You don’t know who you are

You will never completely know or understand who you are. There’s a whole unknown you floating in your subconscious that only shows itself through dreams and surreal moments when you act in ways you thought you never would or could.  In some ways it represents your potential and depending on how you develop yourself that potential could be amazing, but it could also be disastrous.  Sigmund Freud would probably say that trying to get to know yourself on this level is trying to get more in touch with your Id and Super-Ego at the same time.

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“There are no mistakes.”

It’s a bit ironic actually, because the Ego (the moderator between those two) can be such a robust and confident thing when it really has no right to be.  The truth is we spend the majority of our lives trying to figure ourselves out (and that’s okay!)  I should actually say that the smart folks spend their days trying to better figure themselves out.  Unfortunately far too many people are busy looking outward than inward.  So they define things (especially the shitty stuff) by what their environment and those that inhabit it have shown them, instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing in that environment to begin with.

Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that people are often born into very unfortunate environments and circumstances.  As I’ve illustrated in previous posts, my own circumstances weren’t exactly roses and rainbows.  Some people don’t get to learn about themselves. It’s Maslow’s pyramid and they don’t make it past the first level.

An old friend of mine and I were discussing Maslow’s pyramid the other day and it both complimented and derailed what I intended to write about.  For those of you uninitiated, the essential idea is that human needs and progression happen on five levels.  The base of this pyramid are basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex (though.. I believe this transcends a bit… let’s call it “reproduction”,) oxygen, etc.

Once you’ve got your basic needs covered,the next level involved safety on every level.  Protection from the elements, security in your job/income/lifestyle, and basic personal safety.  All the things that lay the foundation for some level of confidence in your life.  But once you get all that figured out, you get to start on the advanced stuff.

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“Shit.. was that level 1 or level 3?”

Level three of Maslow’s pyramid consists of social developmental needs. This fuels the desire for popularity in high school and then evolves into being accepted and respected by your peers at work while simultaneously developing friendship, intimacy (there’s that sex again!), affection and, of course, love in your personal life.  Each step of this pyramid can be a life-long endeavor for many individuals, but I would wager that a very large percentage get stuck here (including, it seems, me.)

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to achieve any of these levels in any sort of traditional manner to begin work on the next level.  Hell, I’m relatively sure you don’t even have to make it halfway.  As long as you have a basic understanding of achievement on any given level, you can probably grasp the next level as well.  But that’s dangerous, because the point of the pyramid is to illustrated how to form a solid foundation for each level and building on an unfinished foundation can (obviously) end up in disaster.

But let’s say you jump to the next level and go for the really advanced stuff. Level four of Maslow’s pyramid is all about going from being accepted, to leading and transcending the pack.  Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others are the needs this level presents.  By this time, you’ve figured out how to play the game of life, and now you need to do better than just play well, you need to excel at it.

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Maslow’s pyramid for the modern age.

Should you manage to develop yourself to the point of excelling at life in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want your peers to recognize about you, you’re ready for the supposed pinnacle of the pyramid: Total self-actualization. Now we’re getting into super-human territory that involves setting world records, becoming billionaires, scaling Mt. Everest, or becoming the President. Fortunately for a fair percentage of the people who are trying to fulfill this need also realize this potential by helping others find their way up the pyramid.  On the flip-side though, this is where the world’s absolute worst humans do the worst damage.

The point of that quick overview though was to illustrate a point: you’ll never reach total self-actualization because you will never completely know and understand yourself.  Even if you somehow thought you did, you can’t, because it’s fluid.  That’s actually one of the great joys of life.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity is it’s fluidity and adaptability.  Some very smart, very enlightened people close to me struggle with this a lot and admittedly I do as well because it’s frankly exhausting if you don’t step back to recognize it for what it really is: growth.  Not only is it growth, but it’s advanced growth that only a certain percentage of people in the world have the luxury of knowing.

It’s a given that people reach the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid all the time, but as I

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Oh…

mentioned earlier, a lot of those people left an essential level undeveloped… some skipped it entirely and paid for it.  They are easy to see, the people who seem to have everything, experienced so much, but are still miserable.  They act out, break down, and sometimes die far too early and sometimes by their own hand.

The point in all this psycho-babble is that I’ve realized that the biggest mistake we can make is attempting to rush through or force our personal development.  We seek to master our environment and to balance that out we must seek to master ourselves.  But both are fluid and can never really be mastered, so we have to realize that it’s enough to continue learning, continue developing and build our foundations strong on each level so we have a solid base when we someday reach the top of our own personal pyramid.

You don’t know who you are, and you never will, but the point is continuing to get to know yourself.  When you do, you get to the fun part: Being pleasantly surprised and amazed at what you can do… and then being able to live happily with it.

 

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Now Begins 2016

As I write this it is only a moment after midnight, bringing the first day of 2016 to a close.  I recognize that I’ve been writing more personal stuff lately and less… “lifestyle” articles but the truth is that I write what I’m feeling or thinking, and I suppose lately (especially around the holidays) it’s been more along the lines of a journal than a blog.  You get to deal with it.

So, with that said, happy new year!  For me 2015 was more of a struggle than I have had in a long time.  Actually, that may not be completely true, but it was a very different kind of struggle, one that (with the exception of a few positive introductions) basically defined the year as shit.  Yes, 2015 was a shit year with shit-filling coated in shit.  It started out with some promise and was garbage within three months.  My stress level went through the roof, my income plummeted, my finances when to hell, and my self-confidence took a major hit (okay, fine.. maybe it’s a good thing to get my ego in check from time to time.)

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See? Relaxed.

Fortunately in the last couple of months of the year, my struggles and efforts bore fruit in the form of new and different opportunities, and by mid-December I was already beginning my recovery to start 2016 strong.

So here I sit on the first day.  My stress level is minimal (in fact, sometimes I feel too relaxed.)  My work situation has me situated in a literal paradise, and my boss might be the only person on earth who has experienced a greater variety of life than I have (relatively speaking and possibly slightly exaggerated in regards to my life experience.)  Perhaps most importantly, he is very patient and laid back… which I’m honestly still getting used to after my previous bosses.  My income is not exceptional, but slightly better than it was at the height of my financial stability around two years ago (I’ve made more since then, but the situation was much more difficult essentially negating the addition income.)  All in all, the foundation is being reset after it was nearly destroyed in 2015.  It’s a mix of the old and the new (and unfortunately, it seems, not without a few social casualties…) but it feels like it’s strong and fully capable of supporting the next chapter the is 2016.

Note: I passed out while writing this, so the following is a continuation authored the next day (told you I was relaxed.)

So what is the next chapter.  Or rather, what is my intention? We all know that we picture one thing, and even if we reach that goal it will look different than we pictured and take us on a path we couldn’t have imagined, so scrutinizing that is useless.  Rather, I guess the questions are; What are your intentions for the year?  What will you focus on?

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    The elephant understands.

First and foremost: Balance.  Always balance.  If there’s anything that has been obvious to me time and time again, it’s that taking anything to an extreme, even if it’s a seemingly good thing, almost always ends badly. Obviously this is a very general philosophy that can be broken down to very specific situations, but in general I believe the more you put effort into keeping yourself and your life balanced, that happier and better adjusted you will be.  I could write and entire post on this alone (and have if you go way back to the “Philosophy of Moderation” posts.)  Short term, or extreme situations with defined deadlines are important and potentially very productive, but as a general life philosophy I suggest you strive for balance.  It’s an easy google search to find many testimonials from people who took things to extremes and regretted it later on some level.

