What We Carry with Us

He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.Gabriel García Márquez

Our perceptions of memories change over time. Some events have great significance attached to them in the present moment. Each fine detail is captured and analyzed for clues about what happened, or what might happen next. The textures, smells, colors all swirl together in a sensory cocktail. But over time the finer details are lost. The things deemed unnecessary are purged from the recollection. We are left with shadows and not substance. In the end, we can consciously recall the overall feeling decorated with fabricated embellishments. Through these recollections we resurrect ourselves in the present.

Only in close, intimate relationships can we learn how others see us. There are some revelations in casual moments, glances, body language, expressions when our impression on others is reflected back at us. Because of the personal distance between us, these encounters can more easily be dismissed with: he’s an asshole, what a jerk, that was nice…. During this ongoing pandemic, it is more difficult to express our emotions publicly because so much is said with facial expressions. Although they can’t see it, I still smile at store clerks and people I pass by. But much of the richness and depth of experience is lost. This deadening of the social space has been unsettling.

All of us have experienced loss. The closer the relationship the harder the adjustment to the loss. What we carry with us though keeps a hint of their glittering spark alive, no matter how infinitesimal. What we the living care for are their memories as well: the stories they told, the pleasures and pains they found in life. These become the living genealogy of our family, friends and dearest loves. This is the duty of the living to the dead. But what we carry with us into the present should enhance our life and not impede our journey. Those memories that restrict our life to reliving the past, must be dealt with before we can move ahead.

America’s has now lost more people than the US military casualties in World War Two. And it wasn’t until a couple days ago that there was any national recognition of that grim fact. Around the world, well over two million people have died and one hundred million have been sickened. But those statistics do not convey the essence of individual lives. That task falls to us – the living. Memorials capture a minuscule fraction of lives lost. Speeches are made, funerals held and graves filled. But the living flame is not fully extinguished until the last memory fades to smoke. What we remember of those we love is our sacred treasure.

When I taught literature, I would teach about how artists/writers can grant a measure of immortality to people. The subject of the Mona Lisa (Lisa del Giocondo) or Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 who was a good friend of Shakespeare’s. Whenever I taught Shakespeare, I would teach this sonnet and tell my students of my best friend who died far too young. I thanked them for letting me keep alive a spark of my dear friend’s brief life. Take stock of what you carry with you in your heart and soul. Nurture that which makes your life better. And keep moving forward. To quote the couplet at the end of Sonnet 18:

…So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

A New Day Dawns

We can do this, if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.Joe Biden

This day is a day of great hope. Because America wields such might and influence, what happens here can impact the world at large. Out of all the people attending the ceremony today, I was struck by the scintillating young poet – Amanda Gorman. President Biden was the fourth president to include a poet at his inauguration. Robert Frost was the first poet to speak. Because the snow was so bright, the ancient poet couldn’t read and so he recited a poem by heart for John Kennedy’s swearing in. Presidents Clinton and Obama were the other presidents to include poets in their celebration.

Not only did this young woman bring her poetry fully to life, the power of her words resonated deeply with my heart and soul. My pulse quickened and chest puffed out with pride at such lines as: “…We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be…”; and “…Love becomes our legacy, and, change, our children’s birthright…”. May these hope-filled words ring like a silver bell across the nation and around the world. It makes me proud to hear such a potent evoking of optimism coming from a twenty-two year old. As her poem says, “…The new dawn blooms as we free it. There’s always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Ms. Gorman’s reciting her poem, “The Hill We Climb”

I’ve been a student of history for most of my life. Actually, I think all writers and artists are students of history. For we enter this world into an ever-unfolding drama in which we all play a part. On the timeline of history, America is a young country. A member of my family served with General George Washington at Valley Forge. He was a teenager suffering the hardships of forging a nation from the bitter roots of tyranny and mud of despotism. But each of those brave souls who took up arms to defend the country did so to protect and keep their families. So many Hollywood movies have included the scenes of people writing letters, looking at photos or calling loved ones to find the courage to face the terrors ahead. We all are the descendants of untold brave and inspiring souls.

