Remember

Today is a day in history that all of us will never forget.

A day that doesn’t quite seem like history, because it feels like it was just yesterday.

It is a day to remember those who lost their lives, those who fought to save other lives and to remind ourselves of the resilient nature that we Americans hold.

Today is a uniquely special day.

Remember.

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change.

theme for the week is…

change is good for the soul.

i just moved this week back to downtown Grand Rapids and in doing so I realized how much I need change to refresh myself.

sometimes i think i get stuck in the daily monotony of life, get stuck doing the same things over and over and over and…  and it gets old.

i get in that rut.

this move downtown does wonders for me in that sense. It kind of forces me to be unsettled for a moment, to find my place all over again.

change does that. 

it forces us to re-evaluate.

to re-do.

i know that many people don’t like that. it makes your stomach queasy just thinking about it. but i like it. not sure i “love” it… but i like it. i’m not sure i like the process, but most times, i love the result. 

i love the freshness of it. i love the ability we get from change to think in new ways, to build on old memories and to create new opportunities. i like that no matter what, we can learn from the previous situation and make the next an even better one.

change is good for the soul.

it keeps us moving

helps us to not get stuck in our ways 

or in a rut

it gives us a challenge.

win or lose.

In sports we tend to create two categories:

winners and losers.

We define winners by those who have won championships, and losers are defined generally as those who have not won championships.

It seems mostly there is no gray area.

You either have won, or, you have lost.

 Is that fair?

Michael won six championships, Magic won five championships, the great Bill Russell won eleven championships in thirteen years, making him essentially the greatest winner of them all.

Joe Montana won four Super Bowls while Dan Marino lost in his only appearance at the big game.

So Montana is a winner and Marino is a loser?

The concept of winning and losing has just taken on a life of its own. Even with Lebron James, who I am not a fan of, not winning a championship does not make him a loser. Does he have a huge ego? Probably. Did he fail to come through in the Finals? Yes.

But he is not a “loser.”

Most of sport is a about the team. That is why i love sports so much.

Team aspect.

The fact that you need everyone else around you to perform well for you to personally succeed. So when my modern day sports hero, Barry Sanders walks away from a career with my favorite team, the Detroit Lions, without winning more than one playoff game in ten years… it does not make him personally a loser. It is a team concept.

You win and lose together.

Let me make one thing clear: competition is good

I believe it makes us all better in the end. My issue is with the individual accolades and criticism they receive from playing a team sport. These guys are not the sole reason why the team wins, and they aren’t the sole reason for why they lose.

We better not lose the meaning of playing a team sport.

inside a writer’s mind.

