Tag Archives: journey

Not in a Hurry

I found out that I’m dying.  How’s that for an opening line?  I found this out about 40 years ago, when my great grandmother, Emma, passed away and I attended my very first funeral.  At 5 years old, I quickly caught on that dying was not a great thing.  It was the first time I had seen my mom cry and it scared me.  I associated death as a bad thing at that point.

Over the next few years, I lost several more relatives, including my 16 year old cousin Carla when I was 10.  She had kidney disease and the doctors told her parents that she wouldn’t live to see her 16th birthday.  She proved them wrong by passing away early in the morning the very day she turned 16.  That death still hurts me 35 years later.  Carla was my baby sitter and best friend, if you can consider your cousin your friend.  As an only child, I would beg my mom to let her come over during the summer when I wasn’t staying with my grandparents.  She taught me how to play Monopoly, as well as how to properly pronounce it.  It’s funny that I can still here her voice just as if I had heard her on the phone 10 minutes ago.

I’ve since lost most of my family including my parents and all grandparents.

It was an odd, almost surreal, feeling when I became the patriarch of my family line.  There was no family member left to turn to for advice or  to share my childhood memories with.  Almost out of instinct, I still pick up the phone to call my grandmother, who passed from this world over 10 years ago, whenever I get the urge to speak to her.  And I’m consumed with grief when I realize, after the clock tics a few times, that she’s not here anymore.  Why do I do that?

Strangely enough, I’m prepared for my own death.  Notice I didn’t say I’m in a HURRY for it, but just prepared.  My wife hates it when I talk about it because she’s 10 years younger and odds are she will outlive me by at least 15 years and who would want a life without me in it, right?  I have no fear of death…maybe a little fear surrounding HOW I will die, but not death itself.  It’s a road we will all cross to our judgement.  I don’t fear judgement, but that’s a conversation for another time.

That being said, I don’t think I’m ready to die just yet.  If I look at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s siblings age when they died, I can expect I will live to be in my late 80’s.  My grandfather and all but one of his siblings died in their 90’s.  At 45, I’m thinking I’m right at the half way point in my life.  That might be a little audacious to think because I’m 75 pounds overweight, but I’m working on that.

I’m not ready to die just yet because I’m not finished living out the purpose God put me here for.  I have paintings to paint, hugs to give, books to write, friends to make, jokes to laugh at, babies to hold, photos to take, advice to give, questions to ask, teams to coach…I could go on and on.

There’s little chance I’m going to change the world with any of the above, but at a minimum, I’ll leave a ripple, maybe even a wave.  Traditional thinking would say, at 45 “your chances are fading.” I would offer an alternate and less jaded opinion that says I have more to offer in the way of “wisdom” now that ever before.  Why would I have started writing about a life yet lived?  I’ve built quite a resume of life exposure over the last 45 years that will benefit someone along my path.

And in the end, like the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean, if help one person along this journey, I’ve change that person’s world.  That’s my life purpose and I firmly believe we all share that same mission – to change the world by helping those we come in contact with.  It could be something as simple as a smile to someone having a bad day, or putting dent in your bank account to help that young couple at church that just lost both their jobs and found out they are having a baby.  You can find a way to make one person’s world better without looking far.

So until my work is finished, I’ll stand by my statement…I’m prepared, but not in a hurry, to die.

Be awesome.Image

Dragging Me Down a Path

I was born during the Vietnam “Conflict” in 1968.  My dad was stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida.  After serving a few tours, he was honorably discharged in 1970.  I never knew my dad before the war, but everyone talked about how nice and kind he was.  The only dad I knew was the violent alcoholic.  I was sheltered from this for a while, spending most afternoons and every weekend with my grandparents.  But as I grew older, the ugly truth was impossible to hide…the constant bruises on my mom couldn’t easily be explained.  Over time, my mom turned from the occasional Valium to dull her emotions, to a full-on addiction.

At the beginning of my 2nd grade year in 1975, my teacher sent home one of those leaflets from Scholastic with assorted age appropriate books.  I think out of guilt, my mom told me to order anything I wanted, no limit.  Taking her up on her offer, I circled what I wanted, amounting to about 20 books on the list.    She put the cash and the order slip in an envelope and I turned it in to my teacher the next morning.

A few weeks later, I came down with the flu and was staying with my grandparents.  On Monday afternoon, my mom came over to bring me my school work she had picked up, along with a big box with my name on it.  I opened it up and it was FULL of my books.  I was amazed.  Seeing them on an order form was much different than holding a box full of books on my lap.

I rushed through a week’s worth of school work in one day, and spent the rest of the week reading.   By the following Monday, I had finished every book and asked my teacher when the next order form would be arriving.   I was allowed to start going to the school library as often as I wanted/needed to check out books, instead of the once a week schedule for our class.  Sometimes I’d check out 2 books at a time, reading both overnight, and exchanging for more the next morning.

