****This was originally written in September of 2006, when my daughter was nine years old...
My 9 year old daughter forgets things all the time. She'll forget her binder, she'll forget her glasses, she'll forget to clean up after herself. Basically, if something was supposed to be done, and she was supposed to do it, there's a good chance she'll have forgotten it. "But I forgot!" is usually the phrase I hear just before the reprimand comes. I can't be alone in all this. There must be a billion other parents who hear the same thing. Every day.
Why am I sure of that? Because I used to say it all the time when I was her age. It takes effort, but I have to remember that. I said it so often, my sister nicknamed me “Coma”. As a matter of fact, I said it so many times, I even developed a theory for it that I tried, unsuccessfully, to use to my advantage. It went something like... "But if I forgot, then I wasn't thinking about it. I can’t be disobeying if it wasn’t even in my mind. So how can I be faulted for not doing something I wasn't even conscious of?" Not bad for a little kid.
The fact that I thought it up in the first place though, probably means I needed to because I forgot so often. It helps me now when my daughter forgets something. I know I have to teach her responsibilities, but it helps to keep in mind that she's 9, and 9 year old kids will do that. It's been that way forever. Or at least since I was 9.
*** I’m putting a disclaimer here, as I probably should with most of what I write. It would be easy to challenge that my premise doesn’t cover every single aspect of life. So here goes… disclaimer…. my premise doesn’t cover every single aspect of life. I know there are situations people are not to blame for. This is just one person’s opinion for what I think covers a wide swath. I understand there are exceptions.
Sometimes, it’s hard to be honest with someone. Maybe you don’t want to hurt them, or you don’t like confrontation, or you’re embarrassed, but whatever the reason, it can be difficult to be honest with others at times. And if you’re good enough, sometimes, you can get away with that lack of complete honesty.
However, by far, the most difficult person to be completely honest with, is you. Lying to yourself is easy. And if you want to believe it bad enough, you will. It can even become second nature.
Self-deception happens because you don’t want to believe certain things about yourself. You do something inconsiderate, and spend the rest of the day rationalizing why it was the right thing to do. You get fired and convince yourself your boss had it in for you. Or your significant other left you, not because you were too messy, but because they were too neat. Not because you were too clingy, but because they were too distant. You tell yourself these things because you need to believe them.
You know all your own weaknesses. You've spent a lifetime working up good rationalizations for them. It's a self defense mechanism, because if you're constantly reminding yourself of all your poor choices, your self-esteem will disintegrate and you’ll never get anything accomplished.
But this self-rationalization, this "blocking" of the things we don't want to see within ourselves, can be habit forming. It can be easier to block out what we don't like then trying to change it.
So we eat poorly and tell ourselves we're under a lot of stress. We don't exercise and blame it on a malady. We have snags in a relationship and rationalize how we're right, and they’re wrong. We don't save any money and blame it on the bills while we rationalize the things we buy that we don't need. We don't get enough done at work and blame it on too many things to do.
And there’s no one there to call you on the lie, because you don’t want to.
But this also leads to great unhappiness and frustration. Since you convince yourself very little is actually your own fault, you also convince yourself you have very little control over your own life, a cloud is following you, you have terrible luck, fate is against you and life is unfair.
What a difficult way to go through life.
Instead, we need to learn to be honest with ourselves. You can't progress, and you can't take control of your life, if you can't be honest with yourself, and really understand where it’s going wrong.
Once a person learns to recognize his or her role in how their life is playing out, their chances of finding center, of being happier, more satisfied and more content, expand by multiples.
Think about it. If everything is your fault, than you have the ability to change everything you want about your life. And even if you decide not to, the knowledge that you could, takes a huge weight off your shoulders. You’ll know you’re not unlucky, fate isn’t against you, and that you do have control over your life.
If we're gaining weight, we need to be honest and examine why. Maybe we're eating too much junk food. Maybe the stress we’re under is part of the problem, but maybe we’re also using the stress as a rationale for completely losing our discipline. At least be honest and admit it. If we don't exercise, don't blame it on lack of time. We know how many minutes each day we slack off. There's time. We just don't make time. Relationship problems? Take a look from the other person's perspective. We're probably as much at fault as they are. Money Problems? Admit you waste money. The bills may be large, but admit you helped some of them get that way. Recognize what's wrong so you can fix it. Look at your job. Do you really work like a slave? Or have distractions crept into your work day? Admit it if they have. It gives you control.
Recognition of one’s own culpability is a key element in finding contentment.
When a negative happens in someone’s life, all too often, he or she will look outward to place blame. That’s when the “Why me?”, or “What did I do to deserve this?” thoughts come. This perspective only serves to perpetuate the thought that you don’t have control of your life, and negative things happen to you undeservedly. You feel unlucky, frustrated, with no recourse.
On the other hand, if you could honestly dig down, and find the root cause of the problem, very often, you’d find it had something to do with a choice you made, or an action you took, at some point in the recent, or even distant past. The ripples of consequence can travel for years, or even a lifetime after a choice has been made.
And once you recognize your own role in these occurrences, you no longer have to ask questions like, “Why me?”. The feeling of fate being against you disappears. Once you recognize the role you play in your life, you realize you have more control than previously thought, and life may not be as unfair as it once seemed.
