I have been busy this month with the write a poem a day (PAD) challenge. I use the prompt provided by Writer’s Digest and I added my own personal challenge to write in a different form for each day. (You can read some of the poems on my creative blog: Creative Corner for Writing. I’m a few days behind posting to the site.)
On day 24 the prompt was to write a poem about a superhero or a villain, or both. I wrote a cadralore poem about moments in life where we could be the hero or the villain. The last stanza starts with the line:
Of course this got me thinking about how our decisions lead us to different choices in the future. At the same time a decision will eliminate other opportunities for us in the future. I once gave my seniors a kind of “last lecture” about life. I presented the idea that life is a tree.
That each major decision sends us to a new branch. That branch will have its own junctions or moments of choice that only happen because of the decision made before. You can become paralyzed at the vastness of moments life can have for you because of one choice. My seniors are two weeks away from graduation. They have chosen a path to follow, the opportunities they will have in the future are unique to the path they have chosen now.
I recognize that some goals we have as individuals can be pursued at any time. I may yet be known as a poet or writer, but each day the choices I have now are because of choices I made in the past… I can’t change that.
No one can change that. Too many times we only consider the immediate consequences of a choice, not where the choice will lead us. No, we can’t predict what future moments will come our way, but there is a certain set of outcomes we can infer if we think about where the choice will lead us.
As a poet, it is an inspiring image to the complexity of this life. Tomorrow is based on what choices we make today…
In one way life is simply the collection of moments. Everyday has the possibility of pain or happiness, even in a routine day there is beauty and love. As I thought about the 18,252 days I’ve lived, there have been some life changing moments that are easily recognizable. But also, there have been small everyday moments that have proven to be foundations for me. This post has been a challenge, but here are my top five moments from the last 50 years.
Calling my wife back, who was then just a classmate, after I hung up on her the first time. I barely got up the nerve to call her the first time to ask her out. We were in the same college class, “Discipline in the Classroom.” We debated against each other, she was smart and presented herself well everyday. I was the kid in the back with a coffee and my hat backwards, always willing to give my opinion.
People still wonder how we make it work after 23 years, but it would have never happened if I didn’t squelch my fear and call her back after hanging up the first time.
Chasing my dream of being a head football coach and accepting a position that I had some reservations about. Those reservations turned out to be true. I was fired after one year.
So many changes happened because of that choice. Some of them were tough on me and the family. There were positive outcomes, too. That’s the complexity of moments.
I learned some hard lessons. I’ve let go of my dream of being a head football coach. I trust my gut instincts more. I learned that a strong family sticks together when things get rough.
Holding each of my children the day they were born, except my second son who experienced a medical issue. We didn’t get to hold him for a few days.
That moment when I held a son or daughter in my arms, the world disappeared. Their little hands clenched, eyes closed, chest moving up and down, the moment they start this journey of life. The weight of knowing that I was responsible for their foundation wasn’t heavy, though. That responsibility was the meaning of fatherhood, and I still enjoy fulfilling that role in their life.
One of the most pivotal moments in my life happened when I was 16 years old. I decided to take control of my life and essentially walk away from my family history. The moment was a decision that has been messy, filled with pain, anger, and a mix of other consequences. But I don’t regret it.
The moment happened during football practice my eighth grade year. At the time it was intense for practice, but looking in from the outside, nothing life changing. Until each day passed and moments presented themselves that reinforced the lesson coach gave me that day.
I wish I could give you my backstory up to that day in practice, but this is a blog not a book. Let’s just say I had gone through a lot of craziness already in life by the time I was in eighth grade. I was the tailback for the team, already a filling out as an athlete. On this day, I wasn’t running with much power. I was going down pretty easily at the first level (at the line of scrimmage).
Coach had had enough. He held my face mask as he ripped into me about my effort. I don’t remember everything he said, but the message was that I was too strong, too good to run like I was. I was in tears. He called a basic dive play. I was mad. We ran the play. I couldn’t see anything because I was crying so hard. Coach blew the whistle and screamed for everyone to freeze.
