Friday, August 8, 2014

5 Incredible, Irrefutable Life Lessons I Could Have Only Learned from Aquaman

For those who know me, they know that words (very) rarely fail me. Yet, after the death of one of my best and dearest friends today, I find myself at a sustainable loss for my “weapon” of choice. There is no vernacular sufficient enough. No expanded vocabulary that will do Jonathan Vela, San Antonio’s Aquaman, proper justice. Yet, I am going to make a futile attempt to immortalize some things about him in print; in remembrance of a superior soul that deserves nothing less than that.

In the five years I knew Jonathan, three of those were spent quite close to him. And in that short time, he taught me five life lessons that I could have only learned adequately from a man who this entire city became to affectionately know…as Aquaman.

#1: Be Unapologetically Yourself…Always
It didn’t matter to Jonathan when people would make fun of a thirty-something year old man who wanted to become Aquaman one day. It didn’t bother him one bit. He loved being Aquaman. He loved who he was, and he did it unapologetically, because those who mind, don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind. I often used to love to tease him about his alter-ego, nearly as much as he has enjoyed teasing me about mine. Nevertheless, he taught me that being happy in your own skin, being unapologetically yourself, no matter who that is, is one singular key to happiness in an otherwise dreary world.

#2: Love, Love More and Love With All of Your Heart
Jonathan and I had a long standing, “I love you more” argument. I lost count of how many Facebook messages, text messages and wall posts there have been. But I don’t need to count them. Jonathan taught me the value of saying, “I love you” to those who matter most, and saying it often, even if it was an argument that no one ever really “lost”. In a gentle way that only Jonathan could have done, he began softening a heart in me that had long since become hardened and battle scarred by life in general. To him, for this, I will be eternally grateful, but I know I am not the only one he gave this gift to. He gave it thousands more. Something very few people can truly boast in life, or after.

That was just who he was. He loved, loved, and loved more…with all of his heart, no matter what. He never gave up on anyone, never turned his back, never passed judgment. He just loved. And, in return, he was loved. A lesson many of us need to learn, myself included.

#3: When Words Fail, AYSD Will Do
It always brought a smile to my face when someone would question a phrase he and I often used on our social media banter. At some point in the conversation, one of us would say, “AYSD”. And we never told anyone what that meant. It was our secret. But, what it meant was, “Anything you say dear.” And that was our way of saying, “I don’t agree with you, but I love you anyway,” or (much more often) just us two enjoying our very outside, but inside joke on the rest of the world. He taught me that winning isn’t always “winning”. That sometimes when you win, you lose. And, from that lesson, AYSD was born and retooled often.  

#4: Raise Your Actions, Raise Your Words, Not Your Temper or Your Voice, and Find Your Superpower
To anyone who would question whether or not Jonathan Vela was a superhero, I would ask you one question: Do you have the power to light up the faces in every room you walk into? If you don’t, know that he did. That was one of his most amazing superpowers. He could, and would (every chance he got) make people happy. He never believed in drama. He never participated in it. He was too busy embracing the flavor of life, and choosing to be happy. Something I had hoped he would be around to teach me a little better to do in the years ahead, but something I am committing to work on, in his memory.

#5: Beautifully Broken Pieces, When Put Together, Create Something Even More Beautiful
Perhaps the most poignant lesson Jonathan taught me, was that we are all beautifully broken, flawed creatures. But, when we find the pieces of our broken souls that match up with other broken souls out there, the mosaic that we can create is magical. Because with enough time, and love and care, anything broken can be put back together and made into nothing less than a masterpiece. And he, over time, was a masterpiece all his own.

Jonathan Vela was a true super hero, in every sense of the word, and he always be. Maybe asleep for now, but never forgotten….because only a super hero can change hearts, can transform minds and ignite a spark that lights the world. And, that’s exactly what he did. And that is exactly what his memory will always do. If nothing else, I can find solace in knowing that heaven is no longer short one true superhero; and that superhero is now looking over all of us, in a way that only a superhero in heaven can do. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maintenance Required

Maintenance required. It was a light on my engine, a notification that my oil change was past due. Yet, it became so much more as I thought about it, it became something poignant and meaningful. It became…dogma.

