How Do You See It?

How Do You See It?

Happy New Year! Well, its been quite some time since we last talked. Thank you for all of the kind notes, calls and text messages asking me where the next blog was. The answer reminds me of a story about Louis Armstrong. As everybody knows, Armstrong is probably THE most important jazz figure of all time—both as a trumpet/coronet player and as a singer. For years people lined up to see his performances and waited with bated breath for his signature solos, and to see if he could make his horn hit the high A note. (I am told this is a very difficult thing to do) Of course, Armstrong hit the note flawlessly and repeatedly night after night. Once, a reporter asked him if he ever had any doubt he could hit such a note again and again. Armstrong smiled, pointed to his pocket and replied, “that note was right here all the time”.

And so it is with this post. It was here all the time. Just took a little break. If you are familiar with this blog, then you already know why. Time is an illusion and doesn’t really mean anything. Whether we connect in the immediate moment or over some extended length of time, neither the content nor the intent changes. That’s the beauty of connection, its timeless. So, hello my friend. Thank you for checking in again.

But…there is what we call reality, and everything that comes with it. Lets just say I am very happy the holidays are over. Its not that I’m a scrooge or anything, but even LTD eventually decided enough was enough. (Lets see who gets that reference) The 12 days of Christmas brought me two things—a houseful of relatives and Williams. Let me explain.

The relatives were mostly in-laws—naw–ALL in-laws. Now, I may run the risk of of running afoul of my wife by discussing my in-laws, but some things just have to be said. My in-laws (including sisters and brothers in-law—and their children) are special. And they stay. I love em and I enjoy em. But, they stay, for a long time. They stay so much, so well, and so long, their family business should be in extended assignment sniper training for the military. These people can wait out Godot. I was feeling anxious. I told myself, you can’t choose what the world is, but you can choose how you see it. It wasn’t working.

Then, there is the matter of  the Williams that came as a result of the holidays. I’m not talking about relatives from my side of the family. When I use the term Williams, I mean bills that are so large I use the proper name, William, as opposed the nickname Bill. Williams is the plural form of William, and brother, I got Williams. I told myself, you can’t choose what the world is, but you can choose how you see it. It wasn’t working.

Now its back to real life, or what we think that is. The toys are now broken and forgotten, the decorations are down, and the gym membership is finally getting a workout. All is back to what seems to be normal. With a little difficulty, everyone seems to be back in routine–wishing the week away to get to the weekend, and wishing the winter away to get to spring. No more winter wonderland, lights, eggnog, or Christmas songs. Its just cold. I told myself…well, you get it by now. And it wasn’t working.

Winter in Chicago is quite indescribable. The best I can do is to say its like locking yourself in a freezer, except that the freezer is warmer than the outside temperature. I walked today from the parking garage to my office, cursing and freezing all the way. I had to look crazy to other people as I muttered to myself. I didn’t care. I had a very bad mood to be in, and I kept that appointment. I didn’t even try to tell myself anything. I just stewed.

On the drive home I started laughing at myself. I laughed because I was in a sour mood because I wanted to be. It wasn’t because the holidays were over, the Williams, the in-laws or the cold Chicago winter. It was because that’s what I chose. I chose to identify with  being a helpless victim affected by outside forces and people. After I thought about it, I decided to choose to look inside, not outside. I decided to try and identify with my true nature, that of spirit. That true nature can’t be assailed or affected by anything—even a Chicago winter. I told myself, you can’t choose what the world is, but you can choose how you see it. It didn’t work right away. But, eventually it did. I enjoyed the rest of the drive home. I even listened to LTD.

Choosing to look at the world in a different way doesn’t work for me all the time. Mainly, because there are times I’m just determined to be miserable. But, I tire of that—sometimes quickly, sometimes not so much. And when I really think about it, making the choice works. Even the smallest thing in the world is all about how you see it. How do you see it?

Until next time.

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Just For A Second

Just For A Second

By now, most of you have a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from when I post my blogs. I am certainly not trying to proselytize or convince anyone of anything—just trying to share an idea. The idea is forgiveness. A different kind of forgiveness. That’s the theme of this blog, my interviews, presentations and my book (How To Stop The World And Get Off, Just For A Minute—available now at at Amazon, Smashwords and at http://www.vwspeaker.com!). Okay, sorry for the commercial. Let’s move on. The challenge of making regular postings is in couching the message of forgiveness in a way that doesnt hit people over the head or make them think they are being lectured to. Because that is certainly not my intent. The intent, again, is only to share an idea, for your consideration, or not.

