“It’s not whats under the tree that matters, it’s who’s gathered around it.” – Unknown
Merry Christmas Everyone!!
I pray that you all will take this time to enjoy family and friends. Life is precious and we all need to not only remember the reason for the season, but take the time to reflect on what is truly important. The people we call family (blood related or not) are who give us meaning and connect us to the most important things in life.
So enjoy the day and celebrate the life that God has given us. See you next week.
“Lonely is not being alone, it’s the feeling that no one cares.” – Unknown
No matter what facet of life I am in, whether working at my job as an employee, raising my children as a father, being a husband to my wife or simply living as a citizen in society, I fully understand that I am a part of a greater collective. And in that collective I run across people who are at various stages in their emotional state. Some may be harboring anger from a recent or past incident while others find themselves saddened by their current state of affairs. Regardless of the state, I know at any given time we all have been that person and will continue to be as we live from day-to-day.
However, there is a stark difference when we find ourselves in these aforementioned conditions and add loneliness to it. And I am not speaking of the act of simply being alone, but the state of feeling alone, even within a large group.
Imagine if you can that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, well according to an article written in the Huffington Post (March 21, 2015) this is exactly the case. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html
It is that condition where we feel disconnected to our greater surroundings and possibly continue to withdraw from our social networks. The implications can be quite detrimental specifically to our mental and physical health, and seeing how vast this number is, just in the United States alone, we either have been that person or ran across someone (almost daily) who is currently suffering from loneliness.
Like so many of us, we have equally become experts at masking, or what I refer to as the art of disguising ourselves. You know that place where we only display what we want others to see, nothing more, nothing less? This becomes a place of safety, and even if it is only an illusion it makes the sufferer feel better, at least for the necessary moment.
So what can we do to help offset the many negative implications of loneliness, short of medical science and therapy? I believe a lot and it won’t cost us a thing, except for our time and perhaps becoming a little more attuned to the people who make up our communities.
Think about how rushed we are in life on a daily basis. To the point where we hardly recognize those around us. We say our hello’s and share niceties about our weekends and our kid’s soccer game, but rarely do we actually “see” people, or better yet “hear” them.
This does not have to be a prying session of your colleague’s or neighbor’s intimate life details, but more practically a conversation that conveys mutual respect, genuine concern and a display of giving a damn about someone else. Unfortunately a rarity in our current society.
I firmly believe that we are either building bridges towards this or blowing them up on a daily basis. It is so easy to cut someone off, shun them or keep them in the shadows of our lives deliberately, and since this applies equally to our professional and personal lives, the opportunities to make a real difference are grand. It must first become our choice and then a decision to act on it.
Can we save the world? The optimistic me says yes we can, one person at a time, however in order to rescue people from themselves, the ones that understand grace, walk in gratitude and live by a faith larger than themselves must first step up and touch someone else with words and actions that matter and equally resonate with that other person.
This is where our personal time comes into play. The time required to think of someone besides ourselves, the time required to be thoughtful or considerate, just because it might cause someone else to feel better and the time required to thoughtfully listen and respond with care and empathy.
I realize it will take much to change our world, and the way things are headed it may seem like this type of post is worthless, but I am committed to doing my part and that is providing a forum for those that dare to care enough and desire to do something about it.
Let us not forget those that are lonely and despondent. Let’s remember they live next door to us, share the roads with us, work next to us, live with us or perhaps they-are-us.
“The struggle is a part of the story” – Unknown
Sometimes I ask…
Who knows you, past the simple perfections that you portray to the world daily? Who knows the angst you fell asleep with last night, that still remains with you this morning? Who knows you past the superficial smile you greet the world with everyday, yet inside you are longing to be held, understood and accepted? Who knows what you truly feel about the world, when the music stops and the friends head home? Who knows that you cry when you are alone, for reasons that you cannot even articulate yet?
Sometimes I wonder…
Does anyone really care about I feel, like really care? Why is it so hard to engage people about real life stuff? Perhaps I know deep down, they really don’t care enough to do anything even if they did know. Would my life be different, if I had decided to take that right versus the left that I now question? Is happiness overrated, or am I pursuing the wrong dreams? Is my heart really in this thing, or am I fooling myself as well? Is all the effort and late night talks really worth it, or am I simply wasting my time? Is it only me that thinks this way? Is this just me doing that over thinking again, or am I really scared where my life is right now?
