Category: Life Lessons


In a strange way, both the US House American Health Care Act vote and Emmanuel Macron’s French Presidential victory were about rejecting secularism and hatred. Both the US and France experienced moments where some factions of society tried to institutionalize separatism and division within borders. Where America accepted, France rejected.

The Washington Post noted, “Depending on your interpretation, President Trump either endorsed far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or suggested that her stock was rising because of a pre-election terrorist attack in Paris.” In an Associated Press interview, Trump added, “She’s (Le Pen) the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well in the election.”

Yet in the United States, the US House of Representatives voted for the American Health Care Act which, if it becomes law in its current form, will repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act, change the rules for subsidies, and make major cuts to the Medicaid program, which funds care for the poor and disabled. A whole lot of people will lose coverage.

Looking for a lesson? I find the following scene from the television show “Kung Fu” illuminating.

Looking into a pool of fish, Master Kan said to young Caine, “Look at the world you live in and this pool of fish. There are twelve fish, twelve worlds.”

“But only one pool.” Young Caine replied.

“Many. The one you see, the one I see, and the world of each. Ten million living things have as many worlds. Do not see yourself as the center of the universe, wise and good and beautiful. Seek, rather, wisdom, goodness, and beauty, that you may honor them everywhere.”

The history of own life and society ripple through us from generation to generation. Most of us are unaware of our own thoughts, attitudes and emotions; where those thoughts and emotions originated.  As American’s, as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and as citizens of the world, we need to work to recognize and transform fear and anger so such emotions do not dictate our life, our own inaction or own acceptance of injustice.

Desmond Tutu observed that in order to free the blacks from Apartheid, Mandela realized he had to free the whites from their fears – this kind of analysis and related strategy is necessary for all of us. In a similar way, Marcon stated the same.

The National Front, our main opponent, is attacking us on all sides. Never boo them. Fight them.”

In everything, do not see yourself as the center of the universe. Seek only that which honors people everywhere.

Ivanka and JaredThe growing impact of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in America’s governance is perplexing. Ivanka Trump has a clothing, shoe and handbag line in her name. Ivanka hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant and worked on the TV show, “Born Rich,” among others. But she has never held a public-service position, nor is she a scholar of politics, government or history. Kushner is an unelected person with absolutely no governmental experience.

This is the Trump identity. And the Trump identity will have profound impact upon America and American families, including how we find meaning, satisfaction, and support. I am surprised to see how much experience molded me. Accordingly, experiences have obviously molded the Trump family as well. Yet I cannot understand how the Trump world intertwines with real America.

Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, “The Trump Card,” is a good example of missing interconnectedness. The Trump Card opens with an implausibly:

In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Ivanka quickly adds, “Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match,” she writes. “Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather.”

Still, she insists, she and her brothers didn’t attain their positions in their father’s company “by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion.”

Right. Several pages later …

Did I have an edge, getting started in business? No question. But get over it. And read on.”

The essential element of the “Trump” identity is missing. I cannot name one Trump family member who professed and succeeded with a “can do attitude.” There’s not been one Trump family member ever discussing of having to work their way from the bottom up. Has Ivanka ever had to choose between eating and medicine, going to work or losing a day’s pay caring for a sick child? When the average American gets sick, we either have to heal ourselves, or more often than not, friends and colleagues guilt us by exclaiming we should not have gotten sick.

After nearly 100 days in office, it is clear the Trump identity will not support any of us. Prior to donating $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families, in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008. Compare that to Bill and Melinda Gates who’ve donated $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion to improve global health.

One might claim that using Trump’s foundation was waterboarded during the campaign, that I’m crying over spilt milk. Yeah, the election is over. Got it. These thoughts are presented to neither bitch nor whine, but to reiterate how Trump’s lack of communal roots will impact our world.

Like it or not, America’s future is being crafted by two mid thirty-something adults. Just as the President himself, history will judge both Jared and Ivanka equally as responsible for selling the President’s agenda, including cuts to childhood education, health and safety enforcement; healthcare repeal; immigration isolation; elimination of funds for family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries; and foreign policy.