in this whole writing experiment i have conducted over the past year, i have realized a lot about myself. some of it good, which through this blog has brought praise, and some of it bad, again… through this blog… because of how harsh i can be on myself. I have also realized the different scope a writer can view this life.
it is somewhat strange to me that i should consider myself a writer in any form. in the past year i have been told countless times by many of you that i am a talented writer, which leaves me feeling slightly embarrassed, and that i need to start writing a book even. which is scary. and crazy. but maybe someday soon i will get on that. so first before anything, thank you.
your words keep my words flowing.
it is just strange to me that as a writer, i have the ability to influence other people’s minds simply by using mine. i guess when i put it like that it seems somewhat creepy. but i think you know what i mean. writing to me is just my form of art,
my contribution.
anyway, the point of this is that writing can take your mind places that you would otherwise not go. you start interpreting things in a way differently than you ever thought. you might realize you have a viewpoint different from many in your own family, which can be scary. i guess it would be fair to say that i’m not too concerned with what most of my readers think, but i would say that not being sure what my family would think of my viewpoints can lead to a little apprehension. it kind of makes you sit back and decide whether you can really own your own views.
i struggle sometimes with some of those views. i should say i struggle with vocalizing those views. that would be more accurate. i don’t care much to really offend people. i just call it like i see it.
it is funny how a person’s mindset can set someone else off. but as a writer i struggle with how to use my thoughts and my words in a constructive way.
especially living in west michigan.
i realize my thoughts and views are not as conservative as the setting here normally allows. and as a writer, i wonder if i should be stating those views so openly. i don’t like when people are controversial just for the sake of being controversial. but sometimes something needs to be said. if it is the truth.
i could say i’ve bought into the ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ mantra at times. but i just want to be a wallflower sometimes.
my personality never seems to let me.
it’s been one of my biggest battles in life. simply trying to accept that i am an out-going person. i have always considered myself an introverted person and extremely shy, but then i start to realize that probably is not the case.
not anymore.
because of my desire for introversion, i want to just fit in and never stick out. however being a writer does not really allow for that. especially a writer like me.
i could say it is a little annoying to me.
it is annoying because as a writer who likes to point out things the way i do, i know that the more i do it, the less hidden i am. the more exposed i become. the more i have to own my work. the more responsible i am for my actions. once i click ‘publish’, it’s out there and i can never truly take it back.
who wants that?
when you have the type of mindset i do, you think of things in slippery scopes. the landscape isn’t always black and white or even grey. sometimes it is very colorful. what i mean by that is, there are so many ways to view things and sometimes it seems like nothing is cut and dry.
i struggle in my mind about whether i should expose local politicians who create bills that would cut or eliminate money for the poor, because i’m not sure it is my place to judge someone like that. i wonder what good would come of it anyway, and if i write cutting edge things like that to get people thinking, is the controversy worth it?
i suppose it could be.
and there are these national politicians who draw my ire, but should i write about my feelings about them? they are after all, just feelings and opinions. does what i say really make a difference?
and what about religion? it is uncomfortable for me to talk about it much, or at least my personal views, because well… they are personal.
exposing my belief system for all to see and also judge, does not appear very appealing to me. at the same time, my beliefs are very real to me and very important and the backbone of who i am and who i want to be. as a writer, most of what you will read from me is rooted in those beliefs. it’s just that some of what i see out there, i’m a little embarrassed to claim to be a part of.
i bet you are too.
as someone who has strong opinions, it can be difficult to keep them bottled up. yet as a writer, i don’t think it is my job, or duty, to tell you what i think. the purpose should be to allow you to think in ways you may never have thought before. i may nudge you here and there. but the point isn’t for me to get you to believe what i believe, it’s simply for you to think for yourself in new and fresh ways.
i was discussing with a friend the other day about my method for writing. i was saying how i don’t want to keep writing if it is going to always be critical of things. i don’t want to be a critical person, and i don’t want my writing to be either. the problem with it is, life is not a fairy tale. i can’t write about rainbows and butterflies all the time. or ever. but the thing is, where is that healthy balance?
the issue that i have with writing is that as much as i love it, it has somewhat taken on a life of its own. like i said, i have begun to see things in ways i never thought i would, which is the desire i have for you guys who read this. writing is easy and hard at the same time. it is easy in the sense that you can sit and type away and thoughts and words come out of you that you never knew were there. it is hard because other people might read what you say.
they might take me seriously.
this is not meant to be a disclaimer for future postings, some sort of plea that you understand the process behind each thought i put on here, because i know that it doesn’t matter. the process is too intricate to fully understand. the thought i want you to have when reading anything i write is, “hmm.. never thought of it that way”. better yet, if you can say “wow, i’ve been thinking like that but i thought i was the only one!” than i would feel even more fulfilled.
if you feel that way after something i wrote, than i don’t mind being taken seriously.

what if?

can i ask you a question? or maybe a bunch of questions…

somehow i doubt there are actual answers…

what if.

what if we didn’t have to talk about welfare… because we already cared about each others well-being and we didn’t need government intervention to help the poor and the needy?

what if we didn’t have to talk about racial reconciliation… because there was nothing to reconcile?

what if we were really free to practice our religion without prejudice?

what if we didn’t live in fear of each other’s religion?

what if we didn’t have to worry or think about illegal immigration… because the doors were always open?

what if we weren’t afraid of people who were different than us?

what if we weren’t concerned about who paid what in taxes… because we all agreed that our healthy government used these taxations for the common good?

what if Iraq was actually free?

what if Martin Luther King Jr, was just another man doing his part in society and Malcom X was his best friend?

what if ‘celebrity’ was a strange word that no one knew the definition of?

what if politicians served the people instead of people feeding into the frenzy? what if these politicians didn’t show racist and bigoted tendencies?

what if politicians didn’t send tweets of body parts?

what if the news showed stories of goodwill towards men and there was a calmness in the world?

what if sports stars still played simply ‘for the love of the game’ and when they said they did, we believed them?

what if children were never in danger of madmen and were never placed at risk of anything?

what if they could play in the streets and not get guns pointed at them while they watched cartoons?

what if there was never a ‘3rd world’ country because we recognized everyone’s needs and dispersed accordingly?

i guess there are too many what if’s in the world for dreamers like me. i think i could go on and on with these what if’s…

the world i know.

