"You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking."
~ Maya Angelou

November 29, 2011

Sharing The Love...

I hope that we are all well after the holiday that just passed.  I know it can be hard to kick start the engine after going back in time and experience(s) with family and friends.  After disconnecting from the rigors and responsibilities of life and the endeavors that require our attention and focus, it can be a challenge to regroup and move forward.  However, it is necessary to move forward and I only hope that you can and are.  For myself  I had an experience this past week that I can honestly say was a first and I want to share it because I believe there is something to be learned from and heard.  Thanksgiving this year was spent in Ohio with my wife's father, his wife, and my wife's grandmother.  Did I mention that my wife had not seen her father since she was eight years old.  Therefore, you could say that this was not the normal holiday trip.  The communication between my wife and her father begun nearly two years prior, and through the written word, photos sent, and mail received the reconciliation and reunion began to unfold.  Like many the separation and distance was initiated by a divorce, custody and abandonment, years apart, and a void that only grows in time. 

As a husband I always want the best for my wife.  I strive to make sure that she is safe and protected, supported and loved, and respected and heard no matter what comes my way.   I was on board from day one when the trip (and what it meant) was discussed, eventually becoming a reality.  I knew in my heart that the reunion and reconciliation would give all parties a wonderful beginning and ability to move forward, while releasing what pain and suffering had remained many years later.  I knew that forgiveness was present and there was no blame to be had.  I knew from my own experience that when you reconcile and forgive, you begin to live in a manner that gives you strength in your heart, while allowing you to breathe that much easier.  The time that was spent in Ohio could not of been determined, and what transpired was truly wonderful and all that a husband could be witness to and supportive for.  There was laughter, tears, stories told, gaps filled in, and quality time spent.   There was no itinerary other than spending time with one another.  I have had many thanksgiving holidays as we all have...  This one was special for many reasons.  I will always hold a special place in my heart for what I was able to witness and be a part of.  I am thankful for much, and what transpired over the past week truly gave me a jolt of thanks that I know will and has led to an opening for all those involved.

So, as I was able to share the love with the woman I love, and the family I had yet to meet, let me say to all of those that can hear me...  Life is here, there is no dress rehearsal, the voids are not going anywhere, and what you do with them is up to you.  All I can share with you is that what I was witness to this past week was wonderful, it will stay with me for a lifetime, and I know it has only effected my world in a positive manner.  That's all I could ask for, and all that I would want you to experience.  Be strong out there, don't think too much, just follow your heart and you will see the path that has been waiting for you!

November 21, 2011

A Little Lift!

I know how Mondays can be so I just wanted to send out a little lift for all that are hearing me.  It's the beginning of a wonderful week, one in which we will come together with family and friends.  One in which we will give and share.  One in which we should all take some time and reflect on the gifts that life does and can afford.  Until our minds connect again you be well to your day, and your day shall be well to you!

November 18, 2011

Can You See It?

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Indeed this is where I am at.  Can I just say that I have had a truly rewarding week, one that has provided me with a renewed excitement and direction to what is to come.  I immersed myself into several opportunities to learn, network, and move forward with purpose, direction, and ambition.  I know you can relate.  That feeling that you are living in a positive moment, one that has only good intentions.  My moment included meeting several individuals that truly wanted to help and support my current opportunity.  It was so refreshing to be able to connect with this group, knowing that they were giving me guidance, wisdom, and support from no other place then their choice and willingness to help.  I am not one to be pessimistic or skeptical, but I have seen the difference between someone who helps for their own benefit, versus someone who does it from their heart because they want to help others succeed.  I appreciate this and practice this approach as well.  There are many gifts that life affords, but giving to others is one of the best.  Because when you give, you receive right back in many wonderful ways.  This is what I felt this week in the opportunities that I was exposed to.  I know that this in itself helped lift me up and move me towards a good place in person and profession...

Where ever your direction is at, in life or career.  If you are stuck, conflicted, or uncertain there really are so many opportunities to receive the support and the guidance one needs to change for the better.  I have said before, when you are present and available to see it, you can not miss it.  So, follow my lead and look at the path you are on, is it a good one? Or is there a need for change?  Whatever the answer is for you, when you do the work, the world you are living in will change for the better.  This is what is possible and through the relationships you develop, opportunities you participate in, and action you take you will see progress.  It's right there, go get it, and I guarantee that when you arrive you will feel these words in a way that will need no explanation.  The quality of life that I dreamed of for so long is happening, and no matter what the interpretation of is, or expectation for is, I am in it with one direction FORWARD!