It's a "free will" society to a very large extent. We each make our own decisions that affect ourselves, including how we react to things that we do not have control over. Recognize that you made many of the decisions that led you down paths you don't enjoy.
You have to recognize the problem to heal it. You have to be honest with yourself so you can begin to address where you need to start fixing things. You don't have to fix them all at once. Tiny steps are better than none.
Be aware that being honest with yourself is really difficult, but also one of the most beneficial skills you can develop.
When those feelings of lack of control, lack of luck, and feeling put upon go away, they’re replaced by feelings of empowerment. You do have control. Even if you continue to make the same choices, you’ll know that life doesn’t hate you, and fate isn’t against you. You’re no longer the unlucky one. And your life, is in your own hands.
Let’s talk about things that really tick me off. Why? I’m not sure, except it feels better if someone else knows them. Especially if I can get someone to jump into my emotional stew along with me.
For a couple of these things, my own lack of insight keeps me from understanding their reasoning. I’m sure there are reasons. And even though I recognize that, my perspective is just weird enough to amuse myself, so I’m sticking with it. With some of the other items, they aren’t amusing at all. They just tick me off.
One last note…I’m sure, if I thought harder, I’d discover this is just a partial list. I should put a “#1” after the title, because there will probably be a “#2” sometime in the future.
Here we go…
Issue #1 – “Frozen Butter Patties”.
Whose idea was it to freeze butter patties at a restaurant?? I’m tired of sitting on my butter. Future generations won’t understand someone started doing it because their butter was frozen. They’re going to think we thought it was a great idea to sit on our food. I hope they don’t mentally connect Oatmeal and Cucumbers to the butter patties. And yes, I know there is the “Armpit” alternative. That’s a really great choice.
I’m sure it’s a sanitation thing but give me a break. Rotate the butter patties out of your freezer and serve them a little softer for God’s sake. I don’t see them serving us frozen steaks, and I don’t see them boiling our water.
Issue #2 – “Solo Public Restrooms With Door Labels”.
As a natural segue, let’s move on to public restrooms.
I’m sure there’s a state law somewhere that dictates this one, but it is so inanely stupid, someone needs to say something. It affects mostly women, and maybe someone’s already whipped up a public frenzy, but I don’t know that, so I’m carrying the flag of protest against single person public restrooms, with door labels that say, “Men” and “Women”.
Who was it who decided that even though you have two restrooms that each contain only one person at a time, you still have to have one just for Men and the other just for Women? How stupid is that?
There’s a line of 37 women outside the women’s room, with more than half praying they don’t cough or laugh. In the meantime, you have no one standing outside the men’s room, which, by the way, is only five feet away.
Why would you possibly have separate Men’s rooms and Women’s rooms, when each of them only takes one person at a time anyway? Is there fear someone will leave the seat up? I’m pretty sure most women will accept that risk, in return for being able to pee inside the restroom instead of outside the restroom. It’s stupid. Cut it out.
Issue #3 – “Public Shaming For Tips”.
I’m prefacing this next one by first saying I’m a pretty good tipper. Wait staff have a difficult job, they work hard, and they get paid a pittance outside of their tips, compared to other employees in other industries. I recognize that, and when I tip, I generally just take the end total, tax and everything, multiply it by 20%, and that’s the tip.
I’m not a Grinch, and this peeve isn’t even really about tipping. It’s about how I want it to be my choice, without pressure, and I shouldn’t be asked about it, particularly in front of others.
So I will be the torch bearer for all those who forever wonder exactly when it was decided to be okay, to put the customer on the spot and ask him or her if they wanted their change back (when paying in cash).
It’s not about the tip. It’s about the wait staff asking me about it. I want my change back because I don’t want to be put on the spot. I want to decide my tip without feeling like I’m being judged. I want to decide how much, all by myself in my own little mental world. I don’t need someone gently reminding me to leave a tip by asking if I want my change back. It is something, I, as a customer, should not have to feel any pressure about. Again, I feel like I’m walking a fine line here. If I say it’s not required, or if I say “whether or not I leave a tip and how much”, I feel like I’m advocating there should be a choice between leaving a tip and not leaving a tip. And yes, technically, there is a choice. But if you’re going to have a heart, if you’re going to be human, there really isn’t a choice. You leave a tip. And a good one. But again, I want it to be completely up to me.
To ask a customer, who has just handed you cash, if he or she wants their change back, is inconsiderate. A waiter or waitress should assume that the change is wanted, and then leave the customer to his or her own privacy in deciding how much of a tip to leave.
And yes… I know… “But some people wouldn’t leave a tip if we didn’t ask that”. That’s the risk of the job. It’s very unfortunate, and I know waiters and waitresses rely on those tips to make their living. But there is a chance of that. And it’s not that customers forget either. Think about it… if someone would not have left a tip if a waiter or waitress didn’t ask about the change, than the only reason they ended up leaving a tip was because they were made to feel guilty. Those people are rare though. So instead, the vast majority of customers are made to feel the same way, because of the few that deserve it. And the trade off… putting well meaning customers on the spot, is something I consider to be inconsiderate.
Like I said before… I always leave a generous tip. I believe in people who work hard. But it doesn’t mean I want to be put on the spot about it either.
Issue #4 – “Cashiers Asking For Donations”.