I rose hours before dawn to drink in all this day has to offer. Most of all, these ceremonies symbolize the peaceful transfer of power. As such, they represent a renewal of the faith we have in freedom, liberty and justice for all. When the new president, and three former presidents, stood before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier I was reminded of my mom. The bugler played Taps, which is played at military funerals. The song always made my mother sad because it reminded her of her father’s funeral, when she was just a young girl. The handover of power that took place today includes that very solemn power of the President to send others to their deaths. And the new president understands that as well as any other president.

Let me add a touch of a mathematical strangeness to this great day. Although every moment is unique, this date is even stranger. Today and the following nine days are palindromes. A palindrome is a word, or number, that reads the same forwards and backwards. 120121; 12121; 12221; 12321; 12421; 12521; 12621; 12721; 12821;12921. On top of that this is the first inauguration day with a seven-digit palindrome date1-20-2021. And the next one won’t happen for a thousand years – 1-20-3021. So the number magic is very positive on this date also.

George Washington’s Inauguration took place in New York City on Thursday, April 30, 1789. The capital building where the inauguration took place was constructed during the American Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln has represented the American Dream for so many people. There are many fantastic quotes from Lincoln, but one quote I have always loved concerns perseverance during times of great adversity. When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. – Abraham Lincoln We all must take this day as a starting point and move forward into the future with dignity, honor and love. Bless you all.

Happy Martin Luther King Day

The words and deeds of Dr. King have inspired me since I was a little boy. His message is knitted into the fabric of my dreams. May more people take his powerful words to heart. Let’s strive to live his dream of tolerance and peace, love and understanding.

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
― Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Let this day be the day the clouds of prejudice and hatred begin to thin once again. Soon America will have a new president and a new vice president. They carry with them the hopes and dreams of Dr. King and great multitudes of honest, decent folks. Let’s pray together in peace and love. Raise up our voices of hope and fill the sky with joyous celebration.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gaining Perspective

The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.Oscar Wilde

It is said that at times you can’t see the forest for the trees. This means you are too close to the details of a problem to find a solution to the issue as a whole. These short, concise expressions of general truths are ancestral nuggets of simple wisdom which help us change our perspective. Because human’s are curious by nature, it is very easy to get lost in the details of issues. And sometimes our curiosity gets the better of us, and we miss the bigger picture. So much potential for happiness is lost when we don’t pull back and change our perspective. When overwhelmed by problems in your relationships or work, get out into nature and nourish your primal need for a broader view of life.

Nature offers a portal into the greater truths of living. Each of us has problems to deal with. That is a fact of life. Things come up, whether unexpected or anticipated. And we must handle them. Sometimes we focus on the minute details as if we were reassembling a clock. This perspective on problem solving comes from a mechanistic mindset. This attitude views the components of our world as if there are complicated machines. From a mechanical viewpoint, everything can be reduced down to its constituent parts, which are unrelated. But living things cannot be explained solely in mechanical terms.

We all know that our reality cannot be reduced down to its constituent parts. It is like dissecting a frog in biology class. You cut it up into pieces to understand the parts, but you can’t then put the parts back together again. It is no longer a frog. The essence has dissipated. We are not simply bio-chemical organisms. Consciousness is missing. The forest is hidden behind the trees of ten thousand details. And so, in order to better understand our lives, we have to shift the focus away from ourselves and find the courage to widen our frame of reference. Distance lends enchantment to the view. – Mark Twain

To open the doorways for change, we must gaze into the vastness of the unconscious mind. This is where the mechanical view breaks down. When no amount of logical analysis solves a problem, reason must be set aside in favor of intuition and instinct. Stepping off the pavement onto a meandering dirt path, thrills the soul. Seeing the reflection of our inner selves within the natural world liberates the spirit from its technological shackles. Refocus your inner-vision to include a more expansive view of life. There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception. – Aldous Huxley

For your own mental health, please take the time to get away from the problems at hand. If it isn’t possible for you to get into nature, bring nature to you. Plant some seeds and watch them grow. Care for a houseplant or aquarium. Cultivate your mind and spirit. One of the first steps in many forms of meditation is to create a calm inner space where you can rest your mind. This could be a real world place where you felt safe and at peace. Center your mind there. Allow your thoughts to drift like clouds towards the vast superconscious ocean that connects us all to the universe. Let your soul become a lighthouse. Change your Perspective. Change your Life. Peace

Make Yourself at Home

Home is where we start fromT.S. Eliot

This week is the 100th anniversary of my mom’s birth. That wording is a little odd, but I don’ like saying it was her one hundredth birthday. Mom died at age sixty-nine – far too early, but her body was worn out. She talked to all five of her kids the day she died, and she blessedly passed away in her sleep. For my first college admissions I had to ask my mother what her profession was, and she said Homemaker. And that was so true. Her love, and the sweetness she created around her, made our house into a home. The house still stands, but it hasn’t truly been a home for a long, long time.

