The Sky Above

Have you ever embarked on a plane ride from an airport enshrouded in rain? Perhaps it had been raining for a day or two prior to takeoff and you may have wondered if the plane would even have any way to get off the ground. After all, how could the pilots of the plane have any idea where they are going? How could they possibly steer the plane through thick clouds and rain?

Undaunted by the elements, the plane barrels down the runway at over 150 miles per hour. You wonder if the plane may slam into another plane right after takeoff as there is nothing to be seen several hundred feet above the runway. Somehow, the wheels leave the earth and the plane is completely free of its struggle with gravity. As you look out the window into a sea of white, you have no idea where you are and how far you’ve come since takeoff. For all you know, there is no world anymore outside of your window. Lost in thought, staring into the mist, suddenly a flash of light appears. Splashes of blue are interspersed with yellow and white. You realize where you are at last; you are slowly making your wait out of the troposphere, on your way to the lower stratosphere, where you leave the rain and turbulence behind. Here, if it is still daylight, you find the sky is blue and the sun is shining brightly, despite what was happening below.

There are times when we feel we are dealing with more than we’re capable of. We feel like our storms will never end. We can’t imagine the sun is shining anywhere, ever. We are told that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we have no freaking idea how long the tunnel is, and so we grow despondent, hung up on the idea that our troubles will never end. But realize this, no matter how hard it is raining, no matter how many flashes of lightning crash all around us, the sun is still shining, even at night! We must reach out, we must look up, to the sky above, to the sky where the air is clear, to the place where we can advance against space with minimal resistance. By focusing on the light ahead we can endure whatever it is we need to in our present.

No matter how hard things seem today, there is a place where the troubles you are experiencing today don’t exist. Keep your gaze steeled upward, on that great, clear sky above. Right now, in this moment, the sun is shining, even though you may not see it. Look past the storm and see the light.



You’re Completely Free


In continuing the theme of favorite movie quotes, I now turn to film/comic book series “V for Vendetta” (brilliantly created by Alan Moore and David Lloyd) for inspiration. In the film version, Natalie Portman portrayed the character Evey Hammond, who midway through the film is taken as a prisoner. After being continuously tortured and starved, she is asked if she would divulge the whereabouts of the film’s main character (the mysterious V) to her torturer, to which she defiantly answers that she “would rather die.” Her unknown captor then tells her, “Then you have no fear anymore. You’re completely free.” Immediately after, he walks away, leaving the cell door open for Evey to walk out without struggle or opposition.

How liberating to live a life free from fear, free from considering the opinions and judgements of others, free from concern that our actions are approved by others. For the majority of my early life, I so wanted my father to love and accept me. This came with a price: he made it clear to me that his love for me was tied to my love for his God and for my public display of obedience to this God. My star shone bright within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization as I became a super-human adherent of the faith. My father’s approval of me came with a sacrifice: that of my own mind and free will. I soon grew weary of being micromanaged and scrutinized by men, being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it on a daily basis. I felt that I could never be good enough for this God or his earthly appointed representatives. I grew despondent and lost all joy in doing what I believed my father wanted from me. I crumbled under the weight of all of it and lost my way, feeling my way around the darkness of a void of my own creation. It was a long time before I realized that my father’s conditional love was nothing more than a prison for the expression of my truest self. When I let go of trying to please him everything changed and I evolved to become the person I am today.

At times, I still struggle with trying to please others, whether they be bosses, children or other family members. There is no freedom to be had when one is afraid of moving forward for fear of what someone is going to think of them, or how they may react. This fear has without a doubt stopped many from fulfilling their goals and desires, and kept more than a few held back by a notion that they may be “less than” or not good enough to become the version of themselves they really can be. We have to be fully invested in our own personal growth; what others wish for us may not be what makes us happiest.

Those who criticize us can only affect us if we let them. I am a firm believer in controlling my response to my external environment. If someone is trying to put me down, I reason that there is some internal struggle or issue that they have not been able to overcome, and will separate myself from the personal attack. I know who I am, and I do not let anyone convince me otherwise.