When I go up to a cashier, the last thing I want, is to be asked if I wish to donate to a particular charity. For the same reason I don’t want to be asked about giving a tip, I also don’t want to be asked about donating to charity, particularly when I’m in line with other people. I shouldn’t care, but I do. And yes, I know no one’s judging. But that’s exactly what it feels like, and possibly one reason why they ask you that way. They know it’s difficult to say ‘No” when other people can hear your response.
I think it’s terribly inconsiderate. Put a sign where I can see it. If I want to give, I’ll bring it up.
Again, just like with the tipping peeve, it’s not about giving to charity. I try to do my best in that regard. And maybe that’s one reason why asking me when I’m in line ticks me off. I try my best in my charitable efforts. So if I wanted to give more, I probably would have done so already. It’s not about giving. It’s about the inconsideration of forcing someone to say “No” if they don’t want to, or even worse, if they can’t afford to. I don’t want to be put in that spot. I want it to be my choice, under no pressure, whether that pressure is real or imagined.
Issue #5 – “Merging Lane Cutters”.
This one deserves a special place in the Hall of Fame section of my heart.
You’re driving on the highway and you see a sign telling you your lane in going to merge into the one next to you. Soon you’re in the other lane and people are still passing you, but that’s okay…. for now.
Eventually though, there does get to a point where everyone should have merged, and now, the people who are passing you and trying to cut in, are just in it for themselves, don’t really care about other people, and are just being selfish and inconsiderate.
And yes, I understand there is the argument that “like a zipper” it’s supposed to work better when people merge later. Even if that was correct, if the vast majority of drivers are merging earlier, than the person who keeps driving until they find an opening just wide enough to cut in front of everyone, those folks are just cutting in at the expense of everyone else. It’s selfish. It’s inconsiderate. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg, because if they do that, they’ll also cut in line at a movie or single toilet public restroom for women, sell a used car that’s secretly malfunctioning, knowingly keep the incorrect change a cashier gives them, and get away with everything else they think they can get away with. It’s a “me over others” attitude.
Plus I end up stressed because I vacillate between just letting them in because I want to be that kind of person, and ferociously trying not to let them in because there comes a time in life when you just have to protect your home territory.
I don’t need that kind of stress. Cut it out.
So there you go. Five things that tick me off. Frozen butter patties, labeled public restrooms meant for only one person, wait staffs asking if I want my change back, cashiers asking for donations, and automobile line cutters. Some are pretty petty, and some may reflect something a lot deeper. In the end though, I’m glad I’m alive to complain about these things.
(I started writing this in 2007. It's now 2020. I hope I didn't rush things)
As a noun, it’s just a little line. As a verb, you hurry through a moment. Those two kinds of dashes are related in a way that I consider almost tragic.
Most people don’t think of the dash as anything except a small, insignificant little line.
And yet, it represents the most important thing ever known to man.
I’m always blown away at the dichotomy between its insignificance and importance.
Take a stroll through any cemetery and look at the gravestones. Old, new, large and small, they all have a few things in common. Those gravestones each represent a real person, and stand silent sentry over the fallen for time eternal.
And for each person the stones represent, there was a moment in time when that person was born, and a moment in time when they died. The date of birth and the date of death. Every stone has one of each. And those two moments in time are always separated by a dash. The date of birth, the dash, and the date of death.
But that line between those two dates is so much more than just a small dash. We look at it and never think about it. We see it, but it doesn’t register, because it’s just there to separate the date of birth and date of death. And yet, of those three elements, it is the dash, that by far represents the most significance.
The date of birth represents when it all started.
The date of death represents when it all ended.
But the dash represents “it”. That one individual’s entire lifespan. Everything that person did, everything that person said, is in that dash. All the feelings of hate, love, joy and pain, all the emotions, laughter, tears and friendships, all the adrenaline rushes, moments of contemplation, moments of frustration, and accomplishments, are in that one, single, small straight line. Imagine if you could look through a magnifying glass at the dash on a gravestone, and see a tiny movie of all the moments in that person’s life. That’s what the dash is.
It represents everything in between the date of birth and the date of death. Everything significant about a person’s life is in that little line.
I just find it bizarrely amazing that something so significant is the one thing that’s almost always completely glossed over unnoticed.
The dash is so significant because life is so significant.
Therefore, I find it tragically ironic that we, as humans, always seem to be dashing through our dash.
Here we have all that is laid before us, our most significant gift and opportunity, all wrapped up in one extremely critical package… our life, …our dash, and all we can do is run through the highlights. One of the most important and critical things to stop and be aware of, and all we can do is purposely skip most of it. Our dash through our dash.
We each get this huge opportunity to live a miracle, an absolutely amazing confluence of everything that had to happen to make life as we know it. All the little things in life that are so interrelated… the food chain, our ecosystem, how we all interact with each other. It’s very near freakishly amazing when you think about it. We have this opportunity to live this miracle, where a huge variety of every day things can smell and look so good, so many things can be funny or beautiful or emotionally rewarding. So many fantastic things to realize and find each day, like a child’s laughter, how flowers open and close with sunlight, how wonderful a bakery smells, or how cool it is that things that need shade just seem to grow under things that give shade. You could move through your everyday life and if you really paid attention, come up with 20 positive things that happened before you even hit lunch. And you could do this every day.
But we don’t do that. We dash through our dash, in what may be the biggest waste of an opportunity ever known to mankind.
