Tag Archives: compassion

The Letter, The List and My Greatest Fear

Mansfield, Pa. I was there for the week for basketball camp. I don’t know how it became a thing in our town, hundreds of miles away, but for anyone serious about basketball, at least any of us between 10 and 14, you went to Mansfield for a week of basketball camp. I was the most serious about it and I was there. I was about 12 and it was great.

It was a great time for a 12 year old who was obsessed. I was the kid who had a basketball in my hand every minute. I was the kid in Western New York, where it can snow in 8 or 9 different months a year, who would shovel the court to play in January. Or October, if need be. I was the kid who played a level up always. I was obsessed and good as far as anyone could tell. This was the first big year away at camp and the first time I shined outside my own town. I was good against the good kids my age from other towns. I could run with the good kids older then me. It was a buzz.

My dad picked me up and my memory is that he told me we had to get going fast. Mom wasn’t home and we had to get moving.

‘Where’s mom?’ I asked.

‘She had to go to see Grammy.’ He said.

‘When?’

‘She’s there now.’

A lot of things happened in our house without advanced warning. There were six or seven kids at that time, including a toddler, so it’s possible these plans were always in the works and I was just never informed. Still, weird for her to travel alone, but to be honest, she’d gone to Israel on her own while 8 months pregnant with the little one so who’s to say if it was weird that she went on short notice to see her parents.

‘Why?’ I asked.

Here’s where my memory fails me. I don’t know if I asked that. Maybe I didn’t, though I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have come up. Maybe we were driving a friend of mine home or something and he couldn’t tell me. Whatever was said I didn’t know ‘why’ she was gone until I read it in a letter. Might have been in the car right when I was packed up and we were ready to go. I have a memory of it being a letter I read when I got it on the kitchen table when we got all the way home. In hindsight I can imagine a dad wanting to keep it from a kid as long as possible.

What is true is that I found out in a letter. My dad probably wrote it. Might have been mom, but I can’t imagine. It was one of them. My grandfather was dead and he’d killed himself. It was a suicide letter by proxy.

I haven’t been writing much lately. I have to start again. I’m nervous about losing writing. I fear it’s like basketball. I’m old and unable and all those years of pounding my knees on pavement have not left me very able with a hoop and a ball anymore. I can shoot, I’ll always be able to shoot, but the rest is rusty and the will and ability to fix that are gone.

I’ve been sharing the writing I’ve done in the past in different ways recently. It’s been good to reach some new people and find some new life in old stories about times gone by. It’s been interesting to mine my own work, produced largely without reflection. Or rather, to reflect on what I was compelled to write over time.

I recently shared a piece that was written as if it were a letter to my sons. It was a letter outlining the fact that what I want for them is to feel loved and to love. I want the person they love to love them and to inspire laughter and curiosity and energy and compassion and passion and all the things that love alone can fulfill, but I don’t care if the person they love is a man or a woman. I will very much care about who that person is, I just won’t care about that.

It’s in line with a lot of my work, really. Often I’m sending a message out through time and space hoping they will see it and know they were loved. Know that I’m aware of the things I got wrong. Sorry for the parts I’ll fail at. I want them to know that I was a failure. That I was a drunken mess for years. That I had false starts and self doubt and self loathing. That I was depressed. That I hated school. That I didn’t know what I was doing when they came along and all I wanted to do was do right by them. That love so amazing as the love they and their mom have brought to my life is worth slogging through painful times for. That even the hope of it is enough.

I remember having a conversation with my sister a number of years back where I told her that I have always kept a list in my head of who it is I think is most at risk of killing themselves. It’s not some list of sad celebrities or self destructive artists of one sort or another. It was a list of family and friends. Mostly family. A list I at times put myself on. A chronicle of my real time assessments of presumed depressive states that were potential life changing suicides. I did it subconsciously and without noticing I was doing it for years. It sounds like bullshit to me, but it was true. I was truly unaware of this constant drone in my psyche.

One of the recurring points I’ve made over the years was the startling and profound understanding of mortality that I had when I saw my kids the seconds after they were born. It’s more pronounced after the first, sure but that isn’t to say it wasn’t there with the second. It’s a bell that can’t be unrung, but it can certainly be rung again.