I’d rather die than give up my free will and independence. I am completely free; are you?

“V for Vendetta” Copyright © Warner Bros. Pictures / FX Network

The Problem is Choice

I believe that The Matrix is one of the greatest cinematic stories ever told. For me, the scene that stands out above all others occurs when Neo meets The Architect of the Matrix, the man who is the machine that created the Matrix, the virtual world that all captive and ignorant human batteries exist in. It is at this point that Neo learns that there were five like him before he existed, five who also arose from and against the Matrix in the ultimate exercise of free will.

Why? Why in this supposedly all too perfect virtual world would someone wish to consciously awake from an ignorant sleep to take the hard road and live as a criminal in a cold, dark world absent the creature comforts so widely and readily available in the Matrix? The problem, as Neo so succinctly expresses it, is choice. The choice to be real, to feel everything there is to feel. To experience the full range of human emotions, happiness and despair, the joy of love and the pain of loss.

I was once part of a Utopian religious sect which provided for “built-in” friendships while the promise of everlasting life in a perfect world enveloped me like a protective bubble. However, choice was not a part of my vocabulary. Oh yes, I could “choose” to exit this group and lose all of my family and close “friends” overnight, as they would no longer be allowed to speak with me once I left. But the “architects” of this group know they are not providing a reasonable choice to their members and so millions remain enslaved to the notion of a perfect world “just around the corner.” I did leave and my departure was painful. I made many mistakes and found myself mixed up with people most would not associate with. But I learned from all these experiences what no textbook or religious literature could have taught me. I would not trade my life experiences for any so called protection from the outside world that someone or some religious group would pretend to offer to me. 

Likewise, many take pills to avoid dealing with raw, uncomfortable or even tormenting emotions. Some have real chemical imbalances that are near impossible to cure so I’m not saying all drugs are bad; but I do question the relative ease with which doctors prescribe SSRIs. To me, the number of people on these drugs, as well as the millions on Opiods, represents a growing need to disconnect from the difficult decisions that life calls on us to make. In our blissful, altered state, have we fallen asleep at the wheel as a society? Our choice in elected leaders may be the ultimate manifestation of this.  

Whatever reality you are struggling with please always know you DO have a choice. You can choose to face an uncomfortable present, deal with the source of your pain and find a way to eradicate it. You can choose to deal with bullies, whether they be bosses, partners or family members. You can choose to believe what you want to believe and how you will believe it. Your choices may then very well be a problem for others, but as the saying goes, “that’s their problem.” 

Fly Paper

dead-flies-on-sticky-yellow-fly-paper-AXYYRNAs anyone who has lived 50 years or more knows, the old memory bank is just brimming with millions of recorded events, some buried deep beneath the surface, unseen but felt, while others are right there in plain view, a ragtag collection of good times, bad times and everything in between. Not everyone I know has the ability to recall nearly every significant event in their lives and while I consider this both a blessing and a curse to have vivid and at times total recall of my own past, my memories are very often effective in holding me back from fully and completely experiencing the present. In fact, my memories have done an exceptional job at helping to frame the way I see myself, serving as the lens through which I see myself. In reality, my thoughts about the past have done nothing more than help form a set of “limiting beliefs” about myself and what I’m capable of.

It’s easy to get stuck recalling our past “failures,” which really were nothing more than practice runs through this game called life. I don’t believe in mistakes, bad choices or errant paths; we are always walking with intention and purpose. If we’ve encountered great difficulty or other trials, these were merely life lessons that we sorely needed to learn. Sometimes it takes a lifetime (or more) to understand what it is we need to learn. I am fully engaged in this process of discovery and may well be for the rest of my life. My advice for today is to not allow yourself to be stuck to your memories of the past, the decisions you have been made, or the things others have told you about yourself. These do not define who you are. Like fly paper, they can be powerfully attracting to contemplate, but linger too long and you risk getting stuck in a place that you won’t easily escape from.