Relationships Gone

I imagine that all relationships we have had in our lives have come with a maintenance required light that we see, but that we don’t see at the same time. We know that when people move away, go to a different job, go to a place where we don’t see them every day that maintenance is required if we want to even attempt to keep the same bond. Yet, we don’t. Not really. We let it all go, we let them go and we drift upon our own waters, on to the next person in line. The next... “convenient” person in line.

And that isn’t to say that in doing so we are bad people. We say we will keep in touch with the best of intentions, we proclaim love and forevers and always as if we mean it (and we probably do), but the natural progression of things is always the same…and that’s okay. We lose touch, and those who leave become a distant (and sometimes fond) memory. As it should be. As is life. 

Relationships Now

I think that the relationships we have had in the past set us up to become more effective in the relationships we have, or even in those we choose to preserve. For me, in this area, the “maintenance required” light means that someone has to bring something wonderful to my proverbial relationship table in order for me to keep them close. If they don’t, if they can’t, if they are a front runner, a poser a flat out liar or an individual who only uses me for their own gain, I have no time for them….and you know what? Your life should reflect the same. Keeping people who are stuck, keeping “still” people, the people who are still broke, still chasing after the same thing, still partying like they are 21 when they are 41, still never growing up, still never evolving…these are people that don’t belong anywhere near you…at least, not if you want to get somewhere; not if you truly value yourself…because the truth is, the “still” people, the people who don’t change, who don’t evolve, the people who are still doing the same thing that they were five years ago, are the “still” the same people who will never contribute to your success. And their “stillness” isn’t your fault, but it also shouldn’t be your issue. Clear the space you have reserved for these still people
for not so still people; to find the restless; because the restless change things.

“Show me your friends and I will show you who you are…” Words once said by someone much wiser than I. But yet, so true. In the last five years I have gained, lost and kicked people out of my life. Some I still love to this day, others who I don’t -- and who I never did --, but I am far better off from making the vertical cut than the horizontal one any day. And they aren’t all bad people, you know. Many of them are good, but…just not good for me, and visa versa, not now and probably not ever. And that’s okay. I had to work through my mire of things before I recognized that. But I am okay with letting them go; I am at peace with being a memory, either fond or not so.

And Now For the Rest…..

Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was a hopeless romantic, she was a teenage mom and she was always harder on herself than anyone could ever be; when people told her she would fail, she worked three times as hard as everyone else to prove them wrong. She survived things that most people only tell stories about. For her, for women like her, for even women who have done a fraction of what she has done, here is my advice to you men out there... at
least when you find a woman who truly deserves the maintenance required light and isn’t just “high maintenance”:

1.       Tell her every day that she is beautiful, because every time you don’t, the ugly tapes she has heard all of her life play in her head. She will never tell you, she will never show you, because she is too strong for that, but even the strongest among us are vulnerable in the most simple of ways.

2.       Never make her feel like she has to compare or be in competition with someone else, she doesn’t. She fought her entire life to be one of a kind…honor that.

3.       Tell her what is right with her every day, not what is wrong with her, she already knows what’s wrong with her, anyway. She picks at herself about it daily…she doesn’t need your help -- trust me. If she’s worth a damn, she already knows her faults (probably far better than you do), and she is trying her level best to fight her own dragons. Dragson she has to fight, because she never expects a prince to do it for her. She will do it herself, without you even knowing she is doing it.

4.       Tell her why you love her..not because you need to say it, but because, no matter how strong you think she is, she still needs to hear it. She is, afterall, only human. And, remember that she already tells you in so many ways. When she rubs your back you are stressed or tired, when she looks at your softly even when you yell at her, when she chooses to raise her words and not her voice. She even tells you when she is upset with you; she cleans, she puts your laundry away and she does it all without complaint or expectation. And even though she might already know, or even if you think she might already hear it by your behavior, sometimes...she still needs to hear it.