So with that overtone in mind, I want to get back to personal development.  Much of 2015 was dedicated to the trap of “getting by” that I know a lot of people are still in.  But since it appears I’ll have a little breathing room, I want to get back to hobbies that I enjoy and are productive (no, I’m not talking about Final Fantasy XIV… but that will happen too… in moderation.)

First, I want to write more and more consistently.  The surprising number of you that have hung in there when I got down to one post a month on average during parts of the year should find that you see a lot more from me.  Initially my goal is one a week, we’ll see where I go from there.  Along the same lines I’m considering a second blog / website dedicated to fictional writing.  The “Kaska-Ta” entries are a bit of an outlet using a metaphorical world to discuss actual dilemmas and thought processes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff that is quite a ways farther out there running around in my head.  So I’ll keep you posted on that development.  I most certainly  won’t be starting that until I feel confident I’m giving you enough attention here.

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This is a raw shot I took yesterday.  It might end up being my favorite of the set.  Feel special.

Second, I’ve got access to semi-professional camera now (Canon 70D, not the 6D that is my goal, but I like it a lot better than I thought I would.)  As such I will be spending more time on my photography.  This one is a little addictive, so I have to watch my time spent, but it’s something I really enjoy.  I’ll probably have a dedicated site for my “professional” photos (no, I’m not putting them in Instagram.. thats for my iPhone.) and while I don’t have any intention of collecting money for my services anytime soon, I’ll be trying a lot of things creatively, entering photography contests, and seeing what I can do to get my name out a bit as a legit taker of pretty pictures.  Since I showed off the camera in social media, a few people have pinged me about potential projects that I’m already excited about.

Third, and while this is nothing new it remains important: I need to get active again.  The nocturnal, all-encompassing Uber life and the stress that came from the greatly reduced income destroyed my routine and left me with little motivation to try and get it back together.  But if anything is essential to maintaining mental balance, it’s making sure your physical body is on the level with your mind.  The running especially is a sort of meditation for me, and one I will not be neglecting much longer.  As expensive as they are, I will probably try to get back into the Disney races as they are both magical and give me goals to train for.  Hopefully I can swing the Marathon this year… and survive it.  I’m a long way away from where I was when I successfully ran that a couple years ago.

The intentions above come with the obvious condition that I don’t neglect

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Work it.

other aspects of my life to do so.  Socially I’ve been recluse and I intend to improve that now that I have the resources to indeed be social.  And arguably more importantly (since it is a large part of my foundation) I need to be sure my focus on work is proactive and diligent.  As I said my boss is very laid back, but that needs to be an excuse to stay sharp and exceed expectations so that I have to basis to continue to improve said foundation.

There are also more tangible carry-over goals from last year:

1. Japan.  I made the promise last year and while she’s been very gracious about my situation causing that to not happen, I hate not keeping my promises.  Besides, I need to get back over there, it’s been way too long.

2. Canon 6D (or possibly a 1Dx should they come up with the rumored upgrade.)  The camera I have access to now will work great in the meantime, but it’s not full-frame, and it’s not mine.  Two things I need to remedy if I really want to be considered “pro”.

3.  Cruise (this is a strong optional.)  It’s been three years now (I think…) since I was last on a cruise ship.  It’s been too long.  I don’t know what it is about being on these 2015-12-31 17.29.50marvels of engineering out on the open sea, but it’s fantastic and I need to get out there again.

So, obviously, it’s going to be a busy year.  But busy is good when it’s the kinds of things you’re excited to do.  Last year I had a few moments where I lost hope and was very close to rock-bottom again, but thanks to my friends reminding me what was important, a lot of hours spent in my car, and a little bit of help here and there from the universe, this year has a great deal of potential that I’m determined to make sure isn’t wasted.

Happy New Year!

So This Was Christmas

So the holiday has come and gone and I feel like a post-Christmas-post is mandatory.  I suppose that alone shows that on some level, the holiday has meaning to me.  Last year’s post was admittedly non-festive, but left the hope of the holiday spirit in the hands of the children.  This year, after a hard year, the holidays didn’t bring anything special except the reminder that things are getting better for 2016… and that the holidays are about family.

The man I work for had right around thirty guests in his home for the holidays this year – all of them extended family of some sort.  As both his Executive and Personal Assistant I was naturally involved in a great deal of the holiday arrangements: A large tree, gifts for both family and clients, and decking out his mansion in massive amounts of light and ribbon. In execution it was fun.  I met a ton of great people and observed a close family coming together for the holidays.  The house was festive, the tree was beautiful, stockings were hung, junk food was abundant, and christmas music often played in the background (fortunately only when we had guests.)  But the thing about being The Assistant in any case – holidays or otherwise – is that you are a part of everything but at the same time you’re always separated… always in the grey area.

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No Seriously… this is the house. (Next year we’ll do some lasers.)

It’s an enlightening self-study, to see what the effect of seeing an “ideal” and somewhat traditional family Christmas has on me.  Further it reinforced to me that Christmas is indeed a matter of family in my mind, and without it the “holiday spirit” simply doesn’t hold up.  I watched this group of people who were familiar in ways only a close family can be, and I realized that the concept is nearly alien to me.  To be honest there are maybe a handful of people in the entire world that I trust on that level, and out of them probably only two are actually related to me.  And yes, I know, family isn’t about blood relation.  I’ve had many surrogate family members in my time thus far.  Some have endured, many have not, but regardless my family is something that I still need to build… and I haven’t the slightest idea how or when (or with whom) that will happen.

The above sounds whiney… it’s not really meant to.  If anything, it’s hopeful.  I know it’s entirely possible for me to get into the spirit of Christmas, and I even know how.  As usual it’s a matter of patience and making sure I have myself in a position to do it right.  The majority of 2015 was an (arguably necessary) step backwards, but I learned a lot in the process about standing my ground and knowing what my priorities are. Even my current role is already teaching me a great deal about my motivations and where I want to be.  Truthfully I’m not certain in the long-term it will get me there, but for now it’s the balance I’ve sought through many months of barely scraping by, and I’m grateful for that.

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That’s all the holiday spirit you get from me this year.

Also, my Christmas wasn’t bad. I wasn’t alone, it just wasn’t a huge production. The budget was (by necessity) very, very low and I gave little and received little (though to be honest what I received was way cooler than what I was able to give.)  This is all very okay though, I like giving and I kind of suck at gracefully receiving (unless we’re talking in the bedroom… but this is Christmas post, get your head out of the gutter.) To be honest I was grateful that it was what it was and not something far worse.  I have been fortunate that the final month of this year has set up for a vastly improved 2016.  Had I not (finally) gotten some very good options and offers for work in the last couple of months, Christmas might very well have been a dark day for me.

But in the meantime, this year I was a first-hand witness to the sort of ideal Christmas I hope to someday have.  But in order to have that I have a lot of building and developing to do, the least of which involves finding somebody to share that building with.  I suppose it’s entirely possible that things won’t turn out the way I hope and a completely different set of circumstances will bring back the holiday spirit for me.  At least at the moment I can say that although that specific spirit currently eludes me, my personal spirit does not.  As of now I have the hope that can find it, build it,  or make it… one way or another.  But that’s the beginning of the spirit, of anything good really: hope.