Then he said,“Jamey, turn around!”
I froze on his first command. I was staring at the tennis courts and the street that ran in front of our school, trying to catch my breath. I turned around when he told me to. There was a line of players on the ground where I had run through the line.
“That’s how strong you are,” he said. And we returned to practice.
At that moment I understood his message, but didn’t know how important it was for me until I found myself needing that reminder when life was tackling me too easily. I remember that day. I remember that lesson. Even now, at the age of 50 life tries to take me down. But I know I am strong because of an everyday moment. Thanks, Coach.
Tomorrow’s post will not be so heavy. Tomorrow I’m going to share my top five songs, which is difficult in it’s own way!
And I mean all aspects of love; romantic, sibling, friendship, and humanity. I have written about the power of love before (Why Love Series), but this post is centered on three ideas that make love a foundation to a great life.
First, love is action.
Second, love is showing a person that their life matters to you.
Finally, love is a choice.
All three work together to create a powerful life. Before I dive into the aspects I just mentioned, I want you to know that I also know that there is a magical aspect to love, an unexplainable power that no blog post can express. There is an emotional aspect of love, a crazy stirring in our hearts when we gaze into the eyes of our partner. Or a joyful pain in our chest when our children hug us. But the power of love is not just in those magical moments. Love is a factor in our lives when we choose to act so that another person knows they matter.
Action is important. Yes, saying that you love someone is important but love is expressed through action. A date night. Playing My Little Pony on the living room floor. Taking a walk. Watching a movie (without a phone). Dancing in the kitchen. All relationships need action to grow. This is the most powerful way you show someone they matter to you; spend time together.
Action isn’t the only way that you can show someone you care about them… how you talk is important, too. How you talk to a person and how you talk about them with other people makes a difference in the relationship. I’m learning that how you talk about a person to others is a factor that builds or destroys a relationship over time. A powerful factor. If you tear down a person to others, if you bring up all their faults, just vent to others, that negativity will filter into your view of that person. You’ll soon find that negativity move into the way you talk in the relationship. That’s not love.
We are not perfect. We all have flaws. We all are works in progress. Our words either build or destroy people. That includes text or social media. The way you speak shows people how much they matter to you. Your words are one example of how we choose to love.
The most important factor is to be honest about how much of love is a choice. You decide to open your heart. You decide to be respectful. You decide if you are going to love someone. There is an emotional aspect to love, but those emotions can be generated by the actions you take. It doesn’t matter what type of love or relationship it is.
Want your relationship with your partner to be more romantic? Do something to generate those emotions, like buy flowers, or dance in the kitchen. Want to have a better relationship with a friend? Do something. Send them a handwritten note or go out for coffee.
It sounds simple because it is. Love is choosing to act in a loving way to the people who matter to you. And that is part of a great life of a great relationships.
Below are a few media recommendations that correlate with this blog post.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a must read for so many different reasons. But at the heart of the book is the idea of how important love is in all relationships.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great book to consider how the people in your life view actions as a way of understanding love. The book will equip you with ways to express love to people.
Hoosiers is more than a basketball movie. The movie deals with the idea of forgiveness, family, and why it matters to do the right thing in relationships.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a great movie that highlights the importance of action in life. Now, I don’t endorse missing school, but can’t deny the message about friendship and living life.
You know, when you are in a bad mood and you don’t really know why, but you still slam the cupboards or the utensil drawer so that everyone in the house knows you are mad.
Maybe you hit the steering wheel as the crossbars light up for the oncoming train. Maybe you walk down the hall, head down, frowning while people move out of your way.
Was it worth it?
Was making sure everyone knew you were in a bad mood worth it? Was the time you wasted on negative energy worth it? Did the train pass quicker? Did your family enjoy your attitude at dinner? Did life just magically get better because of your mood?
Was it worth it?
I recently read the book, Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, by Valorie Kondos Field, the UCLA gymnastics coach. In the book she discuss why choosing a positive, high energy attitude is one of the keys to the team’s success. The book expands on the idea, but the core idea is that we choose our attitudes. And she is right.