I have learned that if your are not taking the time to occasionally take an inventory of your own life and all of its complexities, you will eventually hit a wall, become overwhelmed or lose sight of what you are doing and why you initially began. Whether you are fully engulfed in a career pursuit, just beginning with a college dream, or pursing love with that signficant other, we must ask ourselves questions that provoke thought, challenge our borders and cause us to pause and think deeply about what we are doing and where we are headed.
Sometimes it’s not enough to reflect in a silo, although it may be safer and feel better, but occasionally we need to deliberately place ourselves in an unsafe zone and allow discomfort to happen. This is the place where you allow that close friend, spouse or counselor to have their way with you, so to speak. Give them license to dispense some raw truth into your heart and mind, and be prepared to listen and accept it, even if you ultimately decide to go a different direction.
This is more than simply seeking advice. At its core, it is becoming fully transparent and fully vulnerable. A scary concept for most of us, however imperative for growth, transformation and the ability to authentically connect and holistically love. If you could imagine that one can only love and connect as deep as they are willing to be vulnerable, what would that look like in your life? If that were the measuring stick for your current relationships and life pursuits, how deep or shallow would they be? And more importantly, how satisfied are you currently with them in that state?
Life is amazing and equally difficult, complex and downright hard at times. We struggle everyday, like a broken car on the side of the road. We can all stand a helping hand at some given point, but in order for that hand to enter our lives, we must make it known that we have a need. It’s not to say we should wear a sign that signifies our needs, but someone must know us as well as our struggles in order to get through them. Who is that one for you? That one that you have allowed into that deep place. You know, that place you rarely go yourself?
At the end of here day, I want to love hard, work hard and play hard. Not just to say that I did, but to know that I lived my life in such a way that transcended my ego, my fears, my traditions and embraced my faith, my heart and my hope to be loved and understood in a meaningful way, not just past my struggles, best because of them.
I want to say this…
You know my struggles, therefore you know me, because I chose you. Not because you were safe, quite the contrary actually. You scared the living daylight out of me, but I knew I wanted you to know me, feel me and deeply connect with me. So you didn’t start by asking me a list of questions, you simply shared your own intimate life and made it okay for me to share my own. Thank you for saying yes and being more than my friend, but a light into my preferred future.
Sometimes I ask and sometimes I wonder, but I am grateful for you because the questions ultimately reveal their own answers as I live, love and remain hopeful. You know my struggle…
“Don’t look for love. Quietly give it away and let it find you back.” – Unknown
Have you ever been so tired that you can’t see straight? Well that is me tonight, so I am going to make this short and sweet. It has been a short, but long weekend. Know what I mean? The theme has been “moving”. Never a fun thing, actually quite stressful whether it is for you or someone else, but nonetheless a necessary evil I suppose.
As much as I want to complain about helping others move I cannot because at the end of the day, it was done for people whom I love, and in this case, that is what love does.
Even as I am writing this post my eyes want to close, but I am committed to sharing something relevant, current and real every week, so that is what I am doing.
What have you done in the name of love lately? Like gave of yourself sacrificially for someone else, and expected no accolades in return? In many cases it is a rare event. After all, we only have so much energy, but when it is done with pure intentions, it can change a life for the better.
So the next time someone ask you to do something that causes you to stretch yourself or it disrupts your preplanned events, before you just say no or make an excuse about why you cannot do it, take a second look at what is motivating you to say no. Perhaps this is one of those moments for you to pay it forward, just because.
This was one of those moments for me, and even though I am completely exhausted and still have to rise up early for my day job, I have no regrets and honestly did it with peace in my heart (well after a little internal battle with myself first).
That said, I have no more words, but do it for love, whatever “it” is. My bed is awaiting me and I am going to sleep now. Pleasant dreams.
“Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, magical person that you are.” – Mandy Hale
So there I was sitting in pre-marital counseling last Tuesday morning with my fiancée (Monique) and counselor Elizabeth. (Yes I’m getting married, but I’ll save that topic for a future post). Elizabeth knows us both well, since we have seen her off and on for the last several years. But after about a one year break we walked into her office with hopes for, let’s say a tune up. Nothing out the ordinary, but during our say, forty minutes of recapping the last year, Elizabeth said something that stopped me in my tracks. It was like for a moment she pierced into my soul and revealed something deep inside of me with her words.