It was a rolling realization but the fact is that it was inevitable, being me, that sooner than later the fear of the worst thing I could ever imagine would occur to me. What if some day, too far out to imagine, but not so far out I can avoid ever thinking about, one of my kids, in a moment of pain and suffering and confusion and hopelessness and depression killed himself. It’s the worst thought I can imagine. It’s vomit inducing to say. It’s my biggest fear and I’ve never acknowledged it until now.

Because I got that letter. The one that I had no idea would ripple into the future not in weeks or months or even years, but in generations. In families that weren’t even imagined yet. In the darkest corners of my imagination and in the lists I’d construct mindlessly for hopes that somehow the preparation would perhaps soften a blow I couldn’t possibly see coming.

I’m not capable of having an objective view of my life. By definition it’s impossible, but at times my subjective experience of it can lead to insights that perhaps obvious to others are still profound for me. So saying that it would appear my grandfather killing himself may have effected me and my point of view may sound obvious to you, it wasn’t to me. It wasn’t at all.

I felt bad after reading the letter. I felt hurt even. There was no ‘good’ way to tell me and at a time when communication at a distance was not like it is today I understand why I’d learn about it this way. But it felt like I was left a few days behind. I came back to everyone being in the third or fourth day. I came back to a process that I was left out of. It wasn’t like it was anyone’s fault. I’m really only putting it together right here. At the time I just felt out of synch with the world. I didn’t know what else to do then keep doing what I did. I probably went and shot hoops. It’s literally how I spent an easy 50% of my waking hours at that time.

What I didn’t do was cry. I felt terrible about that. I wanted to so badly, but it just didn’t happen at that time. I didn’t really shed a tear. Maybe I would have had I been there for the group horror, but I wasn’t and I was a twelve year old boy. Emotions are hard always, but they’re a more confounding sort of hard, a less tethered kind at that age. It was 30 years later, when a young man I only knew through others and only enough to say hello to killed himself that I finally wrote about him, and my grandfather and read it to my mother that I really bawled about it.

The tears were not just sad tears. The tears I’ve shed for this event are sorrow filled to be sure, but they are rage informed as well. Confusion and fear are in tears for a suicide as well. There’s empathy and judgement and all of it just comes out. It doesn’t get processed or fixed with a good cry. That’s the thing about suicide. It doesn’t, as far as I can tell it can’t get resolved.

I write because I write. I have only this single keyhole through which to see the world and from where I’m looking the threat of finding out the worst news imaginable is possible because I’ve found it out before. And I’ve watched others find out what it all means, over time, others more directly related and I can’t ever lose the fear of it. So I write. I write about as many of the feelings and failings I can muster the courage or the perspective to find in my story. I write to the worries I have that can keep me up, about what if they don’t know how much I love them. What if they are disconnected at a time when I can’t reach them and they think an awful thought and I can’t hug them and hold them and assure them they are loved. What if they are afraid of me or think I will judge them harshly and I add weight to the burdens I can’t know that they will someday carry. And I write.

I write because it brings me joy and relief and understanding and it can fill me with pride and drive me to dig deeper. In doing so I’ve come to understand that I don’t always see all the forces compelling creation. I don’t always understand why the topics come to the surface. When they do I can ignore them or indulge and some I’ve indulged should likely have been ignored and many I’ve ignored should probably have been explored. The process of creating over time though is starting to reveal reason’s to me and one of them is I don’t want to ever catch myself ever thinking I’ve ever failed to do everything in my power to keep these two names, these two magical and wonderful human beings as far away as possible from my tragic lists. Lists I can’t sop making.

To Exercise Virtue

‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without it you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ -Maya Angelou

I’m thinking a lot about this quote and the idea it contains today.

