Ballet In Blue Jeans


From childhood through the majority of adulthood, I felt “less than” often and in many ways. Growing up poor in a dysfunctional family contributed the majority of the cause, yet holding on so tightly to the intense self-consciousness past my 20’s was all my fault completely. I was simply too old to be blaming anyone but myself!

Playing the blame game is one of the easiest reasons to hold a person back from improving his/her life. Honestly I can see now my twisted way of thinking was never a reason really. It was an excuse. As long as I could hang responsibility for my behavior on others I was able to explain away my bad manners, ill placed conduct and off-key ways of thinking. Thankfully most of that is gone now.

Friday evening for Valentine’s day my special someone and I went to see our wonderful ballet company perform “Cinderella” while backed by our superb symphony. The performance was truly outstanding. What I found most entertaining however were the over-dressed folks in their weekend regalia who were all fancied up to impress others. A few probably did so because they enjoyed being finely dressed. But for the majority the peacock pageantry was aimed at being noticed and seen. The strutting and posing amused me through two intermissions.

My girlfriend said at one point that she thought we were the only ones at the ballet dressed in blue jeans, but neither of us saw it as any point to be concerned about. Once upon a time I would have been nearly devastated to have shown up dressed differently from the crowd. Friday night I was actually proud of us for going to the ballet in pressed and presentable jeans. After the performance we did count another half-dozen souls who found  jeans to also be appropriate dress for the ballet.

Today I am grateful to usually practice well the statement, “What you think of me is none of my business”.  And I am so much happier having come to believe the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of those words!

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Made Doing The Right Thing Look Cool

shirley temple montage 02

shirley temple memorial statement copy


Shirley Temple Black died Monday and finding out today touched me more deeply than I would have imagined. She was grown and her child-star movies were old by the time I was born, but I came to know them well as TV movies. Every Shirley Temple movie was “G rated” and more wholesome than a typical Disney family movie.

She was called “American’s Little Darling” for a good reason; she deserved it and was adored by kids and adults alike. President Franklin Roosevelt one said “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right”.

Except for some cause based television work, Shirley Temple Black left acting by adulthood and went on to distinguished life including many years as a U.S. Ambassador.

The world has lost a sweet soul and caring human being who made a difference. I will always be grateful for the positive contributions Shirley Temple made to my childhood. In her movies and how she lived she made doing the right thing look cool.

Watching a peaceful death of a human being
reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights
in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment
only to disappear into the endless night forever.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

It Hurts Because It Is Real

Playing in the rain

For every bit of hurt that shaped me, for every bit of friction that smoothed me, for every disappointment that taught me and for every illusion made clear… I am grateful. The most difficult have been the severest, but most revered teachers.

The good times and the bad times both will pass.
It will pass. It will get easier. But the fact that it will get easier
does not mean that it doesn’t hurt now. And when people try to minimize
your pain they are doing you a disservice. And when you try to minimize
your own pain you’re doing yourself a disservice. Don’t do that.
The truth is that it hurts because it’s real. It hurts because it mattered.
And that’s an important thing to acknowledge to yourself.
But that doesn’t mean that it won’t end, that it won’t get better.
Because it will.
John Green

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Virginia was the daughter of Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  In answer to her question “is there really a Santa Claus” her father suggested she write to a New York City newspaper called The Sun.

Virginia’s letter found its way to one of the paper’s editors named Francis P. Church who wrote the now famous response.   His answer to Virgina remains today as the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any English language newspaper.

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

September 21, 1897
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds,Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah,Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now,Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Many have questioned if Virigina’s original letter actually ever existed thinking it was only fiction created by Francis Church as a basis for his editorial. However, the original letter written by Virginia O’Hanlon was authenticated in 1998 by an appraiser on the Antiques Roadshow and valued at $20,000–$30,000.

I’m grateful for the swell in my chest the little boy inside finds in reading Church’s reply to Virginia over a hundred years ago.  The spirit of Santa Claus will always be with me.