You Don’t Have To “Follow Your Dreams”

“What do you want to do?”  “What do you want to be?”  “What’s your passion?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you dream of being?”

Rich.  And Happy.  With Kids.

Oh, you want to know how?  Well fuck off, I don’t know.  Except I do, and that is: whatever I can do that will get me there while keeping me happy, letting me live my life, and allowing me to keep my dignity intact/stay true to myself.

I suppose that’s awfully specific for somebody that doesn’t know, but as a thirty-six year old single male that achieved “full yuppie”, and then spent months unemployed until just recently, I’ve had a lot of experience and a fair amount of time to mull this over.  What I figured out is that all those questions above seem encouraging and productive, but they can, in fact, be exactly the opposite.  They can demotivate and even create insecurity where there doesn’t need to be any.

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Obviously they had different priorities…

The thing is, some people have dreams when they are little, but as we grow, we change and (hopefully) so do our priorities.  When we’re kids, a lot of us really hate taking naps.  Sleep is so boring!  But years later, as an adult, nap time is a close second (and let’s face it, depending on the person, it’s possibly not second) to the horizontal mambo.  We grow, we learn, priorities change, and so does what we dream of.

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fighter pilot so badly that I studied different aircraft, their capabilities, their combat roles, and even the engines that powered them and who made them.  I thought the SR-71 Blackbird was the coolest thing in the world.  I grew up, took the ASVAB, aced it, and made the Marines love me (yes, I know I should’ve talked to the Air Force first, but that Staff Sergeant talked a good game.)  They told me I could take my pick of assignments between the AV-8B Harrier II (the jet that can take off vertically and hover) or the F-18 Hornet (The fastest and most maneuverable mainstream fighter the US produced at the time.) I was sold on the F-18 and made a soft commitment to enlist   I trained with Staff Sergeant Johnson to prepare for boot camp while learning more and more about the program.  It would entail military “basic” school, the Naval Academy, and then Flight School specializing (in my case) in fixed-wing aviation.  The long and the short of this was a minimum of a fourteen year commitment once I signed on the dotted line.  And when that day came, my eighteen-year-old self thought about my friends, my girlfriend, and the person I thought I would become, and I walked away (Sorry Staff Sergeant Johnson.)  Once I got realistic about my childhood dream, I didn’t want it any more, and that as okay.

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Most dreams seem to involve mountains and sunsets…

But especially in recent years, society has moved to this obsession with goals/dreams.  People who don’t have a specific one are in danger of being labeled as unfocused, distracted, lacking direction, drifters, or any number of relatively negative terms.  This, in turn, can make people who don’t really have a specific dream feel insecure about the lack of that dream.  They can begin to think there might be something wrong with them and feel like they need to invent a “passion” to define themselves.  This can have the opposite effect, and lead to an abundance of wasted time pretending to care about something that is ultimately unfulfilling.  Such a situation is much more common that we might think and can easily lead to a number of psychological issues.  Ironically, inventing your passion is a very effective way of stifling a real passion you may not know you have yet.

For instance, I remember looking at characters in movies that weren’t the good or bad guy, but were the “right-hand man” and thinking “That would be neat… I could totally be THAT guy rather than the main good/bad guy.”  It wasn’t a dream, it was just a respect for that sort of person that I identified with passively. A couple of decades later that’s the majority of my recent professional experience.  Even better is that I (generally) like it and have made as much, or more than most of the people I know who are “following their passions”.  I never thought to myself  “Someday I’m going to be this awesome Executive Assistant!” but by being open to it and accepting the natural evolution of my career in that direction, I realized that I was, in fact, actualizing something I had passively envisioned more than a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on people who have and follow their dreams.  I have a ton of respect for them.  Many of my very close friends have pursued their dreams and passions and are reaping the rewards of their dedication over the years.  They worked hard, put in their time, (most) suffered to some degree, and are rewarded by the option of doing what they always wanted to do.  But that’s not everyone, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be everyone.  We have to dispel the idea that dreams = life success.  They can most certainly create motivation to succeed, but they are not a requirement.  There are a number of other ways to motivate yourself.

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And that’s OKAY!

Achievement and/or success often breeds motivation, and sometimes it takes a whole lot of trying things and failing to find it.  Further, you may very well find that what you succeed at is something you never even considered before.  That’s where business roles that I call “tool” types come from.  They aren’t what you typically think of when you dream of what you want to become.  Therefore they often aren’t “visionaries” or well-known business leaders.  But instead of having their own dream, they enable/assist the dreamers in order to grow and take their visions to whole new levels.

Maybe you never dreamed of being an accountant, but you find you’re naturally good at it, and it rewards you well leading to job satisfaction and general financial success.  That process can make people pretty happy.  The same can be said for what I do as an Executive Assistant.  I get to live vicariously through extremely successful CEOs, Inventors, Celebrities and other notable dreamers.  I am compensated well and often enjoy a number of (expensive) fringe benefits without the drawbacks of being imbalanced as said visionaries often are (out of necessity really.) I stay balanced and I help to balance them, leading to a great deal of personal and job satisfaction.

There are countless roles that can lead to professional success as an “enabler” or “tool”.  So I’m not saying don’t dream, I’m just saying that if you don’t have a specific dream, don’t stress it.  Provide for yourself (and those you need to provide for) and take pride in that accomplishment.  Just keep trying to improve yourself.  Try things, fail (more than) a few times if you need to, and focus on what you want for yourself.  You don’t have to have a direction  as long as you keep yourself moving forward in some way.  Keep making your own path, cutting through the jungle of life and you might just find that you look up and discover something that you or nobody else had thought of yet. Accidents like that have made a lot of people both rich and happy.

 

Always Be Honest With Yourself (And Others.)

“To thine own self be true…” – Shakespeare

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” -Freud

“If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule – Never lie to yourself.” – Coelho

This reoccurring theme throughout the ages is simple, but they don’t tell you have fucking difficult it actually is.  I say this with no bitterness as I’ve been focused on keeping myself honest for almost a decade now. Though I feel like I’ve shared a bit of that backstory with you already… for those of you just joining us, long story short, I was a lying, manipulative asshole from my teenage years all the way up past the quarter-century mark of my life.  I paid for it, learned from it and the one shining lesson above all else that I embraced was as stated above: Be honest with yourself first.

At first it was easy.  My lies exposed, my life had shattered and come crumbling down around me.  So many lies over so many years meant I didn’t even actually know who I was.  Through all the attempts to be whatever I thought people wanted me to be, I actually began to buy into my own bullshit.  And so, when said bullshit was cleared away, there was simply nothing.  A husk, an empty shell stripped bare, an empty barrel with any trace of identity laying somewhere in the bottom of it.  The easy part of this phase was that I had nothing to lose.

When you don’t care about anything, there is no reason to lie.

You always know where he's coming from.

You always know where he’s coming from.

So I went on for a while as a non-filtered, brutally honest asshole.  Abrasive, uncaring, broken.  I severed ties with people whom had similar habits in lying that I had.  In fairness I did try to educate them in the futility of that lifestyle, but like any drug it’s an ugly and destructive habit that is not so easily escaped.  But I absolutely could not stand to be around it any more, so I left.  After a while on my own I found those that respected and had the resilience for my abrasive honesty, but only some of them could actually handle it.  The others felt they needed to change me, to fix me.  The truth is I did need fixing, but not the way they thought.  In the end it backfired on them because everything I represented came straight from the source, and when you’re in touch with your core like that – a direct link – nothing gets skewed.

