Welcome to the 11th Blog Blast for Peace and my 10th participation.
Trav's Thoughts went dark nearly a year ago, on 18 November 2013. I knew when I made the decision to stop blogging that it was the right one. The time spend was easy to divert to other activity, but I did miss the community. So it's a treat for me to take Peace Week and reconnect.
Such a treat, in fact, that I ask you to forgive me. I'm about to go on at length.
On Sunday I posted Peace Quotes. Did you happen to notice that there were only 29 instead of 30? Yeah, #11 was missing. I did that on purpose because the words spoke to...well, they spoke to what I kind of wanted to speak to this year.
"The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday, and along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you."
That comes from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. I'm pleased that I haven't gotten too late in life to get this. I really get it.
There have been times in my life when I have just drifted. I didn't put any effort into where I was going or what I was doing. I settled for what was good enough without considering what I really wanted. It isn't easy to create love, manufacture meaning, or generate motivation when you don't know what you want.
Figure out what you want, and life is a go. Figure out what you want, and you'll generate motivation to go get it.
It's hard to know what you want. Do you know? I mean, do you really know? I was fortunate as a boy to have my grandfather, who always told me that whatever it was I did, I should do it to the best of my ability, even if it was something I wasn't sure I really wanted to be doing. "My boy," said he. "There will come times when you simply must do the thing in front of you. When those times come, stand and do your very best. No regret comes to a man when he knows he has given all he has to a task."
When I was a kid, I wanted to play football and be a Marine. My mom and my sister sacrificed and supported so I could play. Mom took me down to talk to the local Marine recruiter when I turned 16. She let me visit colleges when I was being recruited for football. She never said a word about financial considerations, which I knew were problematic.
Then the Marines and football were taken away by a devastating knee injury. The thing in front of me was recovery and rehab. Grandpa said to do whatever was in front of me as well as I could, so I gave everything I had to that. And I healed physically.
Mentally I didn't recover. And so a few years later I found myself in Los Angeles in a job that was making me miserable. My grandma asked if it was really where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Grandpa asked if I was giving it my best. No, no, yes. They told me there was no shame in coming home. I'm not a quitter, said I. It's not quitting, said they. It's re-setting the path.
A few years later I was underemployed and renting a room from some friends, and on my way to rock bottom, still not mentally recovered from the greatest disappointment of my life. "Son," said my stepdad. "What are you doing? You're just not going to find anything as good to you as playing football or being a Marine, so grieve for that loss. Stop trying to replace it. Give yourself a chance to think about what you can want. And when you have an idea, let's talk about it and see if we can't figure out a plan to go get it."
Well, when you put it that way.
It was just a simple little thing I decided I wanted. I wanted a Monday through Friday office job with weekends off and real benefits, and maybe some vacation time. So we put a plan together and I went and got one.
Hey! This figure out the want and put a plan together thingy works!
I authored a string of small successes. New stereo? Put together a savings plan and got one. Weekend trip to the mountains? Found the right weekend when my friends were free, got a Friday off, got some cash together, and off I went. New car? Talked to the bank, figured out cash flow for a monthly payment, shopped around, and got one.
I know what you're thinking and you're right. Those things were small potatoes. But I learned playing football that you've got to practice. You've got to get the technique down. You've got to do reps to ensure muscle memory. So I practiced want/plan/execute.
And I began to heal mentally. Finally.
Then I got cancer. And guess what? Want/plan/execute worked for cancer too. It started well before diagnosis, when I wanted to be completely healthy, in mind and body. As I let go of grief for what I couldn't do, I started to work on what I could do. I worked as hard in the gym as I had when I first rehabbed my knees. And I paid attention to my health in other ways. So when I found something totally wrong...a hard mass where none should be...I got it checked out right away. I found it so early that the lab could barely stage it.
I wanted to beat that bastard. So I worked with my family, my friends, and my docs on the plan to beat that bastard. We executed on that plan, and I beat that bastard.
Still with me?
I wanted a better job with a fatter paycheck and some kind of future. Put together a plan to get out of my hometown where I was going nowhere. Got down south...I was ready for LA now baby...got a better job that paid for college, bought a townhouse, finished my degree, and you know what happened next.
I sold my townhouse for three times what I owed on it, got out of California, moved to Washington, found my career at the company from which I expect to retire...and met Pam.
OK gang. That's a lot of rambling. Let's sum it all up.
My family's hands of love built the foundation that made everything in my life possible. Grandpa taught me to put my best effort into everything I do. Grandma and I were connected spiritually from my first days, and she helped me understand that re-setting isn't the same as quitting. Mom taught me how, when, and most importantly why to sacrifice in the short term to benefit in the long term. Sis taught me that hugs heal, and let me be to my niece what Gram was to me. My stepdad taught me how to remake a stalled life.
Pam...well, she is everything in that quote way up there at the beginning of this very long Peace post. She is the love we created when I smiled at her and she thumped the back of my head. She is the meaning we generated together when she let me see the pain of the loss of her parents, and when I let her see the pain of my loss of football and the Corps. She is the motivation we generate every day, to be honest with and to trust each other with everything we are.
My family's hands of love built the foundation of my personal peace so that Pam and I could build the home that sits upon it.
Don't wait for love...put your love out into the world. Don't search for meaning...define it for yourself. Don't look for motivation...be motivated. When you find yourself drifting...ask yourself if you know what you want and whether you are executing a plan to get it.
Don't let your life live you...live your life.
I know what I want. Pam knows what she wants. Together we know what we want. If we drift off course...and we will sometimes...we toss pennies at each other. Pennies for thoughts. Thoughts of what we want. Plans to get there. Execute on the plans.
We are happy. We are peaceful. We send those ripples into the world in the way that seems best to us.
Dona Nobis Pacem