So, as we approach that time in the year that asks us to reflect on what we are thankful for, ask yourself what that truly is? Allow that to inspire you to make your goals and dreams come into your world.  After all, most are thankful for the same things: family, health, love, opportunity, etc.  All of which we need to help and support us along the way.  We can not do it alone and that is the truth.  You may not see it (like myself at one point in time) and you may be thinking you are on your own.  Oh no, so far from the truth and once you can embrace this you will see.  I'm here for you when and if, and I look forward to be witness in your joy when you get there!  As always, be strong out there, stand up and stay up!

November 16, 2011

Let One Guide

Today is a good day!  It began with the support and nurturing one needs to enhance our physical and mental well being.  This is the recipe for a healthy way.  However, one must be disciplined and determined to make it happen.  When this is accomplished the path will present itself in a truly wonderful way.  This is exactly where I needed to be today as I look forward to an opportunity that awaits me this evening.  I signed up to be a mentor for an up and coming social worker and could not be in a better place as our relationship will begin.  The mentee is in the final phase of their MSW program, looking towards the transition from the classroom to the professional world.   I look forward to being available to listen, support, and guide my mentee in a manner that is positive and helpful.  I truly appreciate and embrace the process of being a mentor.  Whether it is with my little brother (think BBBS) or in the capacity of the experience I will be a part of this evening, the rewards of this relationship are plentiful for all parties involved.

I am humbled and honored that I have the desire to, and the heart for this endeavor.  Not all can be in the position of guiding others.  It truly is a specialty that some struggle with.  My take is that the best mentors are those that are willing to learn from the process as much as they are able to give.  Furthermore, you have to live a little in the classroom of life before you can be ready.   I have seen some fail, particularly those that try to hard, want to be friends first, are not in a healthy place, and all and everything that can negatively influence and impact this relationship.  All of the mentors that have influenced my life in so many wonderful ways have embodied the qualities and strengths that exposed me to the right way.  My mentors were able to model more than words alone.   This is an important point because often you will see the overload of words and action in a mentoring relationship that honestly can contaminate the process of.  If you are not following me, think of any relationship you have had where you don't feel heard, or when you speak you are interrupted, or that connection of support and understanding is just missing.  This happens in many relationships in and out of  being a mentor.  So, I can not lose sight of the lessons given, modeled, and taught as they will further support me in my ability to give and receive.

I look forward to the process of returning back to my time and place as a last year MSW student.  So much has transpired since those days, in and out of my professional title.  Challenges and struggles amongst positive opportunities and accomplishments.  I look forward to learning more about myself while I learn through the eyes of my mentee.  This relationship is reciprocal and if you don't understand that then you would be missing a vital outcome of being a mentor.  I will keep you informed as I move into this new relationship.  Until we meet again stay present and available out there.  When you do, you will see that the quality of your world can change for the better!

*To my disappointment when I arrived at the event this evening my name was not on the list.  So, what that meant was that my information was not received and/or it was lost.  Therefore, I did not get to meet my mentee.  Another lesson to be learned and as always adversity has many.  I resubmitted my application and will be matched shortly, perhaps a blessing in disguise!

 The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Bertrand Russell

November 14, 2011

This Is Where I Am At

Good day!  If you have been following my writings I am hoping that you have acknowledged that I don't write just to.  I write when I am inspired to share, express, and thus communicate.  When you hear me you are being spoken to, with an open mind and heart.  My intention is not to fill pages with words, but with meaning and support.  If I have learned anything along the way, it is that the ability and opportunity to give/share will open your world in a very positive manner.  The last week has been good to me, and I hope the same for all of you.  I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with those closest to my world.  Some that I haven't seen in a few, and others who are a constant.  This is such a beautiful part of my life, one where I can be witness to the gifts and support that I receive from those I truly care for.  This is indeed a part of life that matters to me.  A part of our existence that is shaped and influenced by those we trust, learn from, and who always have our back, when at times we feel that there is not much to hold us up.  I know for myself that I don't get to the healthy place I find myself in today without just that.  It doesn't even have to be a daily occurrence, meaning that I don't need to talk with or see my people all of the time, its when I do connect with and see them that we are able to continue forward. 

