Tag Archives: Truth

Resisting Reality: When You Can’t Accept The Facts of Life

“…and the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” –Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Hello friend,

Did you see the news of the 60 protesters killed in Gaza this week? How about the story of the new outbreak of the Ebola virus? It has been hard to miss the stories of potential nuclear war with North Korea and Iran. And what about those deadly storms? I also checked out an episode of David Letterman’s new interview series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” featuring Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, in which she told of being shot in the head at age 17 for speaking out in support of allowing girls to be educated after her home region in Pakistan was taken over by the Taliban.

All of that was just Tuesday for me!

I know those types of stories come cascading down upon us every day of every week, threatening to drown us in shock, outrage, or despair (depending upon what the last thing was and the readiness of our defense systems). But some days, I just seem to have more nerves exposed and a weaker power of Denial, and all of this stuff storms my fortress and seeps in from all sides. It is then that I am forced face-to-face with the simple truth of human life that I work so hard to keep out: that it is uncertain and unfair, often violent and painful, and so much out of our control.

I hate that truth. I really do. All my life I have been fighting against it, resisting, denying.

I think most of us have one or more of those Realities or Truths About Life that we are–whether consciously or not–in denial of or don’t believe that they apply to us (and only us). Mine is definitely the one about the brutal and uncertain nature of our individual lives.

And I tell myself–occasionally, anyway–that it is childish and foolish to resist this truth so vehemently. After all, the evidence is everywhere. Bombs are exploding all over the world and destroying homes, businesses, sometimes entire families in an instant. Natural disasters are doing the same. Cars are crashing and taking limbs and lives. Viruses like Ebola are spreading to the unsuspecting of all ages. And kids are still getting cancer.

So, clearly, an individual human’s existence is precarious at best. More honestly, it is harsh and uncertain, often lonely and cut short. That is the practical reality.

Yet I resist that reality. I somehow refuse to accept it.

Every time I become aware of something harrowing happening in the world, I take it in and feel it. I try to meet it honestly. I don’t deny the event. I allow it to play its notes upon my heart and mind. There is sadness, sometimes disillusionment, often frustration–occasionally all three. As my system goes through all of those thoughts and feelings and the process runs its course, I deal with what is. That is a reality that I can face.

Simultaneously, however, there is a parallel reality that I cannot face (and even here in this lucid moment I will not fully accept). It is the idea that these frequent harrowing events and this uncertain and unsafe existence are a human’s natural and inevitable state of being. Something in me will not surrender to this idea, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.

Upon reflection, I suppose that it is the idealist in me that continues to put up the fight. You see, I truly believe that we humans are capable of magnificence, both individually and collectively. I believe that our potential is so vast, almost to the point of being limitless. There is so much that is possible for us intellectually and emotionally. My vision of us acting at peak capacity is truly beautiful.

The smear on that beautiful vision, however, is our persistent and extreme failure to live up to our potential as a species. From my angle, humans are the epitome of wasted potential. Despite many wonderful examples of individual greatness, as a group, we fail at nearly opportunity to rise and make our existence safer, happier, and healthier. Almost every one of those violent uncertainties is something that we could improve or eliminate were we to use our resources wisely.

Think about the amount of money, time, brain power, muscle, and emotional resources that we devote toward attacking and defending ourselves from one another. What if all of those resources were instead devoted to making each other safer, happier, and healthier? You know, what if those trillions of dollars and all of those brilliant minds were spent on waging Peace, curing cancer, and making advances in renewable energy, education, sustainable communities, quality health care for all, clean water, healthy food, living wages, mental health, scientific research, and restorative justice? What if the humans of the planet got together and committed to doing right by each other and by the planet?

I absolutely believe that the evolution of our species would take a quantum leap forward. With that leap, I think we would eliminate nearly all of the things that make our individual lives so fraught with the terrors and pains that I have been speaking of. Cure diseases. Solve problems diplomatically. Understand the workings of our planet and how to spread our abundant resources equitably so that all can thrive and excel. Devise our buildings, transportation systems, and devices to be ultra-safe and eco-friendly.

We could do this stuff. I know we could.

But we don’t. Over and over and over we don’t. We consistently choose to operate out of Fear instead of Love and set up our perpetuating systems accordingly. Because of this Fear, we consistently act foolishly instead of wisely. Our systems further greed and corruption rather than empathy and kindness. The modus operandi that our ancestors chose and that we continue to choose works in the opposite direction of our potential.

Basically, our way is to underachieve our potential. We choose to fail ourselves. It’s a tragedy and a shame.

And in the end, what it means is that we continue to live these individual lives in perpetual danger. So many of the perils that make human life so scary–wars, diseases, food and water issues, crime, climate events, terrorism, isolation–are things that we have the resources and the ability to solve if only we were to choose our priorities wisely and act collectively out of Love. But instead, we choose to be less. That choice has us living in darkness.

Reading back over those last few paragraphs, you might not believe that I am a passionate optimist. It’s true, though. I deeply believe not only in my idealistic image of what we are capable of, but also that we will get there. I believe it is in written into the code of our species and our planet.

So sure, if you look at what we have been up to historically and what we are up to now, I agree that you could call me a fool for continuing to resist and deny the idea that human life is cruel and dangerous, uncertain and uncontrollable. And I am quite sure there will always be some element that we can strive to make more predictable and survivable–natural disaster preparation or cures for new diseases, for example. But I think I will hold onto my idealism about Who We Really Are and therefore Who We Will Become. And while one arm clings to that precious ideal, I will use the other arm to fend off any Reality or Truth About Life that says otherwise.

How about you? Is there an idea that most people accept as fact that you either deny or need to come to peace with? Open up your journal and explore your resistance to commonly accepted truths about Life. Which one do you fight against the most? What is it about that reality/truth that just doesn’t sit right with your heart or mind? Is it based on a personal experience that contradicts it, or is it more of a gut feeling or intuition that you trust? Do you think the rest of the world should awaken and adopt your stance on the subject, or is it fine as your personal belief? How would the world be different if everyone stopped accepting this idea as Reality? Okay, now to my specific resistance. Do you have any sympathy with my belief that it is not the natural and inevitable fate of humans to live amidst constant danger and uncertainty, or do you think this peril is a simple fact of Life? Are there any facets of this constant danger–disease, war, crime, natural disaster, climate events, pollution–that you believe we have the power to be free of or at least better protected from? What percentage of the usual danger and uncertainty that we face is it possible to be relieved of through measures we can take? Can you envision us taking those measures in your lifetime? How close are we as a species to achieving our potential? What actions can we take to evolve to that higher order? Am I fooling myself by expecting so much of us? Do you think it’s okay for me to carry on with this idealistic belief, or would I be better served to “face reality?” Leave me a reply and let me know: Are we right about all the things we accept as “Facts of Life,” or are there “truths” that are actually false?

Be your own standard,

William

P.S. If this topic resonated with you today, please share it on your social media channels. Perhaps we can make connections that will ultimately shift our reality for the better.

P.S.S. If this type of questioning and search for your own Truth is appealing to you, I recommend you checking out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering the Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online bookseller.

LIFE IS SHORT: What are you going to do about it?

“Almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” –Steve Jobs

Hello friend,

Last weekend, my wife’s family had a reunion. From the pictures on Facebook, it looked like a fun and festive time for all. The next day at the hotel, check-out time came and went, but her cousin had not come out of his room. Finding no answer at the door, the hotel staff let themselves in. He was dead. Massive heart attack. He was only in his forties, a few years older than me.

Talk about a gut-punch. Even though I didn’t know him, all the photos I ever saw showed what looked like a healthy, vibrant man with a mega-watt smile that lit up the whole scene. He looked like a guy you wanted to get to know, wanted to be around. Good energy. And just like that, he is gone.

I know that death strikes a blow to each of us differently, obviously depending upon who the person was to us, but also playing a role are what age they were, how similar their circumstances were to our own, how they died, and the legacy they are leaving behind based on how they lived.

Clearly, when a person we know and love dies, there is an intensely personal process of grieving to work through, a process that pervades every aspect of our lives during that period and colors our lenses a different way.

Something quite distinct happens—at least to me—when someone I do not know well dies.   I go inside myself for a while. I feel hurt by it. Deeply hurt. Not necessarily because of that individual and the pain their loved ones are feeling—though I certainly sympathize, we are talking here about people I am not so personally involved with—but hurt from a different source.

I guess you could say that death causes me to feel hurt by the Universe. It’s a philosophical thing, I suppose. I am pained—tortured, even—by the unfairness of life on Earth and how, in the tiny moment a gun is shot or an artery closed, a beautiful life comes to an abrupt end. As deeply as I have probed the spiritual realm and as prepared as I have many times felt to be taken to the next realm, I somehow still come back to this place where the brevity of life–and the nonguaranteed nature of the next moment—just don’t sit right with me. It feels unfair. And anyone who knows me well knows that unfairness burns me to my core.

But that is life. Short, uncertain, and unfair.

Yes, it is amazing, precious, and littered with beauty everywhere you look, too. I know, and I see it that way, believe me. But in certain moments, like when a smiley young man dies of a massive heart attack in his hotel room, the short, uncertain, and unfair side sure delivers a blow to my psyche.

After I go through my process of feeling sad about that person’s loved ones and the life left behind, inevitably I drift into this patch of days where that death—and “Death” itself, the concept, with a capital D—begins to play on the strings of my soul. The reality of how quickly my own life is passing, not to mention the very real possibility that it could end at any moment for countless reasons beyond my control, gets into my core and really stirs things up.

The bigger questions of my existence here become front-and-center issues in my consciousness. How well am I using your time? What positive impact am I making on my world? Am I using my gifts? Am I allowing my soul to emerge, or is my ego keeping it at bay? Am I living the life I want to live, or the life my parents or society think I should live? Am I making the most of every day? Am I in this moment, or am I stuck in the past or future? Am I sucking the marrow out of life or just drifting by? Am I making a LIFE or just a living? Am I being brave enough? Loving enough? Optimistic enough? Empathetic enough? Forgiving enough? Kind enough? At the end of my days, when my life flashes before my eyes, will it be a show I enjoy and am proud of? Am I living my Truth?  

These questions sometimes elicit sobering answers from my mind. Because they are tough ones. Sure, they can be wonderful tools of motivation, serving to remind me of what is most important. But they are also tools of torture. The questions sometimes haunt as much they inspire.

Because, you see, somebody else didn’t get to ask themselves these questions again. Somebody didn’t get another reminder that it is time to make good, time to be bigger and more authentic. I hate that part of it.

When someone my own age or younger than me dies, it is particularly haunting. It makes me start to think it is all borrowed time from here on out. I have to live the kind of life that will allow me to answer those big questions affirmatively precisely because that person didn’t get a chance to. They weren’t allowed the golden opportunity of this day to do something greater, to love bigger, to chase their dreams longer and harder. I get this day that they don’t, and I feel like I owe it to them to do my absolute best, both in my heart and in the world.

I have to stop limiting myself. I have to claim my dreams and give myself fewer excuses for not getting them done. I have to rid my life of the things and people that waste my precious time and energy so that I can devote those resources to doing what I love with the people that I love in the service of this world that I love. Nothing less than that. No compromises. I simply have to be more brave and more disciplined with the life my soul calls upon me to live, for all of the nonguaranteed moments I have left. Death will come for me one day, unbidden, and I would like to be in the midst of something magnificent when it does.

How about you? How can you go about living so as to make your death, whenever it may come, more palatable to you? Open up your journal and make an honest assessment of what you need to do to make the most of your remaining days on this Earth. In what areas are you currently falling short of your standards for a life well-lived? Are you aware of ways that you can right the ship? How much work will it take: is it tweaks or monumental shifts? Are you committed to making the change? Are you like me and sometimes need something as shocking as a death to wake you up to the ways you have gone astray and the need to get back to your Truth before your time is up? What other moments have you had that were reminders of how short this life is? What can you do to keep your priorities front and center, to not waste a day? Is the prospect of death enough to embolden you to live your dreams? I encourage you to go back up a few paragraphs to the italics and ask yourself those questions of existence that are pressing upon me now. I hope your answers to those questions are motivation enough to point you in the direction of your True North. Leave me a reply and let me know: What must you do to make the most of your dash, however short or long it may be?

Be unapologetically you,

William

P.S. If this got you to consider your existence, and perhaps imagine some new possibilities, I encourage you to share it. We all need a little reminder sometimes. Be well!

Sleeping With The Enemy?

DSC_0541“Because the difference between a friend and a real friend is that you and the real friend come from the same territory, of the same place deep inside you, and that means you see the world in the same kind of way. You know each other even before you do.” –Laura Pritchett, Sky Bridge

Hello friend,

Do you know who Mary Matalin and James Carville are? Even if the names don’t ring a bell, if you have watched a political show in the last 30 years or so, you have probably seen one of the two as a guest commentator defending their political party and/or bashing the other party. Mary has been a top Republican operative and advisor to President Reagan and both Presidents Bush. James, meanwhile, has been a leading Democratic strategist and frequent ridiculer of all things Republican. They have been against each other in elections going back to the first Bush vs. Clinton in 1992. Their views, seemingly, could not be more opposite. They are like oil and water. So, what binds them? They are married! Yes, married. What? How does that even happen? More importantly, can it survive?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about relationships and how people with very different outlooks can co-exist. Well, it is more than co-exist; we all should be able to do that. I’m thinking more about people who are married, people who are the best of friends, who talk about everything. How could they be true to their beliefs—and openly speak about them with their spouses—without stirring up an absolute firestorm in their own home?

We all figure out a way to get through our days more or less peacefully with our neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances. That way is called denial, a.k.a. compartmentalization. Simply put, we choose to not address the topics that might make us dislike each other. Everybody knows the old adage that the two topics that are off-limits at dinner parties (or most anywhere else) are religion and politics. It’s really just an energy-saving strategy. After all, life would be a constant challenge—even more than it already is—if we had a beef with just about everybody we crossed paths with in our day.

You don’t want to know that Sally from across the street would condemn you to rot with Satan for eternity because you are pro-choice, and you don’t want to know that Jim in the next cubicle thinks that all Muslims are terrorists. They, meanwhile, would rather not know that you voted for marriage equality and stricter gun laws. They don’t want to know because they actually like you in your current, bland package. They think you are a swell neighbor and co-worker because you regularly return Sally’s dog when it runs away, and you cover for Jim when he is late. If they knew what you believed and you knew what they believed—and worse, if you continued to talk about it the way we talk about sports or the weather—the everyday, friendly banter would soon disappear. Tension and arguments would become the norm. The neighborhood and the workplace would lose their welcoming feel. So, we avoid those topics. We deny in order to keep the peace. It is simple self-preservation.