Last night we elected a man to lead our country who I find to be dangerous. And I’m a white, middle class male. I can’t imagine the fear that my darker skinned brothers and sisters are feeling right now. I identify with them and I agree with them and I vote with them, but I am disciplined in acknowledging always that I am not in their shoes. I cannot have their perspective, even if I empathize with it. I am not the father of little girls nor am I a woman. I’m a native English speaking American and don’t have to fear being rounded up. I advocate for the disabled, both professionally and personally and I’m not them, watching a man openly mock an actual person with a disability, bullying him while doing his job from the podium with flags flying and crowds cheering and guffawing. I’m an advocate, but I’m protected.

I’m from the disaffected, largely white area of the country that would appear to have given the Presidency to Donald Trump. I know that the people that voted for him see something other than a dangerous, white supremacist, misogynistic monster. From my angle I’m afraid that that thing they saw allowed them to think they were supporting someone of virtue. Someone who would prioritize them without hurting others. I fear that they similarly can’t see what this feels like to fellow, hard working Americans with skin darker than theirs. Or the hard working immigrant families who’ve sacrificed whole lives, whole histories and all social standing to come to the place where hope lived only to find it lead by a man threatening to deport, insisting on building a wall and enthusiastically able to belittle and dismiss the sacrifice of families who’ve lost loved ones in defense of our highest ideals.

I don’t have any idea what I can do but stand up and try to find a sliver of light in the dark where I can try to send love through. It’s hard to listen when you are afraid. I am afraid. But it’s incredibly important to listen. I will try. I’m pretty sure I’ll fail a lot of the time, but i will keep trying.

What I do see is there is a lot of anger. There is a lot of fear. The air has been thick with it for years. My instincts in this moment are awful. I want to scream. I want to yell and lash out and blanket the land in judgment. It would feel good to do that. The fights that would ensue would make me feel like I was doing something. But I’d be working against the solutions we need. The fact is that this is a time that demands virtue. You can’t defeat the dark without light. You can’t address fear with fear. Anger will not go away with louder anger.

Patience. Love. Understanding. Compassion. Empathy.

These are the virtues we are lacking. There are real world problems that require real world answers. Yes. But if we can’t hear each other, if we can’t understand and empathize with the real fears than we can’t even begin the difficult conversations we need to have. We can’t ever learn to understand why something so confounding, how something so terrifying ever could have happened. I’m scared, I truly am. For me to overcome it’s going to take courage. It’s going to take courage to be patient. To listen. To try to reseed humanity, whatever tiny little portion of it I can effect with love.

There’s work to do. We must shine light into darkness. We must stay curious. We must seek out hate and counter it with love. We must find fear and meet it with empathy. We must meet anger head on and do whatever we can to show people compassion and love.

We must have courage and exercise our virtues. This is a time for our better angels to reveal themselves.

I Am Dad

I’m feeling kinda done with writing about parenthood. It was a massive transformation and now I’m transformed.

img_3451Parenthood is a sequence of workaday realities that once awed and floored me in a way that when not paralyzing, was heartbreakingly beautiful and expansive. Well, its still those things, really, I just can’t throw as much emotional energy behind it all anymore. I am still transported on a daily basis to a place of awe and wonder, but it’s often fleeting. It has to be. Any moment of daydreaming and self reflection is necessarily interrupted by the mundanity of daily life with a 5 and freshly minted 4 year old.

Gone is the exhaustion fueled deluge of emotional frailty and excruciatingly earnest expressions of fawning and perspectiveless love. It is not as sad as it sounds. These feelings are still there, behind all the work. Gone however is the constant feeling of being overmatched by the task at hand. It’s been replaced by a security you only have when you have a steady hand and a clear eyed confidence that you are up to the task.

img_3402Sure, we could feed them better food, we could replace TV shows and movies with family activities, we could certainly stand to reduce screen time and increase story time. We could even take better care of ourselves come to think of it. We could sleep more. We could drink more water and less wine (okay, I’m the wine drinker). We could be more physical and less sedentary. We could stand to spend less time on our screens and could be more patient and less prone to yelling. Where was I going with this… ?

Whatever. All of it is to say we got this. We get a ton wrong, but we’re doing it. Not everything is a trauma and drama. We’ve left the bubble where reflection and exploration were how we retained a sense of self as we changed to who we needed to become.