I was having a conversation with a well respected martial arts instructor once. We were talking about living in the moment. Of being aware of where and when you are, in that very moment without regard to the past or future. Of being aware and experiencing as much of what is happening around you as possible.
I’m not talking about physically slowing down to “smell the roses”. Living in the moment doesn’t mean that you can’t plan your future or accomplish what you want to accomplish. It simply means to be more aware of what is happening around you.
He explained it in a way that helped me immediately understand. He held up his hand and pointed to the tips of his spread fingers. Throughout your day, you're always jumping from one tip to the other. You get up and you're immediately thinking about breakfast. At breakfast, you're thinking about work. At work, you're thinking about the things you need to do during lunch. After lunch, you're thinking about when you get off from work. And on it goes.
But what we're missing, is all the space in between those finger tips. The journey down one finger and up another. The flowers, the smell of newly cut grass, a child's laughter, the way a ray of sunlight shoots through the clouds, the opportunity to compliment someone. It's easy to count the significant things that happen during a day... good and bad. There’s not that many of them. Sometimes, your tally comes up negative, sometimes it’s positive. But if you stop and really notice the little things that go by with hardly any notice, it's so easy to overwhelm your life with positives. Every day. You just have to look between the fingertips.
At first, if you’re not used to thinking this way, it’s not easy. You might have to remind yourself to look for those little things that happen all around you. It may take a while, but overwhelming your life with positive things is one of the huge rewards of becoming more aware. It can make a meaningful and profound difference.
But the real reward to slowing down and living in the moment, to noticing your surroundings and being more aware of the people and life around you, is in the act itself. It’s your life. You only have this one chance. You give yourself the opportunity to realize how very cool and almost miraculous some of the things that happen around you every day are.
It’s mental. It’s emotional. To be more aware of your life, and life around you. To not jump from one tip to the next, without pausing to see what’s between the fingers. The tips are so small. Down one finger and up another is so long in comparison. We miss so much of life when we jump from one highlight to the next, without mentally and emotionally pausing to enjoy the miraculous journey we’re all on.
We’re all going to end up with some kind of dash between the dates someday. It’s inevitable. That insignificant little line will represent your entire life and all you’ve accomplished. And once you reach that second date, there’s no changing anything about what the dash means. There’s no going back.
You’ll live through your entire dash, of course. But how much of it will you experience?
Something I wrote one night way back in 2003, after getting back from a camping weekend with my daughter Marlee...
I got back a little while ago from “My Weekend With Marlee”. The big annual once a year “Father/Daughter” tent camping weekend. The Marlee part was great. The weather part… well… part of it was pretty bad, a little was really nice, and the rest was hot and sticky. But the Marlee part overshadowed the weather, so it was okay with me. Considering the point to the whole weekend is to completely devote time just between dad and daughter, it was a wonderful time.
We arrived about 5 PM on Friday, and we were lucky. It was pouring. But since I’m such a fantastic forecaster, I deemed it might start raining even harder… and not stop. So we decided to make the most of it and started setting up camp in what I would consider only a slight downpour.
Because of my amazing forecasting talents, I had thought ahead and had taken a “groundcover” to put under the tent to separate the dry tent from the soaking wet ground. I positioned the groundcover down in just the right spot.
Next was the tent. Of course, by the time we went to put the tent down, the ground cover was soaked. So we tried drying it off… in the downpour. That took half the towels we had brought with us. And it only took half because we had brought extra. It also only took half because we eventually gave up trying to dry off the groundcover in the pouring rain. We now have the tent down on a soaking groundcover that’s there to keep the tent from sitting on a wet ground. Nice!
As with many modern tents, the top of the tent is made of mesh…. for that wonderfully fresh outdoor airflow. The mesh is usually covered by a rainfly or tarp-like thing separated by a space of about 3 inches for… well… air to flow. The tent and the rainfly though, are set up separately. So I open the tent and start setting it up as fast as my little legs can carry me. A pole through here, a pole through there, stick the pin in this end of the pole, run around, stick the pin through that end of the pole, run around to fix the pin that came out of the first hole of the first pole, and stick the pin in the first hole of the second pole. Stick the pin in the second hole of the second pole and then run over and fix the pin that came out of the first hole of the first pole again. Then stand up the poles and watch the pin come out of the first hole in the second pole. So I get that fixed and stand the poles up, only to watch a few more pins come out. In the pouring rain. As Marlee is asking if “we can do something together”. Bless her merry soul. I love tent camping. The tent finally goes up.
Now for the rain fly. That goes up without a hitch. However, as you might recall, it took a little while to get the tent up. In the pouring rain. And as you might also recall, the top of the tent is made of mesh. For that refreshing air flow. So now my tent is all set up and filled with water. Fortunately, it’s waterproof, so none of the water can get out. Marlee has a swimming pool! But we wanted a tent, although Marlee is on the fence about that. So I take some towels… the other half minus one… and dry the inside of the tent. It’s nice that I brought extra towels. Although I originally had the crazy idea of using them on our bodies.
Our Daddy daughter weekend had begun, and such sweet beginnings indeed. Now we finally had the tent up, and it was relatively dry on the inside. Mostly because we have transferred the wetness to all of our towels minus one, which I have already begun to use on Marlee to keep her tied dow… err… to keep her comfortable. “Daddy, I have to go potty”, is the next thing I hear, which is a surprise to me because for most of the evening, Marlee has been practicing her, “Daddy, can we do something together when are we going to do something Daddy is it soon Daddy are we almost done Daddy I’m bored Daddy” comedy routine.