But what about at home? What about when we are hanging with our very best friends? How about just with our spouse, the one who has sworn to love us for better or for worse? Can we finally be honest about our beliefs then, or are we still forced into silence to keep the peace? Surely we are free to speak our Truth at home to a welcoming, supportive audience. Right?

What do couples do who hold polar opposite viewpoints on key political or religious matters? How do Mary Matalin and James Carville thrive and fully support each other in their marriage when their politics are so different? Aren’t politics basically an outward expression of one’s values and beliefs? And if so, how can people with such different politics be each other’s best friend and biggest fan? I am having a hard time seeing how it works. I honestly don’t think I could do it.

This issue exposes one of my biggest flaws as a human being. I am oversensitive to the point of being unable to stomach being around people whose views differ too widely from mine. I don’t tolerate disagreement well at all. I just don’t get over it. I don’t move on. When someone’s character traits or values reveal themselves to me in a negative way—whether through treating me poorly or a conversation that goes political—I shut down in a hurry. It is as though my hypersensitive system does not allow that kind of energy in its space; it’s like an allergic reaction. It happens both with people and situations. As soon as something doesn’t sit well with me, I must remove myself immediately.

It’s a strange dichotomy, too: as open-minded and accepting as I am philosophically, my heart and my sensibilities have very strict boundaries. They do not like to be violated. Not at all, I mean. It is as though my feelings are hurt by the shallowness, foolishness, and coldness of others, even when those things are not directed at me. Because of this, political and religious discussions are dangerous for me. I have very liberal positions politically. I am passionate about them, too, and have, with the help of my journal, thought through them very deeply. So, I feel like my positions are well-grounded (I have written to you before about how bad I am at compromise and how I always believe I am right, which does not exactly help my cause here). But, as everyone knows, most of the people in this country—not to mention in my family, my neighborhood, and my place of business—are not very liberal. If I chose to engage all of the people in my little world in religious and political conversations, I would soon be a raw nerve of isolation, disappointment, and hurt feelings. I would be a mess!

So, what do I do? I keep my opinions to myself in most public situations: with co-workers, most friends, and even family. I politely insert my views where I can without stirring up the hornet’s nest too much. I write to you. And I talk to my wife. Yes, my outlet for thoughts of the political and religious nature, the ones that reveal what moves me and what I am all about.

It is both sad and scary that I have but one true outlet—one human outlet, anyway—for the real me (probably a topic to unravel in a later post). But at least I have my wife. I can’t imagine not having her to share that with, to have someone. Well, no, check that. As I write that, I realize that that is not the point. It is not about having someone—I went many years with only my journal knowing my true values, and I was perfectly happy—but rather about the fact that when I did agree to make a life with someone, that I could let the guard down and know that we could have peace without all of the denial and compartmentalization. A peace without the cowardice and pretense that cheapens the rest of my peaceful relationships. A peace whose foundation is Truth from both parties.

James Carville and Mary Matalin swear that they don’t talk politics at home. I still don’t know how they pull off a marriage without that. As I said, I know it shows weakness on my part that I don’t co-exist well with people who don’t see eye-to-eye with me on things that matter most. I am not proud of my intolerance or my hypersensitivity. But I know myself. I know that–especially since I never wanted to marry and wouldn’t wish me and my issues upon anyone—if I am going to be a husband, it has to be to a partner who shares my values and understands where I am coming from politically, and gives space and respect to where I am coming from spiritually. Thank Goodness I picked a good one!

How about you? How honest can you be with the person closest to you? Open up your journal and take a look at that relationship. Who is that person? Spouse? Best friend? Sibling? Parent? When it comes to the tough topics of politics and religion, how much of who you are can you share with them? Are there topics—e.g. abortion, marriage equality, President Obama, the afterlife—that you know you must steer clear of in order to keep the peace between you? What makes these topics so toxic? Are you, unlike me, good at having disagreements about these types of issues but still keeping a very positive opinion about the other person? How much of a filter do you need in order to keep your romantic relationship peaceful and happy? How does that compare to previous relationships? How does it compare to the relationship with your non-romantic best friend? Which relationship is more honest? If you were very liberal and somehow fell madly in love with someone, only to later learn that they were extremely conservative (or the other way around, whichever is easiest on your imagination), do you think your relationship could survive, or is that just a time bomb waiting to explode? Think about all of the denial and compartmentalization you do with the people in your life—neighbors, co-workers, and family—and all of the things you completely avoid talking about. It’s kind of disturbing, isn’t it? What do you think would happen if we all spent a week without our filters on—still polite, but open and honest about all sorts of topics that now go unmentioned? Would it be refreshing or too damaging for the long-term peace in your little world? What would you like to talk more about with your loved ones? What would it take to get you to bring it up? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: Could you live happily ever after with someone whose values and beliefs were quite different than yours?

 Trust in your value,

William

If I Won The Lottery…..

DSC_0141“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, would answer you: I am here to live out loud.” –Emile Zola

Hello friend,

I have started to think that I am a hypocrite. Almost every week in this letter to you, I urge you to uncover your purpose—what makes your heart sing—and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I ask you to align your actions with your dreams, to take steps along the path of your Truth. I beseech you to not settle for less than what you believe you arrived here on Earth to do. I challenge you to be wholly authentic and to disregard the mega-dose of fear that is inherent in the activities of being so boldly you.

After all, finding your Truth requires a lot of experimentation, a lot of trial-and-error. You have to try on different versions of You and see how well they fit. People can be creative in a number of different ways. There are many ways to educate, many ways to heal, and many ways to serve. In your quest for authenticity, you have to jump head-first into a pond you have never swum in before, knowing that you may either fail miserably at the jump or simply decide that it was the wrong pond for you after all. When you have been brave enough to admit that, you then have to be even more courageous to jump right into the next pond that you think could be the one for you. It is like the hopeless romantic, willing to lay her heart on the line for the prospect of true love, even after the last prospect just ripped that same heart out and stomped on it.

Inherent in any life change, in any risk—whether that is a new career, learning a new skill, sharing your feelings, or cutting someone out of your life—is the very real likelihood of failure. What I have come to realize more and more as I study successful people is that the characteristic that they seem to have most in common is their extreme willingness to fail. In many cases, they have literally failed their way to success. In their quest to find their one true thing, they have put themselves out there, repeatedly taking a chance on themselves. And “failing” often. Yet that is what I ask of you in these posts. Lay your heart on the line. Try out a new you. Make bold moves in the spirit of your Truth. The level of courage it takes to be truly authentic in this conformist world is nothing short of heroic.

I have tried, in sharing my experiences with you, to be a real-life example of someone trying to know himself better in the service of living an authentic life. I believe that through journaling, I can better know who I really am. I can know what my purpose is, and that can only help me in following my Bliss. Most days, I like to think that I am doing a good job of listening to that inner voice. I hope that I am staying true to my dreams and taking chances where I can. I want to think that I can walk it, not just talk it. I don’t want to be an empty voice. I want to be someone worth admiring.

