Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “brad bellmore”

Further Thoughts on Being Myself

In all my defense of the value of being me, what if my self does need change?

I am currently on day two of being cola free. Odds aren’t very good that I will make it to day three at the moment. I have tried unsuccessfully to beat this addiction for over twenty years. There have been spells where I have resisted but it has never been more than a few months.

Many people dismiss my addiction because they don’t see it to be destructive as if I struggled with drugs or alcohol. I significantly increase my risk of Type 2 Diabetes because of the pop I drink. I struggle to lose weight but the cola habit makes that really hard. Thus I am at higher risk of heart related issues due to my obesity.

These are things about myself that I would like to change. If I followed my philosophy of striving for nonconformity in all I can and fully embracing myself in spite of my flaws, I don’t leave room for change.

There must be a point in being myself at all costs that allows me to change, allows me to evolve past what I currently am.

This is beyond adapting to a work culture or honing my speaking style. This is the deeper stuff. This is exploring why I turn to cola for comfort when stressed. Then I can find answers to something else that needs help. This change can bring about freedom from the addiction and solve my health concerns.

The truth is, there is a lot about me that I don’t like. Not mere negative self image, but character flaws I want to overcome. Fear, worry and anxiety are still driving forces in my life. I make more decisions based on them than other motivators.

I no longer take risks like I used to. A case could be made that I learned form my mistakes. A case could also be made that I haven’t learned from my successes.

I want to be true to myself. But I want a better self to be true to. Perhaps I will find that true self buried inside as I explore the dark places in my heart. When I do, I’m pretty sure he will be less conforming than the me I already am.

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Entering the Struggle

In his book, “In Sunlight and in Shadow”, Mark Helprin discusses the need for something to struggle against for life to have purpose, to have meaning and to have value. His main character Harry , refuses to remove himself from conflict, either immediate or in the larger scale of life, feeling that the struggle is needed to grow. It is needed to find happiness if it causes turmoil and distress for the time being.

This feels reminiscent of The Matrix. Agent Smith tells Morpheus that the original matrix made everything perfect but the humans rejected it. We needed suffering to make our lives make sense. That created a purpose and acceptance that the fake reality was real. It’s like humans need something bad to enjoy the good.

There are days that I agree with this and days when I don’t. then there are the days I live in blatant denial that there is any struggle anywhere near me and my life. Then there is the factor of how much of my struggle is First World Trouble: I had to throw out a bag of spinach because it spoiled before I could eat it all.

I agree that some struggle, some conflict is necessary for us to grow, to be our best. To achieve more. Without it, we float at whatever level of convenience I have recently found. And I want to be sharp. I want to grow. I am ready to face some difficulty to do so. SOME. Not much, but some. A few of my recent posts have explored this theme a bit, both my awareness of the need and my general ambivalence toward approaching it.

This is the concept of muscles needing stress to grow. As we exercise them, they get stronger but that only happens through stressing them a little to catalyze that growth. Struggle, as uncomfortable as it may be, can bring good.

Someplace in my heart, in the depths of my mind, I know that I need to embrace the struggle, perhaps even pursue it to make my life better. But my couch is comfortable. And inertia is powerful.

My daughters had a teacher that pushed engaging the struggle, that being the point where true learning happens. I like to learn. I truly do. I even enjoy the challenge a new subject offers. But challenge feels less threatening than struggle. Maybe that is just one of the oddities of the swamp of my mind, but the words mean significantly different things to me. Point is, I don’t know if I like learning enough to truly struggle for it.

But I hate stagnating too.

Todd Henry, author of Die Empty discusses that our definition of passion may be askew. We often think of passion as that which brings us joy or excitement. But the truer definition of passion leans toward suffering. A passion therefore would be something we are willing to suffer for. Or, perhaps, to struggle for. In In Sunlight and in Shadow that something is life and living. For me it occasionally is. I used to think that I would struggle for my art, my writing but lately I find it a struggle to want to struggle for that. But I do want to want to.

Just deciding whether to struggle feels like too much of a struggle some days.

Does Your Hand Offend You?

The Bible provides rather disturbing instruction to cut off your own hand if it causes you too much trouble. I prefer to interpret that through hyperbole and use it to mean that sometimes you need to do hard things to get better. Sometimes a good thing needs to go in order to get to a better thing. This is a metaphor that surfaces in many stories.