I know, after telling you all this, you will think me totally insane, but we have a trailer stored at this very same campground. I hadn’t planned on using it. My wife, Wendy, wouldn’t be caught dead in a tent (actually, that’s the only way she’ll be caught in a tent), and if I want Marlee to know the joys of tent camping, this is the only weekend to do so. But I HAD planned on opening it up and taking out the camping stove and the porto-potty, which comes in very handy when a little girl wakes you in the middle of the night. Particularly while it’s raining. So I stake the tent down, lest it get taken away by the riptide that’s passing through our site, and hand in hand, we go strolling down the path on this lovely evening, droplets dripping from our locks of matted hair, to the restroom.
Of course, the women’s room was closed for cleaning. I stand guard while Marlee is in the Men’s room. And from the men’s room, we go to the lot where the camper is stored, so I can open it and take the stove and porto-potty.
Fortunately, when I parked the camper, I parked in what now seems like a valley the size of San Fernando. There is about three inches of muddy, grassy water surrounding my trailer. I am so glad. Another thing I’m glad about, is that I decided to wear my old sneakers so as not to dirty my new ones. The reason I have new sneakers, is because the tops of my old ones have separated from the bottoms in the front. It’s like my right sneaker has a little mouth that opens when I walk. It’s a good sneaker for camping, where you’re getting really dirty. It is not, however, a good sneaker for swimming. Fortunately, the water level in the “puddle” I was standing in had gone down considerably. Unfortunately, it was all in my socks.
I accomplished my mission and we began our journey back to the campsite.
Marlee and I walked to this lot with me carrying one semi-warm coffee, which I had stopped to purchase just before arriving at the campground. But now I had the big porto-potty box, a Coleman stove with two propane tanks attached, and a big blanket that I also swiped from my trailer. Too much for me alone. So I looked to Marlee, who’s been a huge help so far, and asked her to try carrying the stove, which comes in a soft case with a carrying strap. Too heavy. So then I gave her the blanket. It overflows her arms, but she notices the misery in my eyes and somehow senses her daddy will die on that spot if she doesn’t rise to the challenge. She took the blanket. About 30 yards down the road though, I sensed the misery in her little eyes… well, I couldn’t really see her eyes because of the blanket, but I sensed it so I made a switch. And thus we walked back to our site in the rain, with me carrying the stove and propane tanks, the big porto-potty box, and the blanket. And with Marlee carrying my coffee. She did a great job and was really quite proud.
We get back to the site. It stops raining.
The rest of the night is fine, with me laying down that big blanket on the floor of the tent and cooking hot dogs and setting up the rest of the “stuff” that needs to be set up. I really wanted a cup of coffee, but since it kept raining on and off, I didn’t feel like taking the stove out, only to have to pack it up again. But the rest of the night was fine, and I went to bed around midnight …just as it started raining. What a surprise.
One of the things I like the best about Marlee’s reaction to camping, is that she loves a good campfire as much as I do. Well… she’s not obsessive about it like I am, but I’m working on that. So the next morning, I hear, “Daddy, get up!….. (pause)….. Daddy, get UP!!!” Poke. (I mumble). (Times goes by) “Daddy… c’mon Daddy! Get up you lazyhead!” (I mumble something which leads to another pause) (Then more prodding by Marlee). This goes on for awhile, maybe 30 minutes, maybe a week… I’m not sure because I have no mind when I am living in that time when unconscious meets conscious. Finally, after MUCH prodding and poking, I get up. It’s light out. Marlee is outside the tent. She’s gotten herself dressed and is cajoling me from a safe distance. Smart girl. I yawn, I stretch, I get ready to face the bright new day. I look at my watch. TEN OF SEVEN?!?!?
Since it was supposed to rain all weekend, this day was pretty much a treat. Hot and muggy, but no rain. Which meant Marlee could go swimming, which made her deliriously happy. We had breakfast, we went to the pool, she swam, I watched, we went back and changed her clothes, we went to the play ground, we ate ice cream, we had lunch, we went back to the pool, back to the site, ate junk food, more playing with fire, dinner (steak and sautéed broccoli and sautéed mushrooms).
That night, I put her to bed around 8:30 and finally got a chance to breathe. It got a little cooler, I built the fire back up, made coffee, sat down in a chase-lounge, and became a slug. I just sat there. Literally. Because when I woke up, it was about 3:30 AM. The fire was out, and I needed to get in the tent. I looked around and fortunately, there wasn’t much I had left out. The stove, and my hat and knife were on the table. The car top carrier that held the wood was open, and the cloth chairs were open, but that was about it. 3:30 in the morning, I am totally bleary, and this fantastic forecaster looks up to clear skies, reasons that it’s only a couple hours till morning, and goes straight to bed.
I awake the next morning to the sound of heavy rain beating against my tent.
In my grogginess, I evaluate the situation and decide to dig deeper into my sleeping bag, ignore everything, and hope Marlee didn’t notice me stirring. Oddly enough, sometime later when I became a responsible adult, I found that while it HAD indeed rained, only certain things had gotten wet. My stove got wet. The table got wet. But my hat was dry. It was ON the table. I have no idea how that happened. The ground was wet. But the chairs were dry. As was the wood.
