Tag Archives: family

Open Letter To My Younger Self

I have become a fan of The Players’ Tribune. A couple of my favorite essays are from Danny Woodhead and Ray Allen. (Not to mention the recent essay from Isaiah Thomas, but his doesn’t fit this blog theme). Danny and Ray write a letter to their younger selves. I wrote a blog similar to this idea, “Staying True To My Younger Self,” but it focused on my writing.

I’ll turn 46 in a few weeks. And this thought about what advice I would give my younger self keeps storming my heart. So, I thought I would get the idea out onto paper…

Dear Younger Me,

It is amazing to think that I am just over the halfway mark of this life. The first half seemed to take so long to happen, all the change and growth and heartache that has occurred in these 46 years is crazy to think about. But, the years seem to be gaining speed, and life is going by way too fast. The oldest son is a junior in high school and the youngest daughter just turned four. I have had five different professional positions. We have a minivan with almost 100,000 miles and still a few months to pay it off!

Be ready, you are going to need to work on a few things. This letter is going to be tough to write, I hope you understand it when you read it.

First, forgive them. Everyone. Do it now because if you don’t, each day adds weight to your heart and it becomes harder to forgive. In fact I still haven’t. I can’t seem to let go of the pain and disappointment and the what ifs. Ironically, part of the problem is the work you will do to create a better life for yourself and your family. I’m not father or husband of the year, but the dinner table is often filled with laughter. There are hugs and bedtime stories. Movie nights with too much candy and simple moments of joy that take my breath away. But I haven’t forgiven certain people. You know who I mean, so forgive them as soon as you can. You can still live your own life without them, but your heart won’t be burden with the weight of anger and pain.

Second, I hope you read this in time, but don’t quit football. Don’t make that mistake. It will be your greatest regret.  Also, write more, push to become the writer you have always dreamed of since elementary school.  I’ve learned that the door of opportunity only stays open for so long before it closes. And when you choose to close that door, it can get locked and you have to let a dream die. Football. Other dreams can still be achieved. Writing. But you have to find an unlocked window to climb through. And sometimes that window is on the forty third floor. You have to struggle more than if you would have truly pursue your goals when the door was open.

Third, tell people thank you and that you love them. Let them in. Not everyone. But the people who are helping you, sometimes believing in you when you are not. You might think you will have time, but you won’t. Mr. Holt will pass away before you can tell him thank you for believing in you. There are others, like the Hudsons, Scott, and Mrs. Lane, who you will take for granted while you grow up. Let them know you are grateful, today. “Thank you,” might be the hardest thing to say in life because it reveals how you were affected by someone else.  For that moment you allowed someone into your life with an open heart and you are letting them know that by saying thank you.

And finally, stay true to who you are. I know you will do this at times, you will make hard choices because deep down you listened to the quiet but strong voice. Other times you will feel lost and hurt and wonder why life is so dark. That happens when you lose your focus, when you let others decide your future. Your path will be clearer if you continue to make choices that align with who you are (and what your goals are).

You are going to make it. At the halfway mark of life you will be amazed at how far you’ve come (and that you have driven two minivans as a dad). It won’t be easy, but I hope you take my advice so that when you arrive here you would have experienced more joy than heartache. But even if you don’t take my advice, you will look ahead to the second half of your life and you will know, even though the years are speeding up, that they will be filled with love.

                                                                                             Sincerely

                                                                                              You at 45

P.S. Remember this song?

 

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Why Love: Joy

Two hearts with confetti

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Or had your first serious heartbreak?  Both of these moments highlight the second answer to Why Love, and that is Joy.

Without getting too deep, I am going to touch on the magical aspect of love but also reveal the importance of why choosing love allows us to feel joy.

So let’s go back in time to that heart pounding time when that certain someone made you see the world in a whole new light. Falling in love. Do you remember how your priorities changed? How even rainy days were awesome? How you were awestruck by their eyes and totally lost any sense of time when you were with them? Life was so good.

Just for a second, let’s deal with the heartache. How dark and painful it felt. I know the argument that love breaks your heart, but that is wrong. People break your heart, not love.

Quote with roses on rocks

Falling in love and sadly the pain of heartbreak reveal the strength love has in revealing joy in our life. I use romantic love because many of us have been through this roller coaster of emotion. But joy comes from all aspects of life. My children have brought me to tears of joy as I watched them play with bubbles. I have lost the sense of time sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee. I have jammed out to a favorite song on the way to work. Life has been so good.

And yes, life has beaten me down. I have had serious dark days… but that is the crux of this answer. I believe that when we choose Love, it allows us to see the real beauty of this life. By seeing and acknowledging that beauty leads us to feel joy.

No, Love does not remove the hardships of life. Two years ago I wrote about the strength it takes to feel joy. This reveals how connected the choice of Love is in our life. Love brings us success in our life, it builds strength, it brings us joy. It is a cycle that creates an awesome life that can handle the hardships we encounter. But in the next post I am going to reveal the most important reason to choose Love. And I read it in a book…

Below is the song that I quoted earlier in the post.

