I have no other words.
· · ·
As I look back over the last year, it’s hard to fathom what’s happening right now. The hurdles I’ve cleared. The demons I’ve conquered. There’s plenty of game left, but the 48-point first quarter deficit I found myself in has now been evened. I’m finally here to play.
Not to pepper you with what you’ve already heard, but in case you’re just joining us, I’ve endured a tumultuous (and rather unremarkable) internal battle over the past decade that finally came to a head. I dealt with a shaken cocktail of self-imposed conflict highlighted by — but not limited to — the following: fear, doubt, cynicism, resignation, anger, cowardice, low self-esteem, deeply-rooted insecurity, sexual confusion, an inability to be with others and finally, an inability to be with myself.
In retrospect, I led a highly selfish life. Whether I was leaning on a falsely-created arrogance or my true, coward-like nature, every moment was centered around if I was alright. Every time I communicated to anyone, it didn’t matter my word choice — the message underpinning the communication would always be the same: “Am I okay?”
· · ·
Clearing a rabbit hole that deep in self-absorption is no picnic — especially for the people closest to you. When a person attempts to interrupt their pre-programmed baseline and cause a permanent change, it comes with plenty of breakdowns. Their loves ones can’t really count on them for anything because they never know what they’re going to get — the new or old.
Which is where the real distinction occurs for others:
It doesn’t matter how many new insights you gain and apply to your life — only when those insights become a part of who you are do you really transform in the eyes of others.
Otherwise, they’ll simply think it’s the old you trying on some new stuff.
But enough conceptual stuff — I’d like to give credit where it’s due.
· · ·
I tried out a new church this morning, both to expand my tight social circle and get a little closer to the man (or whatever you believe) upstairs.
My attendance record at church has always been spotty — mostly because I’ve been shit with keeping my word, but also due to the conflicting nature of taking the words of the scripture head on and experiencing extreme confusion in the realm of sexual orientation.
Nonetheless, this morning, I threw on a suit and didn’t leave any time for the asshole roommate inside my head to talk me out of it — I simply kept moving.
When I arrived, I was warmly welcomed by a friend I knew from work. She was assisting with the service and showed me to a seat near the front. After a few upbeat and modern renditions honoring why church exists in the first place, we were offered a quiet opportunity to pray for what it is we want most in life.
As I stood there with my head bowed and eyes closed, I saw where I was not even a year ago. I saw the young man who so vehemently resisted taking the look in the mirror. The beautiful, heartbreaking moments that led to the sense of calm I feel today. The pain and hurt that others so graciously took on all those years because I didn’t have the capacity to see beyond my own view. I saw it all.
And before I could even decipher what it is that could make a difference in my life right now, something wonderful happened — maybe the best thing ever.
I started to speak, without thinking, and repeatedly uttered these words until I cried:
· · ·
To put a little context around those statements, those thank you’s are not just directed at my creator. They’re also to you. The people who’ve supported me. Who’ve listened to me. Encouraged me. Ridiculed me. Loved me. Disapproved of me. Absolutely everyone has served a purpose in me being able to wholehearted express my gratitude without a thought popping up in the back of my head that says, “You’re full of shit. You don’t mean that.”
You see, we don’t transform on our own. Change cannot occur within the self. The whole idea around something I’ve claimed to be so passionate about — self-improvement — is clearly missing a disclaimer.
You cannot transform by yourself. Others cause your transformation.
It’s all conceptual until you get in the game — and the stakes are highest with others because our heart is on the line. Who we are is placed at issue, with the possibility of being torn down, ripped apart, or called out always around the corner.
That’s the magic. You get enlightened atop the mountain, or out deep in nature, but you must return to town. For your transformation resides in the community — not with you on the mountaintop. It’s not real until you share it and risk it being made wrong, thwarted, or ridiculed. The people closest to you know whether you’re leading with your heart or your head.
· · ·
The people in my life — beautiful, wonderful, honorable people — gave me my life back. Left to my own devices, I would still be chugging along the Self-Loathing Express, with neither enough enthusiasm to do anything about it or enough courage to just jump off the fucking bridge already. People stood for me, so that I could now stand for others.
