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Monday, December 23, 2013

Moving Forward

It is funny… in a blog that I have titled "Moving Forward," I have found myself stuck the last few days on what to say here.  Even as my fingers move around on the keyboard, I am still not sure what is going to come out.

I have had moments of insight the last few weeks, profound, (or at least what I believe are profound,) thoughts that I want to share with you all.  I have taken notes as they come up so I do not forget them, but then there is the whole "how do I introduce this," dialogue that I have with myself.

Do I just lay it out in bullet points?
  • profound thought A
  • profound thought B
  • etc…
Eh, that doesn't really have the effect does it or seem that profound?

Death is an interesting process.  I use the word interesting because I find it interesting how one event, someone's passing, can create a different experience for so many people.

Death brings up more of a variety of thoughts and feelings then probably any other event in our life.  With death comes the full spectrum of our emotional experience.  We have anger and fear at one end and on the other we have joy and love.  In between there are emotions such as sadness, frustration, happiness, guilt, and so on.

Most fields of psychology will say that the grieving/mourning process follows "x" number of steps.  I am not sure I completely agree with it being as clear cut as that.  From a teaching experience there is a need to compartmentalize our thoughts and emotions into steps.  It gives teachers something tangible to pass onto their students.  It also gives those of us going through the process something tangible that we can work with and towards.

However, from an experiential standpoint, as someone who is going through the mourning/grieving process now and has gone through it in the past; I tend to view it more as a vast open field that is filled with hidden "emotion bombs."

These bombs, whenever you step on one of them, cause their respective emotion to explode inside of you.  

Imagine if you will… You have just lost someone you love and you find yourself walking through a vast open field.  You are not really thinking or feeling anything, you are just kind of "numb," and feel an "emptiness."  As you are walking along you step on one of these hidden emotion bombs.  This one happens to be anger, and when you step it, suddenly this angry feeling explodes inside of you and fills up that "emptiness," and takes away the "numbness," you were experiencing just a few minutes before.

As you travel through the field the anger stays with you.  It may have caused you to run now instead of walk.  It may have removed the caution with which you were moving forward because you are now blinded by the anger inside of you.  This continues until you step on the next emotion bomb.  This one happens to be sadness.  When you step on sadness it explodes inside of you.  This new explosion is so powerful that it is able to push the previous explosion (anger) out of you and now you are able to fully experience sadness.

The process repeats itself over and over again.  You keep traveling through the field and you keep stepping on different emotion bombs.  Anger, sadness, happiness, joy, fear, frustration, excitement, etc… they all show up at some point.

This is the best way I can describe how I have felt the last few weeks.  Like I am going through the field, stepping on different bombs from time to time.  What sets off one bomb may be clear, what sets off another one may be a mystery, but none the less, the bombs go off and the feelings are there.

I understand that it is important to allow myself to acknowledge and feel those feelings.  Some of which I may not necessarily want to, but I need to because it is all part of my process.

The field has no end to it because the field is ones' journey through life.  What can end is the presence of the "emotion bombs." They will gradually dissipate and eventually disappear completely as you go through the mourning/grieving process and as you allow yourself to heal.

Allowing yourself to heal… 

I believe that one of the greatest tragedies to ever befall humans is the tragedy that we choose to hold onto so much of the hurt, the loss, the let down, the failures, that we prevent ourselves from ever fully healing.  Thus robbing ourselves of being able to experience those feelings of happiness, joy, pleasure, elation, etc… at a higher level and more consistently.

We experience tragedy in life, we get hurt, we experience pain, and then we never move past it, instead we choose to hold onto it.  The hurt and loss becomes our new reality and we humans have sadly become experts at forming an identity around hurt and loss.

Why do we do this, why?  

I have a theory, but that is for another time and place; another blog.

As previously mentioned, I do have some thoughts/insights that have come to mind the last few weeks, as I have tip toed my way through the "emotion bomb" field, that I would like to share with you all:

I am going to go for the bullet point approach here :)

  • What will it take to get people to a place that they celebrate life with the same intensity that they mourn death?
  • It is so important to say and do what's most important while you have the breath to do so.
  • I have felt sad a lot the last few weeks.  A lot of times people think of sad as a negative feeling, but in situations such as this, I disagree.  I believe sadness is an important emotion to allow yourself to feel in times of loss.  I believe sadness is the yin to the yang of love.  Thus sadness is a way of reminding you the depth of love you felt for the person you lost.
  • Sadness continued:  Just because you feel sadness does not mean you have to become sadness or let it control your life.
  • How you choose to live your life after you have lost someone is ultimately how you choose to honor that person.
  • Whenever you experience loss you have a choice: choose to let the loss define you or choose to define the loss.
As I continue to move forward I have thought a lot about how challenging life can be at times.  It has been my experience that every challenge I have faced, every tragedy I have endured, has ultimately made me stronger and more capable of fulfilling my purpose on this Earth.  I believe the present one will prove the same.