Being a parent, a dad, is now a fully ingrained part of me. It’s who I am and I’m no longer struggling to fit into this new uniform. Its on and worn in at this point. My mistakes are not as often the learning and growing experiences they once were. Now they are just human. Just what it’s like being this guy.

img_3373What hasn’t changed is the love. The fascination. The endless desire to be connected to these people. My tiny tribe. Karen and I have rediscovered each other and it’s never been better. We’ve never been closer or more in love. The kids are still orbiting us, tied to our motions and our decisions and our schedule but they are drifting. They have interests beyond us and it’s amazing to us what is so natural to anyone else. It amazes us simply because we have all of the wonder and awe of the first time they opened there eyes stored in our hearts and to see them venture and wander, well, it can make you swallow hard and hold back a tear now and again. Just as fast the moment passes and we are swept up into the day to day grind of running a house, a car service, a grocery and a restaurant (specializing in nuggeted nutrition of dubious value), a recreation department, an education system, social services organization, a health and safety inspection unit, a counseling service and cleaning service (which is a failing venture if ever there was one) and to a degree we never could have before, we love doing it. It’s our life’s work. For now the emphasis is on work but down the road, and not too far, it’ll be understood much more so as our life.

 

Crumbling Under the Weight of a Whisper

What are you watching Daddy?

-It’s a memorial service for something that happened 15 years ago.

I knew he wouldn’t know what a memorial service was, but I was put on the spot and hadn’t yet worked out my answer to the question yet so I let it hang there.

The service was the now familiar reciting of names. The seemingly endless recitation of the dead that occurs every year where the towers stood. I’ve tried to listen or watch in the past, but couldn’t always make it. This year it fell on a Sunday and I had some coffee and wanted to stir the emotions that didn’t come as early as they used to. That still hadn’t really arrived until I put on the service.

As in past years two relatives or friends will recite a section of the seemingly endless scroll of names, alternating turns alphabetically until arriving at their final destination. The name of their loved one who is now gone, frozen in time, never growing older. Each year the pictures of them getting more dated as time continues to creep forward without them. When they get to their own loved one they say something to honor them, something to remember them, something to put out in the world some of the pain they carry the rest of the time. They give it out now so that others may burden some of the pain. If not for them, then at least with them. It never fails to stir me. Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

In the past my emotion would arrive earlier. It would loom large on the horizon for days just waiting their stoic, unmoved  by and unaware of my concerns. This year I had yet to confront my emotions around the whole thing. It was my head that lead my heart this year.

-Why are you sad, Daddy?

-Well, something very sad happened 15 years ago. Some very big buildings fell down. I had a friend who was in one of them and when I hear about the people that were in the buildings it reminds me how sad that day was. It was very very sad.

-Did your friend die?

-Yes, he did. A lot of people did. Thousands of people died that day. 

-I’m sorry your friend died daddy. 

-That’s very sweet Charlie. Thank you. He was a very nice man and it is very very sad that he died. I’m sad.

I shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I’m not used to this. It’s completely foreign to me, in fact. These tiny little people are not so tiny anymore and while there has been love and pain and joy and pride and so many threads that bound us together since the beginning, this is new. This compassion and concern emanating from him. This expression of love and thoughtfulness, this true recognition of such a sorrowful moment and his wish to comfort me felt overpowering but it wasn’t. It was tender and gentle and disarming. I shattered not because the weight of the moment. No. It was the complete removal of defenses that his loving words brought me that turned me to thin glass that crumbled under the weight of a whisper.

-I could draw a picture of him!

He is five and I love love love his pictures.

-That would be amazing, Charlie. Would you like to see a picture of him.

-Yeah.

So I searched for Darryl L. McKinney and there he was, the same tight, zoomed black and white tight shot, his head turning. The same action shot on the court in his college uniform, the picture of athleticism and youthful energy. The shots I see every year at this time. The one’s I’ll always have. The ones that will sadly never change.

-Daddy, how do you spell Darryl?

I spelled it out for him from the couch where they were up to the ‘L’ names.

-How do you spell love?

It was all their now. All I wanted was that one minute. I hoped it would be a family member of Darryl’s up there, telling of his life and saying some kind words past tears. I hoped I’d be able to see something of him in that face. It wasn’t t be however. I think they mispronounced his middle name. Only slightly.

-Daddy. Do you like it? That’s him and that’s you.

I love it. I love it so much.

I Don’t Want to Let Go

imageTeddy still babbles. He’ll sit with the Lego Duplo’s and play by himself and there is a stream of playful and emotive gibberish. He has started to use words and and pretend and play make believe with his creations and the figurines, but if I listen in the right way, if I’m able to listen loosely I can still hear the patter of the 2 year old he was.

Being a parent is a lot. Early on we weren’t up to the task. Seriously. We are excellent, loving parents. Any kid, and I mean any kid at all would be lucky to have us. But the truth is that as excellent as we are as parents, we just aren’t very good at it. We don’t revert naturally to routine. We don’t always provide excellent examples and we are just terrible at doing so many of the things that we are ‘supposed’ to do.

Our house is a mess and while it’s better than it was, it’s never gonna be an ordered and soothing environment. I like to think that has to do with our artistic bent, that our clutter and struggle to eliminate is an element of us that is strongly informed by our connectedness and the meaning we see all around us. Meaning that I turn into stories.

imageWe don’t sleep train. We shouldn’t have to at this point, frankly. Our kids are well past the age when that should not be a thing that needs doing. I’m afraid that if our kids are ever to get themselves to bed, it’s gonna happen on it’s own. For now we each take one and we snuggle and struggle and ultimately find them asleep sometime within a couple hours of getting them up the stairs and into their rooms. In my case, with the three year old it is sometimes in the chair after losing the fight of getting him to calm down in his bed. Other times it is both of us on the floor looking up at the green stars on the ceiling that emanate from Winnie’s honey pot when you press the bee. Sometimes we find the moon, other times we find the one constellation, an outline of Mickey Mouse’s head. Yep, Disney even invades their sleep. Still other times it’s on the ‘big boy bed’ the five year old will be moved to once I am able to solve this endlessly flummoxing Rubik’s Cube of a task that I am told should never have been allowed to get to this point. In my moments of confidence, a wonderful if fleeting thing when it comes to my life as a dad, I like to think that whatever we’re losing by not giving them normalized sleep routines is more than made up for by the love and feeling of security we’re giving them by never leaving.

imageWe are inconsistent practitioners of reward systems, a crime doubly indictable as I’ve been designing and implementing such programs for much of my 20+ year career. We don’t practice anything approaching appropriate self-care. The clothes are piled up, usually separated into piles that require sniff tests to determine whether they are clean or dirty. We take them into our bed and let them stay the night. Every time. We are wonderful parents to have as we never fail to give love. But we are just not very good at the component skills.

I’m not complaining. Well, not much. Now that our lives are this way I can honestly say there’s very little I would change. Perhaps I’d employ more consistent rewards or maybe I’d have a few more date nights. I’d certainly have a neater pile of clutter, that’s for sure. Okay, there’s a lot I’d change.

But I won’t, because at this point, this is who we are. We are fumbling through this thing together, imperfect as hell. I’m not saying we refuse to grow or we won’t change. We’re changing all the time, growing all the time. We’re just doing it together. At this point that means we’re messy, tired, together and happy.

imageI don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to hear through the coherent play and listen to the babbling that is working it’s way fully out of my son’s mouth. Truth is I might already have heard the last of it. That’s the thing. Nothing we do is going to stop them from growing up. Nothing I do will keep us from watching life slip ever past. The older they get and the older we get the more clear it becomes that none of it is forever. None of it lasts like I’d like it to.

It kills me to think that I’m ever going to step out, I’m ever going to be finished. With loving and watching and helping and messing up with my kids. That I’m ever going to walk away from my wife who I’ll never see again or that she’ll have to walk away from me. I don’t want any of this to change because for the first time since I was too young to understand the implications of it, I don’t want to ever die.

I want to live forever and never say goodbye. Never grow old. Never die. I want to live this life I have for a million lifetimes. Not some version of it, not some other life, but this one. Mine. With the same pains and the same joys. Now everyday that goes by where I don’t hear my boy babble, like the ones that came before he uttered a sound and relied on us for his every aspect of existence, every tiny change that moves some aspect of their lives to the past is a process. One of letting go. That is how we think of it.

I often think that parenthood is the first time it’s highlighted for you that so much of life is the process of constantly letting go. It is, but it also isn’t. It gives me some agency, some power, some sense that this is my choice. To let go. To slowly choose to hand away life one tiny handful at a time, knowing that at the end the last thing I’ll let go of will be life itself. It’s inevitable. It’ll be all I have left to hand over.

imageThat’s not how it is though, is it? I don’t want to let any of it pass. I want to live equally in the moments where I was three, sitting on my momma’s lap playing with her long hair that flowed out of her ’70’s style bandana, staring at the wooden cross hanging from a leather strap around her neck. I want to spend eternity smiling at the brown lunch bag my father drew pictures on just for me. I want to fall in love for the first time at 12 years old and play act what I thought it meant to lose it all. I want to feel lean and limber and strong and beautiful as I dance with a basketball unafraid of anyone who might wish to stop me. I want to be brash and cocky and altogether terrified on my first day of college and I want the world to open up to me at camp as I found what it was I’d do the rest of my life. I want to meet my wife, sit on those bar stools forever. Falling in love and diving into the unknown. I want to have my kids, meet them for the first time, and I want to watch them grow and marvel at the spectacle. I want all of this to be held. Why would I ever let go of this?

The answer is obvious. We ‘let go’ because we have no choice. Because we can’t choose to hold on. That being said, I want to get as much of this as I can. I want to watch my boy play on the floor with not a care in the world but what the little elephant on the back of his train that he built from Lego’s and imagination is going to do next. Forever.

 

 

Life, Death, Me and Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is many things. Many of which might make it hard for someone to see his humanity. He’s a famous person, which seems to be enough of a reason for many to dismiss someone as a thinking, breathing, feeling person with 99.9% in common with the rest of us. He’s an artist as well, producing art and putting it in the world, another reason for people to feel not only dismissive of one’s humanity but entitled to say cruel things about something that a person clearly has put out as an extension of at least a part of themself. He’s also a vulgarian, a trait many of us find endearing but one that alienates many, I’m sure.

Whatever else he is he is also human. And tonight, while I was doing the dishes and listening to him eulogize his dear friend and colleague, Alan Rickman, I found myself crying. Tears falling and breath heaving in fits and starts as I listened to someone processing publicly, generously, their feelings of loss, their sadness and perhaps something so universal and personal as mortality.

Much of what I write about here is parenthood. I find it to be an experience that provides, amongst so many profound and beautiful and human things, a bridge to connectedness. I’m not a dogmatic believer and I’m not one prone to much magical thinking. What I am, like Mr. Smith, like you and like my kids and yours, is human.

One of the things I’ve learned with age is that humanity is capable of inspiring wonderment and awe. It can summon it’s natural state of curious sentience and without intending to draw out an emotional response from me, one that can take my breath away and instill emotion in me that can circle and swirl throughout my being and bring tears that I have no control over. I know that we are merely actors on a tiny stage in a giant universe and too often we can overestimate our capacity to know what meaning there is. What is not lost on us is love and death. The rest we get wrong a lot. But love and death, well, they amount to meaning to me. Meaning I can’t and don’t want to analyze or understand fully. Meaning that I want to live in and die amongst.

It’s strange to be in my 40’s with such young kids. I didn’t plan it this way, at least not from the start. But now that I’m here I’m privy to so much of life. Every day I revel in the world my children are discovering. Worlds full of what I’d mistakenly come to think of as ordinary and mundane before they retrained me. They are able to reintroduce me to the world and are able to reignite within me the spark of curiosity, the fire of creativity. They move me to joy and deliver an endless bounty of love to my life in between testing me by walking me to frustration and even occasionally nudging me toward rage. At the same time it’s a time of life when I can’t help but notice mortality. It’s creeping in at the edges of my life and it’s a present reality in the day to day lives of so many people I care about. I have visions of my parents at my own kids graduations and weddings and even holding their great grandkids someday. I can even imagine them at my funeral, one where I’m being interred at a ripe old age having died of too much life. I can imagine myself dying. That seems natural to me. But even in my minds eye I see my parents there looking down lovingly on me, happy to have known me, sad I won’t be around anymore. It’s crazy, but it’s true. Because I live in denial and fear, the knowledge, like so many of the rest of us do, those of us still able to hug our parents and tell them that we love them, that a day will come when my world will die and it will be at once the most natural and human experience one can imagine and it will also be the most devastatingly painful reality I can conceive of while still being able to live.

I cried tonight listening to someone share what it means to be human. When I was younger I couldn’t cry. Now I can and I do. If I’m really moved it’s like a fit of uproarious laughter. I can’t control it. I can stop thinking about the funny thing, but eventually I have to think of it again, and when I do, the tears and gut busting roars of laughter come right back and they won’t go until they are done, regardless of my schedule. It’s kind of wonderful. Likewise, feeling the pain, or sorrow, or whatever emotion it is that emanates from others when they are hurting also arrives and departs on it’s own schedule. This empathy is meaning to me. It’s a style of connecting and it’s redemptively human. It’s why we grieve communally. It’s how we express respect. It’s how we honor each other. It’s how we share humanity.  It’s empathy and it’s what keeps us together and unites us in the end. We all can empathize with loss. We all will succumb to mortality and if we are all lucky we will all know love in many forms.

Kevin Smith lost a friend last month. A dear friend and each and everyone of us knows what that means. It is what makes us special. It’s what makes our lives have meaning.

I am so very sorry for your loss, Mr. Smith. I hope that in time you will be able to tell the stories of your friend and feel at least an ounce of comfort in feeling his presence again and having a laugh with him, or even a cry, from time to time.

Thoughts, Vibes and Prayers

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I had an epiphany this past year. Since then I’ve prayed for anyone who has asked me to. To anyone who asked for my prayers before my epiphany, I’m sorry.

I’ve come to the passionate belief that there is only this. This belief, for me, keeps me honest, accountable and caring. It means all my love, care, rewards, punishment, joys, pains and everything else you can imagine must fit inside the life I’m living now. It’s a deep, core belief of mine. One that I was inconsiderately, rudely and even aggressively defensive about since about the age of 13.

It’s hard to explain, but to the non-doctrinal among us expressions of belief often feel like aggressive acts. It feels like people are judging us, as they surely are, as I am them more often than I care to admit, and we get into a stance where we feel like we have to defend our simple belief that all of this is more than enough. More than enough reason for love and compassion and acts of kindness. My beliefs as well as my upbringing are the impetus for my good deeds and good works. My shortcomings, failings and acts of insensitivity are human. They are not evidence of a bad person. These unkind moments are evidence of an imperfect person or more succinctly they are evidence of a person. My acknowledgment of them, my apologies for them and my attempts to make up for them and correct them are grace. I’m about halfway through this journey if it goes to plan and I have a lot to be proud of, a lot to continue to work on and a lot to apologize for.

On that note I’d like to offer my apologies to anyone who was having a moment of stress, encountering tragedy or simply looking for my love and support and asked me to ‘send your love and prayers.’ I took this request as an attack on my beliefs, if you can imagine something so self-centered, egotistical and thoughtless. I promise you, my responses, my sincere expressions of support tinged with refusal of ‘you’re in my thoughts’ or ‘I’m sending you good vibes’ were sincerely intended to be supportive. They were. But I can’t lie, there was a piece of that love and support that I was withholding. For that I’m truly and deeply sorry.

It was a failing of mine to think these requests, this reaching out for support, was anything other than that. I can pray. In fact whenever I was asked to pray I did. In my way and with a sincere heart.

So going forward if you ask me to keep you in my thoughts, I will. If you ask me to send good vibes, that is what I will do. And if you ask me to pray for you, you’ll be in my prayers.