As part of our journey into adulthood, we have to gain perspective on childhood. We cannot live fully unless we accept life as it was and not what we continue to wish it to have been (pardon the convoluted sentence structure). In childhood we could have raced down ten thousand different paths. But we didn’t. Turn around. Take a good long look. See clearly the path you followed and know that you cannot go back and retrace a single step – not one. Those footprints in the dust of time are like the footprints Apollo astronauts left on the moon – unreachable.

Part of being a parent is the heartache we feel when our dearest kids walk out the door of the home we shared and into a home of their own making. Our paths diverge. Even today I cry at the bittersweet memories of having to drag my soul down the sidewalk and leave them. It felt like two magnets being pulled apart, knowing that we would be forever connected across space and over time – just not physically. Not being able to hug them and kiss them goodnight, and know they are safe and sound – those lashes of emotions are still some of the most difficult to bear.

After my painful divorce, I had to remake a home for my sweeties. Despite everything else I had to do, my most important role in life was – homemaker. My kids were just seven, five and three years old – far too young to have their world shattered. Many nights they would wander down the dark hallway to the couch I slept on, seeking comfort in the confusion. I bedded down on that old couch for sixteen years in order to give them privacy with bedroom doors they could close, something I never had until high school. There were no single dad’s support groups, no role models except hapless Hollywood males who lost their “careers” and had to suffer being a father for a while – what a bunch of crap. L-O-V-E was the key. It was the only path I could take into the future. We made a home together – me and my wonderful children. I send my prayers many times a day. They will always be my blessed miracles.

Sadly, many people don’t believe in miracles. Miracles abound in this world we share. Please make your home a place where miracles can happen. Discover the great joy that comes when you accept home is where the heart is. Open your heart to the miraculous, by making yourself, and those you love, at home. When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

Holding Onto Hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King

There will always be demons lurking in the shadows. Those people who wish to cajole and nurse grievances against those they see as opponents, or enemies. We are not those people. We stand on the side of light and hope. Love, joy, and conscience feed our souls. Although we look forward with hope in our hearts, we have to be vigilant and mindful of the darkness. Each of us is a divine treasure. And as such we must shine as we step into the valley of shadows. There will always be shadowy lands to cross and demons to overcome.

There is within all of us the power of hope. In the myth known as Pandora’s Box, the gods punished Prometheus for stealing fire (knowledge). They fashioned a woman, Pandora, from clay and gave her a vessel containing all the evils of the world and told her not to open it. When she did, numerous evils poured forth into the world. Hope was all that remained in the vessel. I use the word vessel because the ancient Greek word was mistranslated as “box”. The original word referred to a jar called a pithos which was used to store items. In religious rituals of the times, the jars held human bodies for burial from which the soul departed. The story takes on new meaning when you imagine we are the vessels that contain hope. Hope is the final refuge against the evils of the world.

I love the phrase a glimmer of hope. Each of us has experienced hardships in our lives. Those trying times when it appears all is lost. But eventually a glimmer of hope appears in the darkness. And when that little light glimmering on the edge of the dark horizon begins to grow we rediscover hope. Hope springs eternally from our spiritual link to the universe beyond ourselves. But what inspires hope for you? Where do you turn in times of sorrow and pain? Some of us find hope and comfort in holy books and sacred texts. Some turn to great wise thinkers of the past. I find hope returns to me by communing with nature.

Nature is Creation itself. And we can harness the energy within the natural world to rekindle hope when it seems all is lost. My mom always took great pleasure from plants and nature. She had a little cactus which she kept alive for decades. I remember it sat in a small vase on the kitchen windowsill. I asked her once why she kept a cactus, what made it special for her. She told me the cactus symbolized the power of holding out hope. Even in the most inhospitable places life can endure, if it just held on. And that, she told me, is what we have to do in hard times. We have to hold on.