Often, many seek that constant interaction with others in a manner that I believe helps others feel they are not vulnerable or susceptible to a perception that just may not be the truth.  For many years now I have maintained an approach that when me and my people connect we go from there. Therefore, I don't allow myself to get caught up in the guilt, frustration, etc. one may feel if they are not constantly in contact with those closest to them.  I know that my people are in my world, even when they may be struggling to function in their own.  I hold on to the moments together that have influenced and supported our relationship, and this allows me to trust that we are still connected.  I won't allow myself to suffer based on an expectation that is not mine.  So, for all of you out there that have not talked with, visited with, and connected with those you hold closest to your world its your call.  How you see it, or perceive it, if the relationship is meant to last it will, if not then you move on and forward.  As I have said before "life is not a dress rehearsal, you have one shot."  So, its up to you and how you want to walk through it.  I know for myself that I will walk through this world with a clear understanding of how I will treat others, and how I will treat myself.  As long as I follow a decent path all else will fall where it should. 

Life is what you make it, and without those to share it with and live it with, it can be a void in a unfulfilled world.  Please see this and take advantage of that quality of life that you deserve to have.  This is where I am at.  I am excited about the possibilities that await, and as they unfold I will reflect on the support and love that I have received along the way.  Until the next time be well out there, stay present and always remember what you have, not what you don't!

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting 
that a new world is born.
Anais Nin

November 9, 2011

Good & Bad

What you say!  I hope everyone is embracing the change in time and season.  It's funny how the change can give us an easy opportunity to excuse.  I'm tired because of.  I'm sick because of.  I can't seem to because of.  I'm not really sure its because of the change in time and season, but who am I to judge, it is what you want it to be.

Today I was posed with an idea that has given me some thought.  The dichotomy of walking through life, in a manner that is mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory.  The battle of understanding life through the lens of good and bad.  Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out where this one was going.  Don't we all walk through life with an understanding that there are two parts, good and bad?  I know the difference don't you?  It turns out that it wasn't about the difference of, but the action that determines how we may justify or rationalize our progress, or lack of.  It wasn't as simple as I thought, and once again I found myself confused, uncertain as to what exactly was being asked?  What I do know is that I have learned a tremendous amount about myself in the years I have been around.  With that being said sometimes you learn more than you need to, somehow getting lost in trying to figure it out.  I know for myself that I don't walk through life trying to figure it all out.  However, I am curious as to the what and how that has influenced my development, socialization, behavior, and many other factors that have determined my choices and actions along the way...  With that being said there are always going to variables that make no sense, its like books falling off the bookshelf, sometimes they fall and we have no idea as to the why or how.

Whether understood or not, the unknown is not something that I run from.  I will continue to be open to the learning, challenge, and growth that happens when the onion has been peeled back.  I welcome the opportunity to be a work in progress, never perfect, but always present.  So, with that being what it is may we all just embrace the day as it is.  Whether change is due to us falling back, or the daily grind we find ourselves immersed into. The life we live doesn't always come with an understanding that makes sense, and when it looks like it does there are always going to be those that will say its not.  Until we meet again keep your head up, with the mindset that life is OK, no matter where you may be at!

November 7, 2011

When You Fall Back

For too long I was trying to do everything alone.  I was selfish and weak.  Full of pain and full of pride.  Holding on to so much anger.  Never knowing what I was truly angry at.  
That's all over with.
Ramiro Rodriguez

Today I begin with a quote.  I just finished reading It Calls You Back, the memoir of Luis J. Rodriguez. http://www.luisjrodriguez.com/  Some might remember one of Luis' first (nonfiction) works the bestseller Always Running La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.  The quote above are the words of his first born child Ramiro, who is a central figure in his current book.  Luis is a really great writer, cultivated from much experience and determination, and this shines in his words and storytelling.  I really connected with Ramiro' words, and if any of us have ever been in a place that is deeply rooted with pain and suffering, then perhaps you can as well.  It's interesting how life can shape and influence us when we stop fighting ourselves.  Often, we do not see it like this because we are so ingrained in just trying to survive and do what we think is the best, at that particular moment.  It's only when we continue to struggle with our own behavior, one that can limit positive direction and outcomes, that we are able to see an opening.  Like Ramiro (no, I didn't join a gang or go to prison, but what if my environment was different?) I had to self-destruct and go through some challenging times before I was able to accept help from others, and thus move forward and into a healthy way.  When we are hurting it is very easy to project our pain and suffering on to anyone and anything that is available, whether or not we can see that its in place to help and support us.