Free from being the bottomless pit of need I used to know myself as, I now have the capacity to be there for others as they look to transform themselves. Everybody deserves a second chance to redefine who they’d like to be. Not who their parents said they were. Who the kids at school said they were. Who society said they were. No, who they want to be. And it can happen in moment — the moment it gets shared with someone else to make it real.
· · ·
I’ve still got some people in my life that aren’t the biggest fans of me — and for very good reason. I was inauthentic with them one too many times. I didn’t make the difference with them that I could have. I didn’t think of them and instead thought of myself. I was a shit. And perhaps some of them will think this is me being a shit about being a shit.
When I told them I was sorry, I’m sure it didn’t land for them. I didn’t get where they were coming from and as a result, my apology was met with apathy. I’ve got to own that and do what it takes to free them from anticipating the same may occur with someone else in the future — robbing both parties of the ability to create.
However it looks right now, it won’t look that way forever. Time coupled with the heart is a powerful combination — one I hope I have in my corner when it’s time to make a difference for those people. This is for them as much as it is for the people that love me wholeheartedly and tell me everyday.
The present moment is all there is and what’s in front of me all that I’m able to impact. I’ve got to be careful that as much as it hurts knowing that I upset others, dwelling on the imperfections takes away my ability to impact who’s in front of me in a positive, inspiring and moving way. People are smart — any inkling of pre-occupation is picked up on quickly and the moment is thereby fractured.
· · ·
Whether the people I impact love me or hate me, it’s still all about them. My life isn’t about me — and that’s so, so clear right now.
For everyone that’s been along for this interesting, perhaps overblown ride this past year, here are the three biggest lessons you’ve taught me:
· · ·
The effectiveness of communication is contingent upon the listening, not the speaking. I’ve learned that the deliberation I listen with impacts the speaking. If someone says something I claim to be unimportant or if they repeat themselves, it’s on me — I’m not listening.
I’ve also learned what to listen for. It’s not just about the words being said — it’s often more about what’s behind those words. The emotions, the mood, the concerns and the desires.
Because people listened to me, I was able to become a better version of myself. Had no one listened, I would still be a shell of a man.
· · ·
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the grandest difference. We expect to receive praise and recognition for big things — promotions, engagements, marriages, home purchases, and so on.
But it’s rare you get an authentic “thank you” for someone inviting you somewhere. Or complimenting you on the first five pounds you’ve lost in your new program. Or saying they believe in you, when you don’t believe in yourself.
Acknowledging the presence, the existence, and the humanity of others was something I severely undervalued. It meant nothing to me because I refused — and was scared shitless — to take the attention off myself long enough to do so.
Thanks to the people in my life — literally, everyone — I will never make that mistake again.
· · ·
Why does it always come back to love?
We’re obsessed with it as a people. It’s just one of those cure-alls. One of those things you don’t dare to define because doing so may relieve some of its mystique.
Well, as cheesy as it may sound, love is it. It. Is. It. That’s the beginning and the end of my idea as to how I make a real contribution in this lifetime.
Ultimately, we’re here for a little while — very much momentarily — and on our own for much of it. It’s both lonely and confronting.
And the only way to transmute those feelings into something worth living for?
Yep — it’s love.
I always thought love was the most dangerous force in the way — something to steer clear of by whatever means necessary.
Because of you, I love. Without fear. Without an agenda. Without expectation of reciprocation.
· · ·
Whether you’ve known me since I was a boy (Hi, Mom!), dished me a heaping helping of honesty when I wasn’t ready for it, or simply hit the clap button on one of my pieces, just know you made a difference.
I couldn’t have — really — done it without you.
For the transformation lies with the people — it isn’t real until they say so.
That’s your power.
You truly have the power to change anyone’s life.
And I’m moved, and forever grateful, for you changing mine.
From the bottom of my heart,
I can’t wait to see what you cause next.
· · ·