So why, over these last couple of weeks, have I started to believe that I am a hypocrite? I have, after all, been working diligently at getting my new businesses started so that I can pursue my dreams and serve people more effectively and more in line with my purpose. I have, at least on the surface, been staying true to my message.

In all of my busy-ness of late, I had the occasion a couple of weeks ago to stop and ask myself if it was all worth it (see “The Storm Before the Calm? Does BUSY Ever End?”). In ruminating on that topic, I had one of those “Calgon, take me away!!!” moments, and I began fantasizing about winning the lottery. I pictured myself with all of those millions at my disposal, and I wondered how it would change the way I pass the day. Sure, it is always fun to think about what you would buy with all that money—perhaps a post for a different day—but what I was interested in was which of my current pursuits would I still be doing if I had all the money I wanted and no need to work. Would I still be writing these letters to you every week? Would I keep my regular job? How about the two new businesses in skin care consulting and life coaching? If I won the lottery, which of these would stick?

In my lottery-winning mind, I quickly dismissed my regular job. Next went the skin care. I gave the Life Coaching longer consideration, because it is important enough to me to be of help to people in living their best lives. I would find a way to keep doing it in some form—even very part-time–as I rolled around in my bed full of dollar bills. As obvious as it was to dismiss my day job, it was equally obvious that, no matter what happened or how many millions I won, I would never quit writing. Never. The book ideas that I have—especially The Journal Project—would absolutely press on. I would bask in the newfound time that winning the lottery would offer me, and I would use that time to write. I would keep writing Journal of You to you every week, and I would spend the rest of the free time (that was once work time) writing my other stuff. Of course I would!

This is where I first caught a glimpse of my hypocrisy, and it has been eating at me ever since. Here is the crux of it: if writing is so important to me that I would pursue it even if I didn’t need any money from it, then why is it the one thing I have never tried to pursue as a profession? I have never looked in the classifieds. Never researched the job market or read one of those “Jobs In Writing” kind of books. Never sent out a query letter to a magazine, publishing company, or agent. Never pitched anyone with a sample of my work. NEVER! I am getting more and more annoyed with myself as I write this paragraph. For one, how could I never have even looked into this? And two, what kind of a fraud am I to prod people to be true to themselves and their dreams, to live authentically, and to be brave enough to fail, all the while I have not even fully chased my own most important dream? That is shameful!

The power of FEAR is amazing to me. In reading through all of my old journal entries from the last twenty years, I was shocked to find how frequently I mentioned the desire to write. I don’t think I was ever fully conscious, for most of that time, that I wanted to be a writer. I had things I wanted to write about, but I was seemingly always in the midst of doing other things and planning other career moves. In my times of uncertainty—when one life path seemed to be fizzling out–it never crossed my mind to go into writing. I guess I thought it would be too difficult of a career or that I didn’t have the experience or training. At bottom, though, I can see that it was FEAR that was keeping the thought from becoming conscious.

I will accept that excuse for most of my years, right up until the last few. Since then, I have definitely been conscious of the dream. The desire to do The Journal Project was the first step. Actually reading through twenty years of journal entries was a huge reminder, as scattered throughout the years of entries were hints at my dream. The next thing that kicked in was the realization that I wanted to share my thoughts with you immediately, rather than wait years for a book to be written and published. That realization spawned Journal of You and these words you are now reading. It has been a tremendous hobby and very fulfilling for me, a wonderful reminder of what puts wind in my sails.

So why haven’t I pursued it as a real, paying career yet? Why have I distracted myself with other avenues that also are meaningful to me but don’t quite light my fire the way writing does? The only conclusion I can see is FEAR and INSECURITY. I haven’t dared to put it out there to be judged. I haven’t believed in myself enough to risk it. Sure, I publish this for you every week and hope that I can make a difference in your life, but you get to take it or leave it in silence and anonymity. If I actually submit something for acceptance or rejection by a publisher or agent, I face an entirely different degree of vulnerability. I could be told that my work is poorly written, not marketable, or, worse, that it cannot be helpful to anyone. Am I prepared for that? My actions would say that I am not. I find that completely shameful. And worse: HYPOCRITICAL. I am not walking my talk, and that realization leaves me feeling disgusted with myself. I need to do better. I need to take a chance on myself and my dreams. After all, if I am sure that I would do it even if I won the big jackpot tomorrow, it must be my thing. It is time to cash in my winning ticket.

How about you? What would you DO if money was not an issue? Open up your journal and consider your current life. What things would you keep doing if you had the money to choose? Are you passionate enough about your job that you would keep doing it even if you didn’t need the money? Most people I know would walk away from their job on the spot the moment their number was called. Is that you? What about your hobbies? Is there something that you do now that you would keep doing? Would you make any of your hobbies into full-time pursuits if money were not an issue? If so, does that make you think that you ought to be looking into that right now? How much of a risk would it be for you to pursue your passion? Is it a risk more about finances or about your ego? How much do you fear failure? Usually when I have these discussions in my head, the question that clarifies the issue is this one: Do the temporary discomforts of taking a risk and failing at something that speaks to your soul outweigh spending the rest of your life with the knowledge that you never took a chance on your dreams? That is the one that I can’t sit with. That one makes my decision for me. What about you? Is there something brewing in you—or something that you are already doing—that must be pursued in order for you to live out your days in peace? Leave me a reply and let me know: What would you do if you won the lottery?

Dream big and start chasing,

William

Kids Are The Best Teachers

DSC_1239“I wish friends held hands more often, like the children I see on the streets sometimes. I’m not sure why we have to grow up and get embarrassed about it.” –Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

Hello friend,

I just spent a weekend with my kids and their little cousins. A few times, while sitting in their midst as they played, I was able to sort of rise above the chaos and just take them in for the marvel that they all are, individually and collectively. I was completely tickled by it. Certain qualities stood out so clearly in their interactions with one another: excitement, playfulness, honesty, activity, generosity, forgiveness, and authenticity. It was quite amazing to sit back and take in these beautiful characteristics that these kids seem to employ so naturally, so effortlessly. The magic just seems to ooze from them.

In one of my appreciative moments, I was struck by a strange, intrusive thought: What would this gathering be like without the children??? It is really an unusual question coming from me, as I do basically everything with my kids. Still, there it was in my mind, this query begging for a response. Really, what qualities would a fly on the wall—or someone stepping outside of the moment like I did—notice distinctly from this hypothetical gathering of adults only? Let’s be clear: this is not just a random assortment of strangers. It was me, my sisters, and their husbands. I love these people. I even like them and admire them. So, how would the situation look to the objective viewer? What would stand out for them about us and our interactions? What is common to most friendly adult gatherings?

As with the kids and their interactions, I hope that the love would be clear, the enjoyment in each other’s company. I think you would see generosity. I am not sure what else would be clear, though. The activity would be absent. There would be very little play, less sharing, less forgiveness, and, perhaps most tragic in my eyes, less authenticity. Mostly, I think the adults-only gathering reveals just a dimmer expression of the joys of life and the range of human expression.