Aristotle said that hope is a waking dream. Meaning we summon hope from our imagination. It is the divine gift of the human imagination that finds the path through the darkness. Our hopeful human spirit are the essence of divine imagination. We rise above the dark times on the wings of hope. Our imagination flies — we are its shadow on the earth. Vladimir Nabokov

The Stories We Tell

All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to townLeo Tolstoy

We are storytelling animals. The worlds we create begin as storylines – what if I do this, then she’ll do that, or when he did that what did he mean, and so on. Our minds are constructed from stories we learn and experience. The imagination springs from the ancient wellspring of storytelling. Although science likes to pretend it is purely based on cold hard logic, narrative nurtures the root of all human knowledge. A theory is a supposition and a supposition, in turn, is little different than a narrative plot. The tapestry of our worlds are woven from countless interconnected narrative threads. In a very real sense, we are the stories we tell ourselves.

I won’t jinx myself and reveal any of the story, but I have been working on a novel during the months my wife has been gone. More accurately, I have been re-teaching myself how to write fiction while she is gone. The storyline of the novel I have been rewriting repeatedly week after week has undergone a series of transformations large and small. When I am not writing, I do my best to keep healthy, while I spend hours reading about or watching videos about storytelling and writing. Being endlessly alone has worn me down at times, but working on writing and art continues to be a lifeline. I find myself back where I started from. But this time I am learning how to write – better.

Many of you may have heard of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or as it is better known – the Hero’s Journey. Campbell’s ideas have been woven into thousands of movie plots and book storylines. It has become further ingrained in our communal psyche because of its use by movie-makers, writers and advertisers. In fact, if you want to be a mainstream screenwriter you had better be well-versed in the Hero’s Journey, it will nearly be impossible to get your script rid. This is why the storyline of many modern movies are easy to guess. Look at the Character Arc of the hero’s journey, and you can guess the steps ahead. Other than plot-twists, incredible special effects, you can guess the story of 90% of mainstream movies. When the lazy movie-makers run out of ideas they Jump the Shark, or Nuke the Fridge. Most television shows are a little different because they can’t reach the actual climax. And in this way, they are a bit more like real life. Things happen – good or bad – and then things continue to happen.

These charts were compiled from dozens of sources. I ordered some art supplies online and when they arrived, to my joy, they included large swaths of brown butcher paper. We used to sketch on this in art class, so I started using the paper as a placemat. As I relearned how to rewrite, I began sketching out story circles, narrative structures and character arcs. I look them over when I’m eating, painting or simply staring out the window over a cup of coffee or tea. My wife and I used to have our afternoon sessions of tea, snack and conversation, but without her it’s just a cup of tea. To avoid getting lost in nostalgia, I channel that stale energy back into storytelling.

The shape of stories can be boiled down to a few. The marvelous Kurt Vonnegut, has reduced the vast majority of shape of stories. Man in a Hole; Boy Gets Girl; Cinderella.

But he says real life is more of a straight line. Things continue to happen to us. Vonnegut says, We don’t know enough about life to know what is good news and bad news. The story ends when life ends, and then it becomes destiny.

It is never too late though to shape the arc of your story. There are countless ways to improve the direction you are heading. The reward is a life lived well. The treasure is the person you are. We are the stories we create in our lives. Tell yourself a good story today, and then start living it.

Believe in Your Daydreams

Everything starts as somebody’s daydream – Larry Niven

We are the stuff of dreams. The lives of each and every one of us has been shaped by our dreams, and the dreams of our: parents, ancestors, teachers, teachers, and so many more who influence us each day. The technological electrified world we inhabit was dreamed into existence. There are no screens in nature, no digital signals. Although the structure of modern society is constructed with manufactured objects, the foundation is built upon a myriad of dreams within dreams. As Edgar Allen Poe said – All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Remember, the magic mirror devices we all use are tools. Just as a net can gather fish or laundry, a smartphone can be used to gather information or entertainment. Humankind has invented an uncountable number of tools which have allowed us to expand into every corner of the earth and into space. And each of these began in the imagination. The human imagination, or more precisely, my imagination was one of the reasons, my resume/CV contains an entry for “educational technologist”. Back in 1994/1995, when the World Wide Web became publicly available, I helped science teachers learn how to use it to enhance learning. I even got to work with the inventors of MOSAIC the original web browser and had a floppy disc of the first version.

