That means we had blueberry muffins for breakfast today. We also had scrambled eggs and sausage patties. An addition we added years ago, but the tradition’s foundation hasn’t changed. And that is important as thousands of New Year’s resolutions are being made today, and thousands of them will be broken during the year.
On Tuesday, the next episode of The Creative Moment will be published. We talked about goals and resolutions. As we talked I had a thought that I shared during our conversation. That we are OK letting ourselves down. We will work harder at not letting others down than we do with our own personal goals. That is crazy to think about, yet thousands of resolutions will not last even the first month of this year.
Later tonight we will be setting our word for the year. This will be the ninth year of this tradition. This year we are using small canvases to create an artistic expression of the word. We also have a small easel to hold the artwork. My word this year is Moment. The idea is based on being fully in the moment this year. Not to be on my phone, not to be worried about things until I need to be, to feel the ups and downs of every day.
The base of the idea does come from one of my favorite books, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and I have blogged about some of the ideas expressed in the book before (“I took out the trash today”). Maybe it is the fact that I feel time is running faster, but I want to be fully in the moments of my life, not to let myself down in 2023. That’s not a tradition I want to set…
I am unsure how this blog post will go, it might end up being poetic, and if so, cool.
Today I had a workshop as a dual credit instructor. I hurried after school to the college to make it on time. I was mostly excited to see my former colleagues that I worked with for three years. I sat patiently through the presentations, completed the tasks I needed to be ready for the second semester, then got to talk to my previous coworkers for a few minutes before I headed home.
I put on my coat, slung my computer bag around my shoulder and chest then headed down the hallway. It was quiet in the building. I was thinking of my time working with the college. At the end of the hallway was a row of large windows. The doorway was around the corner to the left. It was dark outside, so I could see a shaded reflection of myself walking. My footsteps soft but distinct because I was the only one at the time in the hallway.
I stopped three fourths of the way. As a wave of melancholy washed over me I stared at my reflection in the window. My face shadowed, my shoulders still broad, my computer bag on my hip, hands stuffed in the pockets of my coat. A stance I recognized because I’ve stood like that for decades… suddenly 51 years of living fell on my spirit.
It was only a few seconds, but it felt like eternity as my heart somehow felt every minute of my life pulsate through my chest into my mind. On one hand I felt grounded to the moment, my feet securely holding me up, but on the other hand I felt the wind of purpose, of meaning, blow right through me, as if I was the reflection I was staring at.
What had I really accomplished in 51 years?
Too many times I had been on the cusp of doing, what I felt would be great things, only to turn the wrong corner and start all over.
My name felt fragile at that moment.
I understood that on the scale of time, I wouldn’t even be recorded.
I took a step forward, the melancholy turning into deep rooted sadness with each step. The darkness outside eclipsed my reflection as I approached the corner to turn toward the exit. The winter wind reminded me that I was here.
I texted my wife to let her know I was on my way home.
When I got home my youngest daughter wanted to show me her new shoes and to dance in them with me.
I found myself lost again, but this time in the music of my daughter’s laughter (it was hard to spin her in new shoes on carpet).
I check my email to find a message from a flash fiction submission. It is my fourth rejection email in two days, for poetry and short stories.
My mood is not good this morning. Recently I have been seriously considering giving up. I talk about it a little in The Creative Moment podcast, “The Idea of Success”. That was a couple weeks ago, now this morning, I feel like giving up the dream.
I can’t give up writing, that is who I am. Poetry is the way I think. I will continue to jot down ideas on scraps of paper. Compose verses in notebooks. But the dream of being known as a poet, as a writer is fading.
Now, I know this is where people would give all kinds of motivational quotes and stories of authors who published their first book in their sixties. I know all of that. I know Stephen King’s story about his wife digging the story “Carrie” out of the trash. (Yes, I know he was an English teacher, too).
But this is a low point. Everyone has them. And low points are powerful moments. Maybe choices shouldn’t be made at this point, but we shouldn’t discard the emotions and self-evaluation that comes at these moments.
Questions / thoughts I have to work through:
I might not be a good writer or poet.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time on my craft.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time promoting my works.
What are my goals regarding my writing career?
Feelings come and go. Right now, I feel defeated. I am at a low spot. But it doesn’t mean this moment can’t be a positive for me or for anyone that is at a similar point in life. A low point doesn’t feel good, but if you see it as an opportunity to self-reflect, prioritize goals, and spend a little time working with the moment, you might find you can climb higher tomorrow.
