If it’s meant to be…

Today’s life lesson is not one that was taught to me by anyone, but more of one that I have learned via trial and error over my vast time walking this rock. This lesson is probably the easiest to understand but the hardest to do. We tend to get so wrapped up in what we are doing and what we are feeling that we stop looking at things in a broader, more stable way. We get comfortable. We get more egocentric. And this lesson is not just about relationships, but everything we do with our lives. Work, study, hobbies, talents….everything.

If it is meant to be, it will be. If it is not, then let it go.  Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Because there is more to it than that simple statement. Let’s look at both parts separately.

If it is meant to be, it will be.  It is easy for us to say we know what we want, that we are in the right place, at the right job, with the right person. When life is good, it feels like everything is as it should be. Happiness is in abundance, there is no need and little want. But what many of us fail to realize is that good things don’t just stay good, we have to constantly work on them. When we get comfortable and stop putting forth the effort we did to get there, we get caught falling behind and losing sight of the goal. Whether at work or at home, if you do not put the effort into what you are doing everyday, over time it gets noticed and you will soon not get the gratification and acknowledgment you once did when your energy, commitment and passion were put into what you were doing. Yes, some things were meant to be, but you have to make sure you are fighting to keep it. If its work, do you best everyday. Put forth the same effort and energy daily. Leave with a sense of accomplishment, not a sense of despair or worry. Do your best to leave work at the office so that you can focus on the rest of your life. If it’s a hobby or talent, it won’t get better if you don’t practice and push yourself to get better. If it is a relationship, finding the right person and both of you committing to each other is the EASY part. The hard part is making it last. We find happiness and get comfortable. Or we work so hard to “catch” the other person that we forget it was everything we did to get them that they fell for.  Be yourself. Let them fall for all of you, the good and the not so good. There will be ups and downs. It’s how we deal with both highs and lows that will make our “it’s meant to be” last.  Communication, compromise, honesty, trust and a good sense of humor will make it all be okay. But ALWAYS remember, you can only do your part. You will NEVER make or convince some to be or do something they are not.

Which brings us to part two. If it’s not, let it go.  Easy, right? Wrong. There is so much tied into what we have in our lives: time invested, emotions, comfort, security, knowledge, our own feeling of self-worth, sympathy or the ease at which things function for us (being lazy).  Sometimes we stay a jobs longer than we should. We feel a sense of loyalty that more often than not, is not given back to us by our employer. Or we like what we do and who we are doing it for, despite the fact that we are not getting our needs met. Other times we grow comfortable and do not want to put forth the effort to grow further or we fear that there is nothing better out there or you are not good enough to do better. Same holds true with hobbies and talents. We don’t finish art projects for fear of messing what you started up or that it will not turn out as good as it is in your head (story of my artistic life!) Sometimes we come up with excuses not to work on our craft. Even other times we hear that we are so good at something that we get satisfied with where we are at and don’t push ourselves to be even better. And worse yet, we never explore these things at all for fear of not being able to do them. And lastly, and to me the worst of all, is not being able to do this in relationships. If one person is putting in all the effort, its time to move on. If you think you can change the other person by showing them how much you love them, you are mistaken. Move on. If you are staying with a person because you feel you can not do better, the longer you stick around, the more you push away the potential person who IS meant for you. “I don’t give up. I’m not a quitter.” That is all fine and well when it comes to things that deal only with your choices, beliefs and needs.  Okay, I am going to fall back on a lesson given to me.  My dad and grandma both told me at one time or another: “It takes two people to make a relationship.” One person may be able to do all the things alone to kill it, but one person alone cannot do what is necessary to keep a relationship strong and happy.  If the other person has no desire to change or seek help, you are fighting this battle alone. Weight the options. If you are unhappy more than you are happy, its time to take a good hard look at letting go.

