Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some Numbers

As of this month, I have been writing my blog for a year.  There have been some moments of down time here and there, but overall, I have been fairly consistent.  I have found a rhythm I like - two times a week on Wednesday and Sunday.  My original goal of using my blog as an outlet for my daily writing has altered.  Now I follow that goal on it’s own, writing notes, character descriptions, plot points, etc. for the novel I am working on.
Amazingly enough, one year in my life, while it seems like a long time, is really not very much when compared to the sum of my years.  I am 31 years old, and one year of my life only accounts for just over 3%.  So while I am proud of myself for being consistent, I still have a ways to go before my consistency becomes any sort of mile stone.

Take some of these examples for comparison.  I have been married to my wife for five and a half years - 18%.  We have known each other for 9 years - 30%.  I have lived in the Houston area for 13 years - 42%.  Before that I lived in San Antonio for 16 - 52%.  On the other hand, I only lived in Hawaii for 2 - 6% - and London for 4 months - 1%.  I have played the bassoon and saxophone for 20 years - 65% - which also corresponds to how long I have know my best friend Steven.
So, in terms of longevity, my writing habit has a long ways to go before I can celebrate it in any grand sort of way.  Sure, I can honor my focus and determination to make it last, after all, we encounter many things during the course of a year which can knock us off course.  I certainly encountered some of those this past year, but managed to regain my way every time.

Samantha also celebrates an anniversary this month - three years of Mary Kay, or just over 10% of her life.  BTW,  her website is here -  Hard work and perseverance are the name of the game.  Never giving up and always believing in yourself are important.  I am so very proud of her for her consistency and iron-will.
Since we are talking numbers a little bit, I would like to share an update on my novel.  While I don’t have even one chapter on the page, I have been incredibly productive.  My goal was to write between 500-1000 words a day, and have accomplished that nearly every day.  The days that life interfered, I made sure to keep track of the words I owed; the next opportunity I had to write, I made up for it.  Between the first and the 29th, I should have written between 14,500 and 29,000 words.  I have written 19,401 - an average of 669 words a day.  How would this translate into page in a novel?  The average page in a modern novel contains 250 words, so I have produced approximately 77 pages in a novel.  

Now, most of what I have written are descriptions, possibly story lines, character descriptions, backstory, setting, etc.  I did spend a day and write 500 words on a chapter I have since discarded.  Unfortunately, as I write, I discover more things about my characters and the story changes and grows.  The problem with jumping in and writing chapters too soon is that they will change.  I still have a long way to go, but I am pushing forward to having a first draft finished by the end of June.
All of this above certainly is interesting.  I find it fun to crunch numbers periodically - it seems to put my life in a slightly different perspective.  Another perspective I appreciate when reviewing your life is the one proposed by the musical Rent
.  In the song Seasons of Love, the lyrics refer to the number 525,600.  This is the number of minutes in a normal year.  The song is a meditation on how to measure the course of a year.  Do you measure it in the number of minutes, the number of sunsets, cups of coffee, in miles traveled, in strife?  How do you describe it?  
The characters suggest measuring the course of a year in love.  How have you loved?  Who have you loved?  In what ways?  Have you chosen to love yourself more than others?  Do you love your work more than yourself or the people in your life?  Do you love money and the things it can buy more than those who love you?  
These are tough questions to answer.  Most of us might even choose to lie to ourselves in an attempt to hide what we truly feel.  If you allow yourself to answer the questions truthfully, you might find that this next year will bring you more happiness.
All the numbers I threw at you today mean nothing to me without people to share them.  The more significant numbers are the ones associated with people, and there are many numbers I could have mentioned that I didn’t.  Love is what makes the rest of the numbers possible.  Sharing that love makes those numbers more significant.  
Thank you for being part of making those numbers special and for making the past year possible.  Knowing that all of you are there and participating in my adventure drives me forward.  Those numbers could not have happened with out you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Held Hostage