Being in education I see too many students carrying the weight of the world in their backpacks. Their faces straining as they drop their packs next to their desk. They sit at their desks, rolling out their shoulders. Sometimes they hold their head in their hands, trying to gain the strength to learn how to write a compare and contrast essay.
I know how they feel, I was that student. In some ways, this post is written for them. These are the top five foundational characteristics to a good life.
Curiosity. This world is filled with wonderful things. Staying curious about the world will open new opportunities. Curiosity is the willingness to be adventurous, even during a routine day. To not close your mind to the beautiful and cool things around adds depth to the ordinary aspects of life.
Goals. I know some people might disagree with this idea, but goals do not have to be grand, they can be simple to-do lists you make for the day. They can be grand, though. Any level of goals creates action. Goals develop purpose for our lives. Even during the roughest moments, we can take steps toward the goals we have set.
Others. I’ve said this before. “Life is a team sport.” This is the most complex characteristic. Creating the right team is critical to achieving a good life, but it is hard to create that team at different times in life. I will acknowledge that (see number one characteristic). You don’t need a big team, you need a strong team that supports each other.
Love. This might come as a shock for some of the faithful readers of this blog because I have written about Love in a number of different ways. Love is a foundation for a great life, no doubt. Keeping an open heart, being vulnerable to receive love, opens up a powerful way to live. I do believe that Love is the only way we create an incredible society and world. But…
Strength. Every characteristic listed needs, in some ways, strength to accomplish. Strength to make hard decisions. Strength to keep your heart and mind open. Strength to choose to love others, even when they hurt you. Strength to endure when your backpack feels like it is carrying the weight of the world. You build strength by working on keeping your curiosity of the world, striving toward goals, finding the right team, and choosing love… you’ll find you are stronger than you know.
Tomorrow I will share the top five things that bring me joy in this life.
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!
I self published my first poetry book in 1997. I used a local print shop and peddled the book around town. I sold about 50 copies.
As an assistant football coach, I had the opportunity to call the offensive plays for a game when our head coach fell ill. We did lose the game, it was a back and forth contest. We converted a risky two point play late in the game that gave us the lead for a while.
The first time I called my wife to ask her out on a date, I hung up on her. I called back, and the rest is history.
I quit a job, in fact two of them, without having another job in place.
And now, I released my first poetic EP, Stargazer. Which you can enjoy at the following streaming services.
You can even add a track from the EP on an Instagram story.
I thought it would be cool to mix my poetry with music. To create a unique listening experience and reach more people with my words. It was a crazy idea. My second son designed the cover, and I reached out to P.R for help with the music and production.
How many crazy ideas have you let go, for whatever reason?
Fear of rejection, failure, or success.
Knowledge of how to accomplish it.
Time it takes to make it happen.
The change that will happen to you and your life.
And let’s be honest, nothing is really lost if you don’t try. The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. This is a hard truth about any goal we have. Even if we reach our goals, the sun will come up tomorrow like it always does.
So, why even chase small dreams, let alone the crazy ones?
Because it matters right now. The goals we have, the crazy ideas we have, give our life depth and meaning. By working toward a goal we get in touch with the real picture of who we are. We experience joy at an authentic level. But the crazy ideas spark our spirit like nothing else can in the world. The crazy ideas connect us to the real possibilities in our life, therefore creating a deeper sense of fulfillment of who we are and what life means for us.
The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. So, what crazy idea are you going to pursue today?
I enjoyed taking the trash out to the end of the driveway today because it felt like spring. There was not a cloud in the sky. I placed the garbage and recycling totes at the end of our driveway and then just stood there enjoying the beginning of a nice day.
I noticed the moon was visible, then a plane that was approaching the moon. I took a picture of the moment.
When I first saw the plane, I thought it would be cool if the plane would fly across the moon. It would make for a fun picture. As I watched, it became obvious that the plane would miss the moon. I found that sad for a second. Then this classic quote came to mind;
As I watched the plane, getting ready to take the picture, I thought how wonderful the view must be from the plane. I started to think about my own goals, about being a writer, about being a poet. I have never made it to the moon, but the view has been breathtaking.
Crazy dreams are worth chasing. They allow us to fly, to rise above the routine of living. Crazy goals give us a chance to see our life from a different view. Chasing a dream is a ticket to a different understanding ourselves. Reaching for a dream as far away as the moon keeps our eyes and hearts up. That airplane was not going to reach the moon, but it was a beautiful morning to fly.