So this day was a good one. We had breakfast, and then I started packing. And even though I was singing and humming, I didn’t really need to. I didn’t even need a radio. Because I had the wonderful sounds of Marlee… “Daddy, when can we do something together, is it time yet Daddy, can we go swimming today Daddy, I’m bored Daddy, Daddy, I know I’m not supposed to mention it again, but…”. Fortunately, I love that little voice.
And yes, after we got everything dried and packed and put away… we went to the pool. Deliriously happy Marlee.
And so the weekend was filled with bad for you junk food, bad weather, and wonderful company. It was very special. Although I make fun of it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I hope Marlee feels the same way. These annual camping trips are my chance to take her and completely devote 100% of my attention and time to her for an extended period of time. All weekend, wherever we went, she took my hand in hers. All weekend, it was “Daddy watch me!”. All weekend, it was conversation. All weekend, it was playing with each other. All life, I would never trade it.
Tonight, as she lay in bed in her darkened room, with me kneeling next to her saying good night, I asked her, “Do you know what the BEST part of this weekend was for me?…(she stares into my eyes) .. It wasn’t the swimming… It wasn’t the playground… It wasn’t all the junk food... It wasn’t even the campfire... Do you know what it was?”. (She quietly asks “What?”). “It was being able to spend my whole weekend with YOU”. She looks directly in my eyes and in the dark of her room, while holding my hand, she says to me, “Daddy, do you know what the best part of the weekend was for me?” (I say “What?”) And she responds, “The best part of the weekend for ME, was being able to learn how to swim like a CAT!!!!”.
That was from a story she heard about a cat and a fish falling in love. And I love that little girl.
(Something I wrote back in 2013. When I was much less mature. Okay... who am I kidding...)
I enjoy a pastime called “Curb Jumping” which is a very close cousin to “Cliff Jumping". And as you know, cliff jumping is extremely dangerous.
I, being the dangerous man I am, fit the profile perfectly. Particularly since, being in New Haven CT, the only real cliffs I come across are curbs, which tend to mitigate a lot of the danger.
However, I still must feed my wild side, so every so often, I'll put on my helmet and gloves and get all my line and rope and footwear and everything on and go jumping.
Obviously, in a city like New Haven, finding a good curb is pretty easy, although the steeper ones... 6... maybe 8 inches... are a little harder. Of course, when you're dangerous like myself, looking a little harder for the big ones is worth it, especially when you have a reputation for danger.
Most likely, people look at me in awe when they see me on the weekends. I see them pointing... speaking under their breath, waiting for me to jump. Sometimes, I'll stand there... breathing deeply.... gathering myself on the edge of a particularly high curb... stoking the anticipation. Some onlookers laugh as they try to hide the fear they feel inside for me.
And then.... as they wait... holding their collective breaths.... I raise my arm.... my signal that I am about to leap.... the adrenaline rushing through me.... silence around me.... they stare.... I am so dangerous to them.... and then... I leap. A rush of air inevitably hits my face as I leave the confines of mother earth. Ploop.... I hit the street and raise my hands in triumph!
The onlookers are, as always it seems, speechless. I have done it again.
Politics have become a game of sport, where one side constantly tries to defeat the other, in a competition that can't truly be won unless everyone wins,
As fans, rooting for the other sides' failure, is like hoping the other teams' stadium implodes while you're sitting in it.
May a warm wind come down from the skies, whisking you away, taking you on a journey through the stars, across universes untraveled.
While you ride in the warm arms of the wind, may you see spectacular glitter, and colors unimagined.
May you be swept to the edge of the universe, traveling through time and space to galaxies never before traversed, wishing upon shooting star after shooting star, hearing the silence of nothing go by. The sky around you black and seemingly shiny, with billions of tiny lights in the distance, each becoming extraordinary large as you sail by silently with a speed unmeasured in the vastness of night space.
May you see life, beautiful life, intelligent, loving, playful, and always friendly, as you speed your way through time, and may the warm winds hold you and give you comfort as you ride your trip of a lifetime.
Colors unimagined, bright and deep, play like fireworks upon the black canvas around you, silent, quiet, yet filling you with a wholeness you have never felt in your life. A strange new sense invades you and gives you comfort, making you smile involuntarily, nodding to yourself as you go.
And may the warm wind bring you around and down once again, setting you gently in familiar surroundings, all knowledge gained, senses aroused, fulfilled, yet home again as you open your eyes.
A dream? Real?
You gain a better sense of your surroundings, acknowledging your life as you know it, and realize while you have just experienced something extraordinary, something you will never forget and will be able to experience again and again without ever being able to fully describe, maybe even to yourself, you also realize that you are earthbound, never having left your comfortable existence.
You sigh, somewhat disappointed, deciding you need to raise yourself and move. As you do, you gaze downward toward your arm, as some fine, powdery star dust falls off and lifts in the breeze.
I once had a free-for-all, heart racing, crazy, fishtailing spin out, from one side of the highway to the other and back, going sixty five miles per hour, while trying to avoid another driver who had just had an accident. I remember the violence in my car, my hands flying across the wheel trying to regain control. My coffee, and everything on my front seat and storage compartment, flying past my face and around me. I ended up regaining control and driving home without a scratch.
