I’ve had a lot of experience with death throughout my life. I’m familiar with the feeling of loss and being alone in an instant. I’ve become hardened, maybe a little jaded. How else would I survive, I thought. How could I not become a little cold, a little detached. Another light in my life recently went out. I sat with him as his heart stopped beating and instead of turning away I looked straight into the moment. Because that’s what this all is, just a moment. One long or short moment, one moment here or there. It’s all just a moment. Seemingly insignificant because all it is is meaningful. We are all so fragile. So breakable despite being so solid and real. The moment is so easy to extinguish but so much harder to construct. Life takes. It takes time. It takes work. This one moment of death somehow touched me. It shook me. It broke me. It wasn’t just an idea, a formula. It was real. It was a whole moment of nothing at all. It was knowing that someone else’s moment was gone. We do a lot of things to deal with death but being in the moment with it usually isn’t one of them. I realized in that moment what was lost, what was gone. It’s funny how seeing a moment pass by reminds you to be more in the one right now. Don’t try to escape it, wish or think your way out. Don’t waste your moment because it’s all you have.
This post may stray from my normal reflections and advice but I felt I needed to put it down in words. Two days ago I had to euthanize one of my two dogs. His name was Sterling. He lived every day purely in love with life his best friend Ronan and me. No matter what I did or said he loved me. We went through tremendous ups and downs while I had him. He taught me about intentions. He taught me about never regretting. He taught me about letting go. He taught me I should be better, kinder and more patient and I wish I had been. Putting him to rest was one of the hardest and most painful decisions I’ve ever made and although it was the right decision I do not think a part of that will ever leave me although I hope to let go of my regrets. I am heartbroken without this amazing little being who changed my life and made me feel less alone every day. I know he is finally at peace and for that I am grateful. I wish his time in this world had been different, better and more what he deserved but I walk away from this knowing I did the best I could and although I feel I let him down I try to move on the way he did-with love and joy living entirely in the moment. We should all be so lucky to be around an animal who forgives our weaknesses and faults and loves us unconditionally. If enlightenment means living only for the moment with an open heart and forgetting all else then dogs are the enlightened beings. I took his little heart for granted and realized I take so much for granted on a daily basis. We truly are here and then we are gone and no one really will notice that void so we need to do something, make something count while we inhabit this space and time. If you want a paradigm for how to live your life, live it like a dog does. Live it with nothing but honesty, gratefulness, happiness forgetting all your yesterdays and thinking today is all your tomorrows.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the difference between being critical of oneself, actions or changes that need to be made and being judgemental. I believe for growth and betterment of ourselves we need to be critical. We need to think about how our thoughts, actions and goals affect our future, and how we are connecting these things with changes we need to make. Too often however we judge ourselves from an emotional bias and become angry, stressed, upset and or give up. Learning to distinguish between these two can create a much less stressful process of growth and change. Be critical. Think critically. Act critically. Do not however attach emotional judgements and labels or put yourself down when trying to change a behavior or process. Accepting our shortcomings and failures while seeing their value is being critical of how we change them in the future. This the difference between staying in the same self defeating loop and breaking free to a new path.
Bad ideas are something I’ve been afraid of my whole life. Not only having them but worse, wondering if the world knows I have them or putting them out for the world to see. The thing about bad ideas is we need them. I often find myself doing nothing or stalling out because I’m scared of having a bad idea, bad project, or failure. Realistically, of course, I know not everything I have is a winner or even good but the pressure to always be on your best game, your best idea is constant and pernicious. Even on this blog, I fight the urge to not post, not ship an idea every week or multiple times a week because I think I have nothing to say or what I will say will be wrong. Create your bad ideas, compound on them, learn them inside and out-why do you think they’re bad? What would you have to change for them to be “good”? Bad ideas are what create habits. Pushing through and creating despite them or in spite of them is what forces us to have a routine. So make your bad ideas and then make something better.
