Gratitude

A little perspective after a long time

*Note: There are some elements of this entry that some may find disturbing, or possibly even trigger-worthy.  Read (or don’t) with caution if you are the sensitive type.

I know, I know… I’ve been gone a long time.  Life is like that;  It ebbs and flows.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t write professionally (at least not on a creative level) or I would be accused of following after a certain author of thrones.  Anyway, It took a couple years for this cycle to settle, and now that it has… everything is fine.  And that’s it.  Nothing is wrong, and new stuff happens from time to time, but for the most part, I’m just doing my thing; day in and day out. My companions from my previous cycle (and even the “adjustment” period) have almost all fallen away.  Some will come back eventually, and some will not.  But for the time being I have my new cave by the lake, my work in the contrasting enormous palace nearby, my cats, some friends I see every so often (whom, I’m growing a greater appreciation for as others move on) and… me.
It’s not about time any more.  I have time.  I finally caught up on The Walking Dead (holy shit…) and I’ve been addicted to certain mobile games involving hunting small creatures in the real world and fantasies that are final at home.  So time is there… money is still in recovery but improving daily. What I realized is missing (much like in my personal relationships) is passion.  I don’t feel inspired by anything.  The world is beautiful, and I am privy to exceptional sunsets on a daily basis.  These bring me peace, but they do not light a fire.  There is no fire.  I’m not depressed, things are generally good, I’m just… here.  It’s kept me from writing because I need to have something I feel strongly enough to write about.  It’s kept me from photography because I’m still backlogged almost a year (sorry Jess.. I put some more up yesterday but I realize my pace is horrible…) and while I love the photos I put up when I do work on them, it’s honestly a struggle to get myself to sit down and focus on them.

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At least sometimes I look alright doing it…

I know, this is a lot of whining and problems that are really not problems.  A year ago at this time I was trying to figure out if I was going to have a place to live next month, so I understand that I’m not really having real problems.  Ironically, it might be the intense focus that work requires of me that keeps the inspiration from showing up at the end of the day.  Chicken or the egg?  Be that as it may, I am virtually alone and uninspired at the moment, and while I’m making an effort to branch out a bit, it may be some time before life picks back up again.

With that said I want to share a story with you.  This story makes all of the above whining seem even more ridiculous.  The point is not to shock you or make you feel bad, the point is to help people like me, who are really doing pretty okay, keep perspective and be grateful for the blessings they have, even if inspiration feels a little short.  Having time to worry about inspiration or passion IS a blessing in itself.

As mentioned above, I work in a literal mansion.  My boss is such that he parks his seaplane (yes, seaplane) in the back yard, on the very nice lake that is shared among the local (rich) community.  Though it is not the point of this article, I want to make a point of assuring you that my boss is 1. Generally a good man.  2. Gives a GREAT deal of charity and pays a great deal of taxes without complaint.  -and- 3. Does not come from a wealthy family.  He’s built and earned what he has, more than once.

Anyway, as his Executive Assistant (you can call me Alfred) I assist in running his business, finances, calendar, estate, grounds, etc.  So as mentioned I spend the majority of my time in this huge, immaculate home.  Another staff member of ours – let’s call her Jan – comes once a week with an associate of hers to do a full cleaning of the house, laundry, etc. She is originally from Jamaica, in her late-40s, and her and I have a friendly, joking, semi-abusive relationship.  My boss has known her for over a decade (before he even moved into this mansion) and has treated/paid her well consistently.  He is even looking into the best way to provide for her retirement in the future, as she has never had her own means of obtaining one.   Not that she’ll need it anytime soon, because while she’s easygoing and friendly, she’s also tough, I mean really tough.

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Our cleaning lady would kill you son.

I’ve visited Jamaica before via cruise ship.  I know, I know, that’s not the “real” Jamaica. But all you need to do is book an excursion that takes you out of the tourist area and if you’re paying attention you very quickly get an impression of the reality many native Jamaicans face.  While there are most certainly well-developed, colorful, historical towns, hotels, and restaurants, just outside the walls of the tourist area in Falmouth, things get progressively bleaker until the reality of literal poverty is staring you in the face.  They make the best of it; You could see people smiling, laughing, and living, but they have adjusted, or have never know the extent of the comforts and security we have here in the US (despite us needing to be made great… again…)

Jan, and her family are from that kind of life.  She’s happy to be here with her longtime friend, making a life for herself and her daughter here in the US that would be near impossible for the rest of her family back in Jamaica.  She sends them money and support, and shows me pictures of the gatherings she attends when she goes to visit them.  She is especially proud of their Sunday clothes, when they get dressed up for church.

The other day she pulled out her phone and was showing me pictures of her son and some of their extended family still living in Jamaica.  She has never married, and when I asked her if her children were intentional she just smiled at me as if I were Jon Snow and knew nothing.  In this particular photo set though, I commented on her son’s sense of style.  Even by US standards, he was decked out in a dark suit with a light purple tie, matching vest and sunglasses to complete the look.