If it’s meant to be, go for it and do everything you can do to help is succeed. Put forth the energy, passion and commitment needed to help keep those happy feelings of work, life and relationships going. And it may just last forever or run its full course.  If it’s not meant to be, let it go.  Learn from it. Do what you need to do to better yourself because of it. Don’t let it hold you down.  Yeah, I know, easier said than done. But if you don’t, think about where that will leave you…

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You can’t make everyone happy…

My first life lesson entry on this blog will be one of my dad’s last lessons to me. At this point in his life, he was sober and seemed at peace.  He accepted that he had made tons of mistakes in his life, but also knew that in his heart, he had asked God for forgiveness, and it was granted to him. My life, on the other hand, had hit several hard road blocks. I had dealt with tough times before, but it seemed like the weight of what I was going through was going to be too much to bear. I was balancing having to be fiscally responsible, always living carefree and working a part time job. Balancing going to school with the need to use my time to help my family. (Actually, I accepted later that I just really don’t like being a student and the later was an excuse to drop out every semester.) And then I was trying to balance my family, my girlfriend and my friends. My personality is that of someone who feels the need to please folks, so all of these issues where tearing me apart.

My dad and I still had a rather shaky relationship. We started talking to one another, but it was more cordial than anything. Each of us had a pride that would not let us budge when it came to whose responsibility it was to start fixing our relationship. So, we spoke when we needed to. But for whatever reason that afternoon, he felt the need to talk to me. I didn’t tell him anything about what I was feeling, I think he just saw it in the way I was behaving with my family and heard it in the way I was talking to them.  He called me over and asked if he could talk to me. He said, “Son, I need to tell you something. I know that you always try to do what everyone wants you to or you try to do the things that make everyone happy. Let me tell you one thing: You’ll NEVER make everyone happy. Someone will always be unhappy by what you choose to do. Your life will be miserable if you keep trying to do that.  Instead, you should try your best to be happy; to live a happy life.  Those people that really love you will be happy for you and therefore share in your happiness. Those that don’t were never worth the efforts you were making to make them happy.”

That hit me hard, but it hit to the core of what I was feeling. I couldn’t juggle all of that anymore, or it was getting harder to do it in equal proportions. I felt like I was in a sinking ship. Because of other issues that I might talk about at a later time, I have a hard time letting myself be happy, but that message at that time helped open my eyes to the truth. You can’t make everyone happy.  Figure out how you want your life to look, what do you want to be doing, and what direction you want to move. If you choose a positive path and are living a happy life, those people in your life will share in your happiness, regardless of how much time or attention you are able to give them. The catch is, you need to stay connected so they know they matter to you. Life is too short for you to be unhappy or stressed because of the petty needs of others. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when the ones you love will need you to drop everything so you can help them. But that should be the exception not the norm.  If it’s the norm, you are being used. Live a good life. Be happy.

I made my choice then. And to this day, I don’t regret it. I had to pull away from some folks a bit. Others where put in the position of being distant friends, but knew they could count on me if they needed me. And I put myself in the position to be happy.  And for some time I was. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can start off by living a happy life…

Music soothes the savage beast…

My first memory of music meaning something to me was in 1975. I was having nightmares for the first time. I remember waking up in tears and walking to my parents bed room.  My mom slept on the side of the bed facing the door. I knew my dad hated me going to their room at night, so I would quietly open the door and just stand there next to my mom until she woke up. She’d let me in the bed and turn on the radio.  It felt like the same song was playing on the radio when I got in their bed, “Close To You” by the Carpenters. In a matter of moments, I would fall to sleep. Something about Karen Carpenter’s voice and that melody just calmed me and put me to sleep.

In my younger days, the radio and the record player were used more by us than the TV. My mom and my older sister were my biggest musical influences back then. Saturday morning cleaning music, pop music on the AM radio, the 8 track tapes we would listen to on our road trips to San Antonio and the countless summer days of playing the soundtrack to “Grease” on our Fisher Price white and orange record player! My sister and I would sing along to every song. All that music is so intertwined to so many memories.