on the corner, a man perched himself up on the ledge. he stood just high enough so that even the slightly hunched-over little ladies in the back of the crowd behind the tall rugged men could make out the lines on his weathered face. his message was that we were all doomed. not exactly the type of thought that brings smiles to many people’s faces but he spoke it loud, just enough that there was no mistaking his voice. the man had done this for so long, he himself couldn’t remember doing anything else. this was his calling. or so he thought.
a woman crouched nearby. she hadn’t eaten a solid meal in weeks. her fingernails were long and dirty underneath and her fading light pink lips cracked. her name was laura but nobody knew that. it had been years since anyone had cared enough to speak her name, she had almost forgotten it herself. she listened to the man speak doom and gloom and wondered why he wasted his time. the world being doomed was old news to her.
the little boy held out his hand as the strangers walked by. every morning he did this. the money he longed for wasn’t for a video game or a shiny new toy. this was his job. he was 9 years old and old enough to fend for himself. if he wanted to eat today, this was his only option. his mother and father were gone and his only sibling was too busy with the heroin highs to notice the little man still existed. stumbling upon this crowd, he wondered if there would ever be reason for hope. apparently not, if this man was right. there would be no future.
the businessman was running late for a meeting. he had been successful in real estate and very little else. his wife had left him a few years ago and for some reason his children hated him for it. maybe it was obsession with work or his devotion to everything but them. each time he turned to something new, it was just another burnout, another failure. so he stuck to burying himself in his work. he was so preoccupied with his morning coffee and his reports he was peering over to sense the growing crowd. but then he heard the man declaring doom and gloom. ‘tell me something i don’t know’ said the man.
the crowd grew larger and larger. the man’s voice grew louder and louder. but i was there. on the edge, watching the passers-by and the speaker simultaneously. i stood there and watched. unable to move. i was stunned. how many times had i walked by the  homeless woman? how many times a day had i brushed off the poor orphan boy who just wanted something to eat? why did i always assume that being rich meant that all of  the man’s problems were solved? how come i couldn’t stop the speaker from shouting wrath upon the crowd?  it’s because this is the world i know now. why had i not seen all this before today? i couldn’t help but think, ‘i did this’. i did this because i couldn’t move. i said it over and over to myself ‘i did this’ ‘i did this’… i was too lost in my own world, too arrogant to help a little boy. too shy and weak to show concern for someone i thought had it better than me. this is the world i now know.
the world i know is not how it has to be. the world i know does not have to be surely doomed and the sky is not always gloomy. the world i know still has sunny days left and the people have time for restoration. in the world that could be, the woman doesn’t have to be alone and the preacher on the corner isn’t the voice of the generation. as i stood there, with the wind in my face, i finally recognized that all these people were not strangers. they were everyone i had ignored. i was one of them.

I like my big flat nose.

sometimes i feel the need to disengage, to retreat from everything around me. It is somewhat of a strange happening, because everything around me is begging for me to jump in, to leap across the divide, to become what i do not want to become, which is someone who gives in to everything and everyone around me.  i want to be my own man and stubbornly sometimes i think my way is better than anyone else’s. that’s the thing. it is not easy for me to be me.

maybe that sounds arrogant. but i say that with an actual almost disdain for the way my brain processes thoughts. i do not wish i was taller. i haven’t wallowed through life wishing i didn’t have such a flat nose. i like my big flat nose. i didn’t grow up with a complex about my big head. i know i got a big head, so what? i don’t wish that i could dunk basketballs like Michael Jordan or make women drool like Usher.

well, i always did “want to be like mike”, thats why i drank Gatorade like all the other kids.

but I do not need all that physical adoration that so many people crave. it has never been a goal of mine to be noticed like that. instead,  i look at those people who have a propensity to remain calm under pressure, the ones who never flinch. they always seemed like they had ice-water in their veins. i always wished i could be them. you know them. the person in the corner who seems so mysterious. i always wanted to be mysterious.

the issue for me, is that accepting the life i have to live is not a form of cliched, scripted speech i recite to myself everyday. it is rooted in one simple truth. i only get to be me once. i don’t understand myself any better than you understand yourself. i am not a better man because i can write a column about a topic. maybe i am worse off because I am a writer, or call myself one at least. i always have to get my point across. i’m probably more Chris Tucker in Rush Hour “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH??” to Clark Gable‘s “Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn” in Gone with the Wind. and i am okay with that, although sometimes it is nice to just not give a damn.

the thing is, i am not that calm, cool and collected, mysterious person in the corner. instead i’ve always worn my emotions on my sleeve. somehow i always end up front and center. i have opinions about things and i usually have a hard time keeping them to myself. i like to think that in pressure situations, i can succeed, though i usually end up with that furrowed brow look on my face. ya know, the “whatchutalkinboutwillis?” look. i try to hide those looks and its gotten better but i am who i am i suppose. it is hard for me to not stare at someone who has made a decision i don’t agree with and say: really? it’s my favorite word lately… REALLY?

the point of this post is not to have an all-access backstage pass into my life. your life is probably more exciting anyway. i guess it is just a reminder that we all have this one thing in common: we only get this life once, so we might as well accept who we are. we might as well proceed with the knowledge that the faster we accept ourselves as a unique personality, the more enjoyable that life will be. i said earlier that this is not supposed to be a cliched speech. this is real. life is chaotic enough and hard enough to keep up with without trying to become someone else in the process. being ourselves will just have to be good enough.