Reading was my escape.  The written word became my mind altering drug.  My mom and dad would start fighting at night, and I’d go deeper and deeper into the characters and the plot until I couldn’t hear them.  I didn’t see words on paper, I watched the stories unfold as movies in my mind, totally oblivious to the anger and violence that played out in the other room.

Over time, my parents’ situation worsened, with attempted murder charges filed against both my parents in separate situations.  Eventually they divorced and THAT was the best thing to ever happen to our “family”.

When I was in 7th grade, my mom remarried.  Steve had a Ph.D. in psychology.  He worked for the State of Alabama as a probation officer and part time as a marriage counselor.   Even though I was not allowed in his home office, I was a typical pre-teen and violated his rules.  I found a bookshelf in his closet with all his college textbooks and the papers he had written.  Over the next 2 years, I read every one of them.  I never had looked to textbooks for reading pleasure, but it opened up the world of non-fiction to me.  I may not be a psychologist, but I could definitely play one on TV.  FYI…It took weeks after finishing his Abnormal Psychology books before I could sleep without nightmares.  YIKES!

It was around this time that I first visited a book store.  I grew up in a VERY rural community, so the best we had to offer was a library (originally funded by Andrew Carnegie…the sign said so).  My mom was doing some Christmas shopping and we went to Birmingham to Century Plaza.  When I saw the store filled with books, the angels started singing.  I saw my destiny that day.  My dream job was a bookstore clerk.

Ok, maybe not the loftiest of goals, but things changed as I continued down the path of maturity, and along with that, so did the maturity of my goals.  In college, the neighborhood bookstores/coffee shops/hipster hangouts were gaining popularity.  My dream evolved into owning one of these awesome little places.  I’d grow a goatee, and have poetry night every Friday night.  The only requirements would be participants must only wear black clothing and sport sunglasses…inside…at night.

The big box book retailers killed that, somewhat odd, dream over the next few years.

Life began to blur…marriage, kids, career, divorce…the dreaming stopped, but the reading didn’t.  I tried to pass my love of reading to my kids, but it never became their passion.  I think technology has performed a clandestine attack of epic proportions on reading time.  Even though they are adults, I can’t stop myself from buying them books, that will collect dust and end up in a yard sale some day.

I married Christy in 2007 and the dreams started again.  We’re very aligned when it comes to setting big goals and chasing your dreams (and she loves books almost as much as I do).

I’ve wanted to become a writer for a long time.  People with whom I crossed paths with in life would tell me I need to write a book.  I would sit down at the computer and begin typing out my thoughts, only to go back and read what I had written in shame.  The voices of fear and self-doubt (Steven Pressfield called this The Resistance)  would tell me to delete that crap and go back to the TV.  I was an obedient servant.  Countless times, I would begin a new project, and walk away, producing nothing but mangled paperclip.

Now, this dream has a life of it’s own.  I’ve started the journey…this time more prepared.   Fear has been punched (kicked, slapped, body-slammed & fed to the pigs).  Fear hold no leverage over me.

I’m writing.  And this time, I won’t stop.  I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.   I don’t write because I want to be published, as Jon Acuff said, that’s simply a result.  I write because that’s who I am, not just what I do.   Words are the most powerful force in the universe.  The can evoke grief and pain, or laughter and joy.  Writers paint their canvases with the range of emotion and give birth to themselves over and over through their written words.

My dream has grown legs and is dragging me down a path filled with wild flowers and bunnies.  I’m not sure where the destination is, but I’m most definitely enjoying the journey.

Touching the Heart of an Artist

It’s so easy to touch someone’s heart, but we fail so often to make the effort.  I did so yesterday, almost by accident.  I spent the weekend at Jon Acuff’s START Conference in Nashville, based on the New York Times best selling book START.    It was NOT a motivational conference…it was an inspirational gathering of a community of people that are on their personal journeys to find their awesome.  I heard touching stories and shook hands and hugged some of the greatest people of this generation…and that was just the audience.  After the conference, I met comedian John Crist, & Artist Dana Tanamachi at a private dinner.  But that’s really not the story.

Yesterday, I got my haircut and during the conversation I looked at the lady in the mirror and asked her, quite out of the blue, “What is your dream?”
She asked what I meant.
I said if you could do anything, what would your “anything” be?
She looked stunned and said, I just cut hair. I told her she wasn’t a hair cutter but an artist that made people feel good about themselves and artists were dreamers.

She just stood there looking stunned. A tear rolled down her cheek. I let her soak it in, wondering if I had went too far.  I’m guessing she started thinking about all the “what ifs” in life that she didn’t have the courage to chase.

She was quiet the remainder our time together and I respected her thoughts and didn’t interrupt them.

I left her a large tip and told her to not forget to chase her dream.

As long as that lady is breathing, she can still live her AWESOME.

And she hugged me as I left.