“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength in distress, and grows brave by reflection.” – Thomas Paine
Today I took a walk. Not just any walk, but a walk to clarify my thoughts, reconnect with nature, listen to the trees, adore the beauty that God created and breathe some fresh air.
I am not quite sure why turmoil is the thing that gets us to slow down and take note on what is really going on in our lives, but I am grateful for the moments and I have learned to appreciate the times when I am able to pull myself away from my daily routine and reflect nonetheless.
In these times I find myself becoming hypersensitive to not only what is currently happening, but also very reflective on the many unresolved situations that I have undergone. Yet at the same time, I recognize what I am specifically dealing with and nature has a way of soothing my mind, reminding me of true beauty, and the (often) many unresolved issues I am facing tend to resolve themselves in the wind, literally.
Today I took a walk. It was quite warm, so I took water, not only for my body, but for my soul. It was time to replenish my soul. I spied tree stumps that I have walked by countless times, but really saw for the very first time today. Their story spoke to me. Why were they cut down, yet still standing decades later? Will I still be standing in the next decade, and how will my story shape me? Or how will I shape my story? How will the unknowns enter my life and affect how I think, live and love? What will my testament be?
I do not clearly know the answers, but as I walked along the trails in the warm sun, I thought, (sometimes out loud) “I am still an unfinished work. A creation that God has destined and purposed for great things that are yet to be manifested.”
However, sometimes we forget, we lose sight and become easily frustrated with the pangs of life. You know, those situations (and people) that tend to get under our skin. Those things that easily beset us. Those things that come to try us, test us and confirm that we really believe what we verbally claim to be.
Today I took a walk. I was out for more than two hours, but the thoughts that encapsulated my mind were timeless. My childhood and adulthood stood front and center almost simultaneously. I recalled the scent of my room as a boy, as I listened to my mother speak lessons of life to me. Lessons that I desperately needed today. I thought about the landscape I was passing on my trail. It is the same, but different if you choose to look closely.
Some parts have changed, but the overall scene is the same. Some trees have grown taller, some have fallen to the ground. The grass is brown and then green, as life comes and goes. I am not the same man I use to be, know matter what others may claim. My life is ever-changing and God still has His hands on me. Guiding me in truth and purpose.
Today I took a walk. I started with many questions and returned with the answers I needed. My life is ever-changing with moments that I grasp and some I cannot. However somehow I am okay. Well more than okay. I know what I need to know, today. Tomorrow is another day, another time with its own portion of grace that I will receive then.
I will not be anxious. I will rest in what is now, even if “now” is far from what I desire. The grass grows, dies and then grows again. I am like the grass that I see on the trail. My life is not over. I have seeds still being planted by dead grass. I am he that continues. Like you, like us.
Today I took a walk. It was life changing. I spoke to my myself and listened to the eucalyptus trees speak in the wind. They indeed had a message for me. Peace, was the message and I received it. Day in and day out they stand, established by God. I can be like that tree that sets by streams of living water. I can be replenished when it is time. I just need to understand how, and equally understand it may look different then my neighbor.
Every trail has its own beauty and its own truth (if you will). Each are the same , but different. I can always learn something new if I choose to look closely.
Today I took a walk. I learned something new, and it was more about me than the trees and wonderful landscape, but I was grateful because this is the story that God chose to share with me exclusively. And He knew that I would be listening.
“Before you assume, learn. Before you judge, understand. Before you hurt, feel. Before you say, think.” – Unknown
Life is full of surprises. There are so many distracting, unplanned events occurring daily across the globe, let alone in our personal lives. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to listen to or what direction to go. The noise is often overwhelming, uncontrolled and relentless.
The many circumstances in my life (and more often than not, the tragic ones) have taught me some great lessons. One lesson in specific is how to be still during even the most daunting events. Without this ability I would have certainly lost it on more than a few occasions.
Nowadays one would have to live in a cave (without available WiFi) to be sheltered from a continuous media stream of bad reports, tragedy and potential life changing circumstances, and so since living in a cave probably is not the most effective way to raise a family, have productive relationships or earn a living, how does one maintain tranquility and stability in such a volatile world filled with information that instills fear, anxiousness and hopelessness?
Even for those of us that walk by faith and believe in someone/something greater than us, the issue can still be troubling, cause us to fret and live with uneasiness. You know, those days when you are preoccupied with circumstances more than you are focused on what is front of you, or when your sleep becomes restless because your mind is filled with all of the “what if this happens” scenarios? Have you been there? I certainly have.