In the summer of 2001, my best friend and I went on a road trip of a spiritual nature.  We had registered for two different conferences taught by the same teacher in which we would practice meditation, learn about different spiritual practices and histories, and experience ourselves.  
The first conference was held in Albuquerque, the second in Denver; they were a week apart.  Our plan was to head out from Houston on I-10 and camp along the way.  We had arranged to stay with some people associated with the conference in Albuquerque and in a hotel in Denver, but other than those few days we would be out in nature.
I enjoyed our time in Albuquerque.  I developed a liking of the green chili culture we discovered in almost every meal, the city was free-wheeling and lively, and we spent a day exploring.  While they city was incredibly impressionable, I took more away from our conference then I ever imagine the city itself could have offered.
The group leading the classes was The Growing Place ( and was taught by a married couple - Sharon and Patrick O’Hara.  They had devoted their lives to teaching people how to find spiritual peace amidst their busy lives.  I had never met either of them before, nor had I ever experienced a series of classes akin to these, so needless to say I was a little nervous.  That was all quickly put to bed once the classes began.
We spent two days with them in the little hotel conference room.  We ate our meals with the other attendees.  I met a man who could tell you what you had eaten by how you smelled.  He was also confident he knew me from somewhere.  I told him that it might be because I looked like Christopher Reeves (which in hindsight I never did, it was just a curl my hair liked to do - you be the judge).  I found out I was the only non-vegetarian in the group, or at least the only one eating meat during the meals.  We practiced meditation, finding ways to ease our consciousness into deeper relaxation, we worked on seeing the world in a new way and deciphering what it might mean.
During our last session, we talked about being held hostage.  Some of our classmates were veterans of the classes and had experienced this portion of the conference before.  They were ready with experiences to share and volunteered to speak.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My defenses were still up in certain areas and so I was perfectly fine to sit and listen without participating.  Eventually the stories stopped and Sharon lead us through some directed meditation.  We were asked to relax and to focus on the first thing that came to our minds.  This would be one of the things holding us hostage.  I relaxed and silence descended on the room.  Everyone was so still, you couldn’t even hear the breathing of the person immediately next to you.  I cleared my thoughts, sure nothing would emerge from the silence.  Something did.
Up from my subconscious floated an image of my Grandpa, my mom’s dad.  He had just recently passed away after spending four years suffering from intense Alzheimer's brought on by a sudden heart attack.  The only thing that had kept him alive after the heart attack was the cold water of the river he fell in, the vigorous CPR administered by his fishing buddy - a man of 80 years - and the EMS that arrived almost 30 minutes after it happened.  I was a sophomore in high school at that time and wasn’t really sure how to deal with this sudden change in my life.  For me, from that point on, the man I knew as my Grandpa wasn’t there any more.  I saw glimpses of him from time to time, but mainly I only saw the familiar face and body, although these changed drastically for me as well.  His death seemed to be the simple closing of a book that had long been finished.
As I sat there in Albuquerque with his image floating in my subconscious, I understood what she had been talking about.  I was being held hostage by my Grandpa.  This wasn’t any act of his, all he did was live and die as the universe directed.  I was being held hostage by my inability to let go of his memory.  I had attend the memorial service, had helped spread his ashes, had seen my parents deal with his death, but I had not faced it, allowed it to work it self out, and accepted it for being truth and reality.  Sharon’s class helped me do that.
While we sat there in silence, I started to cry quiet tears.  I was vaguely aware of the emotion in the room, but was solely focused on my own grieving.  During that time, and I couldn’t tell you how long it was, we sat in silence broken only by periodic instructions from Sharon and the periodic sniffle from one of our classmates.  I worked through my Grandpa’s illness and death.  I allowed the feelings I didn’t know I had to release letting everything go.
Today, I remember him, but I don’t allow the weight of his death to hold me down and keep me back.  I don’t allow his memory to hold me hostage any longer.  I know there are other memories and experiences holding me hostage, but thankfully, because of my Albuquerque experience, and because of my Grandpa’s death, I am aware of the knowledge that I can free myself from them at any point.
The death of a loved one is not the only thing that can hold you hostage.  I have been held hostage by broken relationships and the pain they caused, by unfulfilled desires and wishes, by unchosen career choices, and so many other things.  I chose to face them and allow them to go, removing the weight they previously held.  By freeing myself  of their power, I move forward into what comes next, bringing the memories and knowledge gained from the experiences into my continued life.