But although that sounds ideal, it was miserable.  Brutal, abrasive honesty with nothing to lose is lonely and broken and mostly incapable of operating in our society.  Eventually I began to value things and people in various ways.  Not (to this day) on an ideal level of love, but they became important nonetheless, and I was able to at least partially convey that to them (admittedly, some attempts went better than others.)  I began to develop a filter.  I still would not lie, and to this day I keep that tenant.  But I began to withhold things for the sake of others, and maybe (without realizing it) for the sake of myself.

Many say that withholding is the same as lying, but I can’t quite get behind that.  It’s situational, it depends on what you withhold from who, and why.  It’s a grey area.  Obviously if you are withholding relevant information from somebody that trusts you, then it is probably as destructive and deceptive as lying.  So yes, in that case it’s along the same lines.  This also includes “protecting” somebody from being hurt when they have every right to the information you have.

On the other hand, withholding information that falls into the lines of gossip about another, or exposes the secrets of somebody that trusts you is a virtuous thing.  You have the information perhaps because you were involved or because they confided in you, but their secret is not yours to tell, even if that means that you must also withhold something about yourself that you might not normally.

But like all grey areas, all of those rationalizations are a delicate balance… sometimes only a step away from falling back into the habits of lying and deceit for the sake of self.  This balance must be carefully maintained, and in every case it must start with you.

Situational... but clever.

Situational… but clever.

It is easy to say “I’m honest with myself, and I’ve proven it so I can relax.”  But that’s a trap, and one I believe I may be falling into.  Don’t get me wrong, I still abhor lying outwardly and choose to be (at times) uncomfortably forthcoming.  But inwardly I think it’s easy to become careless and I might very well be experiencing the results of that.

You see, the key to remember when endeavoring to be honest with yourself is to remember who you are.  But the complicated aspect of that, is that who you are changes. Often. Sometimes gradually, sometimes near-instantly (and with an abundance of cosmic energy if you’re especially cool.)  Being honest with yourself is a constant exercise in checking yourself against who you are, and in order to do that, you have to be ready to consistently accept some really unpleasant truths about yourself.  Then, once you’ve pinpointed where you’re weak and ugly, you have to be willing to accept and then be outwardly honest about those faults through both words and action.  This is the process of improving those things and therefore making yourself a more balanced, ultimately happier person.

On the same turn, you need to be really honest about what you like about yourself and what your strengths are.  You would think this would be easy, but insecurity has a way of diminishing these attributes to you.  It’s a defense mechanism that your mind puts in place when society starts teaching you that it’s bad to be different, or to like certain things depending on who you are, or any of the five billion other idiotic standards society tries to program into you from a young age.

So what’s the point?  Why put so much effort into checking yourself when you could just act naturally and let that be who you are?  Well, as I’ve been finding out through a number of difficult situations lately, if you don’t pay attention to who you are and what you’re about right now. You fall into the trap of personal rationalization.  Instead of rationalizing your thoughts or actions outwardly, you do it inwardly and in regards to who you actually are.  So you create this ideal image of who you are in your mind without the gut check.  Instead of paying attention to how you feel about a particular situation or action you take, you create a persona and begin to check yourself against that as if it’s who you are.  This is the lie, and one that many people intentionally fall into.

fine,honest,hurt,life,quotes,sad-cda72d0c8b592856321a43478cf8d32f_hBut the problem with believing your own persona, is that who you really are deep down doesn’t go away.  If you’re really, really lucky it might adapt itself to your persona, but the vast majority of the time, it will instead sabotage it. If you don’t face it, the person you really are will sabotage you.  Have you seen when seemingly powerful people have massive breakdowns?  What about celebrities that have it all and then abruptly crack or even die?  This list of causes is endless: Drugs, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, or general crazed, reckless behavior but it all comes down to the fact that those suffering in those cases were lying to themselves.  About who they were, where they were weak, how they felt or what they needed help with.  Celebrities are extreme cases because they live in extreme circumstances, but none of us (not even me) are immune.

So, for your sake, take some time to get to know you.  Explore how you feel about things, people and the world completely separate of what anyone else thinks is best for you.  Once you’ve done that, make sure you keep doing that as you change and grow and feel differently about things.  Don’t lose touch with who you are and absolutely do not fall into the trap of rationalizing who you are – to yourself first – and then to anyone else.  There is no rationalizing who and what you are at your core, you simply are. Though it takes some balance to know what to allow to the surface for others to see, you must accept yourself within raw and unfiltered.  When you have a foundation of honesty such as that, it is both liberating and empowering.  You know who you are, and nobody can take that from you.

Kaska-Ta and the Farm

Note: The tales of Kaska-Ta can be described as a semi-fictional, metaphorical auto-biography.  It builds off of previous “Kaska-Ta” entries and will likely resurface from time to time when I wish to present situations without specific details. (It’s my blog, deal with it.) The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are essentially true.

Indecision has been the death of many men over many years.  Even for those as strong and stubborn as Kaska-Ta, we are all as little as two steps from oblivion on any given day.  To think yourself otherwise is usually the beginning of the end for you. Thoughts like this echoed in Kaska-Ta’s head as he realized his own end lay before him… as the last glimmer of hope escaped him and he descended quite literally into darkness…

Weeks Earlier:

After speaking with the shepherd, Kaska-Ta went ahead to his farm to get a feel for the surroundings.  He was welcomed here and regained some of his strength among new friends and a few of his old tribe-mates who had indeed come from the east.  “It would be easy…” he thought “to remain here.  It feels like home used to.”  But something weighed on his mind, something felt wrong.

The shepherd had made many promises: shelter, friends and (perhaps most importantly) an abundance of supplies.  As had been mentioned, the rains had already begun to fall in a light drizzle and early the following morning Kaska-Ta travelled west to the edge of the high ground to survey the land beyond.  From this point it was easy to tell the shepherd was right: the canyon beyond was deep and irregular and would be a difficult trip under the best circumstances.  With the rains, even before the flood it would be a treacherous path, and one with no visible end in sight.  What occurred to him in that moment though, was that there was no path.  No road, no indication of recent travel.  Certainly it could be done (though judging from the canyons with a great deal of hardship) How then, had some of the villagers come from the west?

“Be careful.” The voice chimed in. “Your questions and decisions might affect more than just you.”

They ate together at lunch and Kaska-Ta asked the villagers and tribe members to speak of the western village.  With little pause, they answered and spoke of a great city beyond the village that supported and traded with it.  Many riches passed through the area and great opportunity existed for all who settled there.

“Why then… would you make the trip here?  Just to help the shepherd?” Kaska-Ta asked himself.  But he was careful and asked instead if the village was affected by the flooding.  This drew a slightly larger pause but they recovered quickly enough and assured him the village lay beyond the reach of the flooding.  The rest of lunch was small talk, Kaska-Ta already had his suspicions and it would do him no good to press the issue now.

