Change or Stay the Same

It’s Monday: the beginning of a new week and the threshold of a new month that begins tomorrow. It’s never too late to start the life you’ve always dreamed of (written as a reminder to myself to settle for no less than living the life I need).

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or
too early to be whoever you want to be.

There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want.

You can change or stay the same,
there are no rules to this thing.

We can make the best or the worst of it.

I hope you make the best of it.

And I hope you see things that startle you.

I hope you feel things you never felt before.

I hope you meet people with a different point of view.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of.

If you find that you’re not,
I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

I am grateful to have stumbled across the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote above years ago and today to find the clipping I saved of it tucked away in a book right where I thought it was. With some regularity it has been revisited when the need was upon me. His words have been be strikingly inspirational to spur me on when I needed a push and pointedly factual when the sharp truth was all that could point me in the right direction.

I wanted to change the world.
But I have found that the only thing
one can be sure of changing is oneself.
Aldous Huxley

Crazy Ones, Misfits, Rebels and Troublemakers

Whenever I feel like an outcast or my uniqueness is a vulnerability I go read what Steve Jobs said in a PBS interview in 1994. What sometimes feels like a curse of too much individuality feels like a blessing in the context he expressed.

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Whether Steve Jobs or my neighbor next door, no one is more than I am. Nor is anyone any less.  It has taken decades of living to begin to accept myself as the human being I am. This complete package that is “me” is filled with a way of being that has not been before and will not come again. 

Asset and weakness;
Strength and flaw;
Talent and fault;
Belief and doubt;
Honor and disgrace;
In all ways
I am uniquely myself

Here in my 58th year I am grateful to no longer wish to otherwise than the way I am. Finding a healthy level of self acceptance is one of the most comforting and amazing discoveries of my life.  Vive la différence!

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent.
They imagine.
They heal.
They explore.
They create.
They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Taken from an Apple, Inc 1997 television commercial

A Rainbow’s End

A way to bring light to a dark time or to shake myself from sleepwalking while awake is looking outside and beyond myself . When I do sometimes a wider view comes. Other times what I see is narrow, but in noticing even in a small way, the moment I am living in changes.

Almost always opening awareness for what is outside of me brings a sense of relief in knowing I am part of something larger than myself. It’s not only the big things noticed that make a positive difference, but frequently a little casual notice pours goodness into me. Stirring in a bit of gratitude with awareness has allowed a taste of true bliss on occasion. Making difficulty and pain go away is not possible, but by sprinkling such times with awareness my load is lightened.

“Moments of Awareness” by Helen Lowrie Marshall

So much of life we all pass by
With heedless ear, and careless eye,
Bent with our cares we plod along,
Blind to the beauty, deaf to the song.

But moments there are when we pause to rest
And turn our eyes from the goal’s far crest.
We become aware of the wayside flowers,
And sense God’s hand in the world of ours.

We hear a refrain, see a rainbow’s end,
Or we look into the heart of a friend.
We feel at one with mankind. We share
His grief’s and glories, joy and care.

The sun flecks gold through the sheltering trees,
And we should our burdens with twice the ease.
Peace and content and a world that sings
The moment of true awareness brings.

There have been moments of clarity when I was completely aware of the seconds in which my life was being lived. When touched strongly enough to be stunned by beauty, gentleness, joy or caring the clattering of my mind goes quiet; a feeling like none other I’ve experienced.

Examples of when awareness was able to halt my thinking mind were witnessing the birth of my son, the initial moment I laid my eyes on Machu Picchu in fog soon after sunrise, the first time a woman looked into my eyes and said “I love you”, watching a little girl pick dandelions in a park then chasing the floating seeds, or seeing an loving old couple help each other manauver in a restaurant.  There is so much for an eye to see when it opens enough to truly “see”.  

There is deep gratefulness for the discovery of the more I see outside myself, the more truly alive I am.

The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.

A Small Miracle

A few weeks ago I found out mid one afternoon that a local major cinema complex was showing a restored version of “Casablanca” once at 7pm that evening. Having never seen it on the big screen, I was excited. A half hour before the showing was to begin I walked up to the ticket window and said “one for Casablanca please” to which the teenage girl behind the glass offered a comforting smile and said “I’m sorry sir. It’s sold out”. I am certain she saw the disappointment on my face akin to that of a let down 10-year-old boy.

I did my best to take it in stride and shake off the “downer”.  My self-administered solace? Go home, make popcorn and watch my DVD copy of “Casablanca”. I was proud I didn’t let disappointment linger and turn into a “why me” sort of questioning thrown at the universe. Ten years ago I might have. Today I am wiser.  An improved ability for accepting what “is” has brought refreshing change.