Therein lies the value.  The universe places these experiences in our path for us to learn and discover who we are and where our place is.  Without them, none of us would be who we are today, but we don’t have to be defined by them.  They are only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that helps to define who we are.  I love my Grandpa and cherished the time I spent with him when he was alive, but I thank him for his death, for without it, I could never have learned such an important lesson.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The last week I have written about two topics that might seem different, but are in fact related.  The first was about the difference between tolerance and acceptance.  American society seems to prefer a tolerance defined more as enduring that which is different until it succumbs and changes, rather than that of accepting something which is different, allowing it to be so.  The second topic was about the courage to change, either within yourself or in your experience.  Both changes have the potential to yield grand results.
This week, I would like to discuss the wisdom to know the difference.  Originally, my blog on tolerance began as a stand alone topic, something which about which I felt passionate.  As I wrote and performed some research, I stumbled across a quote with which I was familiar, but had forgotten.
Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
the courage to change the things I can, and 
the wisdom to know the difference.
After reading over this prayer - known as the Serenity Prayer - frequently attributed incorrectly to St. Francis of Assisi, actually written by Reinhold Niebuhr, I decided to structure the next couple of topics from it’s inspiration.  
The first line is a plea for pure tolerance.  Pure tolerance allows us to see an individual, an idea, a concept, for what it is, to know that it is different, and to allow it to be so.  Allowing our lives to be structured with this in mind will lead to peace and serenity.  No longer will you have to fight against the unknown and the unfamiliar, instead, through acceptance, life will flow along, allowing differences between ourselves and others to exist with unconditional acceptance and belonging.
The second line is another plea to find the courage to make alterations in our lives as necessary.  Change requires the expenditure of an immense amount of energy.  The larger the change, the longer our vigilance is required, preventing relapse.  Stepping forth into a changing mentality, be in individual or external, contains it’s difficulties.  From within, we fight comfort levels, we fight ego, we fight social pressures to conform.  Externally, we face opposition, sometimes manifest in violence.  Encountering these difficulties is constantly a part of changing; the experience can be grim, requiring extreme amounts of courage.
The final line from the prayer is the most profound - wisdom to know the difference.  Acceptance, when practiced incorrectly, can unfortunately distort into apathy.  The courage to change, when overzealous, can morph into a crusade against everything.  Neither of these promote promising states of existence.  
A good example of inappropriate acceptance would be Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  Before the German war machine reared it’s ugly head in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, world powers, the people of the world chose to accept the Third Reich for what it was, albeit with a tremendous sense of wariness.  They chose to accept that which they believed was threatening with the hope that the threat would diminish on its own.  It certainly did not, and the world suffered because of the apathy.  In a way the situation was ironic, the world was tolerating Nazi intolerance.
Overzealous change has manifested itself on a national level as well.  A more recent example of this, though not nearly on the same level as the Nazi example, would be the recent mid-term elections.  The Democrats, eager to dispense with what they saw as a national mandate for change after the 2008 elections, enacted their agenda without regard to the national pulse.  Despite suggestions from the polls regarding the feelings of large portions of our population about their policies, they chose to ignore the warnings, focusing instead on their success in 2008.  Their continued push resulted in a large portion of the country abandoning their party, returning power to the Republicans.  The Democrat overzealousness for change resulted in their historic demise in November.  My only hope is that now, both parties will see the writing on the wall and seek to serve the constituents in the best way possible.
Wisdom is the glue to holding both of the concepts - acceptance and change - together.  Without wisdom, neither can be enacted appropriately and to their best end.  Accepting apathetically and changing haphazardly can be disastrous; before either are chosen, the results must be contemplated.
Wisdom can be found in many places.  Some choose to seek the words of holy texts, or advice from those they trust.  Some rely simply on their own knowledge.  I encourage anyone in the position of choosing acceptance or change to pursue wisdom on both aspects.  If you are only ever seeking one opinion on any issue, then your view will only be one-sided, opening yourself to failure.  For example, when pursuing a decision on political policy, don’t just watch Fox News or MSNBC, watch both.  Read about it from people on both sides of the aisle and develop a learned opinion.
Before making a decision on how to react to any situation, knowledge and wisdom are necessary.  Ensure that your reactions are from a place of knowing.  In order to do this, you also have to make sure you know yourself.  You have to know where you stand on right and wrong.  You have to know whether you have a moral code, how that code was developed, and if you feel right about it.  Make sure your knowledge of yourself exceeds your knowledge of outside forces.  Wisdom extends internally, as well.