Maintenance, it’s required in relationship and in life. Either do it, or pay the price of an overhaul. And, in my eyes, a little maintenance is far better than that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Universal Breadcrumbs

All my life, for as long as I can remember, the Universe has left me breadcrumbs designed to lead me home…wherever home might be at that moment. And even though these breadcrumbs are not always subtle, she leads me nonetheless. Sometimes my breadcrumbs came in the form of catastrophes: a horrible divorce, a fire that nearly killed me, totaling my car, false starts, real starts, endings, beginnings and the status quo; no matter what, no matter where, the Universe keeps steering me toward my (for lack of a better word) cheese. No matter where I am or how I am feeling at any given moment, the Universe gives me direction…in a way only she can. When I take a step in the wrong direction, she sends me not so gentle signals. When I am on the right path, she is a bit more gentle, but she has quite a knack for showing up at exactly the moment when I need her most.

What do I mean?
Let me use today as an example. My faith has been tested quite recently, on many different levels; my heart torn into a million pieces; my strength pushed to its very limits. My very core becoming a ripped tapestry that I didn’t think could be sewn back together again. And, every moment that I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and give up over these past few weeks, and most especially today, she spoke in ever-so-gentle and encouraging tones.

And she said…
She spoke by guiding me to choose the long, scenic route home from a long, grueling day in the car. She gave me moments of peace, with every song on the radio I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. And, while on that long, scenic drive home, I was able to turn up the radio, tune out the world, enjoy the scenery and sing along, looking up at the sun peeking through the clouds, on a back road that led to nowhere other than home.  Even, if just for a moment, I had peace. I heard her. I heeded her call.

She spoke to me again later on that same evening with something as simple as a phone call. A phone call from someone I barely know who thanked me for all I have done, for being there when no one else was (or could be) for someone she loves. She praised me. She lifted me up, without even knowing she did. Thank you.

And, again, my dear friend the Universe spoke to me through my own daughter tonight. My child who (for no reason at all) told me what she is happy and grateful for since moving out of our home to where we are now.


And here is the thing…

We all get them. Yet, all too often, we ignore them, we cast them aside and we don’t see their relevance until it is far too late. I know I am guilty of this for the longest time. Yet, when I began to pick up the breadcrumbs, I began to find my way home. And maybe, just maybe, you will too. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Simple Message

Friday, May 16, 2014

Think About What You Never See

It occurred to me, after 35 years of life, that there is much of it, regardless of your social media prowess that people simply do not see.

They do not see the times you curl up in a ball and cry your eyes out, until you have no tears left, for all the hurt, all the pain, all the anguish that seems to overtake your soul for a moment.

There is no one around during the moments you want to give up.

No one notices the burning regret in your eyes, when you think about your list of coulda, woulda, shouldas.

There is no one around when you look at yourself in the mirror, after sobbing your eyes out, who has to recognize the anguish in your own face....other than you.

There is also never anyone around the moment you decide to be courageous.

No one sees the moments, the second, you decide to take a risk, choose to change your mind...or to change your life.

There is never someone standing by when you suddenly do something extraordinary.

There is no recognition for taking a leap of faith…at least not in the moment you decide to do it.

People…our fellow human beings….always come in after the fact.

Coincidence? I think not.

No one is there for those life altering moments, because those are YOUR moments. Those are the moments that define your character, your self-worth, your inner strength. They are the moments of solitude, in which, after a period of deep thought, you do something to change, or…you decide to do nothing and remain the same.

Far too many people launch campaigns of gossip. Far too many people make proclamations of character. Myself included. All too many people decide who a person is, before they have reached the apex of who they are supposed to be.

Then again, some people never change.

The beauty in all of this is simple: The choice is always our own. It’s not what we have done that defines us, it’s what we do that creates us. And this is a hard fought lesson to be learned. For, all too often, we are slow learners. Even me.

So here is the lesson. The next time you are urged to make a snap judgment based on
what you heard, based on what you think, based on your very limited (and this applies to us all) amount of knowledge, remember the times that life altered you, and remember that life alters others in the same way…or in no way at all. Think about what people never see. 

The mission is to let go in love. Always. But also, sometimes, to just let go. What is meant to be yours will always come back. What isn’t, never will. 

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