As I got older, my teen years, I began to listen to music influenced by my peers. Catchy beats, great chords and riffs and all round good music. And for the first time, I was listening to the messages and stories told in the lyrics.  Don’t get me started on the music videos on MTV! I actually was watching the day it went on the air. Music wrapped itself around the anger I was holding inside. Music by Ozzy Osbourne, Suicidal Tendencies, Iron Maiden and so forth with its hard sound and angry and dark lyrics seemed to say what I was feeling. As I grew out of that, I started to enjoy songs about fun, passion, dreams, inspiration and just classic hits to go along with everything that came before it.  As an adult, I spent more time venturing into different genres and styles and spiritual music as well. My love of music has never left me. I have a knack for remembering songs and lyrics. My mom used to say that if I used even half of the brain capacity that I am on useless trivia on school work, I’d be the smartest guy around!

Needless to say, music has not only been a big part of my life, but it has helped frame the events in my life that have been the most memorable. Music can define a moment, be a backdrop for unforgettable events, can calm, excite or make us cry.  I give so much credit to song writers. It amazes me that with the words they put to music they can express what I hold deep inside and tell my story without knowing me. That should show us all that for as much as we are individuals, we are all very alike. We all experience life.  I don’t know what my life would look like without music. Songs inspire me, teach me, frame life events for me, help me cope in hard times and sometimes just make me smile. If my life had a soundtrack of songs at the end of my time, the songs would represent loved ones and friends, my childhood and youth, my spiritual journey and my heartache and joy.  Though I’ve never really dealt with the angry “beast” inside me, music helps sooth my soul.

End of my blog intro. Ready to post my first life lesson…

It takes a village…

I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true: It takes a village to raise a child.  Or an adult for that matter. My first post was about my biggest life lesson teacher, my dad. This post is about the countless others that helped me see what is out there in the world and about how our daily interactions have the potential to change everything we know.

FAMILY

My family on both sides have interesting family trees.  My dad was the youngest of 13 kids. Quite honestly, many of my cousins are old enough to be my parents. But with a big family like that, there was a family dynamic that is pretty impossible to duplicate.  My grandmother, my dad’s mom, was a true matriarch. From what I remember of her, she was a very simple, quiet woman. But to this day, I have yet to meet anyone who commands as much respect as she was given.  Every headstrong, egotistical, attention needing person in the family bowed down and put all of their petty issues aside in her presence. No matter how angry, upset, or excited they were, she was spoken to with reverence.

My mom was one of two children whose mom died when she was 6. She was sent to live with one grandmother and her only sibling, her brother, was sent to live with the other.  My mom and her grandmother lived in my mom’s aunt’s house and was raised with  her cousins, who she considers her brothers and sisters.  Because of the various family businesses, my mom’s grandmother reared about four families worth of kids, so all the cousins are a very tight-knit group.  To this day, the people I call my cousins are actually my second and third cousins. I lived with my mom’s aunt, my “grandma” for the last two years of high school. She was bed-ridden and battling cancer of the bone marrow, but was still one of the greatest people I ever met.  Her understanding of life could cross generations and still be on point. Life is life, no matter when you are living it.

My siblings and I are about as different as you can get, but that does not mean I have not learned so much from them and their kids. I was taught by example. Of what to do and not to do. I learned about dealing with kids with the help of their kids. And I have been shown an unconditional love by them, despite all of my flaws.

One of my greatest life teachers was my ex-wife.  When she met me I was no more than a boy in a man’s body. We balanced each other out so well. Her strengths were my weaknesses and my strengths her weaknesses. By allowing me to help her raise her teenage daughter, I learned my craft first hand. And by being an active part in the lives of my grandkids, I got to experience raising little ones. These lessons are memorable and priceless.

FRIENDS

I won’t bore anyone with listing everyone on this post. I’ll just say that I’m blessed beyond belief and more than one man deserves.  Most folks have two to five friends they can call on at any time for anything and get a response. I can honestly say that I have/had at least ten of them, if not more.  From my first friends in first grade to folks I’ve recently met, the people in my life ground me, lift me, teach me and love me.  I wouldn’t still be here if it were not for them. I don’t say it enough, but I love them beyond what they know.

THOSE I SERVE AND THOSE THAT HELP ME SERVE

Some of my favorite life lessons I have learned have been from the youth and teens that I have been blessed to serve over the years.  The honesty and truth; the amazement and wonder; the appreciation and love.  There will be a few of these that I pass on to you here in the near future.  Truly great stories and lessons to be learned.  And I could not have done this work without the countless number of folks that I have been honored to work with.  Some helped me learn professional lessons, others lessons on compassion, integrity and dedication.  Some were my role models. Others ended up sharing with me how I impacted them and that I was their role model.