That night Kaska-Ta found the shepherd with his flock near the eastern boarder of the farm.  The sheep could graze here but the land was already showing signs of the barren desert from which Kaska-Ta had emerged a few days before.  The sheep’s wool glistened in the soft rain under the shepherd’s lantern.  “Good evening shepherd.” Kaska-Ta greeted.  “Same to you traveler!  Glad to have you among the family.” the shepherd replied.  “What brings you out for a visit?  You should still be resting after the desert…”

A shadow darker than the twilight grew over Kaska-Ta’s face.  “I’ve come for the truth.  I know there is no village to west… at least, not that any here know of.  Why do they lie?  And what is really to the west?”

“Death.” The shepherd replied.  “For you, death lies in every direction but here.  Just as it did for for those who came before you.”

Kaska-Ta was quickly moving from irritated to angry. “Enough riddles, enough cryptic prophesy.  You know I know, so come out with it.”

“Or what?” The shepherd mused.  He was right of course, violence would serve nothing in this case.  But the shepherd continued “Those that are here have been here.  One or two arrive every third cycle or so.  Rugged adventurers like you who have survived the desert and one even reformed from the badlands.  They work the farm and live in peace here.  I asked them to lie about what I promised you before… to keep you here.  I need more than workers, I need leaders and protectors.”  The shepherd paused and spread his arms toward the farmland. “This farm will be a community and you have a place here, building it!  We can be a beacon of light in this desolate land and save all those who wander this way from what will otherwise be death. Or worse!” he gestured to toward the south where the badlands lay.

“You mean we can trick them and trap them, as you intended to do to me?” Kaska-Ta was calm and cold, he already knew what he had to do.

The shepherd was now eyeing Kaska-Ta with a gaze both condescending and full of pity.  “Think what you will of me friend, but you would have died out there.  Any of them would have.  I did what I had to do to save them, and said what I had to say to save you.  That’s the truth of it.”  The shepherd looked up at the night sky.  “Now the rains have come and you can spend them sulking in your quarters if you like, or you can help me build something great for us and those to come.  Either way, I saved you, so I think you’ll find some way to forgive me.”

Kaska-Ta grinned but there was fire in his eyes.  “I forgive you… perhaps you did save me.”  

The shepherd’s face brightened immediately “Good! Good!  I knew you were the rational and…”

“And I’m leaving.”  Kaska-Ta interrupted. “At first light.”

“What!?” The shepherd’s composure quickly disintegrated. “What!? Where!?  The rains have come!  There’s nowhere to go!  I understand you’re angry but don’t be a fool!!”

“I’ll find my path and it will be true.”  Kaska-Ta resolved this, he realized, as much for himself as to the shepherd.

“The hells with you and your path!” The shepherd cried.  You’re insane!  Within a moon the floods will set, and another moon after that nothing will be seen but water… water and your stubborn, floating corpse!”

“He’s not lying about that…” the voice chimed in, but Kaska-Ta was already turning back for the farm.  “Thank you shepherd, I forgive you in return for the supplies you grant me… perhaps I’ll see you again.”

The shepherd said nothing, he simply stared at Kaska-Ta as he made his way back to the farm.

Later as Kaska-Ta filled his water sack and packed what supplies allowed to him, many of the tribe members expressed their regret and a couple asked him to stay despite the lies.  Logically it made sense, Kaska-Ta could make a life here.  But something deeper knew that it was not his path… not like this.  Had everything been as said, he might’ve stayed and found a reason to settle here, but as it was it was wrong going into it and three cycles thinking of that might well drive him mad.

The rain was slightly more tangible than it had been the previous day as the first light crept over the horizon.  It felt better than the relentless sun and the ground was slightly softer through Kaska-Ta’s boots.  (He was grateful he had kept them through the desert, they were heavy, but protective and waterproof.)  The rains would undoubtedly soak him over time, but with his feet dry and his long coat preserving his body heat, he would last a while.

“Where will you go now?” The ever-vigilant voice chimed in, as if it didn’t already know.  Kaska-Ta was well aware the banter of the voice was for his sake as opposed to actual curiosity.

“South.” he replied.  “Time is short, and at least there I already know they will lie to me.  I’ll use them as I need to and see the path that lies beyond.”

I don’t think I have to tell you that may not go as planned.”

“Did you have a better idea?” Kaska-Ta smiled to himself, waited through the expected silence, and continued. “It never does. But I have to keep moving and if I stay here, I’ll die for sure.”

And so the rains came, and Kaska-Ta descended south into what he expected would be darkness.  Darkness he found, but it was nothing like he had hoped.

The Grey Area – Year 1 Retrospective

It’s been a year now since I posted my first blog here and it’s been rocky to say the least. The pledge to write regularly is a commitment and if you intend to keep readers it’s one you should endeavor to keep. However, as with the best of us, life gets in the way. To be honest this year has been one of the most difficult I’ve had in many years both personally and professionally. Despite that, I’ve done my best to continue contributing, and though there have been some major gaps, I am, at least, happy with the content if not the consistency.

When I originally began posting here, I had reached a major milestone in my professional life. Joking that I had become a “certifiable yuppie” I’d recently started a job that put me firmly in the “middle-class”. I purchased a newer model Prius and carried the latest iPhone, wore button-ups daily and often interacted with those that would be considered Orlando’s executive elite. At that point I had enough disposable income to pay all my bills without thinking or worrying about it, eat out often, buy small things that caught my eye on a whim and set a bit aside for whatever other goals I had.

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Before

So I wanted to write. I wanted to share with you how I see things and what I experienced on this tier of existence. As I mentioned and built into the website, I tend a bit toward the hedonist, especially as far as people and food go, and I expected that my lifestyle at that level would lead to some interesting stories. It did, and some of what I wrote about was well responded to. One of the first things I learned is that you’re all a bunch of dirty perverts (and that’s awesome.) Anytime I wrote about sex, my viewers spiked, especially when I was a little edgy about it. Women were also a popular topic and I got a lot of comments (both public and private) regarding my feminist views that I really consider to be a no-brainer.

After I got my stride I decided to mix things up a bit, I told a personal historical story using a semi-fantasy setting to keep things relatively anonymous. I enjoyed this and decided to continue it using the same medium to parallel my life as it happens now. Obviously in many cases I will simply write about things as they are, but I find this medium interesting because it gives me freedom to present the dilemmas in my head without bogging you down with needless explanations or being forced to keep certain details out (names, places.)   I’ve been feeling the itch to write some fiction lately, and will probably introduce a parallel blog in which I will write fictional short stories that may add up to a larger one. But first, I need to be sure I’m consistent here, and I’m sure you know that’s already been an issue.

Speaking of consistency, my biggest hit to that was around March of this year when my life took a major and unexpected turn. Within a matter of weeks, my routine as I knew it was thrown into to chaos, and from there a long, slow descent began that I have only recently began to rise from. As I scrambled to reestablish some kind of routine, I spent over a month away from my blog trying to figure out what my next step was. At first, the freedom I gained was indeed liberating, but as the cost of said freedom began to show itself I realized that reality was coming at me full speed. Even with that realization though, I had no idea exactly how far I would fall.

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After

This descent produced a few notable and lasting positives: New people, stronger connections with some existing friends and new perspectives on old experiences.. Ramadan was an entirely new experience due to my now flexible schedule, and my discovering Uber to stay afloat has provided me with a number of new connections and some fantastic stories (along with a very useful tool for extra income.) The depth of my support structure among my friends here in Orlando was/is severely tested and though some areas were far weaker than expected, others (some expected and some not…) have come through (and frankly saved my ass.)

