“No painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.” ~ Pablo Picasso
An instrument, a tool, a vehicle, all of the above for our chosen outlet of expression, applies. Writing at times has been my therapy. It is also my platform. It is the weapon I yield to protect, to defend, and at times strike deep through the experiences of consciousness that I traverse through.
“Lovely day for a walk.” A stranger, who looked like Santa, told me in passing earlier. It’s always a lovely day for a walk because this journey unfolds, step by step. If we are called to speak with our artistic voice, we must listen.
Now, I laughed and shared that I just might as a writer.
“Oh, okay, I have another one for you then. One day, I picked up this guy, from Alabama, only had a pillowcase to carry all his belongings. He was probably near rock bottom, that guy. Anyway, he had a call from his girlfriend, who had been out late the night before, then he tells her:
Show me your friends and I’ll tell you your future.”
Sound familiar? Your vibe attracts your tribe. Surround yourself with the type of people you want to be like.
“You have to remember your karma moments, even if it’s five seconds, that’s cool.” My friend told me after we shared coffee and the recent adversity we have been dealing with in our lives.
“You’re the type of person who can stop and be fully present like you did the last time we hung out and you stopped to take a picture of the reflection of the clouds in the window.”
A window on a building just behind me. Amazing how where your perspective is, the view of life can be impacted, eh?
A few months back in Korea, as I walked through the Ihwa Art Village, freezing, and staring at the golden, red, orange, and brown trees touched by Fall, I caught a moment where I felt at peace. Just a small moment in I can’t tell you how long before that, my awareness of it breaking the feeling but leaving me then with gratitude. That moment reminded me of when I was taking a journey across the United States and sat on the grass in a little park near Pike’s Public Market and gazed out at the Puget Sound.
Just two bookend moments, marking a long period of healing, release, and living. Two bookend moments that I needed. That’s not to say there hasn’t been happiness or positivity this decade. There has been that too. The grind has gotten to me, and at times, the people I have been around. Forgetting the five seconds, or longer, that actually does exist each and every day, no matter where we are, or what is going on.
I’m going to embrace those five seconds, the reflections, whatever, otherwise this drudge will last too long and I’m tired of the struggle being what defines me. In grappling, the more you struggle, the worse position you can end up in. And though I’m willing to submit when needed, I certainly don’t have to put myself in bad positions to the best of my ability.
Worth a try. I know what forgetting to focus on peace, hold on to it is like.
“30s, the new 20s.”
My friend wrote shortly after I shared, damn, I’m almost 37. His point was that we live in a completely different world and what was assumed to be life for someone living in their 20s, 30s, and beyond no longer apply to the world we live in.
Renewing, terrifying, who knows?
I remember staring down the back nine of my 20s ten years ago when I began publicly sharing my writing here, grappling with so many different emotions, and really struggling with my place in the Universe. I remember wanting more, to be more, to do more, to “live fully” I so often said.
Then there was the time deep in meditation at 28, “To share my heart with the world.” and the subsequent trying to figure that out.
Or “Live my dream.”
And just like when I hit 25, and the forecast I had envisioned for my life was anything but, here I am, a few years from 40, and my life is anything but normal.
“I grew up normal enough, whatever that is.”
So I know I’m not living a “normal” experience despite the obvious: Like success, we cannot define normal collectively.
“You were a good friend to him while he was around and probably helped him through more than a few of his bad days.”
Another friend wrote in a thread after I shared some thoughts about life in general and this reflection I go back to about the impermanence of life, particularly as I still process the suicide by Dr. Scott.
I’ve felt a bit better about my life since last writing, which goes to show you that getting lots of rest (I slept 32 of 48 hours of the weekend because I caught the flu) can be helpful. Writing more, trusting life more by just allowing myself to be busy without fighting or ‘suffering’ within about it, has also helped.