There’s more to the truth than just the facts.  ~Author Unknown

First posted here on December 19, 2011

I’m Happy


An interesting personal phenomena is the happier I have become, the more I understand what makes me happy. Living for years with a somewhat disgruntled attitude while searching for happiness never brought me closer to being happy. Only deep personal growth and an altered view of life allowed me to find it.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have tracked identical twins who were separated as infants and raised by separate families. As genetic carbon copies brought up in different environments, these twins are a social scientist’s dream, helping us disentangle nature from nurture. These researchers found that we inherit a surprising proportion of our happiness at any given moment — around 48 percent.

If about half of our happiness is hard-wired in our genes, what about the other half? It’s tempting to assume that one-time events — like getting a dream job or an Ivy League acceptance letter — will permanently bring the happiness we seek. And studies suggest that isolated events do control a big fraction of our happiness — up to 40 percent at any given time.

But while one-off events do govern a fair amount of our happiness, each event’s impact proves remarkably short-lived. People assume that major changes like moving to California or getting a big raise will make them permanently better off. They won’t. Huge goals may take years of hard work to meet, and the striving itself may be worthwhile, but the happiness they create dissipates after just a few months. So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way. The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret over-investing in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work.

More than 50 percent of Americans say they are “completely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work. This rises to over 80 percent when we include “fairly satisfied.” This shouldn’t shock us. Vocation is central to the American ideal, the root of the aphorism that we “live to work” while others “work to live.” When Frederick Douglass rhapsodized about “patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put,” he struck the bedrock of our culture and character. From an article by Arthur C. Brooks

With great gratitude I can say, “I’m happy”. While there are purely joyous moments now, I don’t exist in a constantly blissful bubble. Instead, I simply choose not to have “bad days” any more. Difficult ones certainly, but never a “bad one”. Any day alive is a “good day”. The best lives ever lived contained “a great deal of joy and happiness with a lot of heartache and grief mixed in”. Coming to see the wisdom of that statement and living it has been life changing.

The difference between a Good day and a Bad day
has less to do with the circumstances
than the power we have over our thoughts.
Neil Sutton

The Pain to Stay the Same


More than usual this week I have been experiencing a feeling of gratitude for the quality of my life today. In looking over my shoulder I can see what appears now to be a somewhat straight line path that brought me from where I was to where I am. However, from where true change began to present day the path I walked was much different. It actually zigzagged all over with a greatly varied pace containing many stops, starts, successes and failures.

The beginning: “When the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change, you change.”

The first time I saw those fourteen words was on a bulletin board. They have been burned into my psyche ever since. The initial glimpse was at the time when realizing I could not read or learn myself into life changes through applying my intellect. I had to do the emotional work and face what I had long avoided.

Lobsters grow by molting, or shedding their shells. When its shell has been shed the lobster spends time under a rock or in a crevice while growing a new shell. During that time the lobster is vulnerable without the protection of its old hard shell.

The process of “change” caused me to feel a lot like a lobster. For a while it had been evident to me I was stuck inside a hard shell that resulted from childhood abandonment and abuse. It was stifling me. I needed to shed the old casing and grow a new one. I had to be vulnerable in order to change. Yet, doing what I needed to do felt impossible at the time. I could not muster the courage to “jump in and do it”, but knew not changing meant I would continue to suffocate in my old shell.

Did I muster the courage to shed the safety of my old hard outer armor plate and jump into the sea of change? No! I wish I could say I became brave enough to do that. Instead life events came along and left me only with drown or swim options. My old shell was shattered and stripped away and then “the pain to stay the same exceeded the pain to change”.

Pain and discontent was stage one of my growth and change. Suddenly I saw myself more clearly and could view my past at least with some accurately. As if being slugged, the force of it crushed my shell and figuratively “knocked the wind out of me emotionally”. Getting knocked down and broken open was step #1.

Admitting I had problems was stage two of my growth and change. There had to be an end to my running away. I had no choice but to let the issues take me over. Opening up and allowing myself to feel the full force of what I had so long avoided was what I needed. Accepting my issues was step #2.

Realizing I needed help was stage three of my growth and change. One of the effects of childhood trauma can be to become an overly self-reliant and a seemingly needless adult. I became quite good at denying my own needs. Seeking outside aid was rarely an allowed possibility. Accepting that I needed help was step #3.