Niebuhr’s prayer is a mantra by which our lives should be lived.  Every action should be performed through a supreme wisdom with every consideration to the results.  Acceptance is healthy and powerful, change is enlightening and profound, but wisdom should drive them both. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Courage to Change

This week I have been thinking a lot about change.  With the New Year having passed and people all around the world settling into sustaining both the well thought out and hastily chosen resolutions, change is in the air.  In our house, we have increased our awareness of our foods, are flossing more, are writing consistently, and are being better people.  We identified areas of our life in which we could earn more satisfaction, developed a plan, and put it into action.
Not me.  But you knew that.
Approaching change takes a certain measure of courage.  Even something as small as making sure I floss every night before I go to sleep sometimes takes an immense amount of effort.  I do have to admit, I failed to floss last night, preferring to get into bed a mere one minute sooner than I might have.
As silly as that is, human habits have a pesky way of reinforcing themselves.  The bad routines in which we find ourselves are so comfortable, our brains are loathe to change.  I once heard someone say: “Everyone is perfectly fine with change, it is the path between now and change everyone is afraid of.”
It takes courage to step out into the unknown, to embrace the discomfort accompanying new experiences.  For me, my goal to write 500-1000 words a day (not counting the bi-weekly blog) has been an effort in planning.  On days that I am fully engaged in activities until late at night, I have to ensure a 30 minute or so block of time for me to write.  I have to plan ahead to make it work, otherwise I fall flat on my face.  
Enacting change also requires courage of a different sort.  In the event that you slip, as I did last night with my flossing, acknowledging the mistake, the weak moment, is vital.  As soon as you ignore your actions, you give your self permission to take a step backwards again.  Acknowledging your error helps prevent remission.  Once you have corrected your behavior, continue to move in the direction of change.
As difficult as producing viable change in our own life might be, imagine the intense efforts of altering the landscape in a family, a community, a state, or a society.  Approaching any alteration takes a certain measure of fortitude; tackling issues that have been ingrained into generations, and producing measurable, meaningful change takes unimaginable courage.  Stepping into this arena means creating enemies, making mistakes that can effect more people than just yourself, and generating a tremendous amount of emotion, both positive and negative.
The United States experienced a serious upheaval in the middle of the twentieth century as it struggled to find a unified racial identity.  As integration swept the country, people were forced to interact with groups they had been taught were different, inferior even.  Resistance was common, with groups resorting to violence and murder.  The country still deals with the specter of it’s bigoted past even though we are fifty years past the inception of the movement.
The strength and courage manifest in those at the forefront of the movement was immense.  For the benefit of many, they chose to put their own lives on the line, sometimes resulting in their own death.  They had the courage to change, because they knew change was right.
Ghandi taught us to “be the change we want to see in the world.”  Our metamorphoses begins within; only through our own introspection will we drive change.  Courage exists in every one of us, courage that enables us to take steps a new direction.  Enacting individual change can lead to progressively larger changes, potentially altering the world we live in for the better.
Have the courage to change.  I believe in you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I have had this blog at the top of my “to write” list for quite some time.  I finally have an opportunity to write it as the universe hasn’t seen to press more important or eager topics to the forefront of my mind today.  So, today, I step on my soapbox.  

Tolerance is a term preaching from the pulpit, the politician, and the and the pundit.  We are encouraged to tolerate those who are different from us, those you might disagree with, and those with whom we are unfamiliar.  We are asked to see them for what they are and allow them to be as they are.  Through our tolerance, we are seen to welcome them into our lives.