I am fortunate that I get a lot of calls from friends who read this blog, and sometimes, even from my mother. They all ask me why I don’t post more often. The reasons I give are always my busy work and travel schedule. But, that isn’t the whole truth. The truth is, my schedule doesn’t matter. When you really want to do something, you find a way to do it. Thats the bottom line. So I had to dig a little deeper and be honest with myself as to why it seems to take so long between posts. Its sort of like taking good medicine, its not that easy, its kind of uncomfortable, but you really do feel a lot better later on. More on this a little later.

Last week, I was in Los Angeles, where I sat through a presentation by Arthur Laffer. Dr. Laffer is a Yale and Harvard educated economist, adviser to Nixon, Ford and Bush 41, and is the father of the famed Laffer Curve. Now, I have met Dr. Laffer on several occasions over the past 10 years at various venues, and, of course, I made no lasting impression on him. Last week, he didn’t remember me from Adam. But, that didn’t deter me.

Dr. Laffer made a presentation on the state of the US economy, political system and outlook for the future that I did not agree with, strongly. I won’t talk about Dr. Laffer’s positions nor mine, as those specifics are not necessary and I don’t want to sway anybody’s opinions to either side. But, there were sides. My reaction to Dr. Laffer’s presentation was, to me, surprisingly visceral. It doesn’t matter what he said. It matters that I reacted as though he could have a real effect on me. And react I did, purely from the ego—letting him know I had an economics degree and could read GDP quarterly reports just like him. It wasn’t as vitriolic as the current dialogue in Washington, but it was uncomfortable—for both of us. Just for a second, I forgot who I really was, and all it did was make me upset. It disturbed my own peace. Man, this remembering who and what I really am takes some effort.

The point of forgiveness, true forgiveness, is to remember our true nature. And that true nature is spirit, which cannot attack nor be attacked. Its hard to remember sometimes. But every time we do remember, and every time we remember that person did not really do anything to our true nature and then forgive, we get just a little bit closer to remembering who we are. So, I forgave the dialogue that Dr. Laffer and I had. It had no real effect on me—not on my true nature. I didn’t forgive immediately, but I did forgive. And I calmed down and felt peace. And that brings me back to being honest with myself.

The truth is, the real reason it has taken so long between postings, is that I haven’t wanted to offend anyone or put some ideas out there that may be uncomfortable for some people. At least, I haven’t wanted to make some points that couldn’t be done so without kit gloves. But, now I have a Bloody Mary and I am sitting at the pool deck of Ian Schrager’s latest hotel in Honolulu. And folks, here comes the truth, or a least a true question, just for a second. It comes from A Course In Miracles.

What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal?

What if there were no need for sacrifice or guilt of any kind?

In this context, the questions do not presuppose the answer. Just focus on the question, what if… What would you do if your recognition was such? Would you let the craziness of the world have an effect on you or would you recognize what is true and what is false? Does that sound familiar? Those questions are the truth about the underlying messages of this blog and finding a way to properly present them is what causes me to delay postings on a more regular basis, until now.

As you decide if you will contemplate or dismiss those questions, let me ask you one more. Would you be willing to admit that there is, at least, the possibility that you may not know for sure? Just for a second?

See you next time.

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4,000 Days

4,000 Days

Wow, its been a couple of weeks. The computer fix I paid so much money for failed. There is still a pink twinge to everything on my laptop screen, so I will have to have it fixed again. But, the good news, as they say, is I’m back on the air. Thank you to all of the people who called and wrote to me to say they have missed this post. I heard from people I didn’t even know were reading this. I am humbled and very appreciative. Of course, you all could have bought my book and never missed a beat…but, I digress.

I have missed the connection of writing on a regular basis. I didn’t know how much I missed it until this morning. I did a radio interview yesterday from California, where I am traveling until tomorrow. The show originated out of Atlanta, so that meant a very early morning for me. I awoke at 6 and looked over my notes and checked my blog site, when I  realized I hadn’t posted in a while. I enjoyed the back and forth of questions from the host of  the show, and it inspired me to fire up the pink computer screen and write.