It's almost like a rite of passage for some.  Often you have to fall down many times before you can make a conscious decision to stand up and stay up for yourself.  I had a moment like this as I approached my 25th birthday.  Believe it or not I was not always a social worker.  In fact quite the opposite.  After getting fired for the first and last time (from the factory job I wrote of earlier) a friend of mine turned me on to a job in construction.  I was hired by a general contractor who had a pretty successful construction business.  I was right around the age of 19.  I had no experience or exposure to this world.  I didn't grow up with tools in my hands.  However, what I did have was a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility that conveyed that I could be trusted.  Even during the most challenging periods in my life I had something inside of me that wanted to be liked, cared for, and trusted.  I wanted to show others that I could do right, just give me a chance.  I learned much during this period.  However, the work is only good when it is there, when it is not you struggle to pay the bills and survive and ultimately I was laid off.  The friend who initially turned me on to this gig still had my back, and thus opened another door in the construction field.  He had recently been employed as a union carpenter starting out as an apprentice (a four year training period that included classroom and field work, and at the completion you were deemed a journeyman carpenter) and they were looking for suitable candidates.  So, I filled out the application, waited,  and sure enough I was offered an opportunity.

I was a union carpenter for nearly seven years.  I made pretty decent money, and was able to learn a trade.  I met some hard working people along the way, and was exposed to experiences that had a very influential effect on me.  I wish I could say that there were more positive influences than not.  It turns out that those years were challenging beyond what I thought I would be signing up for.  I experienced many days of unemployment (due to the weather, lack of work, and the union politics that are always present), tough and rough hazing, and role models that used and abused and always made sure that your voice didn't even matter.  Now, this was not all but in my interpretation and memory of these ones stood out.  I often felt that I was in the wrong professional world, I was a so so carpenter and it wasn't because I didn't work hard.  My heart was just not in it, even back then I felt that I had something more to offer others.  I knew my destiny was not to ride out a 30 year career in this business and retire.  This came to me one day on the job, in a manner that some call an "epiphany" and my direction changed from that moment on.

I was about to finish a long term job and knew that a period of unemployment was waiting for me.  I had time and so I enrolled myself in a local community college taking two classes (English and Sociology).  It was through higher education that I saw an opening and the rest is as they say history.  After completing those classes I made the decision to resign from the carpenters union and move forward into the transition from carpenter to social worker.  I enrolled full time and got a job as waiter, a job that would accommodate my new schedule while still providing me with an income to support myself.  There were many challenges, sacrifice, and struggles within this period of  my life, all of which I have learned and grown from tremendously.  I reflect often and am amazed with all that happened during this time in my life.  Achieving a BA (Sociology) and Masters in Social Work (MSW) truly changed the quality of my life.  These accomplishments were never about increasing my earning potential.  No, that was not it.  I have much more to share, and will fill in the gaps along the way, but for now we will end.  But before I do let me just say that I would of never been able to enter this new chapter (in life and profession) if I did not begin the process of identifying, understanding, and working through my own pain and pride.  It's a wonderful thing when you can see it, feel it, and embrace it!  As always may you be well to your day, and your day will do the same.

November 2, 2011

You Gotta Learn Sometime

I found myself frustrated a bit today, when really I had no control of the situation that was producing this.  It didn't take me long to find that place that tells me "it's going to be OK, this is only temporary."  I was able to get to this place and find a source of strength and inspiration based on a story I was exposed to last night on ESPN through their film series 30 for 30. http://espn.go.com/espn/espnfilms/story/_/id/6961212/unguarded .  The story is about a gentleman named Chris Herren, a high school basketball phenom in the 90's who went on to college ball at the Division 1 level, and then on to play in the NBA and overseas.  However, the legend of Chris Herren concealed a darker side, and his dream soon became a nightmare of drug addiction—first alcohol, then cocaine, finally heroin.  It's a story that I have been exposed to before through the interactions in the field, my practice, books I have read and the stories I have heard.  It is a plight that I have come to learn though the eyes of others so clearly.  I have found strength and inspiration from these stories in a manner that has always shown me how easily one can fall, and fall hard.  Chris grew up in a blue collar, east coast town that as he and his friends said "you played hard on the court, but you played even harder once you left the court."  I understood that from my own time on the east coast, socialized by very similar forces, ones that force you to make a decision, do you want to fit in and belong, or do you want to be left by yourself, all the while you are primarily coping with the forces inside that no one (including yourself at the time) understands, or can truly see.