In some ways, I feel an unburdening and an unraveling as I force myself to be present and not look so much at the world outside of me with attachment because to answer the question that was once posed to me ten years ago, “What is the reality, of the reality, of the realness, of the reality?” is as follows:
Any and all expectations for life have been shattered since this simple online rag began.
Sure, there may be a few threads here that tie it all together but if you want any sort of peace, then as the title states, leave all common assumptions at the door, my friends.
On the heels of recent discussions, I feel compelled to share that in order to live fully, one must totally and wholly:
Embrace the Suck.
Let’s be real. Life can fucking suck. It can be terrible. There is always a new tragedy. If it is not something tragic that derails you, there are then disappointments creep up. But that’s okay, Dear Reader. It truly is because let’s face it:
Life’s just not all sunshine and rainbows.
One of my homies from college, Miguelito, used to start our staff meetings by asking for each person to share “Sunshine and Bombs.” The Sunshines were always easy because they had to do with something cool. The Bombs for early 20 somethings were mostly easy too in hindsight. Regardless how soon(er than I’d like) to be late 30 something me now sees that time of my life, the point is a challenging circumstance in any given moment, is a challenging circumstance.
And that’s okay. Life is a mixed bag. Each morning we wake, whether it’s a struggle, or there’s a bounce in our step, is a blessing. So enjoy each one for the single gift it is.
And with that, a partial poem that I jotted down while contemplating a recent suicide:
Was it a step?
Or a leap?
Was it faith
That set you free?
What’s the answer Doc?
Is there more,
Can you tell me?
Death is my most powerful meditation.
When it manifests in some shape in my life, I am gifted a telling reminder that this physical shell, which we momentarily occupy, is but small next to the vastness of Creation.
I recently had two very different conversations, with two very different men, who were reflecting on deaths of important men in their lives.
“I like to think he’s saving me a seat up there.”
On January 3, of this year, I learned that my Dentist, Dr. Scott, had passed away. I was very shaken by this because I saw him about once a week for over three years. No, my grill isn’t in constant disrepair, our offices are located right across from one another and we would talk pretty often as a result.
Dr. Scott was always a positive light in the lives of many and is quite missed.
In my case, we’d chat about spirituality, surfing, traveling, food, and all sorts of things in the few minutes we shared each week. Though just an acquaintance, I valued the relationship and he always showed up during times of high stress for me. His ever present smile and positive attitude were gentle reminders that there was more to live than the stress of work and to enjoy the journey.
His death bothered me all month and on January 31, I was told that Dr. Scott took his own life. Dentists have one of the highest suicide rates and when I first heard that he had passed at just 57, my heart sunk because I had a feeling that might be the case. I hoped it wasn’t but it was and it is still shocking. His friend who shared the information with me had this advice on processing the news:
“You cannot think too deeply about it. These kind of situations, no one sees coming.”
And it’s true.
Last person on Earth you’d expect because he was so uplifting. No one saw it coming. Not Dr. Scott’s dental practice partner of three decades, Dr. Kent, or their colleagues, every one who knew him, is in absolute shock that such a positive, loving, and encouraging being would leave that way.
When Dr. Kent and I talked, I shared my own appreciation for his friend, and I thought openly how each person can live on through all who encountered them. We spoke of reading scripture and Dr. Kent had shared that after it first happened, he felt like God was really speaking to him, but as the pain starts to become more manageable, he wasn’t hearing the same.
I thought for a moment on those words. I’ve been experiencing a very “dry season” in life for some time and each day I struggle to open my eyes. Most days, I sleep beyond my alarm, and I have to force myself to give thanks even though I know life can be so much worse. Living isn’t the easiest of circumstances no matter what your experience may be and the pain we encounter can be crippling. But it is in times like these where we feel like God’s voice is not speaking that we have to open up, look, and listen because it is not that God has stopped communicating, we have.
I told Dr. Kent that these times were the times where we had to pray more, meditate further, and just trust that God sees more than we. He smiled and shared that Dr. Scott always got to the conventions early, and no matter what, would always save a seat the table for Dr. Kent. He said he likes to think that Dr. Scott is saving him a seat at the table up there, and said he was going to read from scripture that night.