I have to be honest with you.  I hate this word.  Tolerance has long implied to me the grudging acceptance of something we can not change.  We do not like it, never will, and so we tolerate it.  The way this word is bandied about suggests we simply ignore that which we don’t like.  Our tolerance is merely a means to achieving peace in our own life by not fighting that which we would prefer did not exist. has a few different definitions for the word tolerance:
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.
My experience with the word, as thrown about by supposed leaders, seems to float more in the realm of definition number four.  People preach tolerance as an act of endurance.  I can tolerate flies, or screaming infants, or pain at the dentist.  Eventually, I will have a breaking point, and my tolerance will cease, morphing into something more negative and destructive.
I feel that this is the attitude we are asked to adopt as our country struggles to deal with the question surrounding homosexuality, immigration, Islam, bigotry, political division, and any sort of other potentially destructive issue.  We are asked to tolerate gays, immigrants, and Muslims.  While the voices of those imploring tolerance may have definitions one through three in mind, I fear that many hearing the word tolerance immediately jump to number four.  They feel as if they are being asked to endure.
Why is this dangerous?  The request to endure implies a defined ending.  Tolerate the gays until they discover the error in their ways.  Tolerate immigrants until they conform to our established social fabric.  Tolerate Muslims until they go away or are converted to Christianity.  Tolerate those different from us until they aren’t any more.
Sooner or later, those who believe in this kind of tolerance are going to learn that endurance may have it’s limits.  A gay person is just that - gay.  An immigrant may adopt some of the American aspects, but they will not abandon that which they know - there will always be immigrants.  A Muslim can not and will not disappear, and even if they are converted, their version of Christianity will retain that of their original cultural identity - they are Muslim.  There will always be those different from us.
When people realize the end of their endurance, tolerance will end.  Moments like this erupt into violence, either individual violent episodes like this week’s shooting in Arizona, more large-scale episodes like ethnic cleansing, or world wide events like World War II.  This is the eventual result of definition number four.  We are human animals, and our endurance can only be stretched so thinly.
Instead of preaching tolerance, people in positions of influence need to encourage acceptance.  Through acceptance we achieve the ideal of perfect tolerance - that listed in definition one and two.  With acceptance we can acknowledge that people are gay, and while it might be different than what you or I are, it is perfectly fine.  With acceptance we can recognize that immigrants might be different and that is good.  Their cultural experiences add to our own, and continue to build this melting pot nation.  With acceptance we see Muslims as honoring their own religion instead of attempting to steal or usurp yours.  Discover the points upon which you agree and build a relationship of trust.  With acceptance those who are different will help us discover more thoroughly that which we believe.  Differences will help question our own beliefs and either further cement them as right or divert us towards that which is more correct to our existence.
Acceptance is a powerful tool in our lives.  With acceptance, we foster peace and brotherhood, and look to move forward.  I would love to say that our nation has been forged through acceptance, but that would not be correct.  Our nation has been strong enough to endure tolerance, though at times that tolerance has threatened to rip it apart.  The same will happen in our lives if we allow it.  Look for opportunities to demonstrate acceptance and you will see opportunities in which to demonstrate love.  Tolerance is a product of self-love, acceptance is a product of selfless love.  
The beautiful thing is you have the choice, the free will, over which life you would like to live.  Do you choose acceptance which loves others, or tolerance which loves only yourself?  It is tough, I know, but it is a decision worth making.  You need to understand yourself, for only then can you truly participate in peace and happiness.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Moe lives

So today’s blog is inspired by a true event.  Last evening as I was eating dinner, I received some disturbing news.  One of my former students, who had worked with us after he graduated, and who I consider a friend, was reported as having died in a car wreck early that morning.  I am sure you can imagine what kind of emotions and thoughts passed through me at that moment.  This was a first for me and I had no idea how to handle it.