It is unclear if the current Trump identity, as presented, will be successful for long-term growth. Accordingly, our sustainability defaults to the adults. America’s survival and ability to prosper is dependent upon the thousands of ordinary Americans, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, who can work to end partisanship while simultaneously forging connections in the community in which they reside.

The question is whether we’re up to the challenge.

MSNBC’s Brian Williams opened his Friday’s show with an interesting comment, “… both Trump and Ryan saved the Affordable Care Act.”  To be fair, Williams claimed the quote wasn’t original, that he acquired the verbiage from the Associated Press or another news media organization. Regardless, the statement was perfect.

Regardless of political view, there are many wonderful lessons for all project managers.

First failure was the lack of vision. All projects require vision and the Project Sponsor must be able to effectively communicate that project. Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) proponents had nearly seven years to prepare for and repeal the ACA. Estimates vary on the exact number of repeal efforts, but the current count is well over 60. So one would figure the American Health Care Act (TrumpCare) would have a solid foundation, with critical review and bipartisan support across both political and healthcare professions.

Unfortunately, TrumpCare was conceived in weeks, created from a high-level 6 page outline. TrumpCare was hidden, where one could neither read nor contribute to policy discussion. The White House failed to sell TrumpCare and Americans rejected the plan. Various news reports indicated the lead Project Sponsor (i.e.,the President and shelf promoted dealmaker) failed to break through Washington’s gridlock in his first major policy initiative. There was no education as to how TrumpCare was better than the ACA. In the end, not many thought it was better.

Second failure has to be project staff and advisors vacationing during project delivery. Prseident’s Trump’s key advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were vacationing while TrumpCare flopped. I simply can’t fathom key leadership would allow their principle advisors to leave during implementation week. Of course one could speculate Kushner and Ivanka Trump knew TrumpCare was destined to die and said “Screw it babe! Let’s get outta Dodge.” If you’re part of management, you have to be present during both good and bad.

Third failure. Where was Ivanka Trump during TrumpCare’s development. In January, Ivanka Trump professed a wanton desire to push policies benefiting women and girls. Accordingly, she sought the advice of female executives and media stars and the transition team supposedly courted congressional staff on childcare policies. This was an area Ivanka urged President-elect Donald Trump to prioritize. However, did we read of any single contribution from Ms. Trump during TrumpCare’s formation? Did we hear Ms. Trump promoting the positive benefits of TrumpCare for the working poor, single mothers and children? Maybe Ivanka worked behind the scenes. Still, TrumpCare’s key components were never publicly promoted by either Ryan’s team nor the White House.

Fourth failure. Borrowing Stephen Covey’s second principle from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”  it’s unclear if anyone began with the end in mind. Did they really understand 20+ million could lose health care as end? Accordingly, TrumpCare would have hit millions of Trump supporters the hardest. And who are those supporters? Older people. People in the west, Midwest, and Appalachia. Technically speaking, political projects are supposed to reward supporters and stick it to enemies — not the other way round.

So what’s the end result? What’s our takeaway?

As someone whose worked in healthcare industry for years, health care policy is extremely complicated. Politicians and project managers over simplifying complexities via grandiose vision fail. There’s always a significant gap between solution and implementation. How well the solution positively impacts your customers is dependent upon the planning. TrumpCare suffered from faulty planning.

Maybe America will benefit in the wake TrumpCare’s failure. Sure the ACA is flawed. Like everything, maintenance is critical. Hopefully leaders from all spectrum of health care will come together and add a little Obama, add smidgen of Ryan, a dab of professional ethics, the heart of clinicians everywhere and the will of all constituents and create something beautiful and wonderful.

We must begin with the end in mind.

As GOP leaders continue marching the American Health Care Act through the legislative process, we are left with bickering pros and cons of affordability and coverage. As one who’s earned a livelihood from the healthcare industry, I view legislative gladiators from the cheap seats and ponder, “If you can’t afford health care, should the state let you die?