Doing the work was stage four of my growth and change. Being one who wants to begin today and have everything accomplished tomorrow, this step was difficult. Coming to grips with my dysfunction took lots of time. Gaining the upper hand on it took much longer and now spans years. Putting in the time and making a long-term effort was step #4.

The realization I was getting better was stage five of my growth and change. At first it seemed as if nothing was changing, but over time I began to feel a little different. Life began to taste better. The better I got, the more I wanted. Working past setback and disappointment without completely losing my momentum became a key for me. Realizing I could heal was step #5.

Real change takes a long time. Clinical perspective says real personal change takes at least three years to be fully implemented. That is why small changes I made and continued to repeat over a long period of time have yielded a positive impact. On my path there has been an abundance of stubbornness and hanging on to the past combined with emotional dread and frightful depression at times. What began with “baby steps” and became one step at a time, one day at a time has now several years later brought me to much better mental and spiritual health. There is joy for living I have not known before.

I am not fixed and will never be completely. The scars will always remain, but I am better and continuing to improve. To even try to express the quantity of thankfulness I have for my life today would be completely futile. I am grateful to a power greater than me for the inspiration and to every person who has helped me along the way.

Change is not made without inconvenience,
even from worse to better.
Richard Hooker

First posted on August 26, 2011

They Learn


I forgive the ones who during childhood showed the wrong ways I should live.  I am deeply grateful to the people who later showed compassion and love to a boy in a man’s body. I have a good life because of you. I apologize for the pain I caused.

The fastest way to be a bad parent
is to never let your child be a kid.

Remember Your Reflection


How some one sees me is only one view.

Each interpretation of the person I am is different.

None is completely accurate, not even my view of myself.

Humility and gratitude are the best paths to self-awareness.

I am perfectly imperfect.

I am unique.

There has never been another just like me. There never will be.

Coming to know my true self is the path to an enlightened view of others and the world.

How very important it is, to see the reflection of yourself and to keep that reflection in sight— despite how much you have been pushed and shoved, forgotten and ripped, lied to and deceived! It seems like the number one most valuable thing you can carry with you is the constant appearance of your own reflection for the beauty and wonder that you are and it’s a fight and a struggle to keep that. If you had a treasure box filled with magical things— this would be the one thing it seems like people want to destroy or to take away or in some cases to even make their own! But you must remember your reflection, you must see yourself illuminated and you must remember, against all odds, remember. C. JoyBell C.

Today my gratitude is simple but large for the my growth in the last ten years. Sometimes I forget until I see an old photograph or read something I wrote long ago. If a year can make a big difference, then with dedication a decade can be utterly life changing. I am the ‘poster child’ of proof that big change is possible.

Just because I liked something at one point in time
doesn’t mean I’ll always like it, or that I have to go on
liking it at all points in time as an unthinking act of loyalty
to who I am as a person, based solely on who I was as a person.
To be loyal to myself is to allow myself to grow and change,
and challenge who I am and what I think.
The only thing I am for sure is unsure,
and this means I’m growing,
and not stagnant or shrinking.
Jarod Kintz

Your Very Own Self


It starts innocently enough, perhaps the first time you recognize your own reflection.

You’re not yet 2 years old, brushing your teeth, standing on your steppy stool by the bathroom sink, when suddenly it dawns on you: That foam-flecked face beaming back from the mirror is you. You. Yourself. Your very own self.

It’s a revelation—and an affliction. Human infants have no capacity for self-awareness. Then, between 18 and 24 months of age, they become conscious of their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations—thereby embarking on a quest that will consume much of their lives. For many modern selves, the first shock of self-recognition marks the beginning of a lifelong search for the one “true” self and for a feeling of behaving in accordance with that self that can be called authenticity.

A hunger for authenticity guides us in every age and aspect of life. It drives our explorations of work, relationships, play, and prayer. Teens and twentysomethings try out friends, fashions, hobbies, jobs, lovers, locations, and living arrangements to see what fits and what’s “just not me.” Midlifers deepen commitments to career, community, faith, and family that match their self-images, or feel trapped in existences that seem not their own. Elders regard life choices with regret or satisfaction based largely on whether they were “true” to themselves.