Many years ago, a movie called “Fresh” came out. The story focuses on a poor kid growing up in a terrible inner city neighborhood. With a gift for chess, he played in the local park. He protected his queen more than his king which often brought about his defeat. His love for his queen prevented him from excelling at chess. Eventually he saw that this metaphor in his life. He protected his older sister, the one who “taking care” of him, endangering himself in the process. When he decided to take control of his own life, to create the change needed to escape the tragic life he knew, he found that he needed to put the queen at risk. Could he sacrifice his queen to win the game?

Fewer years ago, but still a little ways back, the season two finale for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” presented a similar conundrum.  Angel, Buffy’s great love, had turned evil during the course of the season. While evil, he had opened a portal to hell using his own blood. For Buffy to close the gate to hell, she needed to use his blood to do so, sending him into damnation. Even though he was evil, she struggled to overcome her love for who he had been in order to do so. Buffy had to kill and damn her lover in order to save the world.

In a more recent movie, “The Beaver”, Mel Gibson plays a man in deep depression who fails at killing himself after ruining his business and his family. As he wakes up from the botched suicide, he develops another personality to help him deal with his situation. He wore a puppet of a beaver on his hand and used that personality to interact with the world. He decided that his life as it was was a complete wreck. Repairing it wasn’t an option. It needed complete demolition and rebuild. Thus, the beaver. Just getting to that point is pretty close to my initial thought. Could I completely redo my life?

But then, the new life created had its own problems, becoming a new wreck. Gibson’s character realizes that he needs to eliminate the new personality. He abandons the person who can interact with the world. Again, a tough choice to sacrifice a big thing for a better thing. But the puppet has become the embodiment of that persona. The only way to divorce himself from the beaver is to cut it off.  He uses a table saw to chop off his hand and the puppet. He lived out that scripture.

How far am I willing to go to create change in my life? Can I give up my addiction to cola to be healthier? To lose weight, will I change my lifestyle? Can I cut out cable to save some money? I know, none of these seem as extreme as the stories listed above, but they are the challenges that I most immediately face. On all three of these points, my hand offends me. But I am unwilling to cut anything off. I trust that I can find the courage to eventually make these changes.

My hope is that I can learn to identify these situations and resolve them when they are a matter of just clipping my nails rather than losing a hand. But that requires attentiveness, awareness and focus. That alone is a significant change, something of a rebuild.

But, to have a better life…

Tides

On our honeymoon, my wife and I spent a day driving along the southwest coast of Ireland. We found a small village on the ocean with a quaint little beach. Since we had been on the road for a while, this seemed like a good place to stop and explore a bit. It was late in the day and most of the families at the beach packed up their things and headed home. The beach was ours.

Don’t worry, this a PG story. This isn’t heading to “From Here to Eternity.”

We decided to get out into the ocean a bit, by stepping on a series of smaller rocks to reach some larger ones further out, hoping to find a tidal pool. This helped us avoid getting into the water. Remember: Ireland, North Atlantic. This was not the balmy Caribbean Sea.

After a few minutes we reached the larger rocks. The ocean spread before us. We were far enough from the shelter of the shore to feel more exposed to the wind to feel like we were more in the ocean than on land. It was truly beautiful. We reveled in the vast expanse.

When we decided that it was time to head back and go get some dinner. We turned around to find most of the stones we walked out on were now gone. The water covered them, as well as most of the beach. The tide had come in while we weren’t paying attention. It looked like we would have to wade to the shore through waist deep, very cold water.

Then we noticed a cliff a little to our right that we could reach by walking over still exposed stones. The cliff stood about twenty feet high with lots of stones protruding to make it a simple climb. A short scramble later we stood on land, rescued from the sea.

This may make it sound like a bigger deal than it was. We barely got wet; we barely got our hands dirty, we didn’t even break a sweat. It wasn’t easy either. I don’t want to under sell this. A few minutes longer on the rock and would have been forced to swim to shore. Had we been another twenty yards further out it may have been truly dangerous.

It surprised me how much had changed so quickly. The tide came in and we didn’t even notice. That’s how I gained weight. Things changed so gradually and so steadily that I didn’t even notice until one day I was fat.

They say live frogs will sit in an uncovered pot of water as it is boiled as long as the temperature changes gradually. If it happens too quickly, the frog will jump out when distressed. But if it is slow and steady, it will never know it is in danger and it will die.