The current House plan relies on government tax credits, regulation of the insurance industry, and continued government funding to keep the low-income population insured. Yet in-between weeds, down in the fine print no one ever reads, one can find insurance reforms are positioned so carriers can offer a wider array of policies that pick up less of the tab for getting care. Additionally, Insurance companies can charge the oldest enrollees as much as they want, roll back the Medicaid expansion thereby eliminating approximately 11 million of the nation’s poorest from health care and eliminating healthcare services of poorer via planned parenthood.

In February 2017, Cardinal Burke noted, “Catholic health care, by its constant and careful attention to the perennial moral teaching of the Church, safeguards and promotes the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ...”

Sounds wonderful, but there are little safeguards that promote the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our faith-based nation spends a hell of a lot time upending/defending Roe vs. Wade, but the notion we protect all human life from conception to natural death is bullshit. The back hallways of healthcare facilities are littered with the strewn, discarded and neglected. These hallways are filled with the “let them die” arrogance. We simply do not care about the respect of human life.

Both Bernie Sanders and the Pope have stated similar positions, “…access to health care regardless of income” is a right. Technically speaking, even one without health care can get health care coverage via a hospital emergency room. And in truth, both the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s American Health Care Act provides opportunities for health care access. Now whether one can afford that access is an entirely different matter.

Health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice. Conservatives continue to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Several years ago, a 17-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School wrote:

“… it must be noted that the key word in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.”

Health care coverage is extremely complex. By nature, medical clinicians, Buddhists, Christians and many others of faith are concerned in their own way in the alleviation, control and ultimately the removal of human suffering. The American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began his bestselling book The Road Less Travelled with the statement “Life is difficult.” He added, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”

Borrowing from Peck, the current health care debate is difficult. The disparity between health care and American values is crudely displayed as political views, politicians, managers, and administrators impact who receives what level of proportioned health care. While hospitals are forced to meet sometimes arbitrary measurements of performance, financial incentives are dolled-out on the backside. Lost in all this is what matters. For instance, what may matter more to a patient is the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of care experience. On what measurable performance scale can it be recorded that a dying patient is helped through denial, anger, and resentment to peace and serenity?

Of course, we can mimic Rep. Roger Marshall’s (R-KS) holy view to wash our hands. Marshall used Jesus to justify his opposition to Obamacare by explaining that poor people will reject health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are.”

Can we afford to be spiritually ignorant as some politicians? Should society claim that if one can’t afford health care, they die? No. At this point, both societal value and the American Health Care Act are morally unaffordable.

Imbueding

Commentator Jay Busbee wrote of Tiger Woods continuing back dilemmas.

“The clue was right there, buried deep in an otherwise routine Tiger Woods interview last week: ‘I feel good, not great,’ Woods said. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever feel great, because it’s three back surgeries, four knee operations…’

I feel good, not great. For Woods, who has spent an entire career insisting, often in the face of all sane evidence, that he wasn’t just great, he was greater than you could imagine, this was a remarkable concession. This was a man laying down his sword and shield. This was surrender.”

I read no further into Busbee’s article. That’s not to say Busbee’s analysis wasn’t spot-on. Busbee could be right.  Yet, I have no prolonged thoughts of Tiger Woods. Regardless of what’s occurred or hasn’t occurred in Woods’ life, I wish him all the best.

My thoughts are personal. Laying in bed, unable to move due to the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, disabling neck pain and circulatory problems, I experienced my own personal “remarkable concession.”

I simply want to surrender. I am tried. I want to move on.  


 Fast forward several weeks.

I wrote the above and never posted into the blog, sidetracked by pain management. I thought of changing what I wrote but left the front part of this post intact, as written. I wrote the above in a time of such personal pain.

Anyone living in chronic pain knows, they’ll eventually have to surrender. As life’s end nears the horizon, all query “Surrender to what?

Most Buddhists are taught that if you wish to develop understanding, kindness, and clarity, you must willingly surrender to dukkha, the inevitable pain of life. Suffer? Hmm. I do not necessarily believe my suffering is worse than others. Yet there is a time when I realized I myself must find a way to the spiritual (the other side).