For our everyday lives, our attitude is a choice, and we pay a price for those attitudes. We might gain something from it or we might damage something from the attitude we choose. I hate to admit it, but I have lost my cool with my children before, and felt guilty as I watched their eyes turn down and their brow change to the question, “What did I do?”
I have seen athletes miss opportunities because of attitudes. Same for students who bring in a difficult attitude in to class. I’ve wasted time with family and friends because I wanted to brood in my bad attitude. It wasn’t worth it.
Every attitude we choose has a cost for our lives… you decide if the attitude is worth your life.
I am amazed by your talents. Each of you have unique gifts that make being a parent awesome. You are lucky to have discovered your talents at such a young age. Each day I see how your talent continues to improve. It is an honor to be a part of that process. As you stand on on stage, make a no-look pass, or draw a new animal, I see a glimpse of your heart. This letter is meant to help you grow and work with your talents in the future. Yes, it is parental advice, but that is a benefit of being your dad.
First, it is your talent. You are responsible for developing it. You are responsible for how you use your talent. You decide if you continue to work hard at being an actor, a basketball player, and an artist. No one else has that responsibility (we will talk about other people in a minute). And that responsibility means you can let your talent slide. My fatherly advice is don’t. I know the regret of letting a talent go… of not focusing on the development of a gift. You know that I quit football after my freshman year in college. I still wonder what I could have done on the football field. You know that I write now, but in a way I let writing slide for too long. As a senior in high school I received a Young Author’s award. I let too many years go… I will never get them back. I never got to put on a uniform again… It seems like life is forever at your age, but it is not. Opportunities to use your talent are limited. Don’t waste them. I believe there is a reason for everyone’s talent. Yes, I am about to go deep.
Our talents gives us depth to our lives. It is not the only thing that makes life meaningful. There is love, family, friendship, but our talents add to that mix. Your talent will enrich your everyday experience. Your talent gives you direction in this life, if you have the courage to use your talent as a life compass. When faced with hard choices, ask yourself which options best benefit your talent. Yes, I am talking about things like alcohol or drugs or any other peer pressure situations. But also about situations life hands you, like friends, job opportunities, situations you have not encountered yet. Of course there are other factors in major decisions, but your talent is an important factor. If you make choices that help you develop your talent, you will find the right direction. I didn’t say easy… just that you will not regret a choice that is centered on strengthening your talent.
Here’s why: other people. Let’s deal with the positive aspect first. I also believe that there is another aspect to the responsibility of our talents. By developing our talents we can help other people see what they are capable of in this life. In a simple, everyday way, our talents make this a better world. You are a role model through displaying your talent. I was reminded of this through a few situations where my writing had an impact for people that I did not know were influenced by something I have written. Your talent shows others what can be. It shows others the beauty of this life, the richness of living. And you never know who that might be.
But here’s the flip side of other people, the haters. I wish I had an answer to this issue, but I don’t. And I know how powerful negative people can have on developing or showing your talent. Their comments and attitudes can make you feel like hiding your talents. Can you image what our world would be like if we lifted people up instead of trying to destroy someone simply because they are good at something? It would be amazing. I can’t stop the haters. But be strong, be courageous, at the end of the day you know mom and I will be here for you. Draw all the lions you want. Sing your heart out. Take the 3 or drive to the basket. Embrace your talents. Work hard. Prepare for the hard spots in life, they will come. But most of all enjoy where your talent takes you, it’s going to be a beautiful life.
Life doesn’t always give us a sign like the one above. Life will provide us with events that make us feel like we cannot go any further down a certain path. That everything has changed. That the road is closed. Yet, any road closing will have an alternate route, sometimes just a city block, other times it can be miles. But after sometime we are back on our familiar path heading for our destination. Don’t let a change in your path keep you from reaching your goals. Even though alternate routes usually take longer, they can have beautiful scenery. And you will make it to your destination, just maybe not as you planned.