Sadly, I can’t gradually and steadily and unknowingly get unfat. Good things don’t work the way bad things do. I can get unfat steadily and gradually but I have to be mindful of it. I have to focus. I have to work. Getting into a mess is easy. Getting out of a mess takes much more work. Sort of the difference of walking out to the ocean and then needing to scramble up a cliff to be free.

Healing

A friend of mine told me that someone asked him if his reluctance to get involved in church again was merely licking his wounds. He had been hurt by church people in the past and felt tentative about diving in again. It wasn’t until later that it started bothering me.
Why should anybody care if he’s licking his wounds? For some reason people expect us to move on from our pain, almost pretending it doesn’t hurt. The response is to allow us to feel hurt for a little time and then start pushing us to not hurt anymore. They seem to be eager for us to stop hurting. Once our pain bothers them, it becomes a problem. That’s when we get accused of just licking our wounds.
But why do dogs lick their wounds? Because they hurt. It is their natural response to pain.
What if we are licking our wounds because we still hurt? What if it takes a year for my friend to no longer feel hurt and get involved again? Can that be acceptable? Or is that too long for us to feel comfortable with and decide we need to start pushing him recover faster? It seems that the time frame that it needs to heal and move on is decided from the outside, by someone not experiencing the pain.
When is it someone else’s place to determine that you are no longer in pain? you are the one experiencing it. You are the one that will determine that you are beyond it.
When you hurt, you hurt. That’s all there is to it. When you are done hurting, then you are done.
When I dislocated my shoulder in college, I discovered a whole new realm of pain. I didn’t need someone to tell me I was in pain. I also didn’t need someone telling me to get over the pain as if I could just will it away. Granted, you can function through and beyond pain. It is still there though.
The helpful people worked with me to find solutions to ease the pain. I iced a lot. I took pain medication. I learned to sleep in new positions. I wore a sling. I carried my books in the other hand. A friend taught me how to open doors in a different way to not injure myself more. Any of these things could have been categorized as licking my wounds. I was dealing with my pain, relieving the symptoms, protecting my wound. Had someone suggested that I carry books with my injured arm because I was just licking my wounds otherwise, I would have punched them with my good hand.
I did however, push through my pain. I continued to play football with my injury. This is what we expect of people: to stop being hurt and move on. I was able to perform well enough to contribute to my team. I didn’t disguise my injury though. They knew what was going on with me and they accepted that.
The downside? I aggravated the situation. My shoulder continued to dislocate. Every game. One game it came out of joint and went back in three times. All of this caused further damage to my shoulder, making it more unstable, causing the injuries to happen more frequently.
Sometimes pushing through the pain gets things done but it makes things worse.
Eventually, I had to take some action to heal. Ending my football career helped some. Getting my shoulder surgically reconstructed helped more. However, that included a lot of pain too. In fact, when I first woke up from my surgery, I thought I made the worst decision of my life. My pain was worse. The healing hurt more. And I complained about it. Someone could have easily told me to stop licking my wounds and they would have been put on a list for vicious vengeance some time later.
The therapy I needed to help recover from the surgery was terrible too. Just trying to learn to move my arm again proved difficult and excruciating. The healing process can be just as painful as getting hurt. It was close to a year before I started feeling like my shoulder had the strength and stability the surgeon promised. The constant pain eventually faded.
Just because there aren’t visible to slings to wear when recovering from an emotional injury, it’s easy to take for granted that the person isn’t really hurt. But I cannot judge your pain and you cannot judge mine. We can offer help to ease the pain and maybe even help heal. We just need to remember that more pain may be involved in that process.
Pain sucks. Only you know when you are done hurting. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be done.

Grand Return

I have been absent for a few months. This summer is dedicated to re-evaluating everything and refocusing my vision. Part of that is looking at what I do and why. If the why isn’t strong enough, I look to see if there is a better one to apply. If not, I am trying to step away. The idea here is to spend more time doing the right things for the right reasons and to cut out the time thieves, the burdens and the things I do because I’ve been doing them.
One of the themes of this blog has been perseverance. I am trying to learn to push through again. I decided that this blog is an exercise in perseverance for me as well as a creative outlet. The fact that I have something to come back to and build on inspires me. Sometimes I feel like this is more work than it’s worth. Then later their cumulative effect of working here again and again, over and over helps keep me sharp.
I find this is one of the things that I don’t want to give up. I enjoy it too much. And, it pushes me to show up and try again. So, this one passes. After evaluation I will press on in this blog.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life 29