Purple Style

That style.

That was when she casually showed me the next picture.  It was of a young boy (I think she said he was thirteen) hanging from a tree by a rope tied around his neck.  Her nephew had decided that his life there wasn’t worth continuing, and… before they took him down, they took photos.  She continued that her son was wearing his best to that boy’s funeral because he had been like a brother, and it was the best way to honor his life.  The whole time she spoke casually and easy about this, as if this were just another part of life like a thunder storm or the flu.  But then, for a lot of people in the world, possibly even the majority, it is.

Many of us in the US live blessed lives.  Absolutely we have poverty, I’ve shared with you before that I was homeless at times growing up and have memories of getting food from the food bank to eat.  But much harder than I ever had it is the racism that is still coming to light, when growing up as a minority here (especially if you’re poor) can be, literally, deadly.  And while a lot of us see it on the news here, and it is wrong anytime, anywhere, in some places it’s so common that it’s not even a headline.

My point is not to say that we don’t need to get better as a culture in the United States (or wherever I end up should Emporer Trump come to power,) because we do.  We have to be better because we have infinitely more opportunity than so many more places in the world.  If there’s anything the human race is good at, it’s squandering its available advantages by focusing on trivial things (like… not feeling inspired…)  But that photo of the boy hanging from a tree, because life was actually very hard there and he couldn’t make it, is something that reminds me of this responsibility.  It gives a lot of perspective to how blessed the majority of us are here and reminds me that, at the very least, first and foremost, I (we) need to do our best to not be a part of the problems in our own culture.

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This.. should be appreciated.

People like Jan can come here, and work hard, and probably never have a life as decadent as my boss (or possibly even me.)  But because she has an inherently different perspective, and the appreciation for the many things we take for granted (including our way of life itself,) there’s a good chance that she may often be happier than those of us that lose our perspective from time to time.  Happiness is relative.  That’s why people with far more money than a windbag like Trump are secretly (or not so secretly) miserable.  Meanwhile those who give away what little they have beyond their own survival enjoy happiness that eludes the majority of the world.

There’s no recipe for it either. It’s individual… relative. Giving away everything or becoming a monk won’t make everyone happy.  Nor will winning the lottery (as people have demonstrated over and over) or becoming famous.  I believe the secret (even if I’m having trouble with it currently) exists in curbing your expectations and being as grateful as possible for the blessings you have. We deserve the good things that happen to us, on whatever level (so long as you do not intentionally harm somebody for those things.) There is no need for guilt, just gratitude for whatever good things come (as opposed to the trap of being sad about what does not.)

It is an unavoidable truth of this world that some people live through horrible circumstances, and maybe the silver lining (no, I’m not saying it’s ever worth it…  it never is) for those who can overcome those things is the ease with which they appreciate simple things that others might well take for granted.  Everyone has a story, and sometimes by learning about others, it helps you put your own in perspective.

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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

Grateful Relationships

Five+ days later I finally get a moment to (hopefully) finish this.  A lot has happened, I drank entirely too much scotch at my company party (though I maintained my composure to the very end!)  I’m also now cat-sitting for some friends of mine who live a ways from me (some 30 min… not too bad), so the logistics are interesting.  But what’s been in my head recently is the idea of gratitude, and how a lot of people (including myself these days…) take important things for granted.  Especially in terms of your relationships (generally speaking, not just romantic) sometimes it’s hard to draw the line where you’re being grateful, or allowing somebody to take advantage of you, but I think if you can step back and try to see things objectively, it all boils down to the situation, and what you feel you owe somebody.  The fact of the matter is that personal debt (not financial) is just that: personal.  What has any particular relationship done for you, and what do you owe that relationship as a result of it?

Some relationships aren't about people...

Some relationships aren’t about people…

See what I did there?  I took it away from the people, and made it about the whole relationship.  I think this is important because the individuals in a relationship are two (or more…) major parts, but they are not the whole at any given moment. There are circumstances and history that come into play that contribute to a greater sum.  Very often extremely beneficial connections are damaged because somebody is angry or hurt in the moment and forgets to look at the big picture.  Though many of the strongest relationships involve very strong emotions, it’s those same emotions that threaten to undermine your gratitude for all that specific people or relationships have done for you.  Remembering your gratitude can save a lot of positive relationships.