Adults, when denied the influence of children and left to their own devices, tend to play their interactions—and often the entire game of Life–so close to the vest, not wanting to ruffle any feathers or be uncool. Much gets repressed. The unfortunate result of this self-censorship is that it leads people to be inauthentic. They are not expressing their Truth. It is not done in an intentionally devious way, but still it is an assault on Truth. Whether it stems from wanting to fit in, wanting people to like you, or just not wanting to create a stir, this lack of authentic expression and interaction leads to a real dulling of the scene. The fullness of human spirit and emotional range is stifled. The adult-only landscape runs the risk of being both false and boring.

I admit it, though: I am heavily biased. I have always much preferred the company of children. Through every phase of my life, if I have been forced—and yes, I need to be forced—to attend a large social gathering, you can bet you will find me hanging out with the kids rather than the adults (I love that, now that I am a parent, I have an excuse to “just be in here to keep an eye on the kids” at such events.). Sure, some of it is just my natural introversion, but there is no doubt that I just prefer the way kids interact. I am drawn to their authenticity. I love how they tell their Truth. Not just verbally—though that can be absolutely hilarious—but with all of their being. As I said, it simply oozes from their pores. They come by their Truth naturally and haven’t been trained enough to filter it. It is pure and beautiful to me.

Kids not only display the whole range of human spirit and emotions; if you are deeply connected to them, they take you through it, too! But as taxing, frustrating, heartbreaking, and downright exhausting as that is, it is somehow one hundred times more exhilarating, uplifting, rewarding, joyous, and downright soul-stirring. 

I don’t know how to explain it. If you surveyed folks on individual factors such as stress, self-care, frustration, and exhaustion, I am certain that parents and caregivers would score highly on incidences of these negative factors, possibly much higher than non-kid people. They would probably also score high on the positive end of the spectrum, such as tender, loving moments, or moments that they feel immense pride. If you weigh out all of the factors on paper, it may look like the kid people come out only even at best, and perhaps much worse off than the non-kid crowd. But then ask just about any parent, teacher, coach, or caregiver if they would prefer to be without those stress-inducing kids. Heck no! That theory on paper goes right out the window.

Seriously, I remember so many nights at journal-writing time, when my little ones were just babies and I was totally wiped out from some string of parenting ordeals that day, and I caught myself writing how fantastic it was to spend the day with my angels and how wildly grateful I was feeling. I would try a reality check and ask myself, “Weren’t you the one who got up at four o’clock this morning and hasn’t been back to sleep; who has been peed on, pooped on, and vomited on; who almost went out of your mind because she wouldn’t stop crying; who got so mad when he threw his plate of food on the floor for the seventeenth time; who just about worried yourself to death when his temperature spiked; and who cried with her when she fell and hurt her head? You have NO CAUSE to think this day was so awesome or that you are so blessed to get to spend it here with them rather than at work! There is no logic in it!” Still, there it was. Logic and surveys cannot explain it. I wouldn’t trade any of those days for anything, and I still look back on that time as blissful. Insane, perhaps, but still blissful.

So, this afternoon, with this topic on my mind, I took my kids to the local YMCA for swimming lessons. I was in the process of thinking how narrow-minded I might sound by writing something like this letter I am writing to you now. After all, people who don’t have kids and don’t interact with kids are still happy and fulfilled and wonderful, too. I worried that I may end up writing something that made it sound like if you aren’t a parent, then your life just isn’t very full and worthwhile. So, I took a few minutes and, instead of watching my own kids in their lessons, I turned my eyes to the “play pool” and watched other people’s children. They were dragging each other around on pool noodles, splashing, sometimes fighting, most of the time giggling. They were just generally being silly, playful, dramatic, and completely authentic. It might have been more emotional watching my own kids do this stuff, but even watching complete strangers, I found it tremendously comical, fascinating, and thoroughly moving. It is raw LIFE on display. I highly recommend finding ways to get involved with it (even if people think you are that creepy guy at the playground or pool who just likes to watch the kids play!).

Kids—yours, mine, or someone else’s—are absolutely magical. They can be all four seasons in one day. But even as they take us on this rollercoaster ride, they teach us a million different lessons. My biggest takeaway from this weekend with children—my lesson learned—is to be myself.  To tell my Truth, no matter how many emotions that stirs. To just be me, boldly and unapologetically. And, oh yeah, to have a little fun along the way!

How about you? What do the children in your life teach you? Open up your journal and get real. How much are children a part of your everyday world? Do you wish that amount were more or less? How are you going to go about making the adjustment to your preferred amount? What do you like to do with children—teach them things, just chat, or play whatever they are playing? How different are your interactions with kids than with adults? How much more do you smile? How much more imagination do you use? How much more engaged are you? How different are the feelings you are left with afterwards? As I write those questions, I am picturing one of my best friend’s faces when he is with my kids—he is childless–and how it so totally seems to make his heart sing. This otherwise quiet, unassuming guy just completely lights up. Is that you, or don’t kids really do that much for you? Whether or not you have kids of your own, do you think that raising children generally leads to a more happy and fulfilling life than remaining childless and pursuing one’s other passions more fully? What is the single greatest lesson you can learn from being around children? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do kids teach you?

Be you,

William

If Money Was Not An Issue…

DSC_1066“Making money isn’t hard in itself… What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to.” –Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind 

Hello friend,

My life coaching classes have really gotten me thinking lately. Stirred up might be more accurate. You see, one of a coach’s best tools is a powerful question. A powerful question can make you see things in a totally new way, a way that might suddenly provide wonderful clarity on a topic that you have long been struggling with. Often, a coach’s questions cause you to look more deeply into your heart and mind to figure out what really makes you tick and what you really want to do with this wonderful gift called Life. What I have recently discovered is that the question that best grabs me by the collar and throws me up against the wall in its demand to be addressed is, “If money was not an issue, what career would you pursue?”

Of course, it is easy for my mind to run wild upon hearing this question. I mean, “If money was not an issue…” can easily translate into fantasies of living on the beach in Aruba. Who needs a career if money is not an issue, right? So, I must clarify the question. “If you were to make AS MUCH AS YOU DO NOW DOING ANYTHING….” or “If you made ENOUGH TO BE COMFORTABLE-BUT-NOT-WEALTHY DOING ANYTHING…” seem to put it in better perspective for me. The other way that helps me—the husband and parent part of me–get to my most pure answer is, “If you had no wife or children that you felt compelled to provide time, energy, and money for, what career would you pursue?” That one really helps me crystallize the issue, because I wasn’t much bothered by being broke as a single person, but I don’t want that for my wife and kids.

In any case, all of these versions of this question, at their core, simply ask, “WHAT IS YOUR BLISS?” What is your dream? What career thought absolutely lights you up inside? What is your calling? What job will most help you give your unique gift to the world? This topic—following your dreams–is probably my most favorite one in the entire universe. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, completely compelled by it. I feel so passionate about it for myself and for others. I could certainly write a post to you every week on this topic. I know it is why I have been drawn to life coaching as well. I just really want to see people living in the light of their own Truth by listening to their soul’s calling and following their Bliss. That is the key to living authentically, and I am nothing if not a fan of authentic living.

For me, then, the trouble with this supremely important question—What does your Bliss look like? (and no excuses allowed)–is that it is a trap. It compels me to live out my answer or else feel like a fraud, an untruthful version of me. I just find it so necessary to follow whatever my answer to this question is, because that seems to be the only way to live truthfully to my calling and purpose. After all, I know what my values are. To maintain my integrity, I must be able to answer to the man in the mirror. Living my Truth is the only way I can look that guy in the eye for any sustained period. Thus, I feel even more emboldened to follow my Bliss and live out my dreams. I start plotting my future as a writer, speaker, and coach as though it is the most natural and obvious thing to do–starting immediately, of course!