To be honest, thus far (and omitting above positives), 2015 has been more or less shit. But the struggle has forced me to look at a lot of things, including my path, ask new questions and find new answers. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that’s certainly been the case for me. As for what’s next, I’ve got a couple of posts in my head already, but as 2015 sails into it’s last quarter there’s a decent chance my course will be set and much of that will be worth talking about. If it doesn’t something else will have to give and it may not be pretty. Though I believe the worst is past, I’m not out of the storm yet and if I don’t find my way out, or come across better shelter I run the risk of ending up somewhere considerably darker. But those are stories to come, and some of which will be told through the journey of Kaska-Ta.

In the meantime though, I want to again say think you. While writing this past year I’ve seen some ridiculous traffic come through my site, had my posts shared and debated and gotten some really great comments and feedback from people that otherwise wouldn’t know anything about me. To me, that alone makes the time I spend writing worth it. In the beginning I said I wanted to make you think and every time you like, share and respond, I know that whether you agree or not, I did. So… thank you for reading, writing, responding and thinking! Hopefully this year was just the beginning.

Best Regards,

-Jordan in the Grey Area

What Exactly Is It About #911 You Plan To #NeverForget?

This is not a happy, fluffy post. This is not a thoughtful and peaceful post. This post will piss some of you off. In fact, I might even lose a couple friends over this, but that’s okay because if I do, fundamentally we wouldn’t have worked out anyway. But if you do plan to run off at some point, I ask that in the name of whatever our relationship up to this point has meant, you finish reading because I can’t promise all of this will come out coherently and in the order I intend, and maybe something, at some point will resonate with you a little. Maybe.

So today is the anniversary of a tragic natural disaster. Yep. Natural. I say this because you, and all those around you, are the single worst disaster that nature has ever come up with. Worse than earthquakes, category five hurricanes and the black plague put together. Your kind has murdered more life on this planet than any other force. Period.

lets-stop-destroying-our-mother-earthWhat’s worse is that your general level of accountability (as a species) for being said disaster is proportionately microscopic compared to the damage you’ve done and continue to do. Now I say “you” because I’m talking to you. But I’m not excluding myself. I do plenty of things on a daily basis that cause harm to my environment and the living things around me. Some of it is necessary for my own continued survival (such as cooking food and destroying living bacteria) and some of it is not (such as producing waste from my consumption that ultimately damages the environment.) So I’m no innocent, at all, in fact I’m the first to tell many people close to me that I’m a relatively evil creature. But at least I know it.

What prompted me to write this… what grates at me like an itch I just had to scratch is the sheer amount of pompous mindlessness and ridiculous American elitism that stems from the anniversary of this disaster. The divide that is celebrated by people that weren’t even born or able to comprehend what was happening when this happened by using trendy hashtags.

Never forget? Never forget what!? That your brother’s, uncle’s dog was friends with somebody who knew somebody that died that day? And because of that you feel cool wearing your patriotic colors, openly hating on billions of people, and tossing up hashtags on social media so people can see how like Captain America you are? This shit is the problem. If that’s you, you’re part of the problem, and you will play a part in CREATING more of these disasters. And it’s not even your fault if you’re that young, because you’ve been taught that by those around you who validate themselves and whatever they feel (fear, hate, pride, whatever…) about this disaster by spouting off bullshit regarding the evil people in whatever flavor of the week it is.

On this day fourteen years ago, some ignorant, extremist humans that falsely represented a particular religion gave a huge amount of other ignorant humans what they falsely feel is justification to hate an entire culture. That is what happened, and that is only what happened. Everything else was done by those who had nothing to do with the original actions.   Countless more terror and harm was caused by those claiming to be the good guys… to help, by bringing forth divine retribution for these horrible actions no matter the cost. They all succeeded. Those evil men on that plane succeeded and continue to because you people want an excuse to hate, and by god it’s your right as an American to take it. Further, your own people have used that same rationale against you to repress you and further their own agendas. How easily you are manipulated by hate and fear.

The faces of duty.

The faces of duty.

Now that I’m sure you’re suitably pissed off at how ignorant I am, or how narrow-minded I am being, let me clarify a few things. This is not about the soldiers. Soldiers sign up to do a job, a necessary job, and they follow orders. Without them, legions of evil and murderous people from all over the world, both within and outside our country would indeed invade and subjugate, murder or otherwise destroy us. Soldiers have to exist because hateful, animalistic humans exist and societies need to protect themselves from them. It’s a dirty job and they have to do it, end of story. I understand that, I support that, and I support them regardless of the many ridiculous and evil decisions their associates and superiors may make at times. And I know that many of them suffered themselves as a result of this tragedy and the decisions made as a result of it.

I am also most certainly not speaking of the actual victims of this tragedy. Not just those that lost somebody dear to them in the attack, or the live witnesses, or the brave responders, but those whose families suffered as a result of the circumstances that have followed. There are very few things more dangerous than a scared, cornered animal, and that’s how 9/11 made a lot of people, possibly most of our country, feel. Thus prompting them to do some very stupid, hateful things to very innocent people.

Most importantly, I am absolutely not speaking to the little girl who is probably not even Muslim, but looks like she could be and has her head covered in a similar manner. Today perhaps more likely than any other day this year, she might be struck in the head by a rock, brick or bottle thrown by somebody who thinks it’s okay to #NeverForget that he hates people, even though he lives thousands of miles away from what happened. In truth, both of those people are victims, one who has been taught to hate by the rallying call of “Merica’!” and the other, an innocent who is afraid that people will think that she is like the evil men on those planes when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Pass it down to the next generation...

Pass it down to the next generation…

The people I’m speaking to are those who perpetuate this hate and teach it to those who know no different. I’m speaking to those who make this tragedy so much more important than so many other tragedies because, let’s face it, it’s popular and of course “oh my god how dare this happen here! In the promised land of America instead of some other part of the world where it’s much more common… and still happening.” The irony, of course being that the men on those planes were also taught to hate, that’s what got them on those planes to begin with, the rallying cry was (falsely) for “Allah” instead of “Merica’ ” but in truth the difference ends there and the people here who are filled with that hate for them are far closer to the men on those planes than the little girl who looks like she could be, and isn’t.

That’s right, some of you that are far removed from this disaster but still use #911 to #NeverForget and promote mindless patriotism are dangerously close to the thinking of the men who caused this tragedy. It doesn’t end there, because that same hate is rampant towards everything that you believe is against you, your people, or your god. And when it comes down to that, there is very little difference. Because I’ve seen beneath your cool, civilized exterior, and I know what you would do to some of the people you are afraid of if you thought you could get away with it. Maybe you’ve risen above generalizing a primarily peaceful religion as full of terrorists. Maybe your flavor of hate is against black people, white people, gay people, straight people, female people, male people, little people or big people. But no matter your flavor, the moment you hate any particular group of people for simply being what they are, especially if it’s because you believe your god says you should, you are resonating with the men who caused and participated in the tragedy fourteen years ago.
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Speaking of your god… Like many ideal concepts, religion can be a wonderful and amazing thing full of light. But let’s face it, humans suck at ideal concepts. For every one person who understands and does it right, there will be two more manipulative or just plain ignorant fucks who will twist it to their own flawed vision. Because of this, they fail. They fail the people who rely on them, and they fail the people outside of them. Instead of light, they breed hate. Instead of enlightenment, they breed ignorance. Instead of truth, they breed deceit and manipulation. This is not the fault of any god, this is the fault of ignorant people who are given free will and fail at it. It leaves the people who do it right outnumbered and powerless. Those people, who instinctively understand the true purpose of religion is to lift people, all people, up and try to bring them together are left struggling to not drown in the sea of those vying for power and pushing their (in)human agendas.   That, my friends is exactly what caused this natural, human disaster fourteen years ago. And by the way, this wasn’t even close to the first time slaughter and senseless death has occurred in the name of religion… but of course you already know that. Where are those hashtags? I guess it’s not trendy or American enough.