So, looking back at where I have been and where I am now, I can say that the lessons I have learned and the ones I’m still learning daily (or in some cases re-learning) are that village that is raising me. My connection to the world around me all starts daily with the lives that God puts in my path to keep an eye on me and keep me doing what I’ve been put here to do…

You may not understand what I’m saying now…

So, before I start to share these life lessons, antidotes, and just plain silly stories, I want to take the first couple of posts to explain where this is all coming from.

We all learn, or should I say, should learn from our own personal experiences. Things happen, we try to understand how and why and we either like the outcome and keep trying to get it, or hate the outcome and should try to avoid doing it again. Now of course we all know some of us are a gluten for punishment and never really learn and some folks just plain refuse to try anything and stay “safe” their whole life.  I’ve always been kind of in the middle. I will try what I want, whether I know the outcome will be good or bad, but I know the possible risk and accept the potential negative outcome before it happens. But when I was younger, I was lucky enough to have people around me to learn from so that I did not have to make the mistakes for myself.  I respected their wisdom, I knew what they said came from the heart, and for some of them, I just plain feared the thought of ending up like them.

In sharing what I know I will be drawing off of my own experiences, of course, but much of what I want to share actually comes from those outside influences that helped me see things from a different point of view, helped broaden my understanding of life and people and helped shape many of the values I hold dear. This post will focus on where I got the tile for my blog, “You may not understand what I’m saying now…”

My father was probably the wisest man I’ll ever know, but was not the best dad or role model you would want. He was “the king of his castle” kind of man. He was never wrong, full of machismo, an alcoholic, a womanizer and spiteful when he wanted to be. I was blessed to see that by the end of his time on this earth, he figured it out. He found Jesus again, stayed sober, asked for forgiveness of those he hurt and led a pretty peaceful end.  Guys that have done all the terrible things he did normally don’t get the chance to fix it while down here. They normally pay for it in the hereafter. So he was fortunate.

My parents got divorced when I was 10.  In the events that proceeded, my dad fell deeper into his bad way of living and his alcoholism. I didn’t see him as much as I had in the early part of the divorce, and honestly, I didn’t want to be around him because of the drinking and some of the things he was sharing with me. But in his warped way, he knew I was going to need him. My dad had a way about him that even if you didn’t want to respect him, you did. A little out of fear but also because when it came to life, he was rarely ever wrong. But he had the WORST way of sharing his knowledge and wisdom with me! I can sit back and laugh about it now, but back then, I just looked at him with a puzzled look and said, “Okay, dad”.  I also know now that is method was bad because of his alcoholism, but his timing was almost always perfect. You couldn’t have planned the timing better if you tried.

My dad was never one to be short on words and had good stories to back up what he was saying (So now those of you who know me, know where I get it from).  But during that time in my life, from 11 to about 14, when he was trying to be there for me in his own way, he wasn’t very clear on the intent of the message, just the message itself.  And I think he knew it. He would end EVERY one of them to me with “You may not understand what I’m saying now, but you will later”.  By the time I was about to turn 16, our prideful ways of being created a big enough rift between the two of us that I cut him out of my life. As I grew into a man and started experiencing some of the things he was teaching me about, his words echoed in my head to the point of bringing me chills. How did he know? What did he see that I was missing? Why the hell is this guy, the father I hate, ALWAYS right? But in the end, he was right and the intent of the message was clear. It was a life lesson. It was his way of trying to warn and shelter me from what was on the horizon.  Funny thing is, that they were not really wasted on me. I heard them. I saw the warning signs, and for the most part, avoided the pitfalls that were there along my path.

So, for many of the items I will be sharing here in the near future, know that my dad was a huge influence in the lessons I have learned, have shared with my family and the countless number of teens that I have had the honor of serving over the years and hopefully with my grandkids, if they get to read this. Life lessons come in all shapes and sizes…me and dad