Well being there is one thing, but staying there is something entirely different. These days we must choose to live in a different way. A way that perhaps challenges your status quo, threatens your television time and maybe even parts of your social life.
It has been said that if you want to keep something from a black man, put it in a book, because we do not make time to read. We are caught up with self-indulgence, which usually looks like being fancy, being more concerned with what we have and how we look, versus who we are or who we are becoming. Of course this is true for anyone, but you understand my point hopefully.
I choose to look inward and force myself to be still by tuning out outside forces and noise. It is imperative for my state of mind to remain at peace and to be at my best more often than not. Simply wishing it will happen does not work. It must be deliberate and purposeful, therefore requires a scheduled time that I give to myself. I call this going inward.
It is a time when I close off to the entire world and pray, stay quiet, reflect, think and most importantly, listen. Listening is a skill that seems to be the most challenging, yet when we choose to commit to it will be also be the one time where we are able to learn more, and respond more effectively with enriching words of wisdom.
Nothing can substitute the inward life and in these unpredictable times it is imperative that we spend time with ourselves, our God and hear what we must hear, so we can know what we must know and remain calm during the storms of life. There is no question that we live in unprecedented times and our state of mind must remain intact and on point.
So today I encourage you to examine your life and how you are spending your time. Turn down the outside noise and go inward. Make a date with yourself and practice being still and listen. You will be amazed how much you will hear and learn.
“Don’t you dare shrink yourself for someone else’s comfort – Don’t become small for people who refuse to grow.” – Unknown
Life never ceases to surprise me. One day it seems I have things all in order and in the next moment I am being thrown for a loop. Even though my routine is somewhat predictable, like going to soccer games, preparing weekly dinners, helping my children with homework, and being the protector and provider for my family, we all know nothing really is predictable about any of it.
What I have learned over the years is to acclimate my life in such a way that allows me to adjust to the things I cannot control and work on the things that I can. For some of you this may be an easy task, but for those (like me) that fall into that special category of being overly structured, it is not so simple. You see, one slight change of plans that disrupts the anticipated flow could cause chaos to erupt, at least in our brains.
So over the years I have adopted some new tools in my routine to help me acclimate to my constantly changing life and schedule to sudden changes and adjustments that come unannounced. Since the alternative was for me to be stressed, angry and not really a nice person to be around I realized that I had no other option.
The fairly new term that is used in corporate America better known as Work-Life-Balance is what I could equate my adjustment to. There really is not anything new about it except the business worlds adoption of it and coming to terms that it needs to exist in order for there to be harmony, a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment in the workplace, which all equates to better productivity.
So what about the “life” part of this formula? The part where we need to make conscientious decisions about how we spend our time and who we decide to spend it with, because if we are not actively engaged in making ourselves better, the balance part really never happens. It simply becomes a nice sounding term that will rarely have an impact on us in a meaningful way.
In my opinion one of the most challenging components to fully embracing this idea is how we feel about ourselves. Case in point, I was talking with a few people last week about their daily routines and how stressed they were feeling with the needs of their children, being overly worked and always feeling mentally and emotionally drained. I could immediately relate, but instead of having a pity-party with these single-parents, I offered a few words of encouragement by asking them about commitment and how it relates to them specifically in their personal lives. I asked them, “When was the last time they committed something to themselves?”
For someone like myself who has devoted my life to my children and their well-being, and equally being a giver to those in my world, very seldom would I consider myself first, especially committing something to myself. It was easier and more common to commit myself to something or someone else. So even though the phrase may sound similar, they truly are polar opposites. One is designed for you while the other is for something or someone other than you.
The whole concept can cause one to stumble and resist that there is even a need to act on such a thing. After all, this is the way life has always been and rocking the boat is not something that I am accustomed to doing. Are these and statements like these phrases you would find yourself using if your were placed in this predicament? Do not feel bad, because you are not alone.
Just think about it for a minute. How many goals have you set for yourself over the course of your life? Some you have reached, others you have not. Was the goal designed to make you happy or feel fulfilled? I suppose it was initially, but once you accomplished it, what happens next? Of course, set a new goal. Even that seems like work that leads to something I will always be chasing until I am not. Then what? Do not get me wrong, setting goals are a critical part of life, but when they are not placed in the proper perspective they too can lead us down a path of disappointment.
The disappointment of not completing the ultimate objective, like not losing all the weight that you initially aimed for, not being married at the age you desired to be, not landing the job you set out to have or simply the disappointment of the life you now live today.