I wanted to start the week off talking about the moment. What moment are you in? Where in space are you living? I recently made the choice to be more aware of how I’m living my life and realized most of my thoughts and therefore energy are either in the past or in the future. I am therefore creating a predictable present. Learning to control my thoughts and my emotions connected to those thoughts has been difficult, to say the least. I am someone who likes control because I often feel like I have none. Trying to become more aware of myself has made me see that I indeed do not have much control over myself only because I haven’t been training my body and mind to stop creating chaos at all times. I like to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Nothing about this process is known or sure. Instead, you’re trying to live solely as much in the unknown as possible. Create the life you want from the present moment. I am always off in a thousand places, as I’m working, driving, shopping. I’m never truly here. Becoming aware of this has been scary. No wonder I live in a state of stress and fear. A quote I often see is “The past is past, let it go” and that is true. I worry most about the past and thus let it create my future and then I wonder why the future is as I predicted. Change your thoughts and change your life has become a cliche notion in the mainstream media in the last few years but it is true. Don’t just change your thoughts, change your attachments and your feelings to those thoughts. If I want to live a different life with different outcomes I have to change how I live right now, I have to be a little uncomfortable all the time. None of this is easy or even satisfying in the moment. It’s frustrating and scary but I think it’s a necessary talk we need to start having since we live in such a fast-paced and futuristic world and thus are missing out on the moments of joy and change we can create right now.
PSA-this post deals with suicide and depression and may not be suitable for everyone.
In light of the two recent celebrity suicides-Kate Spate and now Anthony Bourdain I thought a lot about the past few years and how many celebrities from all artistic genres have committed suicide. These people are our heroes. We look to them for inspiration and want to believe we can be just like them. And it’s this idea-that a great career, talent and passion for something are supposed to sustain everything that gets shattered when we find out one of them has committed suicide.
I myself have struggled with the idea of suicide my whole life for multiple reasons and have attempted it as well. I think once a person allows that thought into their existence as an option it becomes insidious. It affects every aspect of your being and it never really goes away. It hides in the recesses of your mind and you take it down from the shelf when you’re bored, or sad, or think you are just too tired to continue “the fight”.
I am sure I am not alone in this thought. It’s angering and confusing for so many people who have attempted suicide or just thought about it but instead stuck with trying out the whole “living life to the fullest” and trudging through to see other people, these people give up. You hate them because they’re weak, they’re weak for you leaving you (even if you didn’t know them) and they’re weak for not getting help or not trying hard enough because that’s what we always hear-“they just didn’t try hard enough.” But what if they did try hard enough? These famous top of their industry people had every opportunity, everything we are told we need to fix ourselves so what if it just didn’t work? And now you’re scared. Now doubt sets in because you’re trying and you’ve always been told you can’t give up, it’ll get better or in plain terms-you have to struggle through life like everyone else and not be a coward. So now you’re jealous of them. Now you think God, that must be nice to just be able to give up. Sure I’m here trying to spite everyone but that little (or big) piece of me just wants it all to be over and what is the point? If all these famous amazing, inspiring, larger than life artists end up killing themselves…what have you missed…where did you maybe go wrong because none of it adds up.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We have all heard this but I think it’s insulting. It’s insulting because mental illness is not a temporary problem for many of us. Mental illness is a lifelong battle and seeing people be defeated by it in whatever stage reminds us of that. I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING SUICIDE. And I think that needs to be said but I am also saying that to tell people to just keep going or to ignore a huge part of what they are feeling will do more damage and in the long run may actually lead them to what you’re telling them to avoid. Suicide is so simple and yet so complex. The act is simple but the theory, the why, is something we cannot understand. We can empathize because maybe we feel that way too but how could we understand these legends, these heros if even with all of the doors open to them they decided that only one was worth shutting. We need to not only talk about suicide, about mental illness but we need to listen. We need to hear what people are saying even when they are silent.
“So what are your career goals in five years?”
This question has become something I’ve learned to loathe. I loathe it because it’s confining and I loathe it because I don’t know.
In every job interview, you go on you will hear this question. I understand the purpose of being goal oriented. I am goal oriented. I am hardworking and ambitious but that does not mean I have a clear plan for where I see myself in five years. I don’t even have a clear plan on what career I want in five years. Instead of expecting people to know who they want to be or worse, should be in five years, perhaps we should focus on helping them in this moment, this day figure out how they want to start.