So I had to imagine a lot of ways to instruct hundreds of teachers, who had barely used computers, how to access and use the Internet in their classrooms. Most of the places I taught didn’t even have a computer available, and so I dragged my own personal desktop with me. In the beginning, I would use actual paper folders to explain desktop folders and email. I explained satellite imagery, an important element of our environmental education project, using pieces of string to construct a 90 foot square. Which approximated the 30 meters resolution of the imagery we used. I had science teachers stand in the center of this square an imagine that everything inside the square was unknown to scientists. Scientists could not see it. That is why we needed their eyes and their students eyes on the ground.

Our Information Age world was not created out of thin air. It was built from ancient tools. As Isaac Newton said, If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. My dad was one of the “giants” of my life. He was a mechanic. He worked in a gas station as a teenager. He knew the workings of every square inch of his patrol bomber in World War Two. He trained at a technical college after the war and was a top factory mechanic for decades. He is the one who taught me how to visualize a problem. First you have to imagine all the whys and eliminate them one by one. To do this you have to have knowledge. So although Pop had a wide range of hands-on knowledge he continued learning his whole life. But tragically large parts of his huge mental archive of mechanical knowledge became obsolete in his old age. In the end he couldn’t even work on his own car because of the computer chips.

Here is a unique tool my father made. The factory couldn’t ship twenty road graders because of an unknown problem with the transmission. It would cost over $75,000 to open the transmissions and fix them. Because of his mastery, my Dad was able to not only visualize the problem, but design a tool, and make the tool. He then could reach inside the transmission and “…check the side clearance of side play of the Bull Gear in cross-shaft housing…”. He was given a bonus of several hundred dollars. Because of family issues with my siblings, it is one of the few items I have from my father. I asked him for it, and he wrote down the explanation, and signed it 🙂 This treasured piece of steel reminds me of my father – great imagination and great practical knowledge.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy – Shakespeare

Our dreams change as we age. The dreams we dreamed in our youth give way eventually to the mature dreams of adult life and eventually, if we are lucky like my Dad, we gain wisdom in our old age. Gather the knowledge you need to construct a path towards your dreams. Spend time each day daydreaming. Never stop learning. Never stop dreaming.

Freedom and Responsibility

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.Sigmund Freud

I mostly stay away from writing about politics, especially these days. But what happened yesterday in America was an infuriating tragedy which was incited by great ignorance and intolerance. A myriad of questions fill the sky like flocks of scavengers – WHY? HOW? There were scores of unheeded warnings from every direction, but even after the craven mob retreated like an out-flowing tide of sewage, the foul stain remains. But, even so, the supporters of this madness were desperate to scrub away their RESPONSIBILITY. Watching these agitating insurrectionists, I was reminded of George Orwell’s double-speak – War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

History has been a lifelong passion of mine. Many people see history as “set in stone” but that is not so. In every generation, there are sinister multitudes who wish to rewrite history. My father is the one who told me history is written by the winners. Because of that, on days like yesterday, I watch multiple sources of information and do not just settle for others interpretations of live unfolding events. And yesterday, I was reminded of words of wisdom from my father again when I saw so many idiots draped in red white and blue. He warned me against people who are constantly wrapping themselves in the flag. You would never meet more truly patriotic people than my parents, or my aunts and uncles. The warriors in my family did not fight for a flag. The flag is a symbol. In the words of my Uncle Sam (yes I have an uncle named Sam), who was a medic in the Battle of Iwo Jima – “We didn’t fight for the flag. We fought for the guys on each side of us.”

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. – George Washington

And so today I am seeing so many craven cowards dashing behind flag lined backdrops, desperate to cleanse themselves of the muck they have stirred up. Real America does not exist for these fakes. The real America is still here. The heartbeat of America, as it always has been, pounds away in the chest of everyday people going about their lives trying their best to make the world just a little better. The land that I love will always be found in the kind and generous souls of the so-called working class. That is the blessed land I love. In the words of my dear working class mom, You are no better than anybody and they are no better than you. That is real America.