Our Story Does Not Define Us

pexels-photo-448835.jpegRegardless of how we were raised, who our parents were, what partners we chose, what drugs we took, or what career paths we followed, none of it matters in the here and now. You can be whomever and whatever you choose. When I was progressing through years of cognitive therapy to unpeel the multi-layered onion that made up my past, my therapist commented that she was just a little amazed that I had ended up on permanent disability given what I had lived through. I suppose I’m just more than a little proud to have received this recognition. As a young teenage man living in a run-down, decrepit shack just 35 years ago, I could never have imagined the career success I know today.

Like anything in life there was no straight line from there to here. There was hard work, REALLY hard work. I moved myself, at my own cost, from community college, to state college, then to private college, finally achieving my MBA at the age of 40. I struggled through two failed marriages until I realized happiness with a partner cannot come through sacrificing who I am. After attempts to find my spirituality as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I learned that spirituality is found within, in my connection to the universe and the energy contained in it.

I know who I am today. Sometimes things are extremely difficult, but I am equipped to face adversity. I know who I am and will not let anyone cause me to doubt myself. I am not part of the herd. I am my own unique personality, one which no pen can hold. No matter how I got to where I am right now, my history does not define who I am. Instead of being a victim of my past I have achieved victory over it. Do not let your own story define who you are. Make a conscious decisions to be the person you want to be, the person you were meant to be. Your future self will thank you!


rabbit-1882699_640I was recently introduced to the term “woundology.” It came up in conversation with a friend who was trying to explain the concept of my seeking and forming connections with those who had also endured traumatic childhood experiences. Completely intrigued, once I returned home I immediately researched the term to delve deeper into its meaning. I quickly found Caroline Myss’s amazing book “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can,” which is available for  purchase through Amazon, a work which did much to alter my perspective about my past.

Like many who have survived troubled childhoods, I have seen myself as injured, bruised, even damaged, eventually relishing in the diagnosis of “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” that I received about ten years ago. Finally there was a name for the “illness” which had defined my existence for so long. Thinking of myself as  an abuse survivor gave my life meaning and went so far as to govern my choices in mates. I bonded with those who could somehow “get me” because they too had gone through similar trials and tribulations and appeared to me to be “on my level.” I so clearly saw my own suffering in others that when I tried to exit some extremely damaging relationships it was as painful as cutting out a part of myself. After many years, I can still recall seeing my first spouse as a fragile and vulnerable “wounded rabbit” when I finally made the decision to leave her, which in turn filled me with tremendous guilt, when in reality I was really just projecting onto her what I saw in myself. Choosing a partner based on a concept of shared wounds is nothing more than a false connection that is likely to break apart once one of the partners wakes up.

Sometimes we hold fast to our wounded definition of ourselves so tightly, afraid of the change that might come about if we dare try to find new meaning for our lives. Our fear of letting go of our wounds may manifest as a serious illness. The illness phase serves many purposes and may give us the attention we crave. Doctors fawn over us trying to find a root cause for our affliction, baffled when they can find nothing clinically wrong. I once endured nearly a year of tests, hospitalizations and unnecessary medications, culminating in a short stint in a psychiatric ward, all because I was not yet willing and able to look inside myself and allow the person I was deep within to live freely on the outside in the real world. I suppressed my heart’s desires, living in a world of “should” and “must,” believing that I was truly meant to suffer.

If you’ve ever told someone else that they have no business giving you advice because they didn’t suffer the same experiences you did, you may be identifying with woundology. Allowing our current self to be defined by our past experiences with a controlling religion, parent or spouse does not make us superior to anyone. No one has to have lived what we have lived through in order to fully connect with us, and we certainly don’t have to be defined by our early environments. While some events in our lives may have been beyond our control, especially when we were children, as adults, we now have the power to direct our lives as we see fit. We can forgive others, but most importantly we can forgive ourselves, and allow the healing energy within us to do the work it was meant to do.