I know one cannot escape death. I do not fear death. When I think of fear, I remember watching the movie Wyatt Earp, when Doc Holiday said “…I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad” to which I replied “…damn straight Doc!

What I am amazed me is the weakness and fragility of my human body. In my 20’s, I would laugh at simple walking. At 57, a simple walk exhausts me for days. And as man who has traveled the world, I wonder why I took so much of living for granted.

Still, I continue to reach out to all whom I hurt. I have asked for forgiveness, reached to touch those I have not and sought truce to old lingering wounds. As best as possible, I wish for my death to be calm and peaceful. I simply wish to imbued positive thoughts at the time of death.

Therein lies my message everyone. Imbued! Rather than waiting to reconcile at the end of life, inspire a feeling or quality now. Live in love. Permeate others with a feeling of quality. Honor all around you.

Imbueding” is real living.

sanders-cruz-485x261Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe over healthcare last night. In the CNN face-off, Canada made a surprise appearance when Cruz claimed Canadians leave their country in droves to seek out health care in the United States.

When I lived in Toronto, CA for a year-and-a-half, I worked on Canada’s Healthcare system. However, when I meet with focus group participants, critics of universal health care in both Canada and the United States claimed Canadians left Canada in groves to receive healthcare, especially elective healthcare in the United States.

However, the best-available research shows it’s simply not true. Canadians are not fleeing en-masse to US medical facilities. The most comprehensive look was a 2002 Health Affairs article, entitled “Phantoms in the Snow.” Researchers gathered data on Canadians’ use of US healthcare. In a nutshell, almost zippo. They found this happened rarely.

Personal experience of living and working in Canada found one true fact – even if Canadians wanted to escape, most could not afford US medical care.

The other cringe-worthy moment was Senator Ted Cruz congratulating a woman for dealing with MS.

“Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on dealing with MS,” Cruz said. “It’s a terrible disease and congratulations on your struggles dealing with it.”

If there’s a moment when someone can point to the GOP on being out-of-touch with regular Americans on healthcare, that was pretty damn close. In response, one blogger, penned:

Congratulations Ted Cruz on your struggle with being a human being.”

CNBC Jake Novak actually authored a noteworthy response.

But the best way to tackle a problem is to pinpoint what the problem is exactly. And Tuesday night’s debate helped anyone paying attention to zero in on the key problem in American health care, health insurance, and health legislation: The expense. Time and again, questions were fielded from audience members who are dealing with costly personal medical problems and challenges. They each served as crucial human examples that better showed what the colder statistics have told us for years. The hard truth is that people like those audience members, those 10 percent of Americans who are the sickest, are responsible for 64 percent of all health care costs in the country, according to research by the Department of Health and Human Services. That includes Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other forms of coverage and payment in America.

Some argue the Buddhist approach to health and healing emphasizes spiritual practice. Buddhism asserts that spiritual practice makes it possible for an individual not only to see opportunity for practice in the face of adversity, including sickness and injury, but use the opportunity for personal transformation and transcendence.

As a Buddhist having worked in the medical industry for quite some time, I see a deep awareness of cause and consequence, and insight into the nature of conditioned interdependence. Whether Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist or whatever, choice, practice and cost are factors many simply do not have control over. If you’re in pain, Buddhism, Christianity or transcendence means squat. Eventually, everyone will suffer equally. Almost everyone will become part of the 10% group absorbing 64 percent of all health care costs. So by my definition, there is a 90% chance each of us will become a class member.

In ancient days, Buddhists were healers. They cared for one another. Due to budget battles, lack of income, family resources and political partisanship, all us face or will face similar struggles as the woman Ted Cruz congratulated. I personally believe it’s up to the average joe citizen to care for one another. Why? Because our political leaders are too incompetent to help.

tariffPresident Donald Trump gathered the CEOs of several top US companies at the White House this past Monday and put them on notice: Move your manufacturing operations overseas and you’ll face a “substantial border tax.”

If you go to another country … we are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the product when it comes in, which I think is fair,” Trump said. “All you have to do is stay. Don’t leave. Don’t fire your people.”