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Why Love: Success Part 1

Title with hands on a high bar

Before you watch the following video of Gina Auriemma talking about athletes he tries to recruit, pay attention to his use of the word Love.

“Recruiting kids that are like really upbeat and loving life and love the game and have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well..”

I recently blogged about how my sons have felt the sting of failure, but also how it was important to feel that pain because it meant their heart was in it and that they would eventually have success in their activities (Losing Hurts and that is Good).

Success.

That is the first reason or answer to the question: Why Love? As I mentioned in my blog, and if you follow the UConn Women’s Basketball team this year, you know that you can still lose even if you play with heart. But that ability to play or live from Love gives you the strength to handle setbacks.

There are two ways Love helps us succeed.

  1. Builds Strength
  2. Is the foundation to successful characteristics (for next post).

Building Strength

Let’s do a mind experiment. Think back to a time you were frustrated, angry, or felt lost or sad. There are a million ways we handle these emotions, but at the base of these emotions was a sense that the situation and feelings were imposed on you. That you had limited control or choice. I what you are thinking, and yes, I’ll quote the cliche: You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you… (Brian Tracy).

And I use the word cliche because we have all heard this before. But which attitude should we choose? I can choose anger, or fear, or any attitude I want. But when you choose Love you are building strength to become successful.

OK, stay with me as we take this a step deeper. Go back to the mind experiment and the negative reactions. Now think about control with the idea of strength. An easy example, have you ever said something in anger that you really didn’t mean? Or at least thought it? Yes, we all have. How does that happen? We lose control because we are not centered (or strong enough at that moment) from a stance of Love (the choice to care about a person, thing or idea, and to act accordingly). So we internally, or worse, externally say something we don’t really feel. Yes, at the moment we do because those emotions are controlling our hearts and therefor our minds and mouth. Love gives us the strength to choose a different outcome.

It takes time and practice to operate from Love. Each time you do, you become stronger, you become more in control of your life. Nothing… Nothing stops the pain and tragedy of life. Love is the factor that helps us move past those moments to build a successful life. We will still lose games on last second shots, that’s life. But who wouldn’t want to be a part of a team with 11 championships or a 111 win streak? Or better yet, laughter at the dinner table, friends and family at Christmas, and Love.

The next post will look at the second part of success, how love is the foundation of successful characteristics.

Quote with a single star and last sun rays

 

 

 

 

 

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Part I: Definition

Title with dictionary page

There are 97 words for Love in Sanskrit. Each revealing a specific kind of love, like passion or motherly. In the English language we  tend to use the word Love to mean lots of different things. We have 22 definitions according to Dictionary.com of the word Love.

For this series I think it is important to create a definition to work from for the deeper and more abstract ideas I will share in future posts. Now, this has not been easy. I wanted a direct and clear definition that would allow me to expand my answer. So after many edits and rewrites I have decided to use the following definition for the bases of this series.


Love: the choice to care about a person, thing or idea, and to act accordingly.


I understand that your definition might be different. And I know this does not encompass all the possible ways that our society uses the word Love. But it is a good definition to build my answer for the upcoming posts.

Let me spend a moment explaining my definition.

Choice

First, there is a magical aspect of love, especially romantic love, but I will write about that later. For this definition choice is the first component. Love is more than feelings. We can choose our actions, our words, and the way we interact with this life.

Care

As an English teacher I knew not to use the word in the definition, so I decided on the word care. This is an umbrella word that allows me to be specific with examples but will transfer well to other examples for you, the reader. I might care about a person’s development, or care about my goals, or care that my child is afraid of the storm.

To Act

Here is the crutch of it all. To act. To practice what I preach. Not easy, but that is for a future post in this series. For now, the most important aspect of this definition is the action, whether it is in thought, belief, or physical behavior, action is important.

Now that I have developed a working definition, the next post will start to specifically answer the question: Why Love?

Share your definition of Love in the comment section or on Twitter with me.

 

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Why Love

Tilte with boy running with balloons

A simple question keeps running through my head lately; ‘Why Love?”

Why anchor my life on Love?

Why not money? Why not success or pride? Why not fame? Why not Hate? These things seem to work… watch TV or YouTube to see how many times these characteristics get likes or shares. The guy tailgating me has a nicer truck than me (and I’m even in the right lane going the speed limit). I still tip even when my family is treated like nobodies at a restaurant.

Really, why not instill a selfish attitude in my children? It would be easier to send an email to the school complaining about something instead of listening to my children, asking them how they can make it better or how to work through it. I can teach them to not care about teammates or friends. The feelings and aspirations of others are not their concern. If they are going to make it in this world they have to go for theirs and pity anyone that gets in their way. There is no such thing as loyalty or dedication…

But I don’t. I do my best to choose Love.

Why Love?

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try to answer that question through a series of posts exploring how Love works in building an incredible life.

Why Love? Join me to find out why.

