Lines

Homeless Portrait

My father used to teach me about lines. Very thin lines. The line that separates the normal from the abnormal.

You see. We all have the potential to live on either side.

At a young age I used to go with my father to see a man by the name of John. I never knew of his last name, and never thought of it since he was always referred to as John. He would often be found walking the streets with a large black garbage bag slung over his shoulder. Shoes with no soul, pants clinging to the hip bones that held them up, and a shirt somewhere, but not often worn. Slicked, black hair, almost slimy. Stubble of beard hair along patches of air that was missed at the last shave. Dirty! Smelled like shit.

Approaching John you always knew it was him by the way he walked. His eyes had fallen long ago, and his face peered at the ground as if he didn’t need to see the path he had walked everyday for the past 10 years. Shoulders low, arms swaying to the motion of the opposite leg. Back hunched over like Notre Dame to cover his face, or shame, from the rest of the world. 

When we finally found him my father would yell “John?” “Hey John…come here John,” “It’s me Jerry”. It would take a few yells, if not more, for John to slowly turning his head toward out location without raising to meet our eyes. My father would get out of the car and I would watch my father and “John” talk with each other. The longer I watched the more normal it became. It was almost as if they were two young men talking about their approaching weekend, but I knew better than that. 

My father would always walk back to the car in the same way, with his head hanging low much the same way Johns did when he walked. He would open the door, slide into the front seat of the puke-orange Honda Accord, pull the seat-belt slowly over his shoulder, and sit. He would sit, and watch John stagger away. Silence.

“Don’t ever forget Devin, that we are never very far from the thin line that separates us from John. It could happen to anyone, and we all could find ourselves in the same place.” 

Many years later I learn that John went to college with my father, and had lost his family in a car accident, but the burden of tragedy proved too heavy for him to carry an longer. So he left the world, the society he had made home for the majority of his life, to sip off a bottle that would give him the temporary relief from the thoughts that were slowly killing him.

Request:

Think about John the next time you automatically judge someone walking down the street carrying a sack over their shoulder…for you may have to stay out of the rain one day.

 

Transformation

dsc_0654-1I have begun the process of metamorphosis.

The transformation of my soul,

As the dragonfly evolved from the dragon.

Skin shedding from the body, as I climb from the past,

Silver wings protrude from below the darkness that attempt to control their escape.

My mind seems to wander, into places of obscenity,

As my brain balances the obscure with the mundane madness of sanity.

Enlarged evil eyes as they interpret the glory of fear,

As the trodden path follows to balance my outward crawl,

I hear cracklings of fire belching from within.

The staunch taste of death rises,

As the unknown slithers near.

-Devin Olio

via Daily Prompt: Transformation
Transformation

Running Shoes

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I feel like I’m running most of the time, but don’t know where it is I’m running, or possibly what it is I’m running from; searching, but don’t know what I’m searching for as if I know there’s something out there for me to find, but just can’t figure out the means to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. One foot in front of the other…again, and again, and then again again. Then…I often end up stopping, and asking myself where in the hell I’m at, while having no idea how I got here or there.Why do we run when we can walk, pace when we can breathe, worry when we can let go; dying each day as we forget to live within each day that has passed.

I’ve realized that I’ve ran the majority of my life. Never completely satisfied with where I was, who I was, or where I was going. But one day, as they all come for each of us, I was awoken with the fact that I had wasted so many years striving to fit in to my surroundings, much the same way a chameleon hides backdrops of color. I had forgotten all about me, myself and I. Often we have a tendency to focus on the outcome, no matter what that outcome may be, while we blindly reject the appreciation of the process. We forget all about the creation, while concentrating all of our energy on focusing on the outcome, the goal, the end. Much the same way many would love to create in a manner that would touch the world, but fail to observe what the world needs. We have lost the ability to connect with the world around us because we have lost the ability to connect with ourselves. We talk but don’t listen, think but don’t feel, laugh but don’t cry. We have become numb to ourselves and our surroundings by searching for something to live for.

I eventually got to a point in my life where I realized I had no control over the destination I wanted to travel. I felt as if I was a twig that had fallen into a creek below, limp, as the current tossed me wherever it chose with little resistance or power to change course. It was only when I was tossed ashore that I realized my desire to achieve success in life through power differentials, influence, financial wealth, and intelligence was the creek below, and I needed to reevaluate where I was as I was drifting down stream. This stream was my life, and where I was scared me to death. I was sickened by what I discovered; the harder I worked, and the closer I got to the goal of success through educational hierarchy, the unhappier I become. Success did not equal happiness, and the pursuit of happiness, through seeking happiness itself, was actually an illusion; it was through the realization that I was soaked in unhappiness for finding myself where I was that opened the prism of realization. I wan’t seeking power but self-worth, influence but recognition, financial wealth but poverty, intelligence but wisdom. I was just never able to admit these things to myself before it was too late.

