pueblo illustrated for me quite clearly that if we are going to try to deal with global and far-reaching issues, things that we aren’t able to come to grips with by ourselves, we need to apply that old axiom “think locally, act globally” in a new light. The benefit, which featured reggae artist Pato Benton as well as many opening acts (including one that played the Alkaline Trio song “This Could Be Love” on the bongos, an interesting experience to say the least), took place at Galileo’s restaurant on Victoria street in Pueblo, just down from the Union Depot. The place is a great spot, very good food if you’re into that sort of thing and they’ve now added a sizable bar and patio area to the back that looks well-maintained and perfect for an event like this.
Now, I have to say going in that I expected something a little less well put-together, and it did have an air of scrambling around at the last minute for the drink service – what with all the counters for beers just being unfinished particle board with no signs as to price. Looking back, it seems like it was the theme of the evening. The Ecovillage itself had a setup and exhibits towards the back of the patio. Too bad the people who were milling or around or sitting nearby were either caught up in the concert or alternatively didn’t care to answer people’s questions… I asked three times if the plans were already set in stone or if the mapped out plans were just that; asked if the streets the plan was shown on were where they expected to build the facility and where it was located in the county; hell, asked what exactly the entire plan was for the center. I failed to make headway with any of these.
If you’d like a little more information, I did manage to dig up this article by John Norton in the Pueblo Chieftain that gives a little more backstory to the benefit and what it was supporting. Suffice it to say, the center would fulfill the expected duties of recycling, but also has plans to add a bike maintenance shop, a center to hold hazardous waste and other specialized projects. What really stood out to me is the fact that the information seemed to be nonchalantly presented towards the back of the event, while everyone was there to just have a normal night out on the town.
Here’s where it all came full circle. Most people in their heart of hearts are not trying to ignore or shirk their duties in terms of being overly wasteful on purpose. If anything, people are just lazy when it comes to changing behavior. I understand that doesn’t come as a shock to most. At the same time, everyone can agree that more efficient use and care of natural resources is beneficial to us as a species and the planet that we live on. The subtle nature of the entire night struck me at once as startling and brilliant, assuming that they can pull everything off. I admit, some of the brilliance may be coming from underestimating my fellow man. To me, though, that’s not the wrong way to look at things. People don’t push themselves on the whole as much as they can, usually for little things, because the big things in their life (family, work, retirement) push small victories to the wayside.
The subtlety with which the evening was conveyed combined with the fine turnout (that back patio was packed with at least at good 200 people) gave me cause to smile. In a world where nothing seems to be harder to inspire change in the individual, we may be better served to begin change with more responsibility put on the people with the ideas instead of the audience. Or put another way, people waste. If we can focus on lessening the amount of waste that simply gets chucked in the landfill, or burned off and forgotten, we can begin to turn the tide without doing the seemingly impossible – that being, asking people to change their behaviors. People seem to rarely do this of their own accord unless there is a tangible benefit to themselves, or in the face of dire consequences if they don’t shape up.
We need to think globally and act locally, give voice and support to those who are willing to carry the torch rather than demand that everyone carry it.
Let me make this clear as well. What I am not saying is that people should not push themselves. I’m simply saying that having a happier and healthier global society isn’t necessarily best served by attempting grand overtures and sweeping changes in everyone. What I believe we need to do as a society is be more supportive of the people who are pushing themselves towards a passion, whether that is through time, money or effort. If you don’t have a burning fire for the environment, I don’t believe you should feel compelled to go out and march down the streets for a new amendment protecting the forest. If it’s not your cup of tea, you shouldn’t be forced to look at it that way. What I’m saying is that, you can still be a great benefit while taking much less of the time you are expending to find and stimulate your particular passions if you would, say, sort out recycling for the workers at the new center to have an easier time at pickup.
To me, people change for the reasons I’ve outlined above, knee-jerk style, because it is of immediate benefit. The change that is long-lasting and really does stick with a person cannot be found, implemented or appreciated overnight. That is something that has to be grown over time, after seeing the positive results of their work. I believe the Ecovillage has a chance to succeed because what they are focusing on right now is giving a state-of-the-art setting for their staff and volunteers, who have a built-in passion for what they’re doing. As time goes on, their work will put a dent into the problem of waste, and perhaps then we will see the results that they really are concerned about – increased social consciousness, a sustainable and successful project and people realizing that the worth of what they’re doing makes the investment of time a moot point.
It’s exciting to stand on this precipice. The world is changing, and I finally feel like I’m catching up with it.
Back with you shortly, with some thoughts and creations.
Let me start here by gettin’ a little personal.
I have recently moved back down to my hometown of Pueblo, CO. It was a decision I based largely (if not wholly) on being able to see my baby daughter Paige, who is the most adorable creature I’ve ever laid eyes on. Maybe the word “creature” seems out of place, but no human being should have as much energy as she does. Every time I felt the moment was right to take a break, it was “Nana!” and off she went, grandparent-seeking missile that she is, until she found trouble at the back door and “patiently” gestured to the metal handle, all the while holding a cup of watered-down apple juice and smiling.
The door opened and she was off and running. I had never seen her run before, but I could see that her personality still burned right below the surface. Everything was not only important but completely so. The pleadings and urgings of a hundred adoring family members could not keep her from running headlong into dirt greedily drinking up the output of an overturned garden hose, so what chance did we have? She found her way in the most direct way possible, leaning down to capture her quarry and then run back, making me squirm as she traversed the hose again but finding her way over without trouble (a relative term), increasingly toothy smile plastered on her face.
