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Let go.

March 11, 2011

Sometimes I get to feeling slightly less than my confident self.  One of my character defects is that I gravitate to the notion that I am never good enough, that I can’t quite measure up to others’ perception of me.  And when I get to thinking this way, the smallest thing can get me feeling really insecure about myself.  It can be anything really: a bad run, a biting remark, someone’s disapproval.  I wrap myself around this negativity and just can’t let go of it.  A friend said to me recently, “It’s like you’re carrying around a bag of shit in your pocket and every now and then you take it out and smell it.  You have to get rid of that shit, you have to let it go!”  While not the most eloquent illustration, it does accurately define what I do at times with feelings of unworthiness or insecurity.

Raging River

“Negativity is an invisible parasite. It needs a host to feed off, and the host is the ego.” Deepak Chopra

I’ve come to realize that these feelings almost always stem from my fragile ego.  But I am learning that my ego and my essence are not one in the same.  They are separate entities that I can either nurture or neglect.  At my core I am a deeply-connected and loving being, capable of immeasurable power and potential.  Nurturing my ego stifles the growth of my essence, it keeps me from realizing my pure potential.  In contrast, if I cultivate my true essence by engaging in selfless acts of loving-kindness, my ego is subverted and I move closer to the Spirit of the Universe that lies within and connects all living things.

I want to suppress my self-centered ego and foster my loving nature; I want to let go, but I don’t always know how.

I’m all about action, so if I need to do steps 1-2-3 to clear my head of this nonsense, then I’ll do them.  Funny thing though, when I ask people about what action I can take to let go of this negative stuff, I get a lot of shoulder shrugs, but I really want to get to the root of letting go.  I want an answer to the simple question “How do I let go?”

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” Herman Hesse

I had a dream the other night.  I was standing chest-deep in the middle of a powerful river.  I was facing up river, the current was pushing against me incessantly, but I was determined to stand my ground.  I held my arms out in front of me, using my hands in an attempt to stop the fast-moving water.  I leaned harder into the deluge, I stretched out my arms, but my struggle was futile.  Where is all this water coming from?  I stood there for a while, helpless, finally choosing to give up.  I relaxed my body, I let the water flow freely around me, (which is what it was doing anyway!)  I turned around, I could now see that all this water was going somewhere, and it no longer mattered where it had come from.  I wondered where this powerful river leads?  Where can it take me?  I wanted to know.  I picked up my feet and began floating along swiftly with the current.  Suddenly I felt at peace, tranquil, and free.

This vision was quite compelling.  I could actually feel myself letting go, and it felt amazing.  I try to summon this vision when I’m faced with situations that are out of my control.  I have to remember that it is contrary to my nature to struggle against everything and everyone around me. I have to keep in mind that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.  I have to practice acceptance.  I have to relax my body, turn around, pick up my feet, and let the current take me where it will.  And when I do this, when I can simply let go, I am suddenly aware of just how beautiful and amazing everything is right here and right now.

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Is that love?

January 5, 2011

“Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his image.” —Goethe

I have been reminded lately of how my actions, not my thoughts or feelings, define who I am.  I can think all sorts of good thoughts, pray for good things, meditate on goodness and righteousness, but if I don’t show the world the true nature of my character through my actions, am I really a good person?

Patrick & Kristine

The love of my life.

At work, my reviews are based solely on my performance, not on how “nice” I am or how my boss feels about me.  It doesn’t really matter whether or not he likes me, if my work falls short of acceptable, I lose my job.  It’s really that simple.

If I am to say that I am your friend, there are actions that have to be taken for me to show you what you mean to me.  I can’t just sit around thinking about what great friends we are.  I need to spend time with you and listen to you when you want to talk (and keep my mouth shut).  I need to go with you to see that band you love (even if they’re not my favorite), or go for a long run with you on a cold Saturday morning (even though I’d rather stay in bed).  I have to take an active role if I say I am your friend.

It is the same with love.

More has been written and sung about love than probably any other subject.  Just do an iTunes search for songs with the word “love” in them and you’ll see what I mean.  There is an overwhelming amount of beautiful words written about love.  There is aching poetry, heart-wrenching novels, and countless love letters.  But in itself, is that love?