I know, in my heart, that I could have easily died that day.
Very often, when you’re involved in a car accident, you cross over from a point of trying to avoid having the accident, to acknowledging it’s going to happen. Although I never stopped trying to regain control of my car, I did reach that point where I knew I was going to hit the cement barrier separating the other side of the highway from mine, and I just could not see any way I wasn’t either going to hit it and flip over, or hit it and fly over to the other side.
And yet… I didn’t. I don’t, to this day, understand how I didn’t, but I did not.
Now, I’m much more spiritual than I am religious, but in the direct aftermath of that event, and even to this day, it just completely feels like God slid his hand between that cement barrier and my car, cushioning the blow, and redirecting my car the other way.
So I wonder…
Cats have nine lives.
But people, …people just die.
Now, I understand that there are always exceptions to what I’m about to propose, including newborns and the very innocent young, but could it be that maybe, just maybe, humans have a certain amount of lives too, like cats, and we actually use up our lives before we die?
No one ever really counts how many times they’ve almost died. We never know how many of our own lives we’ve used up. I’m sure there were times you didn’t know just how close you came to dying, so you didn’t know it was one of “your times”. We probably aren’t aware of some of them, since they’re not always as dramatic as a car accident. The cancer scare, the silent heart attack, the time you had that surgery and didn’t die of a blood clot, or that time the peanuts didn’t kill you. Maybe it was that time your intuition told you not to argue with someone, not knowing he had a gun and would have used it, or the time you were eating lunch in your car and started choking. You coughed it up and finished your lunch. All of those times could have gone the other way, but they didn’t. Maybe you used one of your lives, and just didn’t know it.
All those times when someone well-liked and respected passes away, and the family is crying and wondering why bad things happen to good people… maybe it doesn’t have as much to do with how good or bad you are, as much as how many of your own lives you’ve used up. Death happens to all kinds of folks. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between whether or not you’ve led a decent life. Could it be that there’s a certain amount of times humans can be in a situation where they probably should have died and didn’t, and when those times are used up, THAT’S what determines when we die?
Maybe it’s as simple as those who don’t use up their lives are the ones who die of old age.
Did you ever see the movie "Pay It Forward"?? Neither did I.
However, I do love the idea.
Whenever I do a favor for someone, I never ask for anything in return because… it's a favor. I usually tell them something like, "Just do it for someone else in the future".
Imagine... if you pay a favor back, it stops there and that's the end of it. But if you pay it forward... it never stops. Unless someone gets a little selfish and stops paying it forward.
Anyway... I love the concept. Now you must like it too. Because I've been hypnotizing you as you've been reading. Bring me some ice cream.
This is the time of year when Santa visits. And rewards those that have been nice, and supposedly, does not reward those… as much at least…. who’ve been naughty.
There are however, a lot of families who can’t afford gifts. The children in those families may have tried really hard to be deserving of reward, and yet, to them, after the holiday comes and goes, Santa will have deemed them to be undeserving and unworthy. This concept is disturbing to me.
Kids are taught to believe in Santa, and they talk about him, as well as all their holiday gifts in the aftermath. And those that don’t get gifts are left to wonder what they did so wrong, and why they were deemed unworthy even though they may have tried to be so.
One of the many, many seeds of character building, that can go so wrong.
It's impossible to know, but I wonder what the ripples add up to, with things like this.
"There is an art to doing nothing, because very often, while doing so, you are accomplishing great things".
One of the best things about having faith is that it gives you a place to store the answers when you don't know them
You’re a feather in the breeze
Prodded rocking side to side
No control no direction
As you drift upon the wind
Jetsam on a broken shore
Empty life with hints of more
Waiting as your savior
Lifts you up to take you in
Transparent and so fragile
Stripped naked and confused
The tears have worn away
You sacrifice your values
Give up, give in, give out
Prostrated and so
Open just to breathe
Fragile, cracked and broken
Jetsam floats upon the waves
Your own needs go unspoken
In your offerings to please
Opened with acidic hands
Your inner self wears thin
In a life of hidden winds
You’re a feather in the breeze
Silent tears in dark of night
Only you to hold you tight
With loss of soul in darkness
In some ungodly way
You cry in silent sorrow
As the sun unveils morrow
You face the waking challenge
Of pushing past the day
Fragile, cracked and broken
Jetsam floats upon the waves
Your own needs go unspoken
In your offerings to please
Opened with acidic hands
Your inner self wears thin
In a life of hidden winds
You’re a feather in the breeze
Maybe the idea isn't to be better than someone else was the day before, but to be better than you were the day before.
Don’t forget… in the course of being an adult, being responsible, and carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, to look at life through the eyes of a child, appreciate the silly, and be a little goofy at times.
The more your own opinion becomes important to how you feel about your own actions, the less other people's opinions will matter. And it will give you freedom.
I wrote this a long time ago.... around 2005 or so. Obviously, I'm catching up on some old writings...
It has been a long time now that I have been stranded on this island that is my office. Many suns have risen and set, many moons have lit my nights. I wonder if I will ever escape.
Yesterday was interesting albeit as usual, somewhat dangerous. The unknown, along with the clutter, seems always to be like that.