We shook hands, said our goodbyes, and I like to think Dr. Scott was there in those moments with us.
“It still saddens me that he is gone and I try to find answers as to where he might be.”
My night was a bit different than reading scripture. After checking out a Maui Brewing Company limited release, I received a message asking about an article I had shared via social media about there being more to life than this singular plane of experience. A friend, O., reached out because he still feels challenged that he struggles with the passing of his father this past year.
A different experience, a different man, but the questions and subsequent emotions surrounding each death still very relevant to both men.
I wrote back to O. to encourage him to look, listen, and feel his Father living through him and others who were touched by him. He said it felt as though his friends were tired of hearing it and people have told him to just get over it. To that, I shared it was okay to feel however he felt.
I don’t think pain really leaves. It heals, it changes, but the memories certainly live on.
O. thanked me for taking the time to share my “opinions” and I laughed. If energy cannot be created or destroyed. Where does it, or we go? Physically, we return to the Earth, but what about the Ether?
What becomes of that?
In order to cope with the loss of someone, I think it helpful to recall that when we pass from the Flesh, we merely change form, and our Soul, which really is the essence of who we are, lives on in Spirit. To be one there means our work on this plane of existence is done and that we’re ready for the next adventure.
As haunting as Death can be, it is also a celebration, a wonderful guide, and something we all share.
I found myself saying “that’s terrible” or the word “terrible” in some form a few times throughout the day yesterday. In striving to live a more mindful, compassionate, and positive existence, isn’t that terrible?
Jokes aside, as the tears streamed in recollection of witnessing such suffering in a very sad passing from this past year, it hit me where I heard the phrase “that’s terrible” from.
My Grandmother. I touched briefly on her being put in a home but I didn’t expand too deeply on it, because the writing took me elsewhere in the last open letter. So let’s explore the origins of “that’s terrible” here and now.
My Grandmother, Grandma, or Gran’ma as she signed cards, would often empathize with different folks and has always been nice, kind, caring to any and all. I remember once while growing up during a conflict between my Dad and Grandfather, Old, that she expressed with tears in her eyes that she wanted them to just work it out.
Old, bless his Soul, and I had a great relationship. But he was a pretty intense man and former alcoholic so the dynamic I experienced was much different than what my Dad went through growing up.
Sometimes it’s just hard to shake the ash off from fires of the past.
I was still pretty young and it would take many more years to see more elements to the conflict, but it was a powerful reminder at the time of how much love my Grandma shared.
Old was a pretty epic orator and the man always had a story to tell. He passed when I was 30 and in those three decades, I only once heard him repeat a story. LOL, for Grandma, my Dad, my Mom, perhaps heard a few stories more than once, but I imagine it wasn’t very many because up until he passed, he was sharp.
If something ever happened, such as a hardship, or challenge that was taxing for someone Old could be quite vocal about it. It could be a story on the news, something they heard of from a family member or friend, and many times, it had to do with people passing painfully or experiencing poor health. As his telling of those stories came to an end, Grandma would close with:
By the age of 31, I’d completed my first manuscript for publication. Within it, I wrote about many of the different takeaways that age 30 gifted me with that I wished I’d known while navigating my 20s. Much of it had to do with living and loving more fully on this journey where we’re all dying. Now on the cusp of 37, the words of a teacher weigh heavy on my shoulders:
“You are only in your 30s, my Dear, your best yet will be surpassed.”
That is true, it has and will continue. But the flip-side to that, or the balance, is that so will the worst yet.
And that is terrible.
It’s also Life. Life was not promised to be easy and that which is terrible is a sobering reminder how special and precious Life truly is. That makes each day a blessing no matter who the political talking heads or celebrities are that live the lives of the rich, the famous, the powerful. Because the terrible elements of life find us all. Death awaits each and every one.
And that’s beautiful.