But then guilt or humility or the voice of Society smacks me back with a “Who are YOU to get do whatever you dream?” and a “Be realistic!” I start to wonder if I am just being a selfish, spoiled guy—which I am, of course—expecting everyone else to make allowances for me to live my dreams. I wonder if my sense of entitlement—the “How could I NOT get to chase my calling? How DARE you stand in my way?” feeling—is justified. Because, really, who else is following their Bliss? Is there really anyone else out there who has not been forced to settle for less in order to keep the lights on or the spouse satisfied? Why should I be so lucky?

But then the relentlessness of my Truth comes roaring back. Along with it comes my dogged determination to not settle for less in my life, to never give up on my endless quest to learn more, grow more, BE MORE, and in that, to be completely and truly ME. This feeling—and indeed, even the logic behind it—wins me over every time I ask myself this most powerful of questions.

I understand that it may seem selfish. Believe me, I have felt the guilt from that jab from my conscience. But I really do think—in theory—that people should be following their Bliss, going after what lights them up inside. It just so happens that it is a lot more convenient to do that when either A) no one else is counting on you for food and shelter, or B) your partner is not simultaneously taking the same kind of risks. I truly want my wife to be happy and fulfilled and following her Bliss. But I secretly hope that her current, stable, insurance-granting job makes her feel that way so that I can continue on my uncertain, not-yet-profitable pursuit of my own dreams. Oh, the ways my mind has to twist things in order to live as though money is not an issue!

How about you? How well are you doing at chasing your dreams? Open up your journal and answer the question for yourself. What do you most want to do with the rest of your work life? Are you doing it now? Are you even in the ballpark? If not, what are the main factors keeping you from following your Bliss? I know that, for me, Time and Money are my biggest, most overused excuses (Time being my favorite crutch), but get creative and specific with your challenges. What is really holding you back? Once you have identified your calling, how patient are you in needing to see results? How do you manage expectations? I really battle myself about this. While in my most generous moments, I appreciate that I write to you every week and that I am taking classes for coaching and thus am working toward my goals, most of the time I am kicking myself for not being “successful” yet and wondering why I can’t just drop my other work to devote all of my time to what I am most passionate about. How entitled to your calling and the pursuit of it do you feel? Which of your current responsibilities or commitments would it be reasonable to let go of to give yourself more time to pursue your dreams? Do you dare announce your dreams to the people around you? Most of us are too afraid to tell others what we really want to be, because revealing that leaves us open to judgment, both about our dreams themselves and about not living them. How much do you share? Are your loved ones supportive of your pursuit? In H. Jackson Brown Jr.’s book P.S. I Love You, he says, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I bet that something—some long-buried dream–jumps into your mind when you read that. Don’t ignore it. Honor it. Consider it.   Then leave me a reply and let me know: If money was not an issue, what would you be doing? 

You are worthy of a big dream,

William

So Long, Farewell

DSC_0819“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh 

Hello friend,

Whenever I think of goodbyes, I think of my parents. My Mom is all-in when it comes time to part ways. I think so fondly of the mornings at her house—the home of my childhood–after a long holiday stay, when I am packing the car with a million pieces of luggage. She makes sure to get up early to make a big breakfast. She finds a way to engage in a good conversation one last time, gently reminding me that I still feel so very much at home there. She comes by with lots of motherly love and rubs on the back. She tells me how glad she is that we came. She hugs. She kisses. There are lots of “I love you’s,” and even more heartfelt tears. She puts it all out there. It feels good to have a goodbye morning with her. I always drive away full of love and gratitude—and yes, a few heartfelt tears of my own. My Mom is the world champion of goodbyes.

And then there is my Dad. The man who occupies the same house on those sweet, sentimental goodbye mornings is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the dog needed to go out for an extra-long walk, or that darn post office box was in desperate need of a checking, or maybe something was left at the office. In any case, he will not be sharing in the farewell breakfast, the “I love you’s,” or the teary-eyed hugs. My Dad is the world champion of avoiding sentimental moments, especially goodbyes.

As the child of this wonderful good-cop/bad-cop duo, you might suspect that I am some kooky hybrid of the two. I suppose that is true. When it comes to that kind of goodbye with those nearest and dearest to me, I love the lingering, sentimental goodbye like my mother. I am hopelessly nostalgic, so I like to soak in those last moments of a visit like they are a warm bath, thoroughly enjoying both the moment and the grateful afterglow of the wonderful time we have shared (which makes leaving so difficult). I love the peaceful gratitude that comes from spending time with the right people. When it comes to anyone else, though, I would rather take my old man’s route and avoid it altogether. Just get me out of there!

I have been full of goodbyes lately. A few days ago, I left a job and career of many years, in the process bidding farewell to many people who hold all sorts of different places in (and out of) my heart. In the week leading up to the final departure, as I saw folks for possibly the final time, I noticed my heart and mind run through the full extremes of responses, both in the goodbye itself and even in the mere anticipation of the goodbye.

On the one hand, I really appreciated the opportunity to say farewell to some of the players, mostly because I wanted to thank them for all of the their time and effort and commitment over the years. We had been through a lot together, and a player-coach relationship can go pretty deep. I definitely felt that in my inclination to touch base with my long-time players. The more I had invested in them—and vice versa—the more I wanted to connect with them one last time and thank them for the ride. It is a great gift to get the chance to coach someone who is invested in their own improvement, and I wanted to linger in that gratitude a bit in my final moments with those special people.

Otherwise, though, I mostly wanted to avoid people all week. If I wasn’t close with someone personally, didn’t care for them, or never made that great connection that comes when someone really lets you join in their fight for their own advancement and self-confidence, I absolutely did not want a farewell. I was actually even a bit repulsed by the idea. It was the complete opposite of my reaction with the other players.

I seem to fall on the “Give me the genuine and heartfelt, or let’s not waste our time” when it comes to goodbyes. But as I write that, I see that that is exactly how I am at my core and why I mostly keep to myself. If I am going to interact, I prefer it to be deep and meaningful. I don’t suffer the shallow stuff very well. So, I don’t avoid most goodbyes the way my old man does—to hide from the emotions that might come up—but rather because they won’t bring any emotions up. That is why I had no inclination to say goodbye to coworkers; I was not close to any of them. If no one knew I was leaving, I could have easily walked out the door just like any other day and never looked back. I suppose that sounds cold or simply weird, but that is a pretty normal feeling for me. I have had enough big transitions—moves or job changes—to know my patterns. I tend toward the deep and lasting OR a complete severing of ties (mostly the latter). I am not sure if that is a good or a bad trait, but it is certainly me.

Next week I will say goodbye to one of the best friends I have ever had. He is moving far away, and who ever knows what happens then? For the most part, I just want to have one of my Mom’s goodbye mornings with him and linger in the gratitude and fond memories. In some ways, though, I want to be my Dad and make his goodbye a little easier for him—it is already tough enough to move away from a life you have built, no doubt—by disappearing until he gets out of town and avoiding all the sentimental stuff. But this is a guy who tends to go dark, so what if this is the end? What if I don’t get the chance again to tell him that he’s the best and that I love him and that I thank him so, so much for all that he has been to me and my family?