Trump’s notice inspired deeper thought. The biggest of which, is that if tariffs apply to manufacturing products like automobiles and air conditioners, does it apply to other imports such as food and clothing?

China — by far America’s biggest source of clothing — accounted for 37 cents of every dollar’s worth of clothes imported, thereby sucking up the top spot with 37% of all clothing imports. Bangladesh was number 2, accounting for 5.8 percent of all U.S. clothing imports.

The food category is a little different. As the U.S. population has grown in both size and ethnic diversity, the volume and variety of food consumed and imported in the United States has increased correspondingly. American consumers prefer an increasingly wider selection of food products, such as tropical fruits and vegetables, premium coffee, and a greater variety of wines, beers, cheese, grain products, and preserved meats. In 2013, U.S. food consumption totaled 635 billion pounds, or more than 2,000 pounds per capita. Of this amount, imports accounted for 19 percent (123 billion pounds), or 390 pounds per capita.

So how would tariffs impact the clothing and food? A 35 percent tax on imported goods certainly would turn up the heat. It may also give pause to companies deciding where to produce their wares. But if tariffs are implemented, would they work? And what about the unintended consequences?

Concerns vary. Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citi, wrote to clients stating new protectionist trade policies might spark a global trade war, “which could easily trigger a global recession.” Deutsche Bank also weighed-in.  The Deutschland opined team that negative risks of a potential trade agenda were “the biggest threat and a possible protectionist turn, which could depress global trade and even trigger trade wars.”

While both Trump and Hillary Clinton zeroed in on worker anxieties over job losses, it’s important to note that at least some American job losses were not due to trade. Losses were due to automation. And crucially, automation not only hits manufacturing, but also affects jobs that require advanced degrees, such as neuroradiology.

Protectionism policies Neglect the concept of “dependent origination,” that nothing exists in isolation, Life cannot be independent of other life. The Japanese term for dependent origination is engi, literally meaning “arising in relation.” In other words, our existence only occurs because of our relationship with other beings. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions. Nothing can exist in absolute independence of other things or arise of its own accord.

We must remember that, if we as a society, choose “protectionism” as the rule of life, we’re most likely to implode. Interdependence is the rule life, whether country or state, business to business, family or friends. You hit one (meaning tariff one) there’s usually an equal and opposite reaction.

img_0012LinkedIn’s auto notification indicated a friend was having her two-year anniversary in consulting, specifically, as an independent consultant.

So there I sat, reading the notice, glued to the words, “Two-year Anniversary as a Consultant.” Seriously, I have to congratulate someone for two-years as an independent consultant?

Knowing my friend’s wicked sense of humor, here’s what I penned.

Dear Ms. T.:

Congratulations on your work anniversary! Or as LinkedIn refers to it … two-year anniversary as a consultant.

Actually, LinkedIn says I needed to congratulate you on two (2) wonderful years as a consultant. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of waking up and wondering where the next paycheck is coming. Two wonderful years of trying find a way of not ticking of some s*** client who cannot manage their way out of a garbage can. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of selling your soul to any bidder who will take your skill; for any employer who will honor and respect your work skills; for hope of one lone employer who will not demean your age 55 and 33 years of experience. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of traveling on your own time while simultaneously trying to figure a way to clock 40 hours. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of Marriott knowing you by sight; of saying “Hello” by name. Two wonderful years of trying to upsell; of trying to make two days of clothing look like a week; of meeting the client’s expense policies; of missing family, friends, weddings and funerals. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of eating crap food because no one pays for a real meal. Two wonderful years of leaving on a Sunday, coming back late Friday and trying to have a life one day each week. Two wonderful years of exhaustion.

So yes Ms. T … Per LinkedIn … I congratulate you. Cheers. Salud!

I am not sure if this is the type of salud LinkedIn wanted. However, for whatever reason, I thought this reply was most appropriate.

There Are No Legacies

img_0010I have not seen any Trump Inaugural events. I did catch CNN radio as Actor Jon Voight spoke during President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration concert, saying “God answered our prayers.” To which there are many who believe God did just the opposite.