The girls are settling down. The house is becoming quiet. My headphones are playing some of my favorite songs as I build a writing playlist on Spotify. Earlier I wrote a poem for my personal challenge to write a poem in 100 different forms. It was poem 81, a haibun titled, “A Father’s Gift.”
But the writing muse is still burning. I am not sure where this post will end up, but it should be good (it will be musical).
I am tired. I am tired on so many levels, from the perpetual cycle of hate expressed in our culture, to the perceived apathy of living from people around me. I could link to any number of news articles to reveal how much pure negativity there is in this world, but I am tired of viewing those stories. If I took a random picture anytime during the day, it would show people staring at their phones. As if the height of living is text messages and photos saturated with filters.
In some ways, life is pretty simple. It is who we are and what we do with our time. A simple concept, yet filled with possibilities. Maybe it is because I am just months away from my 50th birthday, but time is a constant force in my thinking. I swear I can hear the grains of sand when all is quiet. I still have goals and aspirations I want to accomplish… the time to complete those is running out.
Again, maybe it is because I’ve been living for 50 years but I know that love works. I do believe that we have the choice on who we are. We are in control of how we treat people. What I don’t understand is how we keep thinking hate and pain make this world a better place. What saddens me the most is how deep this has gone. How many kids aren’t loved by their parents. How mean we can be to someone sitting next to us. How easy it is to tweet venom.
I have faith, though. Love is more powerful. Love is strength. I know I can’t change the world, but I can build my world, my home, my life with the foundation of Love. That is a start.
And then there is the pursuit of dreams… if I could figure this part out… Would I like to make a living from writing? Yes, I would. Will I? I don’t know. Money is not the main goal of my writing aspiration, respect or recognition is. To know that when someone says my name, they consider me a writer, a poet. I understand that most of that falls on my shoulders. How I present myself to the world. I know I am a good poet. My words do make an impact for readers. Yet, I feel like the world views me as someone who has a nice hobby. And I don’t know how to change that…
A final note as I wrap up this informal and somewhat musical blog. Even in these troubling times, this life is wonderful. There is pain, troubles for us to overcome. That is what makes the next day better than today. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Have a good cup of coffee and turn up that jam and dance.
Because when it is all said and done, today is the only day you have. It’s worth living for.
Let’s say I have designed a unique tool you could use every day. For fun, let’s call it a Digital Attention Yielder, or D.A.Y. for short.
Now, what if I told you that it would only cost you a quarter to buy? How valuable do you think it is? How well made?
OK, what if I said it would cost a dollar? Is there much change in your judgment of the D.A.Y.’s value?
Let’s jump the cost to $100. What value does it have now in your mind? Five hundred dollars? A $1000?
The cost of something influences our judgment of its value.
Hang with me for another thought experiment.
What if I said I would pay you a quarter to spend the day working on your dreams? Would you do it?
What if I told you that I would pay you $100 to be a better friend today? A better husband or mother? Would you do that? Would you read a story to your kids tonight? Text a friend?
How much money would it take for you to live the life you want?
To be the person you want to be?
How much is your D.A.Y. worth?
Money is an easy way to measure worth. The hurdle is that LIFE doesn’t pay us with money. Life gives us time. And only so much time. We decide how much our time is worth. Our life is measured by abstract ideas like love, friendship, joy, and hardwork, to name a few. It is difficult to put measurable value on these characteristics. But I believe we know deep in our hearts the answers. We know if we treat our family well. We know if we have worked on our dreams.
At the end of the D.A.Y. we know if we spent it well.
The bowl contained flour, two eggs, milk, and oil. The blueberries were strained and waiting to be added to the bowl. I had all the ingredients, but I didn’t have blueberry muffins, yet. I still had to mix the ingredients, fold in the blueberries, and bake the mixture to actually have blueberry muffins for breakfast.
I considered the difference between having the right ingredients compared to having the desired outcome, not just for muffins but for life.
How many people have the right ingredients to achieve their dreams?
They have their goal.
They have a plan.
They have the desire.
But, they accomplish nothing?
Action is missing. Just like making blueberry muffins, the first step is to have all the right ingredients. The second step is to mix the ingredients, spoon them into the muffin pan, then bake.
Achieving a dream takes the same steps. Have the right ingredients, then take action to make the dream come true. I think too many people leave the bowl on the island with all the ingredients just sitting there… it is time to grab a spoon and start mixing.