I received an email to register for Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference. Unfortunately, at present he isn’t offering one at a location that is geographically favorable to me. At a different point in my life, I would have figured out a way around that. Road Trip!
Miller is the impetus behind this blog. My efforts to try to get a life or a better life were originally inspired by his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In that book Miller encourages us to live a better life. Well, his words are to live a better story. Thus, the storyline conferences. Thus, my desire to attend. I really want one to land in the Chicagoland area.
But as I said, my stage in life limits my ability to just run off to such events even though I long to do it anyway. But a lot of situation in learning to live a gain came from my stage in life. I left college with ideas of changing the world. But there are more people dependent on my ability to provide food shelter and clothing than just me. I have had to focus on changing their world first instead of changing The World. If As I focus on that more, focus more on their dreams, I find my dreams floating away.
Somehow, there has to be a way to accomplish that, to deliver on my primary mission and still grasp those things that matter in the deep places of my heart. In my coming alive, I need to make sure those around me live. As I provide a living for those around me, I need to be fully alive.
I thought I was onto something there, but it feels like I just keep finding more questions. This blog continues to breed questions. Is that part of coming alive? I hope so; I’m on the right path if it is.
And it all started because Donald Miller convinced me that all these fun little stories of my life would have more power if they were connected to solid storyline that ran through my life. Perhaps if I drove to Oregon for the conference I could figure it out.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life 28

When I get up in the wee hours of the morning, reruns of Andy Griffith show. A recent episode shoed Opie excited about sleeping on an ironing board suspended between two chairs. When told that sounded uncomfortable, he responded, “No! It’s adventure sleeping!”
I remember when I was a kid, or even in college when anything rough or hard seemed like an adventure. I welcomed such situations. Now they are just hard and rough. I avoid them. Is that just getting older? Is it getting wiser, realizing that the adventure is hard and often not as adventurous as first promised? Or is getting lazy, sliding into inertia that becomes impossible to overcome? Is it settling into my grave well before my death?
I want adventure. I want to welcome adventure. I wan tot not be daunted by the difficulty of a situation. I want to embrace the challenge instead.
I want to get off my couch and live. I want to get out of my grave and embrace living until I truly belong in one.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life 25

I watched “The Grey” over the weekend. I still can’t decide if I liked it. There were distinct parts of it that bothered me, but there were parts that spoke to me. I hated the wolves, or too much of the wolves and the general bleakness. I loved the poem that Liam Neeson’s character quoted. I didn’t so much at the time, but it stuck with me. The closing line “Live and die this day” continues to haunt me. It’s become a morning prayer.
What more can I want for or expect from a day that I truly live it, live it like it might be my last and invest it with real value. Live like I am truly alive and I’m bringing life to those around me. Try to make each day that I would be okay with being my last.
I find myself living my life more like those guys in the movie though. They survived a plane crash and are trying to continue to survive. The move forward because they can’t stay where they are, but they don’t really know where they are going. They just move forward. That’s the struggle of surviving. I get stuck just making it through the day, just taking another step, just moving forward because I can’t stop moving.
I want to live. I want to survive, but I want to move past that to living. How do I get there? Oddly, one day at a time, just like survival. But investing in it like it’s the last day I have and making it count. I want that poem, “to live and die this day.”

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 23

As I watch my girls engage with life, I notice that things I dream for them are changing. I dream that they will succeed at their endeavors, that they will know success in their lives. More and more, however, I find gladness in their failures.
I knew a girl in college who abounded with talents and skills and she excelled at all she tried. Her life was forged by success. In high school, she was the best of the best. At our college she was better than most at all she did. She planned to get a masters degree in broadcast journalism after we graduated. For whatever reason, despite her accomplishments, talents and academic prowess, the school she applied to didn’t think she fit their program. They rejected her and she was devastated. She seemed unable to recover from this setback.
I realized then that she didn’t have skills or experience to deal with this. She had never failed before.
I, however, failed often. My life is rife with flops and foibles. Rejection visited so often, I gave him a drawer in my dresser. Failing was a lifelong pursuit. I had literally been planning my whole life for the moment that a grad school rejected me. I was equipped to deal with it.
My friend’s first failure was colossal. How can anyone recover from that? I’m glad I had practice at recovering, at dealing with disappointment, at trying again, at staring anew. I am glad my daughters are learning these skills too.

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