Three days ago I was surprised to see mentioned in the electronic version of the local daily paper that “Casablanca” was being shown again at the same theatre. Like the first time it was pure chance I stumbled across it.  I immediately bought tickets on-line and was at the theatre an hour and a half early last evening. A dear friend met me, we bought popcorn and found good seats before the theatre started to fill up (which it did). We munched and caught up on each other’s ‘news’ while we waited till show time.

Certainly “Casablanca” was not shown again to please me. However, I do like to think of getting to see the movie as a reward for not being bothered too much when I missed out before. Call it serendipitous, coincidence, luck, a twist of fate or what ever you choose.  I am thankful for a second chance to get to see this wonderful old black and white film about love, sacrifice and intrigue. Bogart and Berman “on the big screen” … what a delightful treat!

A coincidence is a small miracle
in which God chooses to remain anonymous.

Light in the Darkness

What does it mean to get to a “Breaking Point”?

For much of my life I thought those two words related to when a person ‘breaks down”; something in the realm of a “nervous breakdown” I recalled hearing adults whisper and talk softly about when I was a kid. Having arrived at what might be called a “Breaking Point” about five years ago, I see it very differently now.

I did not have a “breakdown”. I had a “break through” more like the description of “Breaking Point” found in dictionaries: the moment of greatest strain at which someone or something gives way. What happened was I “gave way” so what needed to move behind me could go there and “gave way” to let healing and a new way of being come to me. So much good has arrived since I loosened my grip on living and stopped trying to make everything the way I wanted it to be. In learning to allow life to come to me and accepting “what is” came my new beginning. Today I am very grateful for finally reaching my “Breaking Point” when I found light in the darkness!

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only that you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
“The Journey” by Mary Oliver

What you really want for yourself is always trying to break through,
just as a cooling breeze flows through an open window on a hot day.
Your part is to open the windows of your mind.
Vernon Howard

Better Tomorrow Because of Today

A pencil maker told a pencil five important lessons before packaging the pencil for sale.

* Everything you do will always leave a mark.
* You can always correct the mistakes you make.
* What is important is inside of you.
* In life, you will undergo painful sharpening’s which will only make you better.
* To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the Hand that holds you.

This parable encourages me to know I am a special person, with unique God-given talents and abilities. No one but me can fulfill the purpose I was born to accomplish. I will do my best to not get discouraged and realize I  need to be constantly sharpened. I will believe my life is insignificant and cannot be changed and, like the pencil, will strive to remember the most important part of who I am is what’s inside of ME.

Today I am grateful for living and for the imperfection of it all. What I do matters. I will make mistakes. I will learn. I will be better tomorrow because of today.

It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny.
 Michellee Jean Nidetch

Awareness of What “IS” Within

Through the months of moving forward with Good Morning Gratitude my thinking was if I made my goal of writing here daily for a year, I’d possess a healthy sense of accomplishment.  And there is a some of that today knowing I achieved my goal, but I don’t feel inclined to pat myself on the back.  What I feel is an odd combination of gratitude and joy stirred in with humility combined with a sense of loss.  The latter is unexpected.

As plainly as anything I have experienced in my life I can see the endeavoring toward my goal is what I have loved most.  I know now this effort was never really about arriving at the finish line.  It was about my journey forward.  Getting to the one year mark is simply a side benefit.  It is within the hard work spent on doing something very meaningful where the overriding wisdom I’ve received from this experience has been found.  The sense of loss will be removed simply by continuing here in some form writing about my gratitude for all that living encompasses.

Success is not a place one arrives but rather the spirit with which a person embraces and makes their journey.  The gift is the voyage itself!  As a child I began to think my happiness was out in front somewhere waiting for me to discover.  I grew up, but never stopped that childish thinking.  It seems like lunacy now how, for so long, I had the notion I would get more happiness later by forgoing a lot of it in the present.  Never was “now” or what I had good enough. My desire for more was insatiable.  To no avail I tried a seemingly endless number of ways to sate my desire for happiness.  And like one whose thirst could not be quenched, I was never happy for a long time.  But my view is different now.

What is abundantly clear is being happy takes as much effort as being unhappy, but it does not take more!  Ann Brashares said it well:  It’s by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it.  How true those words are, but a year ago I could have only been able to admire the eloquence of the statement and filter out some surface meaning, at best.  Today I get it!