How often do we go through life as if we are in motion, a destination sought, or towards a point along the continuum, but really not moving at all? How often do we feel full, but know emptiness lurks within? How often do we portray happiness, when we know not what happiness is? Every search has a direction, a movement, that you have to consciously and completely believe in, or you will eventually circle back to where you started.

Though there is a way to slow down, and step off…

Step #1

I took off my running shoes, and replaced them with sandals.

Broken-Winged Bird

photo-1467857499683-7c766c8c1f15Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

-Langston Hughes

I recently had a man recite Langston Hughes’ poem Dreams. The contextual nature in which the poem was recited was a crucial aspect of understanding the value of this piece, but due to anonymity, I would prefer to stop there with the situational context. More important though was my part in the story. No…not that I am just wanted to write about myself, which is nice sometimes, but I’m referring to the judgement I placed upon this man. You see, this man is part of the society that we have a tendency to shun, pretend as if they don’t exist. The part of society that gets locked away, never to be seen or heard of again, while children become orphans, wives become widows, and mothers and fathers become parents of lost children. Back to the point…this was a man that just wanted a chance fulfill his dream. A dream that he could one day be looked at as if he was worth something to others, and could contribute meaning to the world. His dream happened to me, but not until after I made a judgement prior to allowing him the chance to thrill me with his gentle, but worn, forgiving expression of tone.

Context

This man had seen and spent the majority of his life experiencing things I won’t pretend I could imagine, nor foolishly attempt to describe without having to have survived the depths of suffering that he has experienced throughout his life. But the aspect of this event that has stuck with me is my foolishness in assuming I knew this man; as if he contained nothing other than my perception of who he was. The crux was that I assumed he had little to offer in the sense of literacy due to his lack of formal education and spoken word. I judged another human being on his past; a past that he will most likely seek the rest of his life for the redemption he deserves, but will sadly never receive. The honesty of this situation was that I judged another human being, and not only did I judge him, I failed to value his worth and contribution to the world as part of my own naivety.

I lost many hours of sleep thinking of my perceptual misconception of this man, and began to think how often this unfortunate act occurs throughout each day to so many other people who are judged in much the same way I judged this man. What about your perception of the homeless man on the street prior to realizing his just lost his entire family in a car accident, the single mother in the checkout line of the local grocery store using food-stamps to buy a fancy birthday cake prior to learning it’s for her child  she’s losing to cancer, or the chuckling of a schoolyard about an eleven year-old child getting bullied on the playground prior to reading in the newspaper the following week that she took her own life because she felt like there was something wrong with her.

Conclusion

The reality of our willingness to assume we know something about someone else is only a means in hiding our own insecurities, and only strengthens the justification for the little we actually know, or are willing to admit, about ourselves. If we truly understood ourselves, and the struggles we have endured as so many others have, we would have a greater reluctance to look outwards of ourselves in ridicule prior to looking inside ourselves for personal understanding.

Either way you look at it, maybe we are all the broken-winged birds, unable to fly, trying to find a way to follow our dreams… a dream of belonging in a world that is so quick to cast us aside?

Secrets of Fear

dsc_0097You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves.”

-Hermann Hesse

Fear. That was my secret. I have seen it in all its splendor as it rendered me motionless time and time again. I was afraid. Afraid of myself (not as a danger too self or others, but as the potential to fail), my insecurities, inadequacies and frailties; I was afraid of the vast, endless amount of possibilities, the decisions, and the contrast between each possible path. I was paralyzed in the future, while having little presence in the moment. As I look back now I have no idea why? Why others have the uncanning ability to appear as if they motionlessly float throughout life without a hair out of place, while the rest of us rejects stumble upon pebbles. I know I was living in fear, but I learned that it was the fear of life itself that crippled me. Life is scary and painful. No…life is terrifying! There is so much that is out of your control, and little you have control over. Youth offers the illusion of possibility, while age slowly rips it from your grasp. Each misstep adding to the one before it as you build a future without even knowing where you’re going.

Looking back now that was the scariest thing of all. I didn’t know who I was. I realize now looking back few of us really do, ever, and we spend our whole lives in fear of ourselves, and the inability to own up to where we are in the current moment. We all struggle at one point or another with the paradox of confusion; not knowing who we are, but living a life that has created where we are. Does your life mirror your ideal self? A life that measures up to who you feel you are as a human being? Does your exterior reflect your interior value and belief systems, morals, desires, aspirations, and needs? My soul wasn’t in harmony with who I was as an individual. I was running from the person I was creating, at the same time getting further and further from the person I truly was. I wasn’t ready to own up to myself, and wouldn’t be for several decades later. Afraid no more, but still in search of the harmony that comes with the journey of self-ownership.