Things certainly do not work out the way we had them planned and we may find ourselves becoming disillusioned, but have you committed to yourself the small and simple things that our essential to a peaceful life along the way? Things like walks in the park, quiet time, listening to inspirational music, exercising just to maintain good health, spending time with people who see the best in you more often than not and taking the time to jot down what you do well today.
Rarely do we find the time to do such things because they seem futile, possibly even a waste of time or we are just too damn busy. I get it and have been there, but no longer will everyone else matter before me. There, I said it! Sure, I will always be one to help others, give my time, love and resources sacrificially where necessary, but not at the sake of being empty and with nothing inside after the giving is done.
How about you? Will you commit to yourself first? Even Jesus went away from His disciples to pray alone and get recharged and prepared for His ultimate sacrifice. At the end of the day we cannot be everything, everywhere and for everyone. When we try we break down and lose a sense of our direction and purpose. Then we become good for no one.
So why don’t you give it a try today. Make yourself a priority for a change without an excuse or apology. Schedule in some time for you. Get that massage you have been longing to get. Become unavailable for an hour per week. Turn off that phone and recharge you versus a gadget. Life will be there and intact when you return, but you will be different, better even, and ready to give your best when it is time again.
“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway” – Emory Austin
I simply love when my favorite songs comes on the radio. As a child, my parents introduced me to R&B, jazz and a few other genres. One thing I will never forget, is how it made me feel. Listening to music is absolutely one of my most favorite things to do. I can no longer say what my favorite genre is because I listen to so many different types now. It probably depends more on what I’m doing. If I’m running or hitting the weights it is most definitely rap or something with a very fast tempo. It has a way of keeping me focused when I want to end my workout prematurely. As I sit to write my weekly post it tends to be “Zero 7 Radio” on Pandora. My “go to” will always be gospel or inspirational music, just because of the sheer message it conveys to my spirit. But one thing is certain no matter what I am doing or facing, music plays an important part of my life. It truly does soothe the savage beast in me or better yet, calms my spirit when the time calls for it. Whether we find ourselves raising our hands up in the air when our favorite jams comes on, commencing to engage in some form of line or group dance, singing our favorite song in the shower or car, or perhaps we’re just completely making a fool of ourselves with our on version of the “Running Man”, sometimes allowing the music to do what it does to our soul is just what the doctor ordered.
I believe this is why music resonates with me so much. It’s the being free part that I have often struggled with during the course of my life that my favorite song tends to allow and encourage. No fault to anyone else, but my own propensity to be rigid, too analytical and often over thinking with any given situation. Music has helped me to learn, welcome and appreciate the beauty of a good song and how it relaxes me, inspires me and takes me to a place that often liberates my cluttered brain. The sound of one of my favorite songs playing has the similar impact as the smell of fresh-baked bread. It brings good thoughts, pleasant memories which usually leads to a smile or good thought.
In these times when our lives are often complicated, full of stress and inundated with various types of pressures, I feel it is essential to have a song in your heart. The complexities of life’s pressures will drown us if we allow them to. There will always be something to do; a deadline to meet, a hard conversation to have and a bill to pay, but how do you spell relief? For those old enough to remember, it’s not R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Even the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8 to ponder on things that are pure, honest and just. In other words reflect on things that don’t perpetuate confusion or turmoil. It’s not always easy to do, but a good song with a positive message or simply a good instrumental can certainly help to foster the environment essential to maintaining peace in our lives. So maybe the melody is the sound of the ocean or the wind blowing across your ears. It really doesn’t matter as long as you understand what it is and become more intentional about the importance of maintaining your peace and how to achieve it.
Music will always be a significant part of my life and as I am reminded of my childhood and the positive impact that my mediocre listening devices had back then, I will never forget the powerful impact of what came through the speakers. It was indeed magical, edifying, stimulating and uplifting. It was like a miracle was happening right before me. I could take the worst situation and detach from it temporarily. I never realize the power in that until I got older, and today it is simply a part of my daily life.
Often my best thoughts come intertwined with a song. It can feel like everything in the moment or perhaps just a nice beat, melody or combination of instruments. Whatever the case, let us never take for granted the miracle of music. We don’t need to fully understand why it impacts us, just know that it does, and when you allow yourself to connect to that favorite song, enjoy it, the moment, and how it inspires you.