It has been said that love is a verb.  I get that now.  I used to think love was a feeling or an emotion, something I held on to tightly for fear of it slipping away.  I believe now that love is what I do, not how I feel.

“Love is ascribing worth to another at cost to yourself.” —Greg Boyd

Don’t get me wrong, at my core I am deeply romantic.  I can listen to a passionate love song and feel emotionally connected to the singer.  I read amorous poetry and suddenly my heart aches along with the writer.  I feel an abundance of love in my heart, but if that love is not expressed through my loving actions, is that love?

If you know me this will not come as a big surprise to you – I am in love.  Check that – I am completely, intensely, heels over head in love.  The Universe has brought an amazing, passionate, kind-hearted, and loving person into my life and I am absolutely enamored.  I am so thankful for the beautiful love we share, it is truly a gift.

So what do I do with this?  I move into action.  I love her.

Every day I show Kristine how much she means to me.  I make her coffee in the morning and bring it to her while she is getting ready.  I make her breakfast.  I clean the snow off her car and get it nice and warm for her.  I text her during her work day just to say “I’m thinking about you”.  I write her love letters and bring flowers home to her.  I whisper romantic (and private) words into her ear.  I tell her how pretty she is.  I expose my tender heart by sharing my intimate thoughts and feelings with her.

What do I expect in return?  Nothing.  What do I get in return?  I get more love and support from Kristine than I ever thought possible.

She is quite adept at letting me know how much I mean to her.  She prepares exquisite vegetarian dinners for us, and she is an amazing cook.  She calls me when we’re apart and tells me she misses me.  She rubs the stress from my tired shoulders, and really listens to me when I need to talk.  She showers my kids with love and encouragement.  She loves me for exactly who I am.  She has given her heart to me, which I protect and hold dear.

We are deeply connected in body, mind, and spirit.  We encourage each other to be who we were meant to be.  We empower one another with confidence and kindness.  We comfort each other and create space for the other to grow.  We ascribe worth to one another at cost to ourselves.  Our loving behavior reflects our true selves, the essence of our image.

Now that is love.

Thankful for you.

November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving Day 2008
Miami Whitewater Forest – Thanksgiving Day 2008

It’s Thanksgiving Day.  As I take a good look at where things are in my life I notice I really have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a good job, I live in my own home, and I don’t have to go outside to use the bathroom.  There are leftovers in my fridge, my drinking water comes from a plastic bottle and not a polluted river, my kids are healthy.  The bills and mortgage are all paid up, I have a few dollars in my pocket and a few in the bank.  I’m sober, healthy, and I’m happy.

These things are the the end result though, the tangible evidence of hard work, determination, consistency.  When I really stop to think about what got me to this place, I keep coming back to you.

If you are reading this then you probably know me in one way or another. Whether you are part of my family, a friend, or a casual acquaintance, I want you to know how much you have done to help me along the way.  In case you forgot, or are not sure what part you may have played, here’s some of the things you did that I remember:

You loved me when I couldn’t love myself.
You believed in me.
You went to that Wilco show with me and we were properly blown away.
You got me laughing so hard I cried.
You shared your favorite songs with me.
You held my hands and we prayed when Mom died.
You let me play the shit out of the B3 at your party.
You ran 1,000 miles with me.
You helped me move.
You sent me that card in the mail that made my day.
You cheered me on.
You told me you were proud of me.
You invited me to coffee and made me feel part of.
You listened to me bitch about whatever petty problem was eating at me that particular day.
You hugged me at Dad’s funeral.
You asked me out because you knew I was too shy to ask you.
You told me things were going to get better, and they did.

Today, I am truly thankful for you.

I’m glad that you are a part of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I want to live.

November 15, 2010
Before & After

Me: Old and New

Some years ago I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and what I saw was not pretty.  I found myself out of shape, fat, and depressed.  Getting into this state of malaise didn’t happen overnight.  I spent the better part of my 20s and 30s eating and drinking myself into near oblivion.  Most people didn’t see this in me.  On the outside I appeared successful, living the American Dream – married, kids, house, dog, good job.  On the inside I was a gurgling mess.  It turns out that deep down I was driven by insecurity, fear, and self-preservation.  Food and alcohol became my coping mechanisms of choice and they worked well.  Drinking alleviated my fears and eased my insecurities.  Eating just made me feel damn good.