This is when I know how much I am my mother’s son. The Truth in my soul demands a proper farewell, no matter how many tears must be shed or hugs must be hugged. It would be false to my Truth to go out to walk the dog for this one. I will stay. After all that we have been through, I must say my goodbye.

How about you? How do you do with goodbyes? Open up your journal and your heart, and share your Truth. Do you have a typical pattern for your big goodbyes? Are you the world champion of them, or are you the one who avoids them like the plague? Does your response change wildly, like mine, depending on the bond you have made? How have you handled your biggest goodbyes (e.g., moving away, leaving a job, even the death of a loved one)? I love the Dr. Seuss quote that goes “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Do you tend to be the one smiling or crying, or both? It can be a complicated matter, so dig deep on this one. Maybe allow the feelings to come out that you didn’t when you said (or avoided) some important goodbyes. It is a good release. In any case, tell your Truth. That is always the most important thing. Tell your Truth. Leave me a reply and let me know, How do you do goodbye? 

The real you is amazing,

William

A Moment of Beautiful Clarity

DSC_0055“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” –Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Hello friend,

Have you ever had that one little moment when it hits you how absolutely wonderful your life is? It comes like a tidal wave of gratitude in one visual image. Time stops, your heart swells, and in that magic moment you are completely intertwined with the Universe—and you know it.

It happened to me the other day. I was out for a walk around the block with my wife and kids on a placid early evening. Well, to be precise, the adults were walking, and the kids were roaring around on their Big Wheels (perhaps the greatest instrument of fun ever invented!). We turned the corner into the home stretch, and the kids charged ahead, pedaling feverishly in all their youthful glory. My wife was several steps ahead of me, striding briskly in a futile attempt to catch up to them as they made it toward home.

There it was: my life, right in front of my eyes. It was my street, my comfortable neighborhood, and my kind of evening in my favorite season. Here were these three people who I love more than anything, full of health and vitality, going happily before me.

“And for a moment, everything was perfect,” says the narrator (a la “Tangled”).

That wave of gratitude and wonder swept over me. I knew I was living the dream. “This is what it’s all about,” I said aloud. The tingle I felt in my soul as the words came out told me that I had just spoken the Truth, which felt amazing in its own right. So, with the most serene, ear-to-ear grin on my face, I nodded my approval and said softly, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about………….Thanks, God.” 

It was a transcendent moment, yet also small and plainly intimate. For that moment, the curtain was pulled back, and I got an up-close-and-personal look at the sheer, unadulterated Beauty that is my world. Stripped away were the worries and stresses about finances or schedules or someone misbehaving or my next career move. It was simply a moment in its purest form.

I used to think theoretically about being in the moment, especially as it pertained to people having problems and stresses. I pictured them sitting down on a park bench, and I said, “In this moment, unless you have hemorrhoids hurting your rear end, you don’t have a problem in the world. All of that stuff that you are holding onto about yesterday and all of those worries you have been feeling about your future—they are irrelevant in this moment. In this moment, with the sun on your face and fresh air in your lungs, everything is just fine. Do you choose to be present, to see it that way?”

In that moment, when I seemed to feel so intimate with the Mystery, it was as though that was not me but God herself nodding affirmatively and whispering, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about.” I wish I could bottle that moment, that feeling. It was nothing short of magical. Encapsulated Bliss. Even remembering it now leaves me in a state of deep Peace and Gratitude. This is how I can say with such complete conviction: Life is beautiful.

How about you? Have you had that magical moment? Open your journal and write about it. Describe the scene. What kind of a day was it? Who was with you, if anyone? Did you feel, like me, that moment of calm, almost as though time was standing still and the outside noises were muted while the Divine whispered in your ear? Were you able to pause in that moment and recognize it for what it was? For me, the best way to describe the feeling would be an overwhelming sense of Gratitude. Is that the word that best matches your moment? Have you had this special feeling more than once? If so, is there a common thread running through your moments? Mine is family. I can tell you that you are very lucky if you are overwhelmed like this frequently. You must be doing something right. Leave me a reply and let me know what your secret is. I want to know: Has the beauty of your life ever crystallized in a single moment?

Be present to the miracle that is Now,

William

Do You Dare to Bare?

IMG_1184“I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.”  –Jim Morrison

Hello friend,

My 3-year-old told me today, “Well, you don’t have to keep telling me that you love me all the time, Daddy, because I already know that.”  He knows everything. I responded, “Yeah, but that is how I really feel right now, so I am telling you.”  I bet that I tell my kids “I love you” 50 times a day.  Each!  I smother them with hugs and kisses.  My emotions are right on my sleeve.  Thankfully, they are positive ones.  I am trying to keep it real with them.  I want them to know just how much I love them.  But more than that, I am also trying to be an example to them about emotional honesty. I want them to feel confident in telling their Truth, to not shy away from their emotions.

We teach what we most need to learn. I wish I was a good example about owning my feelings and sharing them honestly. I want to be. But I have to admit that it is something I have always struggled with. Like the Jim Morrison quote above, my sensitivity has often gotten so squashed in trying to put on a tough, polished exterior that I have really blown it in some important moments. In trying to minimize and put a shine on my real emotions, I have come off blunt, even callous. I have gotten in my own way.

“But I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” So says Bob Dylan, and I hope I am becoming that way, too. Kids are such good examples of honesty. Their emotions are like mercury, changing drastically with the conditions from moment to moment. When they go from crying one minute to laughing the next, most of us jaded parents take that to mean they were faking the crying part. Though I don’t discount that entirely, I think it is actually more that they are so completely in the moment that they can move beyond the source of their tears instantaneously. Unlike us adults, they don’t work so hard to hold grudges. They get it out—honestly and completely—and move on. It is really these transparent kids that are the wise ones in this world. When we become “mature” and “control our emotions”, the unfortunate side effect is often that we hide from our Truth and squash down feelings that must be felt lest they destroy us (through addictions and chronic, mind-numbing activities like television). I have been that old. I want to be young again!

Yes, I have been one of the many bottled-up people in this world. Why do we do it, though? Why do we chicken out? Why do we lack the courage to own our feelings and express them—to tell our Truth—especially to those we love the most? Just this afternoon I was thinking about my great-uncle Lloyd, whom I have always thought of as the most kind-hearted man I have ever known. I was thinking of how grateful I am that he has been in my life and how I hope that I can be that kind of man for the rest of my life (he is about to be 89). It hit me: I have to write him a letter and tell him so! Yeah for me, right? But as I sit here writing to you about this idea of emotional honesty, I can’t help but feel a little cowardly that the only way I dare tell this hero of mine how much he means to me is by writing him a letter. I cannot tell him to his face.

I know how I am (or how I have been?). I would freeze up if I tried to tell him. I would take any sign of awkwardness from him as an excuse to clam up and not finish my thought, not tell my Truth. “I don’t want to make him uncomfortable” or “He doesn’t like to show emotion, so I won’t”. These are just crutches for me, reasons to avoid owning who I really am. The other one—I use this one to avoid honest conversations with my Dad—is “Oh, he knows how I feel.” But that assumes a lot. What if he doesn’t know? What if he thinks my silence means what I used to think his silence meant? What if he goes to the grave thinking that?