I was working my way through what seemed like a large field of debris, searching for nutrients of any kind, or maybe some coffee, when I suddenly came upon a clearing. It was unusual, to say the least. As I looked across the vast wasteland that has become my tormentor, there stood in front of me a large mound, approximately 7 feet wide, 3 feet high, and 4 feet deep. It looked unnatural and I approached it with caution. It seemed almost a living being, yet so long left dormant. The mound was covered with more debris and as I approached, I could feel my heart drum a harder, faster beat within my chest. I stared upon this mound, so covered from time past, and felt the evil within. It could only mean danger. I reached my hand out, barely touching the edges of dust and cobweb soaked clutter, so long ago lost to sunlight. It lay there silently, almost daring me to come closer. I did so. With trepidation and a rising sense of danger, I moved the dust cloaked edge of debris a little more. No response. I did it again, my rising caution screaming out. Nothing. I wiped away more of the remains to find a smooth brownish textured layer underneath. What kind of aberration could this be?? It looked man made. I wiped away more, my anticipation and curiosity almost making me throw caution to the wind. I stared aghast, amazement running through my veins as I gazed upon something I could never have imagined. There in front of me was a long ago forgotten desk. A chill shot through me as I contemplated the meaning of this new discovery. Someone had been here before. As the dust slid and lifted, I could see file folders with vaguely familiar names of cases not yet finished. I slowly opened a drawer. Wow, I thought to myself... paper clips. Sticker thingies. A stamp! I could write for help!!
Suddenly my hand rubbed against a small hard lump. Caution and fear once again shot through me as I jerked backwards. No movement. I slowly reached for the object again. It was gray with small button-like buttons. I pressed one. Suddenly from across the island that is my office came voices from under a large pile of 3-ringed binders and industry magazines!! I rushed over, my legs churning, held back against the currents of debris. Hacking my way closer, I shoved the dust covered binders aside, hoping to find someone alive. As I moved a baseball cap and a can of Slimfast, I saw a glow. My eyes stared in wonderment. No... I would find no one alive this day. That was too much to hope for. However, there would be communication. The AM/FM CD Tape player glowed its' digital glow as sound from a long forgotten band called "Train" wafted through the air. I barely remembered them. I have been on this island that is my office too long.
Some day log, I will get off this island that is my office and be set free to enjoy life as it should be. For now though, I continue on, exploring the dark danger-filled corners and long forgotten file cabinets, answering the phone, doing reviews, and the occasional wholesaler-sponsored lunch.
David S. Chorney
This is something I wrote wayyyy back when my daughter was first born. Must have been sometime in 1997...
A bunch of people who saw the pictures I sent of my new born daughter Marlee, commented on them. It made me think. I need a plan for when she wants to date. So far, I jotted down some ideas…
No make-up, no earrings, and no dates until she’s 30. In-home schooling too.
Every boy who wants to even talk with her has to pass a written and oral exam plus I interview his parents by gun point.
Salt peter must be present in his diet, and he must offer to do 50 hours per week of community service work around MY house until he’s known her for 7 years or until he dies, whichever comes first.
He must go through a metal detector. If he has an earring, a nose ring, or any other piece of jewelry, he must ASK me to tear if off him.
He must be a big fan of Perry Como. I am NOT a fan of Perry Como, but if HE is, I’ll feel better.
He must be regularly contributing to an IRA and know the difference between a bond, a stock, and a mutual fund.
His car can’t have any dents or dirt on it. If he ever sits outside and beeps for my daughter, he will either be shot, or he will stay sitting outside and beeping for the rest of his endangered life.
If his jeans EVER fall below the point where his hips start, I will tear them off him so fast he’ll think he forgot to get dressed, and kick him back outside.
He must insist on calling me “Sir”.
If he ever even tries to come into actual physical contact with my daughter, he’ll wish he was being slowly eaten by dogs.
He must naturally enjoy bowling, sunsets, puppy dogs and helping out in senior citizen homes.
He needs to speak at least three languages fluently, know how to write a business plan, know how to create a DNA model with Tinker Toys, and do fractional square roots in his head.
He must make me laugh. Hard. He must make Marlee laugh.
He must bring a bouquet of flowers for my wife and roses for Marlee. If he brings RED roses for Marlee before he has known her for at least 9 years, he will eat them.
He must be on time. He can be up to 30 seconds early, but he can NEVER EVER be late for my daughter. If he IS late, he should only consider ringing that doorbell with a finger he is not fond of.
Okay, that was off the top of my head. I will formulate the other 75% of my plan when I’m not feeling quite as relaxed.
I needed to imagine a grin on your face,
if just for a second or two.
The sun pouring down for a brief point of time,
falling down as to shine just for you.
I needed to dream of a mere moments lapse,
where I see your half sleepy smile.
At least I can feel I turned on the sun,
if only, if just, for awhile.
I needed to imagine a brief point in time,
where the day glow could shine down on you.
I needed to think that I could do that,
if just for a second or two.
- David S. Chorney
I hope, in the future, we look back at those who hated so much, and know we used them as markers to measure who we didn't want to be
David S. Chorney
This is where I'm supposed to write something about myself. I still have some hair left. I am still undecided which I like better, photography or painting. My four major food group are seafood, melted cheese, pasta, and Advil. I love the hunt of a finished piece of art. All quotes, essays, stories, and any other written piece on this website, are original and written by yours truly, unless otherwise noted.