My parents were not frightened by responsibility. My sweet mother had to quit school at 12 years old to go to work and support her family. She freely gave her love to all of us. Every damn day for over three decades, at 3:30 PM, my beloved father walked out of the house and clocked in at the factory for the 4-12 shift. On Friday nights, I would stay up late so I could tell him goodnight as he came in smelling of diesel, sweat, and grime. I will never forget the smell of real America – his boots and work clothes, drying in front of the secondhand heater – filling the house with a nobility beyond the understanding of most politicians.

I learned responsibility from real Americans. I taught my children the lessons of freedom and responsibility. They in turn teach me now about the better world they are trying to shape from the raw clay of the world to come. On these days that try our souls, I turn to poets to sum up the responsibility and promise of those of us who live freely. Freedom lies in being boldRobert Frost. Remember these days, but do not let them bind you to cold-hearted shadows. Move boldly ahead and remember Freedom grants us the chance to be better.

Being Present

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you… Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

Well my friends, here we are at the start of the third decade of the 21st Century. Now, that still sounds very much like science fiction to me. All too often we live our lives in a sort of time loop calling back to the past in order to cast ahead into the more distant future. When you are young you might ask yourself what would you like to do with your life? When you are old, you might ask, what have you done with your life? Be present in your life, in the precious moments of the day, and ask yourself, Who do you want to be – right now?

Do you know how to judge when a fruit is ripe? It depends on the fruit, doesn’t it? Walk through any produce section in the summer and you will see people thumping watermelons. They lift one watermelon after another listening for that perfect ripeness tone like a piano tuner. When I lived in China, old grandma’s would go through supermarket produce sections sticking their fingernail into various fruits, trying to find the ones ripe that day, no attention paid to what they left behind. So if you wanted fruit that was not marked up by fingernails you went to a fruit stand where the seller would pluck the ripe ones out for you. In one of our neighborhood fruit stores, there was a man I called the fruit master. No matter the fruit, he could reach in and pull out a winner every time. Back then, I spent some very happy five minutes having the master pick out a pineapple (they are ripe when the leaves can be taken off easily), and proceed to slice it up for us. Always he would pause and offer us one of the first juicy bites. With the juice dribbling down my chin, I’d give him the thumbs up. He would take a deep drag on his ever-present cigarette and deftly produce a bag of delicious goodness. Not once did I think about the cleanliness of his knife or fingers. In those moments I savored life to its fullest. Savor those sweet moments in your daily life.

When I was about five years old, I would imitate different famous people for my beloved grandpa. I’ve always been a good mimic, and so it seemed natural to me to adopt a persona to suit the moment. And in the moments when the five year old me pretended to be John Wayne, my grandfather laughed. That laugh was magic to me because I loved him more than anyone in my life. Just being around him was enough sometimes. And, sometimes, I pretended to be someone else, for a few moments to make him happy. Those temporary personas can overtake our true self though. So you should remember to be your authentic self with those you love. As Kurt Vonnegut wisely said, We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

I am not a big fan of looking at myself in mirrors. I feel the same way about cameras. The other day when I was in an online poetry reading, I hardly looked at myself in the Zoom window. But there are days when I must take a long hard look at myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In those moments of reflection I use the mirror of my soul to judge myself. First I look in the physical mirror and examine the “smile and laugh lines” (wrinkles), my less than perfect teeth, complexion… But I spend the most time looking myself in the eyes. I drive off worries and fears, and focus on the me I am right now. And I don’t look away until I smile. Because deep down in my inner core, that is who I am – a guy who likes to smile, laugh, and savor the moments when I can.

This third decade of the 21st Century has started out okay. I’ve been able to reign in pessimism, and cut down a bit more on my fussing and fretting. Right now, even though the days have been blurring together for months, I can hit the brakes, stand in the center of the vortex and be the person I want to be. Being present in your life does not make: the skin clearer, the laughter louder or the fruits juicier. But you can discover just what a unique miracle you really and truly are, because you are. Be real with yourself and others. And most of all – Be good to yourself.