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Losing Hurts and that is Good

A last second basketball shot

The photo above is a last second game winning 3-pointer in the championship game… for the other team. My second son is number 15 in the red uniform. He has never lost a game like that before.

Teen performing a speech

The picture above is my oldest son, performing serious prose for Speech. At districts he got third in one round, but got sixth in another. He didn’t qualify for finals.

As a dad it was hard to lessen the pain my sons felt after each of these moments. Even harder to explain the benefit of losing (blog post from 2011). I want them to know that character is built on both sides of the coin, winning and losing. I want them to know that it is important to feel the pain of defeat because it means that their heart was in it.  And honestly, I think that is the most important aspect to success.

Anyone can participate in a sport or activity. Some are even successful without ever putting their heart into it. I mean that they can win on talent alone, but that isn’t the only reason to be involved in an activity. Finding out who you are and expressing yourself through that activity is the greatest achievement.

No matter if we win or lose we have moments that reveal who we really are in our pursuit of our goals. Putting our heart into an activity allows us to become ourselves, to understand who we are. To be great as a person. I know I am their dad, but I am proud of the men my sons are becoming.

My oldest son got his first main role as a third grader. He was Charlie in Willy Wonka Jr.

Boy performing as Charlie

This year he choose to perform Sweeney Todd, one of his favorite plays, during Speech season. Next year he hopes to perform an original piece, plus compete in Poetry. I am proud of his strength to perform pieces that are true to his heart and not sell out in hopes of winning.

My second son started playing basketball in first grade.

boy dribbling ball

He has worked hard, from that first game when he would not move from his spot on the court when he was on defense, to playing with the NBDA Bison Green team. I am proud of his work ethic and focus on achieving his goals.

I am most proud of both of them for feeling the sting of defeat, because it means their hearts are in it, win or lose. And if they keep pursuing their goals with their heart, I know they will succeed, especially in life.

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Staying True To My Younger Self

I apologize ahead of time, this post is going to ramble, but come together at the end. If you have a busy day you may want to save this post to read later…

I recently shared a post on Facebook about an aspect of writing that all writers go through, rejection. In this digital age we get rejection emails instead of letters, and my mailbox was filled with them. I’ve been getting a lot of them this year. Even when you know this is a part of the process, it is still hard to deal with right at that moment, or in my case, so many at one time. And some of them hurt more than others for different reasons. The grand prize for one contest I entered was to speak about poetry to students at colleges. I thought that would be cool.

I was thankful for all the responses from family and friends on Facebook telling me to keep writing. To stay true… which brings me to a YouTube video.

Dream On” by Video Advice is one of those motivational videos that mash up  different speeches with video clips, mostly from movies. This video’s audio starts with a quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Commencement Address at the American University in Beirut:

Girl looking at mirror

As you think about that for a moment, let me share what my word of the year is:

Designed by second son.

The idea behind that word was for me to BE a good father, to BE a good husband, and to BE a writer (yes, I hear Yoda, too). Instead of trying to do these this year I am going to fulfill those roles, which highlights the Facebook post, rejection letters (emails) are part of the process of being a writer. Especially since it has been awhile since I have actively pursued getting my work published. I have to be ready for those setbacks.

But let’s connect the Facebook post to the quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and the responses I received about staying true…

What I find most empowering about his idea is how Nassim Taleb flips the idea of looking back on our lives. The popular idea is to give advice to our younger selves. Heck, there’s even a web series where athletes write back to their younger self (The Players’ Tribune). Let alone the popular songs and such.

But Nassim Taleb flips the idea, asks us to consider if who we have become would make our 18-year-old self proud. Did you fulfill the potential you held at that time? Did you pursue your goals? Did you live up to your own standards?

That’s a powerful idea…

And as I worked to publish the 20 Year Anniversary of my first book of poetry And I Never Told You, I came to realize as a poet, as a writer, that I had let myself down. Not that I ever stopped writing, but I let that part of me fall to the bottom of my priority list. As Nassim Taleb states, life corrupted me.

Corrupt might be a harsh word, but still true. As I read through other poems to add to the book, I noticed how the poems had more passion. They were raw, even undefined at times, but the poems represented my troubles and joys authentically. My poetry now is stronger in form and still reveals depth of emotions, but maybe not so openly. The poems have a guarded feel, more layers to get through. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, some of my favorite poems are from the last couple of years. What I hope you understand is how life has changed me to be more guarded in my works, to be more guarded in my everyday life. The irony is that I still feel the same pain.

Nassim Taleb’s quote seems to hint that life corrupts us with money, status, and things like that. But life can corrupt us with fear, pain, confusion, and simple busyness. What bill is due this week? What time is the dentist appointment? These things can blanket our dreams and even our hearts.

So I am making my younger self proud by BEing the poet and writer that I wanted to be. I know there will be rejection letters and other hurdles.  How about you?  What could you do today that would make your younger self proud? It doesn’t matter how old you are now, what matters is that you can pursue your goals at any time. Let today be day one of your success story.

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