Florence Shinn wrote a wonderful book, entitled, The Game of Life and How to Play It. I read it on the plane ride out west. Of the many wonderful insights she shares is the idea that man should make an art of thinking. Shinn believes the path to one’s desires is through the practice of right thinking and action taken as a result of that thinking. She believes positive action and thoughts bring about definite and positive outcomes and that man should not allow himself to exist merely on random thoughts. In her view, we should all take time to foster and nurture positive thoughts that are helpful to ourselves and to the world. Making an art of thinking are powerful words. Those words turned my thoughts to Florida.

It’s wonderful living in a warm climate. I remember it well. Even though I now live in Chicago, I highly recommend the experience. But even with living in Chicago, there are moments. We have had an indian summer. Warm climates mean warm nights, and warm nights mean sitting under the stars, wondering and thinking. There wondering and thinking about what we are and why we seem to be here. In colder climes, you have to do such positing indoors. Its okay, but it’s just not quite the same.

On the plane ride out west, I watched the movie Toy Story 3. Its sadder and more poignant than the first two, but its very, very good. Now, Andy’s childhood is over and its time for him to go away to college. What is to become of Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potato Head and the rest of the toys? Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. But, as the movie drew to a close, I could see some teary eyed folks (not me, but some folks!). I thought about my own three  children and of their childhoods. Boy, there are some times when it seems they will be children forever. That’s usually when I get tired of seeing the walls full of handprints, or stepping on toys, or traipsing to other kids’ birthday parties. But, it doesn’t last. Nothing does here.

It was warm that night in California. I sat outside and smoked a cigar. I thought about Florence Shinn and about Toy Story 3. I remembered the art of thinking and I thought about my children and about the wonderful time of childhood. When does childhood end? And how? When exactly is that last day we play with the race car set, our favorite doll or the Etch-A-Sketch? I can’t remember. Is it a hard stop or does it just eventually, somehow, come to pass? Does our childhood and our childhood dreams just fade away? I guess, I don’t know for sure.

There is, however, one thing I do know for sure. And that is, I don’t want childhood to end  for my children, just yet. I so enjoy their squeals and squelches, burps and belches. I smile at the wonderment in their eyes every time they discover something good. And though I am much too fat to partake myself, there is nothing like watching the pure joy of them eating ice cream. They don’t know what’s ahead or what life is really like. And I don’t want them to, not yet.

If you consider for a moment, childhood probably starts sometime around the age of 2 and a half. I mean, kids are not that conscious of much before that age. If we then consider that the know-it-all cynicism starts, in earnest, during the very early teens, that leaves about 4,000 actual days of childhood. 4,000 days. That’s all. It goes so quickly.

My career requires extensive travel several times a week. I have all of the frequent flyer miles, free hotel stays and rental car upgrades you could ever think of. My oldest child is 12. She will be 13 in a couple of months. Her 4,000 days as a child are coming to a close too quickly for me. Her brothers are not that far behind. Tonight, I think I want to try to spend as many of those remaining childhood days with my children as is practical.

There is a new opportunity on the horizon. It could make me very wealthy, but it is going to require even more time away and international travel. I’ve decided to weigh the alternatives, and the clock is ticking. 4,000 is closing in, and then the countdown will start for my oldest son. I can’t make all of the remaining days of their childhoods, but I can make a lot of them, and I can make them count. I want to hear them fight both going up and down the stairs, I want to see them giggle and laugh at silly jokes and see them go fast asleep at night because they don’t have a care in the world–except maybe a math test. I want to squeeze as much as I possibly can in the remainder of their 4,000 days of childhood. And, maybe just relive a little of it myself.

So, I think I have taken Florence Shinn’s advice and tried to make a point and an art of thinking—at least for tonight. And I think I cannot say yes to an opportunity that will make me miss more of the Williams kids’ childhoods than I already do. 4,000 days. That’s all. How much childhood is left in your house?

UPDATE

Finally, the website is live and updated. You can go there now! www.vwspeaker.com. The site has links to my blogs and a free preview of my ebook, How to Stop The World And Get Off, Just For a Minute. You can also sign up for my newsletter, which we will start publishing in November. Thank you, again, for all your support.