I suppose key to this is remembering the times you’ve been indebted to any specific relationship.  When you get your paycheck, it’s because you indebted the company to you through your actions for them.  On a baseline level this is the core of a healthy personal relationship (whether it be friendship or something more.)  Naturally you are usually happy to help your friends, family or (some of…) your lovers.  For this you tell yourself you need no repayment, perhaps you’re simply grateful to have such a great friend, but it’s actually not that simple.  If this attitude is reciprocal, then you’re automatically getting your repayment in the from of their gratitude and generally equivalent actions towards you.  But if over time you give in this manner and you receive no gratitude, resentment naturally begins to build.63b1afb6e21cf632dc7bdffa2fb418c7

Some people accept this, they bury their resentment because they fear damaging the relationship.  They continue to do as much, or more, for less.  This is when somebody is being taken for granted.  One of the most damaging aspects of any relationship are when somebody involved stops feeling grateful for the same things they’ve been consistently receiving and (sometimes unknowingly) reduces what they return.  Perhaps it means a change is needed, and that can be brought about by communication, but even when that’s the case it’s very difficult for a relationship to break down when both parties are truly grateful for each other.   The unfortunate thing is, when you’re being taken for granted, that resentment doesn’t go anywhere, it builds and if it’s not addressed it will instead attack the person causing it.  Unfortunately, by allowing the relationship to continue in this manner the fault also shifts to you.  Now, you resent the person who is not grateful for you AND you resent yourself for continuing to show your gratitude when perhaps it is not deserved.  This is what sets nearly any relationship: friendship, professional and even love on a path to destruction.

The underlying issue is two-fold: First, the hedonic treadmill (elaborated in a previous post) applies to your relationships too, so over time the high they may have once given you returns to a base level of happiness if the routine stays the same.  So when once all you had to do was walk into your new office to feel fulfilled at work, now you need something more, and your appreciation for that office diminishes.   Second, along with routine and comfort often comes a breakdown of deep communication.  Surface communication is abundant, but many lose the talks about how people are feeling or what their personal priorities are.  Dreams, goals, feelings and life give away to routine, what to pick up at the store, what report to finish and what social media you need to update.  Your appreciation for surface communication diminishes quickly, and just talking about nothing loses it’s appeal.  The solutions to these things are simple and obvious, but not easy.

You really don't want to lose that...

You really don’t want to lose that…

The most obvious and direct way to appreciate anything again, is to lose it.  Human nature is very reliable in always wanting what you can’t have, especially if you already considered it yours and feel you deserve it.  However, this is also highly destructive and doesn’t fix anything in the long term.

Instead, to keep a relationship (again, on any level) alive, you have to invest in it.  Keep it fresh, positive, alive.  When most living things in this world go “stale”, they are dying or decaying.  The status of a relationship can be associated with that.  Individual lives can easily begin to feel stale and routine if they are not tended to, and it’s only natural that this will spill into the relationship if it’s not helping to fix the problem.  Comfort is a wonderful thing, but people lose their appreciation for all comfort all the time very quickly.  They get bored and take a good situation for granted.   But to keep it fresh, you have to have ideas, and those ideas come from real, deep communication.  I want to stress that though this absolutely applies to to romantic relationships, it is equally important in friendships and associates at work.  The best bosses are the ones that know who you are, where you want to be and allow you to be straightforward with them.  This helps keep them from taking you for granted.monday-quotes-gratitude-quotes-111

It’s easy to think “I just need to appreciate everything more, all the time!”  That’s absolutely right!  But it’s much, much harder than it sounds.  So while you’re reminding yourself to appreciate every little thing, actively to do things that help that appreciation happen naturally as well.  Change it up, try not to be bored (the world is too big!), and above all communicate so that you’re grateful to those around you that communicate back.  If you can do this and you’re still being taken for granted, then you might be in a toxic situation and you honestly might need to distance yourself.  But first, try, be the best you can be, do your part, be grateful for everything you can and see if maybe your appreciation will rub off on those around you.  Even if it doesn’t work for the relationship you want, it might just make some other great ones.

Thank You

So I’m still relatively new to this blogging thing, and I do it as much for myself as I do anyone else.  I think I do okay as far as consistency and even content (though I run much longer than many…)  What I don’t do, however, is network much in the blogging world.  It’s mostly a time issue, I do actually go and check out some of your blogs when you follow / favorite me, but I have yet to really spend time diving in.  It’s all about instant gratification I suppose.  I’ll work on that.

In the meantime though, I want to say thank you, and that I’m grateful that you’re willing to take your time to read what I put down here.  Hopefully somehow you take something from it.  What I lack in external interactivity I will make up for through my interactions here.  I’ll happily answer comments or questions, and if you have something specific you’d like me to write about, comment on one of my posts or send me a tweet @JordanCascata and I’ll do my best to give you something worth reading.

I think that gratitude is extremely important for somebody as selfish as I am.  When you are grateful for what you receive, you naturally get more of it.  Gratitude has the dual purpose of both reinforcing positive bonds and making you feel good about yourself.  There’s no downside.

So thank you, for both reading what I write, and being patient when real life becomes exhausting and I don’t have time or energy to write a proper post.  I promise you minimum one a week on average, but it has been and should continue to be much more often then that.  Now though, I’ve been awake over eighteen hours straight on four and a half hours sleep and I have an awards party to run tomorrow for my company.  I should be back with something substantial on Sunday.

Thank You!

~ Jordan in the Grey Area