I think it is this reason—the brevity of life and the suddenness of its end—that has helped me improve over the years at sharing my emotions honestly. I just don’t want people to leave my life without knowing how much they mean to me. And it isn’t just the shortness of other people’s lives that concern me anymore; it is also my own duration. I am keenly aware that I could go any time, so I am trying to seize every moment, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” as Thoreau says. That includes building rich, authentic relationships, which requires me to own my feelings. It also includes not denying myself the simple pleasure of telling my Truth.

Telling my Truth, I have found, is wonderfully liberating. I now see those chances to tell it as little “dares”—as in, “I dare you!”—to jump at rather than shy away from, as I always used to. The dare excites me now. Each time I seize it, I become more confident, more comfortable in my own skin, and thus more willing to share my emotions—my Truth—the next time. It is a healthy snow-balling effect.

I also think that it becomes easier to own my feelings and live out loud as I care less and less about what others think of me (see Bob Dylan above; I am becoming younger). The less I look to the outside for validation and instead seek within, the more willing I am to share my emotions and my Truth. Who I am, it turns out, is enough, and I care not for the company of those who think otherwise. So, even as I write this I get more resolved to share my emotions even more freely. It may mean writing it down for awhile—sending that letter to Uncle Lloyd will still feel good—but I will do better with the face-to-face someday, too. Eventually, I will probably become that old guy who—tactfully, I hope–holds nothing back and makes people uncomfortable with his honesty. I admire that guy.

How about you? How bottled-up are you? Open up your journal and start telling your Truth. Tell yourself first. How do you feel about you? Be honest with yourself, and don’t judge your feelings as they come. Just let them flow along with the words, unfiltered. This is when writing is at its best: when you let yourself go. Have you told the people closest to you how much they mean to you? If not, what is stopping you? Try to make the answer something about you, not about them. The part you can control is yours. Pick a person and write out how you feel about them. Do you dare say the words to them face-to-face? If not, how about writing a letter? You already wrote out your feelings; why not just send it? I dare you! Go down the list of your loved ones. Who deserves to know your Truth? Who haven’t you told? The answer to those two questions—and the gap between them—is your challenge laid out before you. Do you accept it? Leave me a reply and let me know: Do you dare to bare?

You are enough just as you are,

William

The Books That Have Touched Me Deepest

DSC_0522“I cannot live without books” –Thomas Jefferson

Hello friend,

My Mom once got me an old-style book bag with that Jefferson quote on it, and I hung it from a lamp in my room for years and years.  It doesn’t just say something about me; it speaks to me.  I can hardly recite it without my voice cracking and my hair standing on end.  It goes right to my core.  I cannot live without books.

I have always loved to read.   When I was in my mid-20s, for one year I kept track of all the books I read.  I averaged more than one per week and was gloriously happy in the process.  The only problem: each book I read suggested several more, so I ended up with a Wish List that was hundreds of titles long.  There is just so much to know!  Whenever I want to wander away in my mind, I just spin my desk chair around and gaze at my enormous bookshelf.  I easily drift away into the many favorites that have become so much a part of me over the years.  They are like old friends, the shelves like a photo album of fond memories.  However, there are also so many there that remain untouched, unopened.  Those are the ones that hound me, begging for my attention.  I vow to get to them all one day.  But how can I keep up?  A sane person would realize that he is too busy to get to the ones he already has and be wise enough to not add to the collection.  I, however, am insane.  Every year my Christmas list is full of more titles to fill the shelves.  What can I say?  I love books.

Last night as I wrote, I found myself needing a mental break.  I swung my chair around to look at my dear old friends on the shelves.  As I pondered my long list of favorites, I found my eyes and my memory drawn to the same titles over and over.  These were the books that burned right into my soul the first time I read them and have remained a genuine piece of who I am over the years.  My honorable mention list is enormous, but these four have certainly touched me the deepest:

  • Walden—Henry David Thoreau.  This book rocked my world and set me on my course probably more than any other.  I had always been drawn to it and finally read it when I was about 24.  Honestly, it felt like Thoreau was writing right out of my own mind.  I completely identified with his desire for solitude and simplicity, and I was similarly disenchanted with society.  But mostly I loved how he wanted to live authentically, to be fully himself and pay no mind to what others expected of him nor thought of him.  I loved that he “wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”  Those words shake me even as I type them.  This book shook me.  It truly set me on the psychological and spiritual path that I still live on.  I have adopted it as my own.
  • Into the Wild—Jon Krakauer.  The true story of Christopher McCandless’ (a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp) walk out of society and into his Truth—and ultimate death—in the wilderness has been out for nearly twenty years, yet I have never been able to shake him from my system.  He haunts me.  As with Thoreau, I very much identified with McCandless’ ideals and longings.  I believe that Krakauer did as well, and that bleeds into the telling of the story.  I have always enjoyed this type of book that reveals the tragic outcome at the beginning of the account and then goes back to dive into the lives of the characters and traces the timeline leading to the tragedy (e.g. The Perfect Storm, Finding Everett Ruess, and Krakauer’s Into Thin Air), but this is by far the one that still lives in me.  If I opened it right now, I wouldn’t put it down until I finished the last page.
  • Conversations With God—Neale Donald Walsch.  I am actually cheating with this one, because I am including the entire …With God series–some of which I actually like better than the first book–in my sentiment.  Like Walden, this series is a cornerstone in my entire spiritual/psychological foundation.  It came to me at a time, not long after Thoreau, when I had shed the religious teachings of my youth but had not yet found anyone talking specifically about the God I knew.  Enter Walsch and his “conversation” with God.  I found myself saying out loud, “Yes” or “Exactly!” frequently as I read.  I knew I wasn’t alone.  Having read the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita, and other sacred texts, I found some relief, too, in the idea that holy books did not have to be 2,000 years old.
  • On The Road—Jack Kerouac.  This is pure romance for me.  I was absolutely taken by these mad characters, all based on real people—including himself—in Kerouac’s life.  The “spontaneous prose” that he writes in completely swept me away.  Much like the others, this book gained its place in my heart based on its appearance on my life’s timeline.  You see, just as I was about to embark on the biggest “roadtrip” of my life—wandering around Europe alone for a few months with my backpack—I grabbed a couple of paperbacks at a New York bookstore to be my companions for the trip.  As fate would have it, On The Road was first.  I read it as I sat along the canals in Amsterdam, fantasizing about Jack’s beatific world and the mysterious road ahead of me.  My soul was absolutely on fire!  This was an instant classic for me.

I find myself so happy and grateful as I think about these books.  They have done so much for me, and I feel completely humbled by their magnitude.  As someone who likes to share through the written word, I am, of course, jealous of the astounding ability of these authors.  What I see as the common thread running through the four works is a wonderful execution by the authors in reaching the very core elements of humanity, allowing us to see ourselves bare and real, in all our beautiful Truth.  That is why they make my list, and why they make me.

How about you?  Which books are on your list?  Which ones penetrate right to your core?  Are yours more fiction than mine?  Probably so, as even my fiction title is based on real people!  Can you find a common thread running through your books?  Do yours more often make you laugh, cry, or ponder?  I would LOVE to hear about your list and anything else book-related—this is such a pet topic for me—so please leave a reply.  Let’s talk books!  Tell me: which ones have touched you the deepest?

ALL of you is magnificent,

William