So you won’t find me posting pictures of the twin towers, or firefighters that may or may not have even been there (but it’s a cool dramatic photo anyway.) And you won’t find me using #911 (seriously how confusing is that?!) or #NeverForget past this case because I wasn’t anywhere near the disaster and it’s had very little effect on my day-to-day life outside of giving some of the asshats that used to run my country the liberty to make bad decisions. I’m not going to tell you to #NeverForget what happened fourteen years ago today, because if you care that much you should be paying attention to this shit every day. And it’s not about reminding others to not forget, it’s about reminding yourself.
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As I said above, I’m not trying to play holier than thou. I’ll be the first to admit there is an evil thing inside of me. It hates, it wants to hurt/kill people it thinks are wrong and it is lazy, apathetic and unmotivated when it comes to helping the community as a whole. But my saving grace is that I know better, and I try to do the three things I would ask any of you to do: Be aware, control it, and try to be a better person.

You want something to #NeverForget?

#NeverForget that to some people you are only a couple of steps away from being the men on that plane.
#NeverForget that hate and ignorance caused this and it continues to cause countless deaths and tragedies every day. #NeverForget that just because we live in a country that spends more on defense then the next sixteen countries on the list combined, we are not any more special than the people who do not, and who suffer tragedies like this yearly, monthly, weekly or daily.
#NeverForget that instead of posting empty, inspiring images and hashtagging them all over social media, you could be looking within yourself and tending to that part of you that is afraid of something different.
#NeverForget that when your fear produces hate as a reflex, you can fight that, and think, and do the one thing that humans are capable of that sets them apart from the animals they also recklessly destroy.
#NeverForget that you can reason past your emotions and knee-jerk reactions in order to try to be a better person. #NeverForget that you can support victims of tragedies and disasters quietly and consistently in your own way without needing an event to spur you to action. And…
#NeverForget that the first and most important step to solving any problem is being aware that you might be a part of it, and if so doing your best to minimize that.

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An Elaboration On Love

Almost nine years now I’ve been single. This has not been due to lack of interest by outside parties, just not the proper alignment. As I’ve said previously I am fortunate to know some absolutely amazing and incredible people. Just not the right person for what it must be. You see, for all my lack of emotion and self-centeredness, I still believe in some level of magic.   I’ve elaborated in the past about “it” and the magic that was, but I want to share about the magic that can be, that will be. Because if it doesn’t, it may not happen at all (which would… complicate things considering my eventual desire for children.)

It is said that when you are dying your whole life flashes before your eyes. You become distant and the world around you happens in slow motion as your brain processes (possibly for the last time) the events that led you to this point and made up your life. Depending on who you ask or what you believe, this is simply your brain going into emergency mode and firing on every channel it can in a panic before it shuts down forever. Others will say it’s a much more pleasant experience, that you’re recapping your life and experiences to this point before moving on to the next inevitable and unstoppable phase of your existence. To me, love is a little bit like the latter.

That moment...

That moment…

I believe that when you find the right person, the one who aligns with you in the right ways in both perfection and imperfection and is as drawn to you as you are to them, a moment will happen (perhaps many, but at least the first, pivotal one.) This moment will feel a lot like the second explanation of the moments before death above: Everything that was your life up to that point will converge into a singular moment and purpose, and from that singularity something new will be born, like a Phoenix burning to ashes and arising new… reborn.

It could be a small gesture, even a shared look, or it could be a dramatic and well orchestrated event, but that moment will come when you know that it’s time, and that you’ve found what you have both been looking for. You’ll know that everything leading up to this moment has passed, and something new is beginning, something that is powerful, hopeful and made up of the best of two individuals. Something that includes all that led them to this point: friends, family and experiences and uses that foundation to become something even greater, something that shatters limits and boundaries, something infinite. I believe that is power of love and that is the feeling that comes from it and fills the two souls that partake of it. Most importantly, I believe it exists.

This is, perhaps, the least pragmatic and realistic of my beliefs, but I know it exists simply because I can comprehend it… I can actually feel it as I imagine the possible scenarios in the future with the one whom I will share such things. To be sure, this person does not yet have a face, and the circumstances would vary greatly depending on their life and experiences that led them to this point, but all those details will simply feed into the next step.

35 years later, still taking adorable selfies.

35 years later, still taking adorable selfies.

It is this love, this power, that I believe fuels those who pull off the true long-term relationships. I speak of the adorable people that have grown old together over fifty years and celebrate their anniversaries as if no time has passed at all. I speak of the families that are tested, encountering great hardships and pulling together to come out stronger in the end. I speak of the undying, unyielding light that outshines the great darkness this world and it’s people can bring to bear. I speak of perfection and light born from not from desperation, compromise, impatience or mistakes… I speak of something right, that is the product of two imperfect beings that have found something perfect for them both through their bond. It is never the absence of doubt, fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them. All of those things and more are love and it’s power.

Additionally, I know and believe that “love” comes in many forms among many people. I would wager to say that just as there are many shades of any color, love also occurs in a spectrum that is infinitely larger than that. It is not for me (or anyone) to say what you love or that your love is true or not. It is not for me (or anyone) to say that any love is right or wrong, real or not. I speak of a specific love, one that I am familiar with and believe in. But I will never tell somebody that they are not in love with their life, their pets, their religion or even their money. Perhaps I could argue that love of some things has much more obvious drawbacks than others, but that is a discussion for another post, another time, and to be honest I’m not certain that at it’s core I could effectively argue with any real love, no matter how I perceived it.

0610087d21f25e9b18b7b784f8b59a97More realistically speaking, I also know that such love can exist and then, over time perhaps, diminish. I don’t think it is destroyed, but I would say it is possible for it to become buried under the many things in this life that can get in the way of it. When this happens it does not mean that it never existed, or even that it ceased to exist now, but whether or not it can be dug up and saved is solely at the discretion of those experiencing it. It’s easy to take the stance of “It wasn’t real if it doesn’t last.” But I don’t think that’s true, it’s more likely that it’s simply locked away, or that it has changed into something else. I suppose my point is, though I spoke ideally above in an enduring and everlasting love, I am also hesitant to discount love (including my own) that has reached those heights and, for better or worse, changed into something else. Perhaps due to timing, circumstances or one or both of those involved not being ready, just because it would ideally last forever, doesn’t mean it has to. It also doesn’t mean it was any less real.

But in the meantime, as with most things in this life, I think we need to shoot for the ideal, to believe in it. I don’t think there is any less ideal or less powerful concept than the belief in love and all that comes with it. I know it exists, I know it is out there somewhere and even if it takes another decade or more to find it, when that moment comes, I know it will be worth it.