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It Was A Very Good Day

It Was A Very Good Day

For the last couple of days I have struggled to find a subject I wanted to talk about. I had lots of ideas, but I just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger on any one of them. This week, I tried to find the right inspiration over and over, but for some reason, I was distracted. I had nothing, and I continued to have nothing, until about 10 minutes ago.

I just couldn’t seem to drag myself out of bed this morning. Some days are just like that. Miles, the middle child, had a nightmare—at 2AM—and he let the rest of the house know about it. I couldn’t go back to sleep. That is, I couldn’t go back to sleep until 5:30 in the morning, just minutes before the alarm clock exploded and vibrated all the way across the dresser. By this time though, Miles was fast asleep. I love that boy.

I awoke in a bad mood, and I stayed in it. I didn’t brush my teeth right away because I wanted everyone in the house to ask me why, and I wanted to tell them, because I didn’t get any sleep. Have you ever had a day when you were in a bad mood and you wanted everyone to know, and you wanted then to know why?

It didn’t work. In my house, no one pays me any attention. Besides, everybody else was in a bad mood. I’m not sure if anybody brushed their teeth on this morning..

I decided to to only interact with the cyber world. I opened up my laptop and switched it on. The screen was cracked. Great. Most probably, like you, everything is on that laptop. Its how I start my day. I check e-mails, visit my favorite sites and I even plan my day there. All of my passwords are saved by my browser. I can’t use a different machine because I don’t have a clue what my passwords are. I can’t even check my bank balance or check into a flight. Aw man, this was a no good very bad day, I thought.

It was 6:45 in the morning. Ryan, my 12 year old, had forgotten to complete her homework assignment the night before. She frantically scrambled to complete it before the school bus came at 7. She didn’t make it. It wasn’t even close. “Can you give me a ride to school”? I haven’t even had coffee yet! Coffee tastes even better before you brush your teeth, and I was looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, I was impatient. I scolded Ryan for being late to complete her homework. She took it hard. She is the most lovely of children. She is a sweet and sensitive child, who really tries to please her parents and her teachers. She takes everything to heart. Now, my bad start to the day had made her bad start even worse. And I felt bad about it. This was a no good very bad day, I thought.

I went to the Sony store at the Woodfield Mall. Of course, I didn’t call first. And, of course, it was closed—out of business. I learned that fact from the gleeful people who work at the Apple Store. I decided to call the Old Orchard store on the way. It would be a 30 minute ride. After 20 minutes of holding on the phone, I was told I couldn’t buy a replacement screen and that the $400 repair would be ready in 10 to 15 business days. 15 business days without a computer? They were not kidding.

I found a place that sells replacement screens and I bought one. (I actually bought two, I broke the first one) I rushed home to pull up the youtube video that showed how to replace a computer screen. Then I remembered, I didn’t have screen to watch the video. I tried the self-repair anyway. I think you know that this did not go well. Right now, My computer is still sitting on the other side of the desk. Man, I was in a funk. It was a no good very bad day, I thought.

My wife had a meeting downtown, so it was just the kids and me for dinner. It was an early dinner. I made a chuck eye roast, sweet potato fries, and broccoli. The kids sat down at the table and shouted, and sang, and fought and ran all around. I had wine, they had grape juice. I thought about slipping them some of mine, in the interests of quiet. Instead, I just looked down at my plate, so I would not get angry. After they played with their food for what seemed to be a sufficient amount of time, I told them they could go to the basement and play Wii, IF they all ate their broccoli. They didn’t have much time because their mother was on the way home. They all knew when she arrived, it was going to be bedtime. She’s mean like that. They wanted to play Wii, right now. When Ryan dawdled in eating her broccoli, Chase, the 3 year old, angrily screamed at her to stop “bullsh%$#ng”! I figured it was a good time to raise my head.

He said, “I heard you said dat on da phone, Daddy”. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I told him to stop listening at the door of my office. I sent them all to the dungeon, er, basement. Man, this was a no good very bad day. I put my head back down and thought about the day.

And then I decided to be still.