I hadn’t seen her for months. The thing that it takes time to get used to (or used to again, I suppose) is how you don’t have a moment to think. Every day in a child’s life is a new adventure, a new word, feeling, touch, something. I could fill up days just thinking. Best-laid plans are the ones that get done. I see those little feet scurry, and it’s black and white – Baby run, dad chase. Baby ask, dad answer. Baby point, dad look. Of course, it’s the other way around too. When your girl looks into your eyes, you’re the face of god staring back at her. That’s where the responsibility comes in. You can be the number one breadwinner, the chiseled prom king dad who takes his kids to the park and plays catch every Sunday, calling them “sport” and guffawing all the way, when all you really need to be is there, and attentive, and honest, and honestly and truly cherish every single moment you have with them. What you’re doing does not end neatly with a punch at a timeclock, you don’t go home at dark, you don’t get vacati0ns. Yes, this entire rant is chock full of simple metaphor and simpler platitude, but what I’m trying to say is a neat and tidy version of the realization I had.
That would be her trying to say the color “Green”. Did I make her repeat this about a billion times? Of course. I’d love to have some pictures to show you, but my USB cord is AWOL, so NSLWPPRNSG. That last acronym I made up, but if i get 20,000 followers on Twitter I’ll share it with you!
It is the possibility in our children that makes parenting the most important job we will ever face, and that’s even beyond taking it to the extreme contemplating-our-existence-type thinking. Imagine a fresh new batch of clay about to be thrown onto the potter’s wheel. Imagine that you spend day after day attending to it with rough hands, slowly sculpting and marking, mashing in water and shaping its features, breathing into it your time, sweat, tears, your very essence, until when you step away from the wheel, you see the best parts of yourself mixed in with the beauty and potential that was there all along.
Then imagine that the clay becomes a stripper because you didn’t teach it self-respect.
Hmm. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t necessarily work… but what I’m trying to say is this. You could focus on the surface and throw extracurriculars and distractions at your children, dress them in the finest Dillard’s has to offer and make work your mistress to give them all the materials they need to succeed. Just make sure in between this time that you make sure that they are just as important to you as you are to them. Your life is important, and don’t give it short shrift. But there is a balance that needs to be maintained, especially in the current culture we have when people seem to pinball from one emotion to another, one person to another, one relationship to another in an endless search to better and redefine themselves through having the same shallow, painful experience over and over.
If you’re a dad, teach your little girl to love herself. To not base her self-worth, her self-respect on whether on the opinions of boys and men. Teach her to fish, take her to games, take her to her favorite teenybopper concert and then stay out of the way. Let her know you are always there and she never has to be embarrassed to ask you anything. Teach her that she deserves love. And be ready to be a shoulder to cry on sometimes. If you’re a mom, teach your little boy to be a gentleman. Teach him that it’s okay for a man to be a man and still respect himself, the girls he takes a liking to, his family, his future. Teach him some softness for his rough edges. Teach him how to treat a lady and give him the pride to know when to apologize and when to stand his ground.
If you’re a parent, you don’t need to be a superhero. You just need to listen to your kids, and always help them find a road that gives them the self-worth and confidence to make all that they desire a reality.
(And don’t forget. It’s never too late for you to find that road either.)
Well, I have some poems that have been floating around in my head, but work calls out to me at the moment, so I think I will go ahead and get them written when I get home and get them up here. My musical taste has been a rotisserie of late, late being basically my entire life, going back to in utero, so we’ll see how long I’m on this current kick before I take up scandinavian melodic death metal or classical or world music or something. As we all know, your Itunes does decide your stock in life. Which isn’t necessarily true, but what’s the last Dimmu Borgir devotee you’ve seen throwing on the checkered oxford with the skinny tie from Rag and Bone and deciding which shade of off white is best to paint one’s face with for the annual shareholder meeting?
Okay, death metal fans are an easy target. Anyways, blah blah blah gonna put up some poems, lyrics, good songs and what inspired them later blah blah blah.
Oh yeah, and one last thing.
Living in Fort Collins really got to me from the standpoint that I had never lived in such a indignant town. Now, I’m not coming from a position of anger or bitterness when I say this, because I love that more than anything about it. The whole town has an air of “We don’t like something, not only will we let you know it, we will try to fix it”, and manage to do it in a way that avoids being self-serving or congratulatory (I’m looking at you, Boulder). This translates into almost-daily sustainability benefits, bike tours and a public that comes together on these myriad issues. Which leads into gatherings of a more congenial sort, like Tour De Fat, Beerfest, etc. I think having a community that cares about what is happening lends itself to people coming together and speaking about issues that are a passion to them, and more often than not finding common ground. It was something that scared me about coming back to Pueblo. Pueblo is a blue-collar town through and through (which is probably going to be a focus on some writing I’m doing shortly, LOL foreshadowing) and its gatherings are of the “Mariachi music and fried snickers” variety, more about people crowding into a August day’s furnace and overpaying for 1000 calories worth of burnt chocolate than, ya know, conversations, observations, face the nations, and whatnot.
Wow, work’s come up faster than I though. Let me finish this idea later, because I was pleasantly surprised the other night at benefit for a new Ecovillage recycling center here in Pueblo. Here’s a video I saw on Facebook that gives you a slideshow version of the evening, feel free to check it out and I will add some colorful observations of my own later… I see you waiting with bated breath.
Till tonight, much love.