It’s also a cornerstone of mental health. Authenticity is correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills. Acting in accordance with one’s core self—a trait called self-determination—is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and a sense of relatedness.

Yet, increasingly, contemporary culture seems to mock the very idea that there is anything solid and true about the self. Cosmetic surgery, psycho-pharmaceuticals, and perpetual makeovers favor a mutable ideal over the genuine article. MySpace profiles and tell-all blogs carry the whiff of wishful identity. Steroids, stimulants, and doping transform athletic and academic performance. Fabricated memoirs become best-sellers. Speed-dating discounts sincerity. Amid a clutter of counterfeits, the core self is struggling to assert itself.

“It’s some kind of epidemic right now,” says Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. “People feel profoundly like they’re not living from who they really are, their authentic self, their deepest possibility in the world. The result is a sense of near-desperation.” From an article by Karen Wright

Here I sit showing the signs of age: reading glasses, mostly gray hair (but grateful to still have hair!), untouched natural lines on my face, memory not as razor-sharp as it once was, a paunch at my waistline, a few ages spots on my arms and so on. I have never given serious thought to changing any of it except losing 25 pounds. All of it is me just as I have naturally evolved.

It’s a personal thing, but I think for me there would be something dishonest about hair dye or plastic surgery. As a man it would be bothersome if I did remade myself synthetically and other guys found out. I’d not casting aspersions toward men who do, just saying that it’s not right for me.

Being real and authentic has become more and more important to me as the years have passed. I’ve earned every line on my skin and every gray hair. My face and body is an accurate living record of my life. I am 100% grateful to be who and what I am. It took a lot of hard work to get there.

The authentic self
is soul made visible.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Darkness of My Soul

magic_mushrooms edit thanks to image maker

I’m coming up on an anniversary. In 2007 I spent five life-altering weeks at “The Meadows” where I went to finally come face to face with my childhood abandonment and trauma issues. Reflecting back I can see the experience with clarity as only a retrospective perception can give. Those days were absolutely the most meaningful but difficult of my life. It was the journey out of the darkness of my soul.

Six years ago on the evening of October 6th I stood at the admissions counter at the nurse’s station in Wickenburg, Arizona feeling fearful, cautious and in severe emotional pain. I had lost my second wife due to my inappropriate actions (I cheated on her). It was that loss that motivated me, or better stated, it was the almost unbearable pain of that loss that moved me to finally do something about my compulsions.

Some people drink. Others do drugs. Gambling is the choice for many. My compulsion was to seek a woman for sex to temporarily mask the pain. The craziness of frequently having at least two and sometimes more relationships at a time had been a burden I had carried since I has eighteen years old.

The majority of my ‘affairs’ were not causal. Factual or not, I largely believed that love was the motivator. Always searching and looking to find in someone else a way to fill in what was lacking in me. I did not realize fully that I was already well-loved. I lacked the ability to receive love as a ‘normal person’ would. I did not love myself. I blamed two wives and many lovers for an emptiness that was not their fault. I hurt a lot of people. What most probably have never grasped is my compulsions hurt me as deeply or worse than it did them.

While at “The Meadows” ( I purchased a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love”. Reading it I underlined in pencil the passages I found particularly meaningful as is my habit. One particular passage has stuck with me. It’s describes well how I have always wanted to be love and be loved.

I’m here.
I love you.
I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long,
I will stay with you.
There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love.
I will protect you until you die,
and after your death I will still protect you.
I am stronger than Depression
and I am braver than Loneliness
and nothing will ever exhaust me.

That passage moves me to the point of emotional overflow even today. The desire for it is stronger than ever, but there is no definitive knowing if I could yet let it in from someone else. Sitting here telling the world is another small step in my healing.

In hindsight I was loved as Elizabeth Gilbert describes but could not appreciate it. It’s too late now to do anything but learn the necessary lessons from those relationships. At least then the pain was not for naught. To those women who loved me who I could not love enough in return I will always be grateful and deeply regretful for the pain I caused. Without those experiences I would not be the mostly happy and optimistic person I have become.

Forget past mistakes.
Forget failures.
Forget about everything
except what you’re going to do now
– and do it.
William Durant