I knew that I always liked her style of counseling. She is a caring, intuitive, personable, non-judgmental and has a knack for asking poignant questions. However this time it was not one of her sharp questions that struck me. It was a statement that she made, which I will never forget. As we were sharing some of the recent past events in our lives, where most people unfortunately begin to judge me, she said, with her hands clasped and intently looking at me, “Henry is a very complicated man.” Although many would agree and probably have a few choice words to add, to my satisfaction, she did not simply stop there. Elizabeth went on to say, “Henry has many layers and does not think like most people. The decisions he makes are not just black and white or based on obvious points of view. He goes deep and beyond the surface to resolve issues, or come to terms with what he is facing.”
I must agree, this has been my life. In most cases it has been helpful, although at times it has allowed me to become my own worst enemy. I would over think everything and often paralyze my own ability to make progress. Whether I found myself feeling guilty about a decision I had made or became stifled due to indecisiveness from fear of the unknown, I could easily become stuck, essentially trapped in my own thoughts. However, there were and are times when I feel this disposition is/was helpful.
Just the fact that I chose to start a blog is based on the deep thinking I use to say, “Haunts me.” Now I see it as a gift. A way for me to work through my own issues and come to decisions based on my own thoughtful consideration. If that defines me as a complicated man, then I’ll own that title everyday of the week, because I am also a better man for it.
I must admit as I am writing this, I already feel the pressure of these words coming across as an attempt to self-promote or to say, “Hey look at me and how good or deep I am.” This could be nothing further from the truth. Actually what it is, is my attempt to share a moment in my life where I felt like, yes she gets me, and being complicated does not necessarily have to be a negative thing like I use to associate it with. Although I am far from perfect, my decisions are rarely based on the obvious or even the present, but I’m thinking past what I see and pondering on what I believe by faith or in my heart.
My ex use to say I was the octagon and she was the circle. In other words, I always seemed to over think, over analyze or yes, complicate things. Now perhaps I did, and maybe even the majority of the time I went down this path, but unlike it was it was first insinuated, I was not being difficult just to be difficult. It’s just my nature to ask questions and discover the real reasons behind things. I’m not a surface kind of man. I want to know to “why” and I have found there is always more to the story being told, and when most people walk away satisfied, I walk away with questions like, “there has to be more.”
And of course there is a balance to how much and how far I choose to take this. Too much would be defined as over-complicated I suppose, and I hope I am no longer that guy, if I ever was.
So although we are created equal, thankfully we are not the same.
It is when we make the choice to live within the parameters of our own God-given purposes, is when we can truly live free without limits and barriers. Whether we’re complicated, deep, thoughtful, intuitive or emotionally intelligent, let’s be grateful for what and who we are, and allow no one to hinder the journey we are on.
I am a complicated man. I will dig deep to find the answers. I will ponder, think deeply, feel deeply and stretch my imagination and quite possibly yours as well. I am okay that many will not “get me” initially, if ever, but the ones that need to, do and will.
So where do you lie on the spectrum? Are you comfortable in your skin yet, or are you still finding yourself and your voice? Either answer is truly okay, because we are all at different stages of our journey. The key is not to allow what you know is true about you to die or become overshadowed with someone else’s opinion or thought. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” – Psalms 139:14. Live in that moment! Allow it resonate in your heart, mind and spirit until it propels you to be the authentic you. Someone is waiting…
“Have a vision. It is the ability to see the invisible. If you can see the invisible, you can achieve the impossible.” – Shiv Khera
After years of doctor’s visits and receiving consistent reports of perfect vision, I have finally reached a new (sad) milestone. One that is probably inevitable for most people, but disappointing for me nonetheless. I have been fitted with my first pair of reading glasses. I realize this is no big deal, but for someone who prided himself on having 20-15 vision for as long as I can remember, I was in disbelief when my eye doctor of approximately fifteen years broke the news with, “Henry, you’re not seeing as well as you claim to be. I think it’s time that you invest in a good pair of reading glasses.” I was like, “whatcha talking about doc?!” So after my short debate with him, I surrendered to the idea that he was right. In my mind I could see just fine, but in his professional opinion, along with the help of some very expensive eye equipment, he explained that I was indeed straining when looking at objects up close. And if I continued down this path without correction it could lead to headaches and other complications. So after forty-seven years my vision has finally changed, and the interesting thing is I couldn’t even tell. As far as I was concerned I could see just fine and was anticipating my usual exemplary report to gloat on for a few weeks. Funny how things change.