The first thing I did was to consult facebook, the original source for the information.  His status was a simple, to the point, statement letting everyone know the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.  I stared at the screen as new comments piled up on his wall.  People shared a mix of denial, horror, pain, and love as they attempted to understand their own confused feelings.  I put my information network into motion, contacting the people I knew who might have more inside information.  After talking to other students who graduated with him, current students, his friends, colleagues, and employers, I found only an information void - the only source was facebook.
I took a brief break to digest my own feelings, lost myself in work for a short time, and then resumed my search.  I googled everything I could think about the circumstances of his death, attempting to find any bit of knowledge that would help me discern fact from fiction.  Finally, a confirmation of sorts appeared.  Someone had spoken with the police, confirming what we all feared.  Facebook blew up.
After informing the necessary school officials of what was to come the next day, I let myself work some more, not eager to let my mind sit still.  I would periodically check facebook for new information, but only managed to expose myself to the out-pouring of love from friends on his wall.  I didn’t want to think about the next day, how we would tell the kids, how we would deal with the aftermath.  This wouldn’t be a one day event, it would leave a lasting mark on our band community, and while I was confident everyone would make it through, I was not excited about the future.
Then, I received a text from a student telling me he was alive, that in fact he had been reached on the phone.  My phone rang, it was a colleague confirming the same information.  I checked facebook, and there on his wall was an authentic post:
 OMG!!! I was hacked!! I am NOT DEAD!!! lol”  
Nothing was wrong.  He was alive.  Facebook blew up again.  The future was saved.
How does all this make me feel.  Aside from the emotional roller coaster 100s, maybe 1000s of us, communally experienced, it taught me a few things about world.
First, something about which Samantha likes to chide me, is the internet is not the most accurate source for information.  Sure, wikipedia, is a great, quick source of information, but, as it is edited by normal people everywhere, it is not always reliable.  Yes, it is fact checked, but unfortunately, due to the massive amount of information contained on it’s servers, the data can’t always be checked fast enough.  Always confirm your information through alternate sources.
In this case, the unfortunate circumstances were amazingly coincidental.  There was another man with the same name from the same city who had passed away in a car wreck on January 2.  Some people took this as confirmation.  A closer look now reveals it is a different person, and it took place in a different year and a different location.  Other than this, the lack of information (because it didn’t happen), actually lent credence to the false statement.  This, combined with his unavailability by cell phone (it was dead, but he was not), helped convince people the facebook status was the truth.
Second, the event reaffirmed the unfortunate fact that some people operate maliciously.  For whatever reason, the people who hacked his account created mayhem and havoc amongst his friends and associates.  I don’t understand, and perhaps never will, the spirit it takes to do something so simple and brief, yet so deeply profound.  The post probably only took 15 seconds to type, but it cause many hours of pain to a large amount individuals.  Did they know in their heart the tempest they were creating?    Maybe.  Probably they thought they were being funny, unaware of the intense consequences wrought by their silly actions.
After confirmation came that he was still among the living, the facebook posts quickly turned to anger.  I will truly say that I hope the hackers do not actually meet those affected.  My hope for them is that they will become aware of the wrongness in their actions through a more civil and gentle method.  Regardless of the pain they certainly caused, my heart goes out to them and prays for their healing.  Truly, I fear they are the more damaged party in these circumstances.  We are free to heal from our ordeal, while they must continue with the weight of their actions resting upon their shoulders.
The third thing I gained (and final one because this has become more of a dissertation than a blog), was insight into the pure love existing in the center of the human soul.  One of my previous blogs centered on the idea of teachers, and I referenced a lesson taught to author Wayne Dyer by his dead father.  Dyer’s father, through his neglect, abuse, and eventual absence, introduced him to forgiveness.  We can find a similar situation in these circumstances.
The memorial statements posted on his facebook wall during the two hours of his death reveal the amount of love and caring people shared for him.  While I have only shared a small portion of his life, the effect he had on many people around him was apparent and profound.  When people were convinced of his death, they let the world know they loved him.  People with whom he might have conflicted set aside their differences, acknowledging their human love for him.  He was taught a great lesson yesterday, whether he knew it or not.  He is and always will be loved.
The rest of us, in our brief agony, shared a similar experience.  We discovered similar feelings for a person we regarded as friend, colleague, and acquaintance.  The act of the hackers, no matter how misdirected, managed to bring together an impressive amount of people unified in one thought - we love.
In a way, I am thankful for yesterday’s occurrence.  I am more aware than I was before of the love around me.  I am thankful for my life and for those who share my experience. 
The universe blessed us with a gift.  We were given death, but through death, if considered in the right way, we were given life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Purge

I read many Facebook posts this past week in which the poster mentioned purging.  Every one of these comments referred to the process of cleaning closets, offices, back rooms, garages, etc.  The new year is a great time to go through the old stuff you never look at to decide if it is worth holding on to for another year.  Before this year, I don’t recall being aware of so many different people taking advantage of the winter holidays to clean up their places.
Samantha and I participated in two different purging efforts.  The first, and more time consuming of the two, involved a family effort to go through Samantha’s Grandmother’s house.  She recently passed away, and the family finally had an opportunity in which to gather.  We spent two days delving into her history, deciding what needed to go to whom, what needed to be donated, what needed to be thrown away, and what could be sold.  I learned much about this woman with whom I had interacted for eight years, but never really knew in depth.  It is amazing the story your belongings can tell to anyone willing to listen.
As a result of our two days, Samantha and I decided to do the same with our own house.  We began in the kitchen, throwing away food in the pantry which had expired (2003 was the oldest - Yuck!), rearranging, and consolidating.  We attacked the cabinets and discovered we had an excessive amount of coffee and tea mugs.  The fridge was purged as well, leading to the discovery of more expired food items, mainly salad dressings and other jars on the door; it also received a thorough wipe down.  Old coupons were thrown out, wedding and birth announcements discarded, and the ridiculous amount of chopsticks and plastic utensil pouches were disgracefully thrown aside.  The kitchen took about an afternoon to go through.

Afterwards, I went through my drawers and closet, finding clothes that will benefit someone else more so than me (translation: I am no longer a medium).  I was amused to discover what a museum of receipts my nightstand had become.  Finally, as we put away our Christmas decorations, Samantha gracefully decided what to keep and what to let go.  We now have a decent donation pile waiting in our back bedroom.  I can only hope it won’t sit there for nine months like the last one.
After going through all of this, I realized how much unnecessary stuff we accumulate.  At one point, this random assortment of junk meant something to us; we endeared it with enough meaning that we thought it worth keeping.  Perhaps, when we first incorporated something into our experience, we imbued it with enough significant emotion we had to keep it.  Apparently, as I discovered, these memories have a shelf life, some longer than others.  When that time expires, so too does our stuff’s tenure.

Not my actual pile of junk!
Something else I noticed is our unwillingness to discard receipts, cards, magazines, fliers, and many other paper goods in a timely fashion.  In my own experience, I merely procrastinate the actual disposal of an item until it becomes part of the permanent exhibit.  I am terrible with mail and receipts.  They hang out on the counter or my dresser until I “clean,” meaning I put them in a drawer, unseen.  The trash is transferred from location to location until awareness of my actions settles in.  Only then, as I did this week, do I bare down and do what needed to be done weeks, months, and years ago.
I know for a fact that people do this within their own bodies and minds.  We have certain memories and experiences we give more significance than others, and we use these to anchor ourselves in the past.  They have a shelf life as well.  As we go about our business, we reach their expiration date, and either through ignorance or willfulness, we choose to ignore it.  These memories and experiences sit there, festering like a bottle of horse radish sauce that expired in 1973.
Memories and experiences like this can function as black holes in our lives; they develop an immense amount of weight.  As we succumb to their orbit, our entire existence is influenced by their gravity.  Eventually, if we allow ourselves to remain ignorant too long, we reach the event-horizon - the point where we can no longer escape.
Purging my house of unnecessary items this week helped me find a perspective on my daily life and the way I go about my business.  I am looking for the unnecessary and extraneous, seeking out thoughts and memories which might be holding me hostage.  Ridding myself of these will help me fly free.
My new goal is to analyze anything I encounter allow into my experience.  I will constantly estimate it’s worth, and when it has reached a point when it becomes unnecessary, let it go.  I feel this is only fair to me, to the world, and ultimately, to the people who love and rely on me.