My story is no where as severe as Chris' that is for sure.  However, I have had my own battles with alcohol and drugs over the years, and it all began in a place, and at a time very much similar to what Chris was exposed to.  I remember it quite clearly.  The year was 1985, I was a teenager in pain, and I was angry. When you combine those two forces, alcohol and drugs can easily become a way to cope.  Then you add the fact that I was really never exposed to heavy usage or influence from others before this time in my life. I dabbled a little, but it was real minor.  That changed real soon, and shortly after I arrived I was exposed to and immersed into the small town mentality of playing real hard off the court.  I remember one of my first experiences when I was hanging out at some remote pull off, away from the heat and others who would of caused trouble.  I got drunk real quick, like a couple of beers, and my new friends made fun of me and laughed about how easily I got drunk, I was definitely a rookie in their minds.  It didn't take me long to advance into the world of heavy/binge drinking, the world that said "if you weren't drunk, then you weren't having fun or their was something wrong with you." Yup, at 15 I was socialized into a way that took me years and many battles to recognize that this way was not OK, it wasn't having fun, and if anything it led to many problems over the years.

I remember the first day of my senior year in high school, the plan was to meet an hour before school started at one of our spots so we could drink, and drink heavily.  I guess the idea was to be smashed and start the year off the right way.  My senior breakfast was a pint of liquor, 3 beers, and then some in the matter of 45 minutes or so, and then it was off to school.  An hour into school I couldn't even function, and got sick right on my desk in the middle of math class.  As I was escorted out heading to the nurses office, I couldn't even stand and I literally had someone holding me up as I walked away.  It was legendary at the time, talked about for years, but for me it was just another example of a troubled kid trying to find where he fit in.  You would of thought I would of learned a lesson or two from that experience. Not exactly as there were many instances that surrounded alcohol and drugs during that year.  The ending of which almost cost me my life.

I just finished up with my last final exam as a senior, one in which I needed to pass, if I didn't I was not graduating from high school.  To celebrate the end of our high school days a bunch of us went out and did what we did.  First stop was the liquor store and since I was the designated driver that evening I would have the usual, a six pack of beer versus the standard 12 pack for the non drivers.  As the night moved forward we found ourselves caught up with some fools racing and chasing each other in our cars high above the Hudson River.  The road (route 218) was a narrow, windy route that rested several thousand feet above the river.  In most spots the speed limit was 20-30 mph, I was going 60 mph when I crashed into the mountain side of the road.  My face literally crashed into the hard plastic steering wheel, crushing the top row of  my teeth and gums into my nasal cavity, blood profusely coming out of my mouth.  Believe it or not none of the passengers were injured.  The harsh reality was that if we would of crashed into the river side of the road we would of most likely died on that day, no doubt about it.  Once again I was the talk of the town, all stitched up with gauze in my mouth as I sat in my cap and gown (I barely passed that chemistry exam and was able to graduate). I have a reminder of that moment that has been with me for nearly 25 years now, my top row of teeth is a bridge (fake), truly lucky to walk away with just that. I am not proud of any of those moments that happened many years ago.  However, they are clearly a reminder to me that I could of easily went the other way, a place that who knows where I would be today.  I chose not to, and I have fought hard over the years to better myself, never forgetting where I have been.

Unguarded is a story about a man who had to get to that place in his own world, one that included much pain and suffering.  To learn more about Chris Herren check out his memoir "Basketball Junkie" (along with Bill Reynolds) that tells the whole story. http://www.basketballjunkie.net/   It's on my list but will have to wait as I have a few books that I am currently vested in.  There is so much that goes into battling and overcoming the madness that addiction and dependency can produce.  It takes a lot of everything, and each individuals plight is different.  However, when you finally surrender and commit to changing for the better, you are one step closer to the quality of life you deserve to have, can have, and need to have in order to move forward in a healthy and positive manner.  Once you get to this place a little frustration is the easiest part of the day, it's all good.  Thank you for hearing another part of my story. I know you can hear me, and with that there will be much more to come when the time presents itself.  Until our next meeting of the minds be strong, stand up, and stay up!
How sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow