Chasing Perfection

Imagine being so sure of something, and yet so scared of failure, that the thing you are sure of never becomes reality. That is an affliction that many people suffer from, myself included. This Blog post will serve as a sounding board for me as I vent some frustrations into the ether. Perhaps by voicing all of the frustrations and fears I placed on myself, I will begin to crawl out from underneath the rock I have chosen to live under.

To be fair, I was not alone in creating the environment I live in. Everyone I have ever had a personal relationship with has somehow contributed, positively or negatively, to the world I find myself in currently. But I alone have chosen, either consciously or subconsciously, to remain here at my own peril. You see, I have know for quite some time that there are aspects of my life that need to be cleaned up. I am certain that anyone who honestly assesses their own life can find area in need of improvement, even if it is only a minor one. But for many people, the idea of honestly facing the truth that they are not everything they want to be is more paralizing than motivating. I include myself in that list. That is why I am here writing myself this sad admission instead of telling you all about the wonderful things I have learned as I have started exploring the enormous world of photography. My sincere hope is that by removing the stigma sharing weakness, I can begin to flourish into the mentor and teacher I have often dreamed of being.

I think, at least early on, part of the issue was that I could not define exactly what it is I wanted to do online. The best way I can think to describe it is potter with a lump of clay who knows he has something beautiful to create, but can not clear his vision enough to see what it is or how to start it. Of course, any good artist would not use such a trivial excuse to prevent them from doing what is in their heart, but then again I am not a great artist…at least not yet. But there in lies the problem. I have always been fixated on perfection. I don’t know where it came from, or how it started, but as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the pursuit of making something perfect. The tragedy of course, is that almost nothing on this planet will ever be perfect. And so waiting for perfection will only ensure failure. Like most people I know, I don’t like to fail, so adding failure to the inability to be perfect has created a negative feedback loop that I have not been able to escape from.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t feel like I am the second coming of anyone. I don’t believe my contribution to this planet will be any earth shattering achievement. That’s not to say that I can’t be a positive influence to some, and that may just be enough. After all, I am a father to two beautiful children, Adison and Ethan, and they deserve the best version of me. My wife also deserves to have a partner that is driven in such a way that I inspire her to be the best that she can be. It’s symbiotic really, but if any one part lacks, then all other parts will suffer. I do not claim to be a great man, hell, at times I’m not even a good man. But there is one thing I am sure of; each one of us has the ability within us to pull ourselves out of whatever fog we have found ourselves in, and start working towards a better tomorrow.

I know that the things I am sharing are not new to any of you. But like I said, this post is really for me. It will “suck”. It will not change the internet. But it is the start of something. Something I hope to grow into something that does not “suck”. Something that helps someone improve their own life in some way.

Whatever it is you are struggling with, you are not alone. And that is not cliche, that is truth. This world is far to diverse that.

The whisper of the stream

In the forest is a stream that carries all my fears away.

The water grips my open hand with promises of yesterday.

The promise of a time before the world became a lonely place,

to days I stood on muddy banks and had eternity to play.






The water takes my pain downstream, immune to all the hurt I’ve seen.

Patiently the stream collects, and filters out my past obscene.

In times of grief and times guilt, the gentle flow is of a dream.

The symbiotic link we share is torture, for a mind serene.


If in your search for solitude you stumble on a coppice clear,

continue on until you find wear fauna swill

For in the forest is a stream that carries all your fears away,

the whisper of it can be heard, the closer to its’ edge you stray.

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oops, I did it again

It has recently been gnawing at my brain like a slow, but increasingly painful memory. I have not written anything down in months. Not that I haven’t thought about…oh my how I have thought about it. But it seems that every time I get just a little bit excited about something, a switch flips in my head and I suddenly and inexplicably have zero interest in it. And I am talking about things that I love. Not chores, work, or social commitments, but things that I enjoy doing. I was just having a conversation with my wife about this very thing tonight.

So I have been slightly disappointed with myself for several weeks now as the realization has set in that I have been sitting on this website waiting for magic to happen without a single shred of effort from me. Not one key stroke, not a sentence, not even “research.” And all of this time, I have had access to a computer and smart phone, the internet, and free time (although that last one has admittedly been inconsistent at best). But there is a silver lining to all of this wallowing. Not the one I would have chosen, but a kernel of wisdom none the less…Your’ success is directly proportional to the amount of effort you invest!

Now, I realize that this is not news to most, if not all of you beautiful people. Heck, it’s not even news to me. But I was humbled when I realized that I had spent the better part of the last two months hardly cracking open this laptop. I mean, I didn’t even really open it to play around on the internet or anything. I kind of just avoided it all together like it was a tax form or something. And that isn’t even really the amazing part to me. I am most shocked by the fact that I really enjoy writing. I can write about nothing in particular and still feel like it was not time waisted. But then the problem never really was the writing was it? No. The problem was, and is, personal expectation.

You see, no one is perfect. We all know this. But what myself, and others like me tend to do, is use that fact as a wall instead of a staircase. What I mean is, I set very high standards for myself. I always have, and I probably always will. And so instead of acknowledging that I am not a subject matter expert, and taking that as an opportunity to learn and grow in my craft, I decide that if I can not put out a perfect product I just won’t put out a product. I don’t do this for “wrong” reasons per se. I really don’t want to waste anyone’s time with a sub-par blog or story of any kind. But as proof of my commitment to change, I am going to start by only proofreading this as I go. I know it won’t read right to some…or all of you. But it is here. It exists. And it is only the first step of many up the staircase.

What hurdles do you build for yourself? Are you like me, and struggle with the thought that something is not worth doing if you can’t be perfect, or do you have a different demon that kills your passion? I would love to hear from anyone reading this, if you have the time and desire to share that is. I hope whatever hurdle you are facing today, that you can take step back, and look for your staircase.

Two truths and a…truth.

A taste of our trip to Colorado

    Anyone who tells you that succeeding in life is easy is either selling something or has set the bar for success so incredibly low that anyone with a pulse has better than a punchers chance at achieving it. While it’s true that success looks drastically different for everyone, there are some general guidelines that we use as a society to gauge it. Not all these ground rules will or should apply to you individually, and so it is important that you set your own standards for success. Below, I would like to expand on 3 truths I believe are crucial if you are going to be successful in your journey through life.

1. Perception is not reality

Too often in life, we use comparison as a unit of measure when it clearly shouldn’t be. The assumption is that if we see someone with relatively similar education and skills living a more successful life than we are, we are doing something wrong or have failed. This could not be further from the truth. For one, there is no way of knowing every detail of that persons personal life, or the sacrifices they have made unbeknownst to you to get to the place or position they are in. Secondly, how much of their perceived success is the embellishment of social media bias (that is to say, only showing people the pictures of their trip to pick your destination, but leaving out the crippling debt that they are now in). It’s the modern day equivalent of cleaning your house to spotless perfection before having guests over, knowing good and well you don’t live like that. Then, as soon as your guests leave, the closet door guarding all of the contents you crammed in it bursts open spilling in to the room. Knowing the truth that everyone has their own struggles that may not always be obvious to the observer will help you to keep your own situation in perspective.

2. Manage expectations

Save for a few prodigy’s around the world, no one picks up a skill or hobby and is instantly a top tier professional. There is a process inherent in the learning of a new skill that directly effects the end result. In the Army we called this the crawl-walk-run method, and it was highly effective. It was effective because it allowed the new recruits to build on the knowledge they learned at the start of training and gradually increase in skill and proficiency. Understanding your own limitations is vital to your overall success. If you pick up golf as hobby, and expect to be tour ready by the end of summer, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Golf doesn’t work that way, and neither will anything else. Be honest with yourself about your skill level and aptitude for learning, and you will be able to set more realistic and achievable goals.

3. Forget the failure

There are few things more frustrating than attempting something that you have been practicing for some time, only to have it end in failure. I enjoy watching speed runs on YouTube. The idea is that someone takes a video game, or specific stage of a particular game, and attempts to complete it in record time. Some of the records held are incomprehensible to me. The fact they the people attempting these records have memorized and choreographed every single input on the controller, for an entire game, is beyond belief. I have even seen some where they complete entire games blindfolded. But for every single video that is posted, there are hundreds upon thousands of failed attempts that will never be seen in most cases. When they fail, they don’t shut the game off and decide to learn needle point. No. They regroup, hit reset, and start over. The drive they have to be the best (fastest) is greater than their desire to quit in frustration. Being able to concisely assess your failure, learn what you can from it, and move on is a valuable skill to have. Understanding that failure is a part of any success story is one of the greatest truths you can hold on to.

In closing, don’t be discouraged if the success you seek seems out of reach. There is no secret to being successful. It is the continued effort in the face of adversity that will set you apart. Knowing this, you can move forward, confident that your mistakes will only serve as tools in your journey to grow and learn. What truths have you discovered in your own journey? I would love to hear some of them, and maybe they will help someone else reading this to recenter their focus, and redouble their efforts.

The issue of our hearts

Lately I have been noticing something. And while this thing that I’ve noticed is not new, I definitely failed to make the connection until just recently. What I’m referring to is the state of our society, and how it relates to the conditions of our hearts.

 

Let me be clear, I don’t believe that what I am about to say is a magic cure-all. I simply want to expand the conversation on the issues plaguing our society today. I want to expand the conversation because I have noticed that almost no one is discussing the root of the issue. And the people who are discussing it only do so in a cursory fashion. Keep in mind that when I refer to “people”, I am referring to laymen. Not professionals in the field. But I want to dive deeper. I want to explore the possibilities of rewriting American, and world history with a simple and intuitive approach. Of course this is going to sound so far fetched that I would get laughed out of any room I spoke in, but that doesn’t change the reality of the message.

 

What I am proposing is that we completely revamp our approach to social issues. Instead of attacking people who are hurting, what if we actually tried to help them. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Almost everyone you talk to on a daily basis knows someone, or has been affected by addiction themselves.  Whether it’s, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex/porn, or shopping, more and more people are finding outlets to pacify their carnal need to be gratified. In the name of brevity, let’s just talk about drug addiction. In America, drug addicts are seen as social pariahs, either filling our prisons, or the streets of low-income neighborhoods. Most of the addicts that are on the streets are only there until they inevitably get busted again. The revolving door does nothing for the recognizance of the inmate, all it does is siphon more money out of the wallets and purses of law-abiding, tax paying citizens. Not to mention the judges have the added incentive in the form of kickbacks from the privately owned prisons to keep them at capacity. Now is it just me or does that sound like a gross conflict of interest?

 

Nevertheless, this is the current system in place in America. We are at war (what a joke) with drugs. Of course we are not alone in this approach. Many other countries have adopted a very similar fight to get drugs off the streets. One such country is…or rather was Portugal. You see, up until 2001, Portugal had a drug policy that nearly mirrored Americas in almost every way. The lion’s share of their budget was spent on apprehending and incarcerating drug addicts and dealers in a vain attempt to purify the streets. Then in 2001 they rolled out a radical new drug policy. Instead of attacking the people suffering from addiction, they decided to treat addiction like any other illness. They shifted the bulk of the budget to addiction recovery and counseling services. They went so far as to hire substance abuse counselors and other trained personnel to drive around the city and visit the darkest dirtiest drug infested areas. They do not come to these places to chastise anyone, or apprehend them; instead they show up for two very different reasons. The first reason they are there is to offer any of the addicts who are ready to get clean free transportation to a facility designed to help them recover. The second reason they make these stops is to offer clean needles and other paraphernalia for the addicts to use. Now initially this may seem like some kind of kooky co-dependency nonsense, but take one look at the data, and it will begin to make sense. Susana Ferreira summed it up best, I believe, in her article written for The Guardian when she said:

 

The opioid crisis soon stabilized, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug related crime and incarceration rates. HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high in 2000 of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015.

 

She goes on to say that the changes cannot be entirely attributed to new laws, and this is where our views converge. For me, the idea of addiction being a sickness is not a new one. I have personally watched happy healthy people plummet in to anger, depression, and even suicide because of actions that led them down a path of addiction. I used to think, like others do, that addicts simply choose to be that way. If they didn’t want to be addicts, why wouldn’t they just stop? And then it hit me.