I decided to be quiet and to listen to the voice inside. Its the voice that is always there, but that I don’t always hear because so much is always going on. The voice gently reminded of two very simple things. First, I was looking at the situations of the day all wrong. I was equating myself with a local being, a body—not with my true nature of spirit. I was making the situations real to me—not the ephemeral fleeting notions that they were.

The second thing I heard from my voice was that there are really only two ways to look at anything that seems to happen in this world—expressions of my true nature or calls for it. Today was a series of calls.

I thought for awhile. Thats right! Today had been a chance to me remember my true nature, a chance to overlook and forgive what was right in front of me. And I decided to take it. And I felt a peace and a joy that changed the whole of the day for me. I decided to forgive what had happened and it had no effect on me.

As it turned out, the day gave me an opportunity to show that external events and the demands of the world do not define me. Overcoming had nothing to do with actions in the world (after all, my computer is still broken) but it has everything to do with thoughts. I didn’t change the day, I changed how I LOOKED at the day. And this time, I could see that it had been a very good day.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

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Don’t Be Afraid To Be Coffee

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Coffee

Again, I am writing from the seat of a flight. This time, its United 369 from San Antonio to Denver. And yes, there is at least one bloody Mary involved. I’ve read the newspaper and caught up on e-mails. Now, I have less than an hour to fly, so lets get started with today’s post.
I was not smart enough to major in anything like philosophy in college, but I have always had an interest in the subject. I just don’t know anything about it. A couple of years ago, some dear friends invited my wife, kids and me to the south of France for vacation. Let me say, I highly recommend the experience. It was a great week. But, there was no television. At least there was no television I could understand. I had no choice but to engage in human communication and to read. What I didn’t know was that this trip was going to be an important stop on my perpetual journey towards spirituality and peace.
The villa we stayed in was magnificent. There were five couples (with kids) in all. During the day, individual families explored side trips to Niece, San Tropez and Monte Carlo, but we all gathered together for huge outside dinner each evening, under a magnificent Cote d’ Azure sky. We shared our experiences of the day and listened to our children s’ excited stories about their adventures. Miles, the middle child, took a particular interest in the topless beaches in Cannes. That boy.
After the kids were all in bed, after wolfing down rich dessert and coffee, and after the last cigar was smoked, I just couldn’t sleep. Back at home, my normal routine would have been to watch Sportscenter, but the French were apparently boycotting ESPN. So, I had to read. And so I did.
Very soon, I came across a story by the great philosopher Plato. It was called The Parable of the Cave. It is a story about several men who are imprisoned in a cave, by an ogre from a very young age. The men are bound together so tightly, they cannot move their heads, or even their eyes. They can only look forward, at the wall of the cave. They have been in this cave for so long, its all they can remember. They can see shadows on the wall and they can hear voices as people walk around outside, but this is all they know. It has been so long that the men think the shadows they see are the real world. They have been there for so long, they are used to it.
One day, one of the men manages to break free. He turns around and, for the first time, he realizes he has been living in a cave. He sees light, but his eyes are slow to adjust. When they do, he goes to the entrance and sees there is a whole world out there. He sees people talking and walking about. He realizes the images he saw on the wall of the cave were nothing more than shadows cast by people outside of the cave. He goes back to the cave to share his knowledge with the others and to set them free. But, by now, the others are used to their way of thinking and they are content to treat their meager experience as life, as reality. The other prisoners do not welcome the news, instead, they want to kill the messenger.
Plato’s lesson is that your reality may not be what you think it is. He also said its hard to look at what may be the truth when you are so used to what you see everyday. Plato believed although people may have forgotten what is reality, they can remember it again. He called the process anamnesis. If you have read this blog before, you know we call it forgiveness.
I have often thought about the story of the cave. It resonated with me. I started to ask myself some questions about my true nature, and if I really wanted to know the answer. I mean, if someone really traveled from the future and visited me, would I believe them? Would you? Baby steps.