For now, I will leave you with a phrase I have been thinking about quite a bit over the last few weeks.  These words of wisdom come from one of the great thinkers and philosophers of modern time… Rocky Balboa (aka Sylvester Stallone). 

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward."

I guess what he is saying, is that we have a choice… :)

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Death and the Gift that Lies Within

This last week has been a challenge to put it lightly.  I am not quite sure what will flow as I type, but I know where I want to end up going with this blog.  Ultimately I hope this blog entry leaves you with, well, You will just have to keep reading to see that. :)

On Saturday, November 30th, 2013 I returned home from a workout a little after 5pm.  On an average day I keep my cell phone on silent and only check it a few times a day.  About 6pm I checked it and saw I had several bizarre texts from different people asking if I was ok and saying they had heard that Paul was in a crash.  I also saw I had a missed call from a mutual friend of both Paul and I.  I immediately called him and he confirmed what I discovered when I turned on the computer.

I am thankful I was able to get ahold of him right away because the online world was providing a host a mixed info.  Some sites were saying Paul had died, others were saying it was a hoax.  When I switched over to Twitter to try to get more current info the #RIPPaulWalker and #PaulWalkerHoax were both trending simultaneously.  I cannot tell you what that felt like - the unknowing the watching the world try to decipher fact from fiction, hoping it was fiction, but hearing your buddies voice confirm that it was indeed fact.

Time stood still for me.  I must have visited a 100 different web pages trying to find one that said it was all a hoax, it was just internet bull shit and Paul was alive and well.  All the while my phone kept ringing, text messages and emails kept coming in, I knew from the volume that no matter how hard I tried I would not be able to find a reality where my friend still lived, I knew he was gone.

I sat there in disbelief and then the tears started.  Along with the tears came the questions: Why Paul?  How can this be real?  This has to be a dream right?  Why did this have to happen to him?  Why did this have to happen to me?  Why do I have to live my life without my friend who I was absolutely certain would be a lifelong friend?

The tears continued…

About 9:30 or 10pm I started responding to text messages.  The only reason was was because I was getting pissed off that people were asking me if I was hurt, if I was ok.  What kind of question is that?  Of course I am fucking hurt!  In fact I am no where near being ok!

I could not figure out why people would ask me that. It wasn't until a few hours later that a friend of mine told me that there was a rumor going around in the cyber world that I may have been in the car.  In the hours immediately after I didn't even think about that… that people may think it was me there, I only thought of Paul.

Sunday was spent crying, reflecting, and trying to connect with people who I knew he would want me to connect with.  At the same time I also tried to connect with a few people who understood his and mine relationship.  Paul and I were friends, brothers, kindred spirits, and all the above.  Our friendship was filled with the full spectrum - never wanting to grow up and acting like 10 year olds on one end to having deeply loving, thoughtful and insightful conversations that come with wisdom and experience on the other end. I kept the closeness we shared private for the most part.  Years ago when we first started hanging out I had several people who heard from friends of friends that I was Paul Walkers friend and they were "just wondering if I could _____ (fill in the blank)."  The point is people started coming at me right away to try and gain access to Paul.  I didn't like it so I didn't talk about him or our friendship to most because I wanted to protect him and his privacy.

Monday morning was my lowest point.  I woke up at about 2am feeling nauseous by 3:30 I was throwing up with food poisoning.  At one point around 4:30 am, I was hugging the toilet and dry heaving in-between the tears of loss AND if that wasn't enough, you know how with food poisoning you sometimes get it coming out of both ends???  Well lets just say that I was crying, I was dry heaving, and simultaneously I was squeezing my butt cheeks trying not to let good ole #2 get the jump on me.  At one point I started laughing and thought: "man I would sure love to tell this story to Paul.  He of all people would appreciate the bathroom humor and allow me to use graphic detail when describing my time with the porcelain God."

The puking stopped by 9am and a new week began.  A week that was filled with tears, with thoughts, with more tears and more thoughts and feelings.

As many of you know this is not my first rodeo when it comes to losing a loved one.  Paul was much different than Gabe and my Dad though.

With Gabe the loss of him also came with a loss of an innocence.  Me finding him and the experiences that followed.  (If you are not familiar with this story you can click on the link here to learn more about me and ultimately why I did the 1000 Challenge).

With my Dad it was the shock of losing someone again, the forced acknowledgement of the mortality of ones parents, and the guilt and regrets that came with the realization that there were opportunities for a deeper relationship between the two of us that would go unrealized.