Being the deep thinker that I am, I begin to ponder on how our vision impacts our lives. Not just in the physical sense with our natural eyes, but in a very literal sense with how we view the world and how we view ourselves in it. Do you ever pause and ask yourself how people can look at a similar image and see totally different things? Or why discovering the purpose for your life can be so difficult to achieve? Without some sense of purpose or vision for our lives we could easily find ourselves consistently making poor choices regarding our finances, relationships, careers and educational endeavors, just to name a few. It’s similar to needing glasses and refusing to fill the prescription. So the what are the consequences of blurry vision untreated? The results can range from very minor to catastrophically life changing.
So let’s look at the word vision for a minute.
I once read that a vision is like a snapshot of your preferred future.
It should be like a long-term goal that you strive to reach. Something very attainable, but not necessarily a goal you can reach by tomorrow. It should cast an image of what you are, what you are not and what you expect to become. Ultimately it will define you and set you a part from others. A vision can also become like a roadmap of where you are going for the rest of your life. You can know exactly where you’re headed, the tools required to get there and what it looks like when you become misdirected. When selecting a career, a vision will help you determine what college to attend, which job offer to take or how long you should remain at a specific company performing a certain role before moving on. When seeking a life partner, a vision about what you want your relationship to exemplify will determine where you look for him or her. It will help you to confirm if there is potential, or not and if you’re really keen with it, a vision will even allow you to identify the flaws that you bring to a relationship. Obviously it can’t fix you, but if you are serious about achieving the ultimate goal, you will do the work in order to arrive at the preferred destination. Bottom line, the “big picture” is always in your line of sight. Anything or anyone that stands in the way of your goal will quickly be identified as a liability. Can you really imagine living life without a vision? I mean like for everything?
We have all been there at various times in our lives for various reasons, and on occasion we will need a check up. Just as I needed to accept that my eyesight was becoming blurred, we all need to accept that realignment will need to occur every once in a while. If we fail to adjust or re-tune the vision, we risk getting off track. As a Christian I reference a scripture in Psalm 119:105, that states (KJV), “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” In other words I believe the Bible can show me where I am and where I am going. I trust this and use it daily as my guide. And yes I have missed it, and at times even ignored it, but I have also suffered the consequences for not adhering. However what is equally great are the lessons. The lessons that I am now able to pass down to my children and anyone that chooses to read my blog. All because I had a vision. Something more than what I am today or tomorrow and when I fail, I know that I have opportunity for growth because the overall mission has not been fulfilled yet, and I am committed to getting there.
So if you ever find yourself at the eye doctor and your vision has changed, to the point that you need glasses or perhaps a stronger prescription, don’t get sad. Recognize that it is simply time for a realignment (time for change), because you still have much to accomplish and ultimately you will not arrive at your preferred destination with blurry vision.
“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift” – Steve Prefontaine
Me and my Mother -2015
Life is funny. How we start is not necessarily a guarantee on how we will finish. What we thought was true ten years ago may be different now for us today. How we define success changes and some of the people in our lives are no longer present, by the choices that we have made and by some of the circumstances we have faced. We make statements about what we know now and how our lives would be different if we had only made better choices when we were young and dumb. They say hindsight is 20-20, and hopefully we continue to learn as we get older. Hopefully the choices that we make today as mature adults look differently from our past decisions. And as we grow, hopefully we do not measure our lives by how educated we are or not, if we own a home or not or the amount of money we have in our bank accounts. Although these things are important and we should strive to live better lives than our forefathers and mothers, we need to remain mindful of what is truly important in life.
Since being back on Facebook for about one year now, I’m encouraged by the many voices of my childhood friends that seem to get it. Men and women alike that I grew up with recognize the value of it, my colleagues and business partners even see the value of it, but more importantly I see it. And that is the idea of giving our best love to our families, friends and even some strangers when required.
The one person that comes to mind more than anyone else that has sacrificially loved me beyond measure is, that’s right, my mother. When I look back at what she accomplished I see an amazing woman who has committed herself to being the best mom that any woman could ever be. Although there may not be a long list of titles behind her name, a house on the hill or other pedigrees we rightfully pursue, my mother gave me something that not only prepared me to obtain those superficial things, she gave me something inherently more valuable. She willingly gave me her best love.
Like so many of us that reflect on the goodness that has been bestowed upon our lives, usually our mothers are not far off from these sentiments. I was raised with three sisters and each of us are successful in our own right, but one thing that stands out for me, is we care for one another deeply and consider each other friends still. I attribute this desire to remain close to my siblings to the way my mother loved us as children. We obviously have our differences as adults, but I can say we genuinely love and care about one another. My mother was definitely the glue to our family connection and bond, which remains true to this day.
So why is this even worthy of mentioning and what is the significance of giving our best love? In my lowly opinion it pertains to everything that has been and will be ingrained in us. For those that have experienced the death of someone close, understanding this is easier. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters, but how we loved.
Giving our best love will cure the ails of the world in one swipe.
As I give my best love several amazing things are occurring simultaneously that look like this:
1. The life I exemplify will be worthy of following – I do not mean that you will lead a life of perfection, but when you make the choice to love first, you’re actually placing someone else’s needs before yours. For many this concept is counterintuitive, but when we’re motivated by love or selflessness we look to see how we can please others first. And when you have made this choice prior to any specific circumstance, bias and conditions are easily removed from the equation. This person may not always get things right, but they are consistently present. They are concerned, emotionally committed and they show up on time for real life events, planned or unplanned. They are the ones that leave indelible marks on hearts and minds forever.
2. I have an opinion, but I am not quick to accuse – This person waits to hear the entire story before giving their two-cents when asked. This requires discipline, because the temptation to speak prior to knowing all the facts is usually very enticing, but equally detrimental to at least to one of the persons involved. However once the dust settles the truth typically reveals itself, and because this individual is aware of this fact, their patience is essential and a key ingredient to sharing impactful wisdom versus making premature accusations. In a time of need this person is a welcomed sight because they truly want to help versus gossip, and they typically care about the outcome for all those involved.
3. I have a strong core, but a gentle spirit – There is nothing like meekness. It can often be mistaken for weakness, but by definition, it is strength under control. This person may have the ability to crush someone’s dream by divulging sensitive information that could embarrass or bring harm, yet they choose to exercise self-control during this time. They have profound wisdom and are usually more aware than what people give them credit for. They simply choose to walk in consideration of others, yet with firmness. This person will empathize with you, but never waver from his/her convictions. Their strength and gentleness combined become very calming during chaotic situations. They are excellent listeners and when they speak, an audience is usually there eagerly listening.
4. The truth will be spoken in love – Although the unadulterated truth can often hurt, it equally can release one from bondage or potentially dangerous situations. There is nothing like hearing it like it really is! Although we may get upset with this person, we come to appreciate them for their courage and ability to set us straight. The great thing about this person’s characteristics is they are not out to get us or see us fail, they simply want us to stop hitting our heads on the same walls. They force us to deal with ourselves versus allowing us to habitually take the easy route of blaming others. Without these courageous individuals in our lives we would be doomed to learn everything the hard way. They truly are a ray of light in the midst of a cloudy circumstance.
5. I accept you as you are – There’s nothing like acceptance. As we are all a masterpiece in progress, during the journey of getting to our finished product, we tend to look a hot-mess at times (present company included). And during this season, a friend that simply loves and accepts you as you are is critically important. Although many will proclaim to accept you when you are at your lowest, the proof is when you are there and recognize who is there with you. There you will find your true friends. These friends are not initially interested in facts, or the circumstances during an episode, they simply want to be there for you. They are consistent, steadfast and comforting. We could all stand to benefit from having at least one person like this in our lives. They are quick to lend a hand when we’re down and usually know us deeply like no one else does. We are freely vulnerable with them as our true selves are revealed and in progress of becoming more.
So as I stated in the beginning, “life is funny”. However sometimes it can be downright hard as well. And as we are being proven during difficulties, let us remember what we are made of and that we are precious creations made in God’s image through love. The best love we have is always in us, peeping out from the inside. We just need to realize that it is inside of us and someone nearby could stand to receive some of it from you. Whether it is these five points I have made or ones you can add to them, look to your point of reference to recall not only what it looked like, but more importantly how it made you feel when you needed it the most. For me it was my mother’s love. I say give that. That is the best love.
What would I do without these people in my life ? I know ? Easily go crazy at times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to go to my prayer closet alone and deal with life issues, but sometimes we need people, period! It’s just that simple. I’ve lived much of my life as a loner, yet I understand its much sweeter with really good friends and family. Love the people around you. Don’t abuse them or depend on them, simply enjoy the beauty they bring into your life when they bring it.
Enjoy this song by Julie Dexter, “How Sweet Life Is…”
See you soon.