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’! Audrey Hepburn once said.  Her splitting up of the letters into two words with a new meaning speaks truth to me and I have adopted her thought into my personal repertory.  More than ever I am capable of living the life I want and need.  Three simple things are at the root of arriving at this knowledge today:  1) being consistent in the doing the work needed for my daily task, 2) focusing on my deepest thoughts and drawing them out to learn what I truly think and feel and 3) reading a tremendous amount of philosophy, psychology and other work for knowledge and inspiration.

but this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: THIS IS IT. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movie-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of use will ever experience. Shauna Niequist

What’s just above and also about to follow both now hang on my fridge as a reminder in other’s words of what I have come to believe and know:  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. From “Return to Love” by Mairanne Williamson

To everyone who encouraged me and everything thing that inspired me from the forces of nature to the mining of the great unknowns within my inner self I offer humble thanks.  Most of all, I hold tremendous gratitude for the power greater than me, whatever it is, that brought me to this endeavor, has seen me through it and continues forward with me growing my awareness of what “IS”.

May you live every day of your life.
Jonathan Swift

Around In Circles

Tomorrow marks 366 days, one full year, of writing Good Morning Gratitude.  Somehow a “leap year” seems appropriate as I ‘leaped’ into this lead only by spiritual guidance beyond my understanding.   I have learned a great deal from this true learning experience.

1 – Doing something daily becomes much easier when done frequently enough to become part of my routine.

2 – There are measures of discipline within I previously never before gave myself credit for.  I feel more able and capable than I have in years (maybe ever!).

3 – Permanently altering my routine is a good way to change any of my habits.  Getting up earlier to write for ninety minutes each day came easy (most days) once I got into the swing of it.  Now I have more time each day that ever before ‘to do stuff’ I want to do.

4 – Gratitude is cumulative.  The more I am thankful the more that comes to be thankful for.  This new attitude of gratitude sweetens every breath I take, even the most difficult!

5 – My writing has improved. Doing something every week for ten hours or more does improve one’s skills (next self-chosen challenge is to get into better shape).

6 – Apparently I have things to say that resonate with others.  I know this before and that knowledge comes now only by knowing thousands read  I am deeply thankful for the encouragement each reader has given me.

7 – Telling my secrets has brought people closer to me and has moved me to feel closer to them.  My truths, even the ugly parts, have not driven away people as I feared telling such things might.

8 – Letting the world know of my unfiltered my experiences, mistakes, successes, failures, trials, heartbreaks and tribulations has given me strength beyond what I can explain.  By venting the darkness I see more clearly in the light.

9 – What I think most about is what I get more of.  Focusing on what to write about brought much to me that is healthful ranging from making peace with old heartaches to growing my ability to open my heart.

10 – The Internet is filled with what can bring light and inspiration or ugliness and darkness to a person’s life.  It is a matter of choice.

11 – A lot of people are reading more now than in a long, long time.  The paradigm shift is they are doing much of their reading on-screen.

12 – The love and support of friends makes a HUGE difference when taking on a big task.  Without it I am certain I would not have made my one year goal of writing here every day. Thank you all.

13 – I learned first hand a lesson about growth that Alice discussed with the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Alice: Where I come from, people study what they are not good at in order to be able to do what they are good at.

Mad Hatter: We only go around in circles in Wonderland, but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself?

Alice: Well, grown-ups tell us to find out what we did wrong, and never do it again.

Mad Hatter: That’s odd! It seems to me that in order to find out about something, you have to study it. And when you study it, you should become better at it. Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again? But please continue.

Alice: Nobody ever tells us to study the right things we do. We’re only supposed to learn from the wrong things. But we are permitted to study the right things other people do. And sometimes we’re even told to copy them.

Mad Hatter: That’s cheating!

Alice: You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter. I do live in a topsy-turvy world. It seems like I have to do something wrong first, in order to learn from what not to do. And then, by not doing what I’m not supposed to do, perhaps I’ll be right…

I am DEEPLY grateful for all the benefits doing this work as brought me.

Achievement is largely the product
of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.
Jack Nicklaus

The Cry of the Road Not Taken

Clear in memory from my 20’s is becoming lost on my first solo cross-country training flight while learning to fly.  Absorbing what it took to become a pilot came easy and I was able to advance faster than most.  The danger in that accomplishment was becoming a bit too “self-impressed” resulting in partial blindness created by my own ego.   I got lost on my first cross-country solo training flight soloI

Being disoriented and off course as a student pilot was a harrowing experience for a little while until I realized I could ask for help on the radio.  Two airports about 50 miles apart honed in on my signal and triangulated where I was.  It was easy for them to give me a new course which I used to land at one of the airports about seventy miles from my “lost” location.

From this experience I learned:

Life Lesson #1 = Even a single slight change of course makes for greatly changed direction over time.

Life Lesson #2 = Sometimes the only way out of a predicament is to ask for help.

Life Lesson #3 – My ego is very capable of over-estimating my ability and dragging me into a serious situation if I don’t watch it closely.

For over a decade I spent lots of my spare time “boring holes in the sky” as pilots call it.  I even owned an airplane for about six years (a Piper Cherokee).  If you’ve heard people talk about how boats are a sinkhole for money, then multiply that a few times to get an idea of the expense of owning an airplane!  I could just have easily rented planes at a lesser expense, but I “just had to have one”.