Interlude: Kaska-Ta, the Shepherd and the Crossroads

Note: This can be described as a semi-fictional, metaphorical auto-biography.  It builds off of previous “Kaska-Ta” entries and will likely resurface from time to time when I wish to present situations without specific details. (It’s my blog, deal with it.) The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are essentially true.  I will return to regular programming soon.

Kaska-Ta had been in the desert many weeks now. His food had run out days ago and only drops of water were taken when necessary. The occasional rains had done little to refill his mostly-dry water sack. He knew at this rate he was very near the end of the road.

In truth, the only thing that had brought him this far had been a combination of experience, wisdom and the kindness of those he had come across; mostly merchants and other travelers that had wished him well. He had accepted what his pride would allow out of necessity, but he knew that accepting too much might doom them as well. He could accept his fate if need be, but he would not shoulder the responsibility of compromising theirs.  Despite their generosity though, Kaska-Ta’s supplies were essentially gone and the gravity of his situation sapped his energy almost as quickly as the savage desert sun.

Finally, he came to the edge of the desert, where the sand began to give away to bits of dry grass.  Encouraged, he continued on and came across a lone shepherd surveying the area.

“A bit sparse here for a flock isn’t it?” Kaska-Ta asked.

“That’s why you don’t see them here. One of them broke off and wandered out this way. I have to find her before the rains come. You’re a mess though, you come through the desert!?” The shepherd regarded Kaska-Ta with a combination of cynicism and curiosity.

“I did.”

The conviction of Kaska-Ta’s answer shifted the shepherd’s expression to visibly impressed and concerned at the same time. It was obvious Kaska-Ta’s journey had taken it’s toll. “Good lord man, I’d offer you my water but I only have enough to get me through the day, and I may need it if she’s wandered too far. But there’s a farm directly ahead to the west I believe you can make before sunup tomorrow. If you’re willing to work through the rains we can put you up, feed you well, give you time to build up your strength and set you up with supplies.”

“The rains? How long is that?” Kaska-Ta asked.

A grave but amused look came over the shepherd’s face. “You really did come from across the desert eh? The rains last three cycles here. During that time the surrounding lands are flooded and un-travelable. Where we’re standing becomes a lake that borders the desert. My farm is on the only high ground to the west of this area. We have to hunker down, but fresh water is plentiful and the fish from the surrounding lakes along with my farm make for easy meals, so we’d have no trouble supporting an extra set of hands. The shepherd paused. “In fact… to be honest we could really use you. It’s like you were meant to be here.”

Kaska-Ta was intrigued… “What say you, voice?” he asked inwardly. There was no reply, just the sensation that it was indeed there, watching, but choosing to remain silent.

Kaska-Ta surveyed the lands around him; he had come from the seemingly endless desert to the east, meanwhile the land did indeed get visibly more lush and inviting on the trail to the west where the shepherd claimed his farm was. Then his gaze turned south where a faint trail of smoke could be seen on the horizon.

“The Badlands.” The shepherd had followed his gaze and responded. “You can find water there… and possibly shelter as well if you make it before the rains come. But it will cost you. The people there care little of honor or humanity, they will take you for whatever they can get from you in return for anything they give. You don’t seem like that sort of man, but to survive there you would have to be.”

“Would I have to stay there through the rains as well?” Kaska-Ta asked.

Fear crept into the shepherd’s eyes and Kaska-Ta got the distinct impression he was choosing not to lie despite himself.

“No.” The shepherd said. “Though the way back here would be blocked, should you make it through The Badlands with your soul intact, the road continues south.”

“What’s beyond The Badlands?” Kaska-Ta asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been and I avoid those that come from there. Stragglers have attacked the farm in the past and I’ve done what I had to in order to protect my people. I mean it when I say they are dangerous and without honor, I would be sad to see you choose that path… and honestly why would you?”

“To see what’s beyond it.”  Kaska-Ta had dealt with such people before, he was quite capable of defending himself and though he was reluctant to admit it, fitting in, but telling the shepherd that would serve no good purpose.

Instead he turned to the North to see what might be another alternative, but saw only more desert. “How far does the sand reach north?” he asked.

“I realize you have no reason to trust me, but I don’t think you would make it.” He said.

“How far?” Kaska-Ta persisted.

“I only know what the few that come from that direction tell me, and they keep to themselves.” The shepherd replied. “No less than a moon… but possibly as far as a cycle or more. You’ve been very lucky to have made it from the east, and that was… what? No more than three moons, right? Even with all that luck and more you’d never last a cycle out there.”

Kaska-Ta knew he was right. The truth was he’d be extremely lucky to last another moon even with the chance help of random travelers. “What is beyond the sand?”

“I’ve heard it’s a city of some sort, scholars or some kind of monastery. But very few come this way, and they rarely stay long or share details, so I can’t be certain exactly. They pass through my farm on the way to western tribal city. I assumed that was your destination, isn’t it?  To join one of the tribes that migrated from the east? You’d be well prepared for that journey after the rains passed, I can assure you.”

Kaska-Ta said nothing. The truth was he didn’t know where he was going. The choice seemed obvious, but he had never made a choice simply because it was obvious.

“Some of the tribe members come to help on the farm during the rains and tell tales of the eastern lands.” The shepherd said. “Should be there now preparing. They seem like good people, perhaps you know them.”

Kaska-Ta thought back to the tribes he had grown with over the years. He had been tribeless for some time now. “Perhaps… but some are good, some are not. Like any people.” He said.

“Well, the light will fade soon and I’m not going to find my girl standing here trying to convince you. But I believe you’re here for a reason, and any other way you go might very well kill you. So keep my offer in mind, spend some time and live. Seems like the obvious choice if the desert hasn’t taken your mind completely. But, whatever way you go, be safe and good luck.” With that the shepherd turned and began to survey the area.

“Thank you.” Kaska-Ta said. “For the information, as well as the offer. I might well see you soon.”

“Hope so.” The shepherd said as he waved and walked away. “You’d be a lot less useful dead and washed up on my shores during the rains.”

And Kaska-Ta was alone again.

“Not alone. We’ve been over this.” The voice chimed in.

“Which way then?” Kaska-Ta asked, but as he expected his question was met with silence. Such was the way with the voice, it was always right, but it shared it’s wisdom on it’s own terms, not his.

“You will die if you linger here too long.”

 “There’s a good chance I’ll die regardless.” Kaska-Ta replied. “The obvious path takes valuable time that I don’t have and the other two may kill me anyway.”

No. So long as you keep moving, you may suffer, but you will survive this.”

 “Great.” Kaska-Ta sighed to himself. “The all-knowing voice predicts suffering… that’s regardless of the path I choose?”

Suffering takes many forms. You’re better at some than others and it will change you in different ways regardless.”

 “You’re no help.” Kaska-Ta replied. But he was glad for the banter and understood that the point was for him to make this choice on his own.

And it came to pass that the sun was low in the sky and the ground was still soft enough with sand to lie comfortably. Kaska-Ta set up his crude tent to provide shade from the last of the sun and lay down to rest and ponder his direction. In a few hours, when he had regained a bit of his strength, he would allow himself enough water to motivate him to move again, make a choice, and take the first step.