And then, there is the oft-told tale of the carrot, the egg and the coffee beans. There are many variations, but the gist of it goes something like this. One day, a wise man had a student who was having a hard time with life. It just seemed things weren’t going the way of the student’s plans and it was all just becoming too overwhelming. The wise man saw a teaching moment and put three pots of water on the stove and brought them all to a boil. In the first pot he placed a carrot, in the second he placed an egg, and in the last he placed some ground coffee beans.
He explained to his student that we all think we have a nature, but that the stresses and pressures of life can test that nature. How you respond to those pressures, can reveal your nature—or at least how you see yourself. The boiling water put tremendous stress and pressure on our three commodities. The carrot completely wilted under the pressure. The egg hardened inside—surviving the stress, but becoming rigid, hard and unyielding. But, the coffee beans changed the nature of the water. They transformed ordinary hot water and made coffee. The wise man asked his student what he would be in the face of stress, the carrot, the egg or the coffee beans.
Our true nature is that of spirit, not the bodies we appear to be. This is just a temporary state—we’ve just forgotten it. We can remember that true nature through forgiveness. Facing that nature can be scary, like it was for the prisoners confronted with a different reality than the shadows on the cave wall. Or, for that matter, it was scary for the coffee beans to face the boiling water! But the shadows were only shadows, even if the prisoners thought they were real. And the coffee completely transformed the utility of the beans. Consider, just for a minute, what your true nature is. Remember the cave and don’t be afraid to be coffee.
New Website Coming!
How many times have I said this? I know. Its coming. Be patient. The new designer is great and the site promises to be more professional and user-friendly. Announcement coming soon. In the meantime, thank you for all of the support, emails and tweets!
Author 101 University
I don’t know Rick Frishman personally, but I subscribe to his newsletter and I bought the audio program to his Author 101 University. I shared my blog address with Rick and he emailed me and asked if I would mention his upcoming program in Las Vegas. Its October 29 – 31. I gladly agreed. I got a lot out of the audio program and would attend in person, if weren’t my wife’s birthday weekend. Here’s the link to Rick’s program: http://www.author101university.com . If you have the great American novel you want to get down on paper, its the place to be. By the way I am not affiliated with Author 101 University in any way, and do not receive any compensation. He just comes across as a good guy.

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My Summer Project…Finally

My Summer Project… Finally

Well the summer is, sadly, almost over. So, that’s just about the right timing for me to get started on my summer project–at least one of them. I never quite got around to building that tree house, as my daughter reminded me. Kids have to learn to deal with disappointment or they won’t be able to cope in this world. I’m doing my part to prepare my kids well.

As you may remember, I started off the summer with the grandiose plan of reconnecting with my two best friends in life, and sharing the results here. I made the first of those connections with my childhood best friend. I won’t disclose his actual name here, but lets just call him Rex. Rex and I were born on the same day, in the same city, in the same hospital, and we lived on the same street. Hard to believe, but true. I have even heard that our mothers shared a hospital room, but I will check that.

That street was Calloway Circle, of the 1960s Jacksonville, Florida. It was a time of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King. Even as little kids, we knew it was a special time. Something was always happening in the big cities up north. Walter Cronkite told us so. To Rex and me, the rest of the world was huge and exciting, but our little corner was neatly tucked between the boundaries of Bunche Drive and 45th Street. We knew every family on both sides of the street and we played every day (without supervision) until well after the street lights came on. Then, one by one the mothers of the street would call out the names of our playmates, and it was time to go inside. Rex and I never heard the first call.

We played everything. Old Red Devil, Hopscotch, Hide N Seek (only we called it Hide N Go Seek), and we went so high on the swing that we would almost wrap around the top. We played football and tackleloco—touch in the street and tackle in the grass, we ran track and we wrestled. The Raines Vikings, Florida A&M Rattlers and, ultimately, the Dallas Cowboys were kings– even though they could never seem to beat the Green Bay Packers. We didn’t know we weren’t rich. But we sure felt like we were.

We didn’t know danger, except for an occasional fist fight. We walked both ways to school, stopping for blow pops, now or laters, and those huge sour dill pickles. The store owners at Banner Food Store used to give us old cigar boxes to keep our pencils in. I remember knowing Rex ever since I could first remember anything. As little boys, we were inseparable. I was an only child (at the time) and he had a house full of brothers and one sister. There was always something going on at that house, and I seemed to always be there, and when I wasn’t, Rex was at my house. His mother was the first person to make me fried squash. I don’t like anybody else’s. We were like family. I even remember calling his Aunt Sissy my Aunt Sissy.