Do I believe in the “In Trump We Trust” message? No. And do I believe the ain’t-Trump message that life is doomed? No.

Many years ago, I learned each book has drops of truth and falsehood. Each story has praise, honor, respect, love and hate. Living on our plant earth, our lives ride upon a foundation of creation from millions of years earlier. The heavens watch our rise and fall, our dreams and hopes.

In our time on this planet, we etch the surface. Like footprints laid in sand, we walk, and for a moment of time, we’ve etched our personal statement of truth. Then as with most, our mark disappears, time and nature covers our personal statements and we are gone.

A generation from now, this website will be gone. The essays and thoughts to which readers delve will have been erased. None will remember The Unknown Buddhist. And truth be told, I never intended to be remember in such a way either. I simply wanted to extend my thoughts to those who’ll listen.

Looking at Trump’s inauguration, I am reminded we are but dust particles of time. Our small moments here on mother earth. Just like everyone, Trump and whatever he did will disappear. Just as Trump replaced Obama, Trump will be replaced by another, just as his replacement will be replaced and so on. This is the cycle of our lives.

Nothing is permanent. There are no legacies.

In scheme of millions of years, our accomplishments, fears, anger and hatred are nothing more than brief moments of time. We briefly appear, then we’re gone. Every accomplishment eventually is eventually erased by another and with no subjectivity, life marches onward. Thus, whatever our Presidents choose to do or not do, future generations will not embrace our ignorance. They will embrace their own.

We are reminded that life itself shall not live forever. Trump will be our American President for only a short period. Thus, all we have left is love. All we have is the ability within our soul to overcome the darkness around us. And our love can be the greater good. For the greater good our love must germinate forward. Ensure love is patient. Ensure our love is kind.

At the end of the day, America will be ok.

loveOver the weekend, a New York Times opinion piece written by Todd May titled, The Stories We Tell Ourselves struck home.

We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong. We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. The audience for these stories, of course, affect the stories we tell. If we’re trying to impress a date, we might tell a story that makes us seem interesting or witty or caring, whereas if we’re trying to justify a dubious act to someone who is judging us (or perhaps ourselves), we might tell a story that makes us out to be without other recourse in the situation. In the latter case, what we are doing is dissociating ourselves from a value we might be associated with and thus implicitly associated ourselves with a different one.

As a seasoned traveler, now expanding over 30 countries, I relate. For a person with little family and social friends common to others, my stories have migrated from benign to adventurous, from “eh” to bold, from snoozer to engaging. I didn’t change facts, but I changed the narrative. I embolden keywords, added rain when there was mist, added lush green forests when droughts had strangled most vegetation.  I wanted a value greater than the reality.

I am not unlike most. I presume most of the bar stories heard over the years are extracted from mundane life moments interspersed with misplaced dreams. Where upon returning to the actual mountain, the real city, that one country, we’re exasperated, It’s ’s so different from when I was here.”

Let’s face it, we all want love. We all want to be normal. We want to experience the life created in our dreams, but are deathly afraid of facing the very dream dreamed. As my father would say while star gazing in late autumn, “be careful of what you ask.”

My experiences are real. I have visited over 30 countries. Yet retelling tales of travel have alienated many who could have been a friend. I damaged so many lovers, so many women and so many family members. Everything I thought they wanted to hear wasn’t actually what they wanted to hear. What each of those wanted was to be acknowledged and simply told they were loved – that I thought of them as I careened the globe. I never did. There was nary a thought.

The one insight learned would be this – live your life but never forget those who’ve loved from afar. I am sure my grandmother loved me deeply, but it would have been terrific if I once sat and wrote her. I’m positive my relatives still love me, but finding the time to attend a family reunion would be priceless. Stories of walking the old ruins in Columbia are beautiful, but watching my niece grow older meant more than seeing the Great Wall of China.

In the end, my stories meant little. I missed all the life that really counted. My love involved clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self expressions that are nothing than bondage and limitation.

Time is short and memories fade. Travels mean little. Truth is the cascade of moments missed. I loved only myself. In doing so, I neglected all of you.

Don’t be like me.

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