I have always loved this song. And like so many of us, as a kid I had no idea what I was singing about, but the melody sure was nice. Now as an adult I can appreciate the words, along with the melody. I think of love, good and not so good relationships and how each one has uniquely impacted me. I ponder on what lessons I took away as the result of my divorce, my poor ability to truly communicate with my partner or our mutual agreement to part ways. I reflect on my mental and emotional state during that time? Did I feel broken, depressed or rejected? Did I own my feelings or attempt to pass them off as someone’s else’s fault? (I confess this was the case more often than not back then) However, with my personal desire to get better and to be better as my motivation, and my hope to experience real wholeness, along with much prayer, I challenged myself with several questions. These questions were often bounced off one or two close friends that were willing to tell me the truth in love, and sometimes even a trusted counselor. Most of my questions were actually statements that my friends would call me out on and cause me to look in the mirror. Painful, but ultimately very helpful. This was the process (my process) that inevitably helped me to grow. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing with the steps I took. I did indeed learn from them.
A friend that will swear to their own pain, is a true friend.
They say hindsight is 20-20, and if I knew 10% of what I know now about most things, my life would have taken a different course, at least I think so anyway. The million-dollar question is would my life be better having more knowledge without the experience or the wherewithal to know any better? Selah. I will say I believe our steps are perfectly ordered just as they are, poor decisions and all. That can be a hard pill to swallow when you consider all the jacked-up things that can happen in our lives, but I will qualify that statement with…you don’t know what you don’t know. Therefore, our choices are based on what we do know and what we attempt to understand through our faith, experiences, up bringing, etc., and even that does not guarantee we still won’t make poor choices, but we have to step out on something at some point.
When you reflect on the less memorable relationships you have been involved in, or after you have went through your own healing process, hopefully you can take away that all of it wasn’t in vain, additionally all of it wasn’t only your partner’s fault. Imagine that. Every bad relationship hopefully wasn’t COMPLETELY bad. Ultimately there should be something we can learn from the ugly stuff? If you say there is not, you are more likely to relive bad memories, even if you’re with a different person.
Life lessons must be learned or your past will indeed define your future.
Some of that which we wish to forget has equally and undeniably forged us and made us who we are today. It’s just a part of the cycle of life. Embrace what was meant for you to learn and move closer to the better you. If you don’t take responsibility at some point, you will live in a vicious cycle of pain, anger and regret, fruitlessly blaming others for your circumstances. From your parents to alleged soul-mates. I’m convinced we spend too much of our precious time studying, reflecting or listening to well-meaning friends on what we did wrong, who we did wrong or who wronged us. This is NOT the type of truth I have been referring to. There has to be balance with this. My point is get the lesson however you need to receive it, and move on! Otherwise become a professional recipient of pain, anger and regret. My counselor, Dr. Adams asked me a poignant question at the end of my sessions. He asked, “Henry what have you learned through all this? You can’t go through the amount of pain you did and not learn one thing that will prevent you from returning to my office for the same issue.” As much as he appreciated my business (as a paying customer), he was not seeking repeat clients, due to our perpetuation of the same problem. I was grateful for his therapeutic philosophy and followed suit, as I do today. My blog, as much as I enjoy writing, is a part of my continued therapy as well. It causes me to reflect on my thoughts regularly and keep them close as I share them with you. Additionally, it also helps me to remain accountable to them.
Another topic worth discussing is our negative thoughts and how they need no help getting inside our psyche. They find a way all their own to wake us up in the morning if we allow them to. They can flow off the lips of our best friends and haters with the greatest of ease. The question is how we choose to respond to them. It’s in those moments where, what we are and who we’re becoming falls in the balance. It’s no longer just about the strong words we declared, but the actions that follow these declarations. Will you get entangled in futile discussions about what you were or defy the naysayers with silence, and purposeful, authentic progression? The choice is truly ours.
My choice is to fly and rise above every negative thought!
So like the song states, let’s learn to fly again and ultimately soar like the eagle across the literal abyss of what held us down. The abyss of emotionally destructive decisions, self-perpetuated victimization, manipulative or controlling behaviors, impulsive attitudes, fear-laced thoughts and anger-infused decisions. Nothing positive has ever derived from these characteristics, actions or mindsets, only more pain. You can do more than you realize with broken wings, disappointment and even a broken heart. The great truth is you can heal from these when you choose a better path for yourself. You are more than the situation you are in. Figuratively (and possibly literally) you may have to walk with a limp for the rest of your life, in other words, some circumstances may have life long consequences, but don’t allow even that to become a crutch or an excuse to your progress. It’s always easier to quit, put forth no work and complain about why your life is so miserable. I’m sure you’re quite aware how that story ends and hopefully you are tired of those results.
Many years ago this song was just a set of words with a nice melody, but now as I have grown and matured, I get it. I will, “learn to fly again, learn to live so free”.
Sometimes I’ll watch my children from afar and pretend to not be listening to them. I’ll hear my youngest asking her older siblings a question or simply calling their names. Mind you, they are in ear-shot of her, but you would think they were on another planet by the amount of times she has to call them before they finally decide to answer, if they do at all. By that time I’m usually yelling at them to answer her. This scenario caused me to reflect on the times I have felt like my youngest, as an adult. Like no one is listening to me or my voice seems to not matter to those around me. As she feels discouraged from being ignored, so do I, so do we. How is that we can become so dismissive to people, especially to the ones that we love and in turn give our best to others that may barely know us? We’ve all been guilty of it. I can recall having a long day at work, then an equally long commute to get home. During the drive, any energy that remained in me was typically zapped away by the time I pulled into the driveway. If I did not make a conscious effort I would disengage and my family received the leftovers from my day.
The song attached to this post, (if you should choose to listen) by Gaelle, “Fade Away” captures a real place we can be in our lives at times. Sometimes we want to become that piece of wood that blends in with everything and impacts nothing. We want to hide, silence ourselves due to the circumstances we face or like my daughter we simply get tired of no one listening to us and ultimately we make the choice to “disappear and fade away” as the song states. After my first divorce I was so ashamed of the failure, that I didn’t want to speak to anyone. My voice was shut down (by my own means) and any words of wisdom I once had regarding relationships were kept inside out of sheer embarrassment, feelings of defeat and self-doubt. I had deduced no one wanted to hear me and my words had become worthless and it was best that I just remain quiet. Essentially go into my corner. I became my worse enemy.
What life situation has silenced you? What happen to those dreams you once had as a child or young adult that was placed abruptly on the shelf? I have seen some of the most important people in my life stop believing in the dreams and purposes for their lives. This was especially important to me because their purposes affected me significantly and when they stopped – something in me stopped as well. I am not saying that people should become our idols, but someone is believing in you and counting on you to do what you say you will do. Why have you stopped? Failure, you screwed up or let some one down that was important to you or did you simply get tired? We all have, I know I have in many ways. Did the failure teach you anything? This can be the key to your renewal, essentially getting you back on the saddle, but you have to make the choice to try again. You have to believe that you matter enough to yourself.
I use to believe that never making a mistake was best, but now I believe that brokenness is. Brokenness is what has caused me to slow down, take deep breaths often and reflect on my choices regularly, even the simple ones. Brokenness has revealed the holes in my life, my heart and in my beliefs and ideas. It’s the one thing that has forced me to see myself authentically. That can be an alarming discovery if you have never truly stopped to reflect on you, and only you. This was a sobering season in my journey, but once I accepted who I truly was versus who I was portraying to be, it literally set me free, with my holes an all. So today I no longer look to disappear and fade away. I have a voice, a voice that speaks courageously, profoundly and with authentic truth.
Although it can become quite comfortable to remain living a life in the shadows, we have to force ourselves out. Figuratively speaking, we have to open the curtains of our hearts and minds and allow the sun to warm our souls and renew the vigor we once had, or perhaps for some, for the very first time. We have to find our voice again and choose to shout it at our mountain tops. One day at time we can begin to live vibrant lives that display all that we are, perfect and imperfect, no matter the circumstances. One thing I can learn from my youngest, is she never quits when her siblings ignore her. She will go to where they are and say, “did you hear me calling you”? She is relentless. That is a great characteristic to have. One that causes her to act with resilience and sometimes downright indignation. She will not be denied. She realizes that she matters. I realize that I matter as well. Do you?
Please take the time to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this topic. If not for you, maybe it’s for someone else. Thank you.
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.
What are you excited about these days ? What’s making you dance and sing in the car ? I have many things to be thankful for, but I must admit the anticipation of launching this site makes me smile inside. Not sure exactly what it is, well maybe I do. When your life meets a part of the destiny that you are supposed to live you can’t help but dance and sing.
Enjoy the song!
What causes you to get still, I mean really quiet within yourself ? So many of us are afraid to hear what’s inside. I dare you to listen to yourself in silence. What will you discover ? What will you hear in the silence ? Perhaps an answer lies in the distance. As we get closer to the launch date, this is a taste of what this site will be about.
What’s your favorite song these days and why? How do the words and melody impact your thoughts ? Some of the best advice that I ever received was to keep a song in my heart. It has a way of becoming a muffler to the noise that surrounds your life. Hope you enjoy. Remember, just 3 more weeks for this site to be fully live.