There was a big hedge that ran the length of our yard from front to back to keep out the neighbors. But Rex and I wore a hole in it, just big enough for a couple of 5 year old boys to scoot back and forth, and to sneak across Mr. Hane’s backyard, which stood between our houses. And we did so, back and forth, all day long, until we were called in for dinner and bed.

My mother and I lived with my grandparents on Calloway Circle. My dad was fighting in the Vietnam War. Rex’s dad was too old for military service. It seemed like every time someone graduated from Raines High School, they were drafted to fight in the war. I know that’s not exactly how it was, but to a five or six year old, that’s how it seemed.

It was on this street that I first had the idea my true identity was spirit, not a body. One day, the whole neighborhood had come out to play hide n seek. I was six. I remember that I was very happy to see the big gathering of kids. I was happy we all got along (and we really did) because, I thought at six, one day we will all be in heaven and arguments won’t matter anyway. I was overwhelmed with joy. It would take several years and several experiences to put that day’s feelings into perspective.

But in those wonderful days, Jacksonville, Florida was the center of the our universe, and Calloway Circle was the center of Jacksonville, Florida. And then, one day in May of 1968, my grandmother died. I was 7. I remember it like it was yesterday. My mother and I were devastated. It was a blow from which we would not soon recover. I’m not sure if we even have done so fully today. Shortly afterwards, we would move away to start a new life. We would move away from my childhood, away from Calloway Circle, and away from my best friend, Rex. It has been almost 43 years.

A few days ago, I found Rex. I had googled him and found him living in Jacksonville–still on Calloway Circle. I found him 3 doors down from his mother’s house (who is still living) and directly across the street from where I grew up. I called him up and we talked for hours.

He is still the same. Humble, polite and steeped in southern gentility. Wow, I lost that somewhere. Our paths have been quite different. Rex has lived on that same street for all of his life. He can still name every family on the street, who moved and who died—including dates. I don’t think I know half of my neighbors. Rex still checks on elderly neighbors and doesn’t feel he needs a burglar alarm. He says the old neighborhood has held up pretty well. Its still safe and property values have remained pretty stable. He still mows his own lawn (and his mother’s 3 doors down), washes his own truck and spit shines his shoes. He is not real fond of cell phones and has held the same job for 25 or so years. Its like Macomb of To Kill A Mockingbird. I can’t even imagine.

Rex’s mother is now in her 90s. He says she is doing as well as can be expected. He asked about mine. He has never married and lost a child to SIDS in the early 80s. I told him I was sorry. He wanted to know about my children. He had heard that I have lived in California and now in Chicago. Atlanta is as far as he’s been and he was very interested to know if California was all its cracked up to be. I told him, yes.

As I listened to Rex, I felt happy and I felt sad. I felt happy because I was listening to my childhood right there. And it seemed to be as perfectly preserved as one could reasonably hope, except for the closure of Banner Food Store and Singletary’s Barbecue. But I also felt a little sad, because I had not kept in touch and I had let big city dreams and ambitions get in the way of remembering people who were very important to me. Sometimes, I guess we all do. And then, I forgave.

What appears to have happened in a linear manner—the passage of time—actually occurred all at once, in a holographic manner. Its just that our experience doesn’t remember it, yet. And that means time doesn’t matter. You can forgive what appears to have happened this moment or years ago. It has the same effect. And so, I forgave my absence from the lives of Rex and the people on Calloway Circle and welcomed only the pleasure of remembering.

Next year, Rex and I will turn 50, on the same day. We made a promise to each other to have a drink together in person before that day and to call each other on our birthday. I intend to keep that promise. Thank you Rex for being the same as you always were. Thank you for being my friend.

Coming Soon

I have also located my best friend from college. He is a little harder to catch up to, but I will share those experiences here as well. Also the new website, http://www.vwspeaker.com is almost done. I found a brilliant designer who is doing a wonderful job of sprucing. Hope to have it online late next week.

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The Mirror Isn’t Always Pretty

The Mirror Isn’t Always Pretty

An early evening dirty martini and a setting sun can do wonders. But, it doesn’t always make the mirror pretty. That’s what I tried to enjoy before I started to write this week, but it didn’t change anything, really. Just how I looked at things, which really is the point. Last weekend, I took my two boys, Miles and Chase, to the county fair. It was a slice of pizza and of nostalgia. The cotton candy, hot dogs, candied apples, funnel cakes, and Italian ices brought smells of childhood waffling through the air. I was happy for my boys. They were going to have a good time, even if I had to make em’.