 

At the beginning of any addiction there is a search. A search for meaning, for affirmation, for euphoria, or the urge to forget or erase some hurt you are feeling. I am purposefully not including people who are forced in to drugs by someone lording over them because well, they don’t have a choice. And that is a discussion for a whole other post. But we can go there if any of you would like, just let me know in the comments. No, I’m focusing on people who make a conscious choice to begin their path of destruction. Unfortunately most people don’t realize they have addictive tendencies until it is too late. But when I started to actually look at addicts as ill human beings, I started to notice a pattern; everyone is suffering from a heart issue.

 

And so it is my firm belief, that most of the issues surrounding addiction, can be solved with love. (Break out the hippy bashing music) What I mean is, once we start to love the addict again and stop treating them like some sort of lower life form, I think we can actually start to make a real difference in the world. And it starts long before they are middle-aged and begging in the streets. This is a process that needs to begin from birth essentially. Parents are the front lines, and need to create a home environment that is wrapped in love. Where the child feels safe and able to share whatever is going on in their lives. That means the parents have to get their act together long before they have kids. Then we as a society need to continue this trend in our schools, by putting far greater emphasis on the mental health of every student. And if we are going to continue paying higher and higher taxes, can we at least make sure every kid can go to school without worrying about how they are going to eat. Seriously! It is 2018 and we are Americans. Why is childhood hunger still a thing? And since there is no perfect system, the ones that slip through the cracks and make it to adulthood with a debilitating addiction, let’s just circle them with support. Make it impossible for them to have it any other way.

Of course, there are always going to be exceptions. Always, but if the rule becomes the emphasis, the exceptions will begin to dwindle. No one is suggesting that our police force should pack it up and go home, or that we should just hug every criminal until they apologize. But what I am saying, what I know in my heart to be true, is that we have a much better chance of success as a nation if we stop dividing our own. If we actually come together again, as one nation, setting aside all of our cultural and religious differences, I believe we can put America back together. There can be a day when our children are no longer born in to a war they didn’t ask for.

 

As I was writing this, I began to think about all the advancements that are being made in the treatment of depression and PTSD. Specifically, I think there is real promise in the area of micro-dosing. I have read a few studies, nothing exhaustive mind you that suggest the micro-dosing of LSD can drastically reduce the effects of PTSD by rewriting neural pathways. I’m no expert that’s for sure, but I think it is worth looking in to further. I want to be clear on my position. I believe there are drugs in this world that should be eradicated, mainly the deadly vile man-made concoctions that do nothing but destroy lives. I also believe there are a myriad of drugs that have been demonized by governments for decades that can actually have powerful medicinal effects if researched properly.

Arise my sleeping heart

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For far too long my heart has wept.

In endless depths my soul has slept.

The time has come for me to breathe.

The fresh air welcome, turned to the breeze.

I took the bait and sealed my spirit, letting only darkness in.

The struggles of a starving artist, oh where, my love, do I begin?

Entice me with the sound of silence, deaden all my senses through.

I clutch the last remaining straw, then turn the page and start anew.

I first realized I loved writing, I believe, when I was in the 6th grade. There was a report due in my Language Arts class that I spent 0% of my time preparing for. As is true for most important things in my life, I waited until the night before the assignment was due to begin working on it.

At this point in my childhood, my life was slightly more stable than in years past. My single mother had settled her and her four kids in to a respectable home, and there was no longer the fear (wrong word, I’m working on it) of having to bounce around to a different school with no notice. If we are being honest, she actually did quite well to hold everything together for as long as she did. More on that at some point in the future I’m sure. The fact of the matter is, I don’t have as much of an excuse for being a knuckle head as I would like to imagine because at this point, things were pretty good. So yada yada yada, and the paper is due “tomorrow.”

I developed a habit of waiting until the last-minute to do things because I had to once, for whatever reason and well… it worked. To a preteen it made perfect sense to wait until the last minute because it allotted me more time to do other important things like flip pogs or pass notes. So as was customary, I was up until after midnight piecing together something resembling a coherent thought. The next day I turned in the report, accepting the fact that a grade of 69 (failing in our grading system) was better than a zero. I brain dumped any mention or memory of the assignment and went on about my day, not once second guessing the decision I made. (At least this is how I remember it now) And then it happened. I’m not sure if it was one day later, the end of the week, or some time the following week, but I distinctly remember the following events with surprising clarity.

My English teachers name was Mrs. Cook. Her and I had an understanding of sorts. She knew my potential and would push for me to try harder than I wanted, and I would respond by finding ways to do less. That being said, we kind of liked… or at least respected each other. The day in question arrived like any other, but when I got to her class, and the assignments were returned with grades, I knew something was wrong. Everyone got their assignments back except me. I wasn’t terribly concerned until she walked over to my desk and asked me to follow her in to the hallway. I remember thinking there was no way this was anything but bad. When I turned the corner and exited the room, I saw my teacher and the schools principal standing side by side waiting for me. “Okay, this makes no sense to me.” I remember thinking, and then they spoke.

The principal spoke first, reminding me that I was not a bad kid, and that honesty was always the best policy. Then my teacher explained that in order to not get in serious trouble, I would need to provide them with the name of the college website that I used to plagiarise this paper. You see, they were both convinced that the paper I had spent a grand total of maybe two hours working on in the middle of the night was in fact a college level essay that I had ripped from a website. First things first, lets address the obvious. There is no way that 11 or 12-year-old me whipped up a college caliber paper in a matter of hours. Second, There is no way I could have stolen it from a website since our home was not internet capable at the time. I think a short time later we got a Web TV device, but that’s besides the point.

Long story short, I never got in trouble for the paper, although they hounded me for what seemed like 20 min. in total disbelief that I had produced the paper all by myself, when in reality I had done just that. But I learned that day that I had a knack for writing. Shortly after I started writing poetry, yes I still have it and yes it is awful, for all the girls I was friends with because… well, reasons duh! Unfortunately I never really pursued writing much past about the 9th grade. It was then that I discovered all the trappings of being a high schooler and took full advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. Over the years since then I have done little things here and there, but never really gave writing an honest effort.

So here we are nearly twenty years later and I have finally decided that the still small voice in my head might actually be on to something. Through my drug clouded teenage years, through the military, and through my on again off again relationship with Jesus Christ one thing has remained constant. I love to write. As a child I thought that I would always have an advanced ability, so I never nurtured it. So here I am pushing 35 years old, and that God-given talent is now dusty and malnourished. Add to that the fact that as an American adult, I’ve been groomed to view everything with a healthy level of skepticism, and I instinctively hate everything I write now. As you can plainly see if you have read this far, that hasn’t stopped me from writing.

But I am making a conscious choice. I am choosing the hard path when it would be far easier to coast through my day job, and life, with no real risk involved. I am hopeful that this website, and the pieces that I am sure will follow, will be the jumping off point for not only my passion, but for yours. Don;t give up on that dream you had when you were twelve. It is still there, buried under the useless crap that we burden ourselves with unnecessarily. Take a step. Not a leap, not a lunge, just a step. I heard a quote the other day. I’m not sure who the author is so I will paraphrase. But it was something to the effect of, When you are headed the wrong way, a step backwards is actually a step in the right direction. That statement is both simple, and profound because we are conditioned to think that any movement backwards is wrong or constitutes failure. But in this situation, that could not be farther from the truth.

Be bold, and take that step, even if the first couple have to be backwards. Do not let your passion die alongside all the hopes and dreams of those that decided to stop trying. I’m not sure how to end this, so… good-bye.

When the sun just doesn’t shine

Lately I have found myself searching for motivation. I have always been on the spectrum of procrastination, but over the last few years I have gradually shuffled further down the gradient. I blame myself…clearly, but I don’t think the situation is as black and white as some people make it out to be. Through nature, and nurture, each person develops an individual personality. For people who do not procrastinate, it’s easy to look on and say “Hey, I get up every day without an alarm and spend the first hour of my day meditating and working out. You’re no different, you just have to do it.” Well, I mean, I am different. We all are. And that is what makes this world a beautiful cacophony. Telling someone to just stop procrastinating is akin to telling a depressed person to stop being sad. It is not that simple.

Aside from ones upbringing, there are current external factors that weigh heavily on a person’s ability to be productive. For me, the realization came not to long ago when I saw a posting for a job that I would love. I started to evaluate my current job and came to a startling conclusion. I don’t really care for my line of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love serving my community, but after almost 5 years, the novelty of my position has worn off. Now this doesn’t mean that anyone who isn’t “thrilled” in their current employment should just up and leave, but you should evaluate your reasons for staying. For me it was job security. I became complacent because outside of a few obvious “no-nos”, there really isn’t much fear of getting fired. And I could glide like that for 30 years and retire with a pension and a pat on the back. That’s cool and all, but then what. At 57 years old I would still be able to pick up a hobby or travel or do…whatever I wanted.

But I don’t want to wait till I’m 57. I don’t want to wait a t all. the time is now. This blog is part of the shift for me back in the other direction on the gradient. I love to write. And although I have let my talents dwindle in the recesses of my mind, they are still there. My goal is to reintroduce myself to the past time that I once loved. It is going to be ugly. At times, it may even be cringy. As with most things, there will be bumps along the road. There will be times that I decide I’m going to hang it up and just stick to my 9-5. But I will get past that, and so can you.

What do you love? What would you be doing right now if money wasn’t an object? Can you find some way to incorporate that in to your life now? Make an effort. There is a reason that you love the things you love. It’s not an accident. Chase it. Fight for it. Refuse to be mediocre. Find the spark within you that is going to ignite your passion. And don;t give up. When the road gets rough, don’t veer off. Be the person that 12-year-old you dreamed you would be.

 

A letter to the reader

Prompt: Write a letter to the reader of a novel you haven’t written yet.

To whom it may concern,

The novel you are about to read is the culmination of years of blood, sweat, and tears. And while I don’t expect you to hold it in the same regard as I do, I would ask that you approach each sentence, and each paragraph with the openness and excitement of a child. This novel is going to test your deepest held beliefs, and this is not by accident. Though the story is set to Sci-Fi, it is in no way irrelevant to the struggles we are all facing today. hopefully, you will simultaneously turn the last page of my book and the first page of your next chapter. My hope is to inspire you, the reader, to question what we are told to blindly believe from our elected leaders. Not every conspiracy is a theory, and not every half truth is innocent. Remember these facts as you immerse yourself in what I can only describe as a cerebral space mystery with overtones of love and triumph.

With warmest regards,

C.A.

 Okay, so this sounds absolutely ridiculous. However, I am publishing it anyway because my goal is not to craft a masters’ jar, my goal is to learn how to mold clay. Thanks sis.

To new beginnings

I would like to send a warm welcome to anyone reading this blog post. As this is my first of many posts as part of a new endeavor, I would like to ask for patience and understanding from the readers. I have always had a passion for writing, and this is my first attempt, in earnest, to do anything with that passion.

Throughout the coming weeks and months, I will continue to hone my skills, and put out a product with more direction and purpose. My hope (confident expectation) for this site is to provide an honest lens in to my life, and the experiences I have had…of which there are many. I do not claim to be an expert in any specific field of study, but I am somewhat well versed in many different disciplines. I hope to use that versatility as a catalyst for my writing.

As I continue to develop my own approach, I plan to carve out a little pocket of the internet with my unique style and insight. This blog site is not going to adhere to any specific theme or format, although I do plan to subdivide differing types of writings for ease of navigation. That being said, I am learning all of this on the fly so it may look super weird for an unspecified amount of time. But as you get to know me a little better, you will come to understand that super weird is just part of my M.O.

So sit back, take a deep breath, and prepare to go on a journey. At times you will gasp in amazement, but more often than not you will just scratch you head in bewilderment. That’s ok, I love you just the same. In everything you read here, remember this one thing, I am still growing as a person and I am wholly capable of being wrong or misinformed. My desire is not to mislead anyone for any reason, but to provide a different set of eyes on some of the topics and troubles facing humankind in this day and age.

I think people typically have some sort of sign off, or signature closing. I’m not there yet. Don’t worry, we will get there. For now, I will just leave you with one of my favorite verses from the bible…

1 Cor 10:13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.