Reflection

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For myself, the journey began not long ago when I caught a glimpse of the reflection of my true self; a silhouette that illuminated tiny shards of a person I once knew. I was shaken, confused and utterly terrified at what I saw; a slow, steady stream of pictures of my past which shaped the person I am today. I felt as if I was the only person in a dark theater observing a movie through a dimly lit projector; no sound, special effects, or actors. I was the protagonist, and there were no other distractions to appease my avoidance of what I saw. I was watching a movie in real time of my past, each event unfolding as if it happened yesterday. As I watched in horror at what I saw, my immediate reaction was to disassociate myself, and hide as far beneath my mind as possible, as if I could somehow continue to hide the truth I always knew was lingering within my soul. How did this happen? Why did this happen now, and why did I allow myself to be subjected to such a vulnerable state. As each day passed from then, as much as I tried to ignore the visions of that day, the more I was thrust into the horrifying reality of what I saw. I had been thrust into the undeniable reality that I was living a lie, and the more I tried to participate in the trickery of presentation, the shallower and empty I felt. Believe me…I tried. I wore every mask that I had ever created, but it was as if they had lost their power. For the first time in my life, I was faced with the sickening reality that the masks I had used since I was a child to fool the world around me were useless because of the power I had lost in myself. I was now faced with the truth that I hadn’t fooled the world, I had only fooled myself, and was now lost in my own devastation that I had created for so many years. I realized I wasn’t hiding from the world around me, I was hiding from myself; the culprit all these decades wasn’t the exterior world that I was so attuned into playing a fool. I was the only actor, and the only fool.

The Authentic Self

masks

It takes courage to grow up, and become who you really are.

-E.E. Cummings

We live in a world that is infatuated with presentation; how we dress, appeal to others, speak, behave and the multiple ways in which we are labeled, and therefore judged, by those we come in contact with. Who am I, and how would I authentically like to been seen by others? How am I supposed to behave at work, school and social events? How do I want family, friends, in-laws and peers to view me? We spend countless hours contriving ways to provoke the world to respond to us only to be left with the foolishness of what we’ve created. After the required energy spent to deceive others into believing what we portray, there is little energy left to acknowledge our authentic self. This concept mirrors Victor Frankl’s assumption that happiness, much the same as authenticity, cannot be pursued, but ensued, and will continue to allude the seeker the greater one focused on that outcome.

While I spend the majority of time in an occupational field that stresses presentation as a means of attaining clinical outcomes,  I have found the less I concern myself with the way others may perceive me, and more time I spend on behaving in a way that brings me intrinsic joy, the less the issue of extrinsic perception matters. I have come to believe that individuals want to see the authentic you, the person that doesn’t have to portray a mirage of stimulation or colorful disguises in order to connect with another human being, or strains to search for an authentic self. Authenticity displays truth. Others prefer to see your weaknesses along with your strengths, your insecurities along with your self-efficacy, and your doubts and fears along with your certainties. That is authenticity, for authenticity if found in our ability to share with others our true self, without the perception of uniqueness or difference. If we spend our time hiding within the fallacy of the perception of someone else, we may just lose sight of who we are becoming in the process. Don’t waste your time on fooling others for you will slowly become the only fool. Become the author of your own story, own it, and share it with the world. Shine in your own splendor! Spend a little time within yourself, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and find the aspects of yourself you cherish, and let them out in all their glory. Authenticity is not necessarily authentic, but authentically unique, and we are all unique in our own way.

Past, Present & Future

cropped-20150802_1258291.jpgMy first official blog post… well, what should I write? As I construct the manner in which I will use this blog in an effort to share what I have learned about myself, and the world around me, I have elected to not go in chronological order when addressing life events. Yes, I have a story to tell. Yes, my story has a darkened past spent in the trials and tribulations of naivety, as well as in the light of purity and faith, but I have chosen to start at the present moment. I feel that too often we have a tendency to share what has occurred in an effort to change, prevent or assist others from traveling the same path, but we sadly forget about the present moment; the here-and-now, and the events of our ordinary lives each day. I have learned that the present moment has a unique ability to share the wisdom of the past, and the direction of the future, if we can steady ourselves long enough to become aware of it. Each blog will wind through the present, past and future at will, but each stop will live their own existence as a piece of the puzzle that has constructed a life that is still in motion. So be patient if the sense alludes you, for the understanding of who we are takes time.