It has been my experience with death, both personal, as a friend supporting others in loss, and through working with clients, that when death happens some of the most common feelings people feel are guilt and regret.  These feelings are articulated in the form of these common questions: "I wish would have____"  "If only I would have ____."  The blanks are typically filled in with words like love, sorry, effort i.e. "I wish I would have told her I loved her more, or I wish I would have made more of an effort to spend time with him."

With Paul I didn't have those feelings and without those I did not have the questions that go with them. With both Gabe and my Dad I felt a ton of guilt and regret.  With Paul there was/is just a deep void a void that comes from the loss of a very special person.  You see we both made it a priority to say I love you.  We both would call one another at random times just to say how proud we were and what we meant to each other.  The bond we shared and the love we felt was very clear and I'll be forever grateful for that.  And within that clarity there is no space for guilt or regret. :)

This has also reminded me just how important it is to make it a regular practice to communicate these feelings to the people who matter most in your life.  Tell someone you love them, tell them how much you appreciate them, let them know how proud you are of them.  Don't leave things unsaid, you never know when your time or their time will end.  Say what is most important to say while you have the breath to say it.

Watching the world mourn your friend is indescribable to say the least.  It comes with a very mixed emotional bag.  On one hand there is such a great sense of love and pride, pride that this person, my friend, could make such a positive impact on so many others.  On the other hand there is also anger and frustration.  Anger that there are people out there trying to exploit him, people trying to hurt him and his daughter, people talking about him and who he was, who have no idea who he really is - it is hard to watch and see all that.  There is a part of me that wants to defend him, that wants to shut up the people that need to be shut up, that wants to, well to put it politely, smack the shit out of people who are trying to exploit him and his daughter amongst others.

I know those would not be the most productive nor positive courses of actions.  I only share them with you because I want to be real with you right now.  And those are real thoughts and real feelings that I have had.  Another real thought and real feeling I have had, one that I have put my energy and attention towards is: honoring Paul.  How can I live my life moving forward so that I honor him best.

How can we all live our lives moving forward so that we can all honor him and what he meant to us?

I have smiled seeing the outpouring of love and support from fans around the world.  What I am so impressed by is a point I made last week.  It does not take money to make a positive impact, it only takes desire and a will to take the actions to make it a reality.  After all, look at all that has been done this last week to honor him.

1000's of people from all over the world have gathered to honor Paul, to bring attention to him, and to ROWW.  Many of you have helped raise 100's if not 1000's of dollars this last week to help support ROWW.  Many of you have donated time, money, and energy towards ROWW.  Watching this and see this beautiful gesture from so many has given me nothing less than goosebumps at times.

It also makes me wonder, what could the world be like if we focused our energy on honoring someone in life the same way we do as in death?

Think about that…

How much better could all your relationships be if you celebrated their lives with the same intensity and passion as you would morn their death?

How much deeper could you connect with those who matter most if you loved them with the intensity while they are alive as you would morn them in death?

How much more could you accomplish, how much more can you do, if you put the same passion and energy into accomplishing and doing things in life as you would when honoring someones death.

Death has a very clever way of removing boundaries and obstacles.  I guarantee many of you had obstacles to overcome to go to one of the car rallies this past weekend, BUT you were going to be dammed if you let those stand in the way and keep you from going!

What will it take to make that attitude, that passion, that intensity a part of our daily lives?

As I wrap things up, I am curious, how has this blog made you feel?  What are your thoughts?

Remember pain is a part of life.  Pain is also one of the greatest gifts we will ever have in life for without pain how could we ever learn to appreciate and enjoy at the level we are capable of?  Without pain how could we ever discover just how strong we truly are?

On the other side of pain is pleasure and it is always much much closer than you think.  I have been in a tremendous amount of pain this last week, but I keep reminding myself that there are lessons within the pain and those lessons will ultimately lead to the pleasure of life.

Anyone in life can do pleasure.  Pleasure is easy.  Pain is the challenge.  Pain is what tests us, pain is what will break us if we allow it to.  Pain is the barrier that can keep us from our dreams… Pain, and how we handle it when we are face to face with it, will ultimately define us.

And so my friends I hope this blog has given you a bit more insight and understanding to me.  I hope this blog has inspired you... inspired you to look at life a different way, inspired you to make doing and saying all you are a capable of a priority while you can.  I hope this blog has left you with the courage to face any pain you may be facing right now.

The pictures below are from this mornings sunrise.  May they serve as a reminder that beauty is everywhere and that from the darkest of places a great light can spring fourth, one that can illuminate the world.

Find Your Light!

Carpe Diem,