My first wake-up call came when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  For the first time in my life I was completely helpless and totally afraid.  This was grown-up stuff.  I could die.  I was only 36 years old and frankly, I wasn’t ready to check out just yet.  Questions swirled though my head – How long do I have to live?  How would my kids deal with losing their dad?  How much pain will I endure?  Who would teach my boys how to grow up to be good men?  I had to do something.  I wanted to live.  I decided to fight.

The next year or so was all about hospitals, surgeries, x-rays, and blood tests.  I was treated successfully for the cancer and am in remission today, but I had to do more.  My body needed an overhaul.  I started exercising and eating right.  I started running.  I set goals for myself: Run a 5k, then a 10k and a 15k.  I kept running.  I found a healthy hobby and started seeing some positive changes in my life.  I was slowly easing away from my eating obsession.  I was losing weight and feeling better, but there were a few more battles waiting for me up ahead.

My drinking advanced.  In addition to consuming alcohol excessively everyday, I began over-indulging in painkillers (I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but cancer patients get just about anything they ask for).  This went on for some time.  I was cancer-free but my real disease was slowly and steadily progressing.  My wife of almost 12 years had finally had enough.  I was asked to move out of the house.  After the divorce my life quickly spiraled down the toilet bowl.  Funny thing though, I never thought I was the problem.  I really couldn’t see how my drinking was ruining my life and the lives of those closest to me.  Alcoholism is cunning – it’s the only disease that constantly tries to convince you that you don’t have it.

I hit my bottom.  Once again I found myself overwhelmed with fear and hopelessness.  I was desperate.  I realized that living this way would eventually kill me.  I didn’t want to die, not like this.  I wanted to live.  I mustered what little courage I had left and I asked for help.  I found comfort and hope in a group of people who’ve lived through similar experiences.   I learned how to love myself, and how to be helpful to others simply by sharing my story.  I had my last drink in April of 2007, and I’ve never looked back.  Only through sobriety have I really learned how to live.

I’m still passionate about running today.  Running has become a very important ingredient in my new healthy, happy life recipe.  I ran two marathons this year, and most days you’ll find me out on the roads training for the next one.  I’m lucky, I get to train with an incredible group of people who encourage and inspire me in more ways than they’ll ever know.

Today when I look in that mirror, I find myself in the best shape of my life – physically, mentally, even spiritually.  I’m lean, healthy, and for the first time in my life, truly happy.  I believe that now when people look at me, who they see on the outside matches who I really am on the inside.

It’s far from over, but this is my story so far.  I made a conscious decision to change, to start living my life in an extremely different way.  I decided to be the person I always knew I was meant to be.  I made my choice: I want to live.

I was so much older then.

November 8, 2010

I am 44 years old today.  Is that old?  I don’t FEEL old.  In fact, at times I feel as immature and confused as I did when I was 20 – I can’t keep money in the bank, I can’t talk to women, I just want to fit in and be accepted.  Next thing I know, I’m reaching for my reading glasses just to read a book and my age gets all up in my grill, a not-so-subtle reminder of just how far from 20 I am these days.

I used to think that by the time I was 40, I’d have it all, or at least most of it, figured out.  At their inaugurations, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were 42 and 43 respectively.  Those guys were the leaders of the free world when they were my age.  I just learned how to keep my house plants alive.

maturity

Equally mature at ages 20 and 40

I’m not in denial; one look at my kids and I see right where I am.

Jack is in high school.  Jack.  High school.  Little Jackie Pat (my Mom used to call him that…).  Didn’t WE just graduate from high school?  OK, I know it was 1984, but seriously…I am not old enough to have a kid in high school.  This time next year he will be driving.  I can’t even think about that right now, because when I do, I recall in HD clarity what I was like when I was in high school and driving, and I break out in a cold sweat.

Colin will be in junior high next year.  Colin.  Baby Naw-naw (Jackie Pat used to call him that…).  He’s almost 12 and sometimes I still forget that yes he CAN use the potty all by himself now.

44 doesn’t feel old, not to me, not today.  When I really stop and think about it, I felt much older when I was 20.  I smoked, I drank, and I poisoned my body in every way possible.  I couldn’t run across the street if I had to.  Today I’m healthy, clean, sober, I could run a marathon tomorrow if I wanted to.

Now if I could just talk to women…