If you have visited this blog, my website or my book, by now you are familiar with the thought system of forgiveness, and the futility of trying to change the world. Instead, change the way you look at the world. Its all about recognizing and remembering our true nature. That true nature is spirit, not the separate bodies we appear to be. We know what our true nature is, we’ve just forgotten it. We can, however, remember through the practice of forgiveness. We forgive because the actions of the world and people in the world have no real effect on us. And every time we forgive in that manner, we move a little closer to remembering who we are. That’s why we forgive the rude driver who cuts us off. It really didn’t happen to our true selves. The peace we experience from that forgiveness helps us remember our true nature.

So, on to the county fair. The boys started fighting before I reached the end of the driveway, so I knew I was going to have a lot of forgiveness opportunities on this day. I just wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take advantage of them all. After settling down my urchins, the first such opportunity came in the form of Miles, the middle child. He had to go to the bathroom. Only, we were stuck in a traffic jam because there was a railroad crossing clogged by at least a mile of freight cars. I managed to pull across two lanes of traffic to pull into an abandoned parking lot to let Miles do his business, as only boys can, while being shielded by the car. “Not ON the car, Miles!” “Oh”. First forgiveness opportunity. I took it and moved on.

I pulled back into traffic, which was still stalled. Now, Chase was not happy because his headphones were not working and he couldn’t watch a DVD he had seen a hundred times before. The batteries were dead because he hadn’t turned off the headphones yesterday or the day before. It was going to be a long ride to the fair, so I stopped at a gas station to get batteries. Miles didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I forgave and then I moved on.

Twenty minutes later we pulled into the fairgrounds parking lot. Miles, the middle child, had to go, again. There was a problem. There were no parking spaces! We had to drive around and around. He was jumping and fidgeting in the back seat. His little brother howled with laughter. I shot a tiny gap ahead and whisked my SUV into a too small space. When I put the car in park and looked back to tell Miles he could go, he had already gone…on my seat. Now, he sat in a puddle and stared straight at the DVD screen, with his headphones on. “Miles! Miles! Miles!” “Huh?” I’m going to kill that boy. But no. I just yelled…and then I forgave and then I moved on.

It was a very hot day, so Miles’ shorts dried quickly. The boys had a ball. We played games, went on rides and ate too much. They even won prizes for their mother and sister. It was a very good day.

And then there was the Zero Gravity Ride. That’s the one where riders stand against a wall and are held there by centrifugal force as the cage spins and the floor drops. Miles, the middle child, rode on this ride. Chase and I waited. I didn’t like that ride even when I was a kid. Apparently, Miles didn’t keep his back fully against the wall at all times. A lot of kids didn’t. But for some reason, the ride attendant thought it was his place to chastise my son as he exited the ride. I was standing there with Chase. It was a forgiveness opportunity I did not take.

I lost it. The ride was shut down until I was through verbally blasting the attendant for raising his voice at my 8 year old. The boys (and the rest of the fair-goers) were oblivious as to why I was yelling, they just knew I was very loud and and very angry. Almost immediately though, I regretted it. I had made the situation real to me. I had forgotten my true nature. I had let this have an effect on me.

The boys and I left the area, but I was still steamed. We had some more junk food and rode ponies. Soon, we forgot about the attendant and enjoyed the rest of the day. But, later that night I didn’t like the way I felt. There was a clear disturbance of my peace. That was the bad news. The mirror isn’t always pretty.

Then I remembered. I could forgive at any time. Of course it was better to forgive in the moment because it eliminated all the wasted time feeling bad, but I could remember now. I could have peace, now. Time didn’t matter. And that’s what I did. I forgave the situation with the attendant..and I remembered my true nature…and I felt peace. I felt good.

That was the good news. I am not perfect, and as hard as I try to remember my true nature, I get caught up in the ego sometimes. But the beauty is, true forgiveness works across time and dimensions. You can forgive what just happened or what appeared to happen long ago, or a few hours ago. You can forgive a ride attendant and a precocious middle child. You can forgive yourself. And then, you can enjoy a dirty martini and a setting sun.

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