This is a story about divisions. There are many which we are already very familiar with. Satan versus God, Democrat versus Republican, Black versus White, Fascist versus Pacifist. I’m not writing about those divisions, but rather about those that can occur in one’s mind. The insidious cracks that wedge themselves into our subconscious, separating one area of our mind from the other, creating a chasm over which no sane thought may cross. If you’ve been torn, confused, felt stuck, or been unable to decide, you may have experienced this on some level. I’ve personally known painful, crushing and demoralizing vacillation, gripped and frozen by the depths of my own indecisiveness. I’ve spent a long time reflecting on the root cause of this affliction and its complex origins.

When I was just eight years old, my parents decided to separate and ultimately divorce. Unlike other children I knew whose parents were splitting up, my situation was made more difficult by the fact that my mother decided to leave her religious beliefs behind, the ones that my father still clung to. Prior to their divorce, they were both still loyal and active Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unlike most religions, one does not simply fade away from this organization. If you publicly proclaim your allegiance to it through a water baptism, and then later walk away, there is no simple shrugging from the other members. No, Jehovah’s Witnesses liken such a person to a “dog” that “returns to its own vomit,”  to quote the Bible at 2 Peter 2:22 (English Standard Version). They “shun” and cut off this sort of individual, meaning no one is to even acknowledge their presence at any time. In effect, my mother, once a friend to many in our congregation, was now dead to everyone she had known. My father even went so far as to forbid me to speak about her in the presence of other Witnesses, and if I did so accidentally, I was met with stern rebuke.

To say I was put into a tough situation would be an understatement. My father made it clear to me that my fervent loyalty to Jehovah (God) was of paramount importance and would even take precedence over my relationship with my mother. He quoted scripture to support my new reality, telling me that Jesus came to “set a man against a father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:35, English Standard Version). From that moment on I would be divided, split in two, ripped apart, conflicted and torn. My mother left the Witnesses and never looked back. Over the years she moved from a wild life style to one of Christian devotion and conviction. My father remained a Jehovah’s Witness, even to this day, now approaching 50 years since his own baptism. When I was at my mother’s house, I was expected to celebrate Holidays and Birthdays and other “worldly” events. At my father’s home, I was expected to study the Watchtower magazine, attend mind-numbing meetings and spend Saturday mornings knocking on doors while other kids were watching cartoons. Moving from one house to the other was like sliding through space and time into another dimension in which nothing was familiar on either side of the worm hole.

I began to feel the conflict brewing in my mind, a battle actually for my mind, which led to my developing two personalities, the one my father expected to see, and the one my mother allowed me to be. I learned to move between the two personalities with ease. I fancied myself a chameleon, able to adjust my outward self based on the environment I was in. I didn’t know then just how dangerous this skill would become. In the process of becoming overly adaptable to the opposing worlds that my parents lived in, I didn’t develop my true self. Worse, I did not develop my own internal compass, or my own ability to make healthy choices. I learned to become whatever people wanted or needed me to be at any given moment. It took many years of therapy to unpeel the onion and find out who I really was beneath it all, and to become the person I am today.

As a teenager, I made my own commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness movement, and from that point on I was expected to have no more contact with my mother. I hadn’t really considered this outcome when I chose to get baptized. I thought the bond with my mother was above all others, yet should have known better. After four short years, I came to doubt my beliefs and the reasons I had for believing them. I left the Witnesses, was instantly cut off from friends and family members, but now the tables were turned, as I could no longer speak with my father. Since that time I have been in a situation where I can never have both parents in my life at the same time. If I return to the Witnesses I get my father back but lose my mother; stay where I am, and I remain disconnected from my father.

I’ve learned to accept this arrangement, knowing that the most important connection is the one I have with myself. I’m no longer divided, I’m no longer torn. I’m at peace with this life and know that it is my acceptance of my circumstances which contributes to this peace. I hold no hate in my heart for my father. Hate for others is a punishment one brings on one’s self and I will not allow that to interfere with my devotion to becoming my best self. In the absence of hate, love fills the void, and brings us the true happiness we seek. If you can relate to my experience, I wish you much success with your own healing process.

Please know that any outcome is possible, despite whatever environment you were raised in, and as someone more famous than me once said,”Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you.” -Buddha