Life Lesson #4 – Just because I want to own something does not mean I should.

Life Lesson #5 – I can easily spend far too much on something if I let my ego in the driver’s seat.

Years later after the getting lost incident, I had three different mechanical failures I felt were messages sent to me.  1) Smoke from electrical wires starting to burn partially filled the cabin while I was flying in controlled airspace until I figured out what causing the problem and turned it off.  2) Another time upon landing and pressing the brakes I realized I had none and found out later a brake line was ruptured.  With a little maneuvering the landing stayed safe. 3) Sometime later while landing a rental airplane I had taken out for aerobatics when, on landing, the gear broke on one side and could have collapsed, but thankfully didn’t.  I took those as signs and decided then to give up flying because responsibilities, including raising a son, were no longer allowing me sufficient time to fly enough to stay a safe pilot.  To this day I believe that was a wise choice.

Life Lesson #6:  Pay attention to the subtle messages life sends me.  I only have to be receptive and acknowledge them.

Each thing I do causes a slight course correction or deviation in direction of my life.  One never knows until later which variations are, 0ver time, life changing and which is the stuff that doesn’t matter.  Many times I have heard about how someone’s life was saved simply because on a whim they took a different route home and avoided the accident that would surely have taken their life otherwise; or how missing a flight turned out to be a life saver; or how taking one job over another was the difference between success and failure; how one met the love of their life by taking a trip to a city never before visited based on a dream they once had; or how outcome was affected by choice made without logic in a hundred other stories simply because a person somehow “felt” they should do one particular thing or another.

Where ever my little bit of a sixth sense comes from I am convinced, if it not directly divine within itself, it is certainly a connection to a power higher than me.  Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t.  There are no words to logically explain this phenomena.  With increasing frequency these “feelings” come more often now I have learned to trust and take them into account.  However they come to be and from whatever source, I am deeply grateful for the benefit these gifts continue to bring to my life.  When I am centered, peacefully open and aware, my “feelings” are so much more accurate than my “thoughts”!

Would things have really been so different
Would the world really have been so shaken
If when I were a much younger man
I had chosen the road not taken

Would the days have been any the brighter
Or the nights darker than they are
Would I still have lived in such obscurity
Or shined brighter than any star

It does little good to wonder
Of things that might have been
For who, and what I have become
I must live with in the end

Though life could have been much better
All in all I do not feel forsaken
I count the blessings that I have
And cry not of the road not taken.

“The Road Not Taken” by William Kite

…And So Much More

An hour ago I stopped at Baskin and Robbin’s for an ice cream cone on my way home. Today is utterly spectacular without a single cloud in the sky and a comfortable temperature around 70 degrees. It was an easy choice to enjoy my treat on a bench out front of the store.

The ice cream shop is in a strip center near one the busiest shopping zones in town that includes a big mall across the street. As I sat back enjoying one dip each of strawberry and butter pecan, a consistent, but gentle breeze brushed across my arms and face. A nearby restaurant was having a “biker day” where weekend riders could co-mingle, enjoy a live band and purchase lots of ‘beer and wings’. When I first sat down it was “Come Together” from the Beatles “Abbey Road” album the band at the event was knocking out (and doing a fine job of it too!). Looking up at the pristinely blue and cloudness sky I was stuck by a strong sense of gratitude.  It was a delicious epiphany about the richness of my life.  There is so much…

I am healthy and able to be outside under my own power.
I have a car to drive and can provide gas to power it.
I have the financial resources to have most anything, within reason, that I desire.
I have close friends like the one I spent a few hours with today looking at old records.
I love ice cream, especially strawberry, butter pecan, vanilla and black walnut.
…and so much more.

Such moments present true clarity about life. Through keeping my epiphany front of my mind and putting a post it note on my fridge and bathroom mirror, I want to remind myself of today’s inspiration moment.

LOOK AT YOUR HAND. Take a closer look. The skin, the nails, the fine hairs, the breathing pores, the fine bones beneath the surface. No hand like this ever existed since creation began. Your own hand – UNIQUE. Let the hand stand for you: your existence, inimitable, unprecedented. The mystery of you being here. You, who have a particular history, a biography, as well as a biology. You have countless stories, memories, intuitions and desires within you. You are the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A MIRACLE !!” (Howard Cooper from The Alphabet of Paradise)

Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend…when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present–love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure–the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth. (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything, This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything. (Alan Cohen)

When I allow myself to “just be” life brings me to the best moments. I only have to stop (the most difficult), look (and really see) and listen (pay close attention to what I am hearing) to find a momentary peace that always takes me to gratefulness.

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
Oprah Winfrey