Everything is hard…


Everything is hard

But sometimes, I wonder which is harder…

To have seen everything or to have been blind since birth?
To not have the answers or to not know the questions?
To grant forgiveness or to ask for it?
To put your guard up or to put it down?
To respect fear or to ignore it?
To embrace pain or to dodge it?
To lie to someone or to yourself?
To lose your innocence or to preserve it?
To defend your life or to surrender it?
To admit guilt or to deny it?
To know little or to know much?
To recognize what is right or what is wrong?
To deal or to walk away?
To open your mouth or to keep it shut?
To raise your head up high or to bow down low?
To serve justice or to show mercy?
To earn your freedom or to receive it as a gift?
To swallow the truth or to spit it out?

I’m still trying to figure it out.

Have you?

Honesty and Insecurity – a story of sibling rivalry

I had a dream. Crazy dream. Actually, I have a lot of them. But, last night was about Honesty. Again.

Honesty is my imaginary bodyguard. He is the strongman who saves the day. Everyday. At home. At work. In the grocery store. You name it! He’s there, ready to defend me with his very convincing karate chops.

The problem is that, a lot of times, Honesty fizzles out like deodorant spray, when I wake up. He flops himself away into oblivion like a terrified chicken being chased by Colonel Sanders.

Although, I know he’s there when I’m awake, it’s hard to believe he really is, now. In my heart, I know he exists. And, of course, he does! But I think he’s afraid to show himself somehow. I’m not so sure why. Could it be because he’s actually a scary looking dude, with scars on his face and all over his body? I never really saw him that way, though. Or maybe, he’s just afraid people would judge him by his words. After all, they sound too good to be true, a lot of times. Trust me, I know.

sibling rivalryYou see, when I was little, Honesty was not imaginary, at all. He was real. He was everywhere I was. All the time. Willing to be the silly, yet simple friend that he truly was. But as I grew up, I noticed him become more and more withdrawn. I would ask him what’s wrong, and he would always snap back with… nothing. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like the Honesty I know. I was a little disappointed by this, in fact. One day, he confessed to me that he has a twin. An evil twin, as he coined it. I was a bit taken aback by this revelation.

“What? Why are you telling me this, just now? What’s his name, anyway?”

“Insecurity. His name’s Insecurity,” Honesty uttered, in a trembling whisper. I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. Sorry. But, why would someone have such a geeky name? I thought. Anyhow, I asked Honesty again, why he’s telling me this, just now.

“I’ve always wanted to tell you,” he said, “but Insecurity would lock me up, everytime. And then, he would walk about pretending to be me. Then, he would brainwash me, so that I won’t remember anything, later.”

“That’s awful,” I stated indignantly. “You mean, all that smiley, goofy face wasn’t yours, after all?”

Honesty said that it wasn’t him that was keeping me company, all the time. Especially, as I grew older. Nope. The fake stuff that was going around at the time, was rampant! He said, “My brother was in high demand! And he delivered with gusto! Ya know… Fake smiles. Fake tears. Fake reality! He’s a real trendsetter.”

Excuse me? Oh, fantasy island. I see! De plenn, de plenn.

Geez! I can’t tell you how devastating it was for me to discover this. To find out that though Honesty may be strong, Insecurity is much, much stronger, indeed. And deceptive, at that! And that he also wanted Honesty gone, forever. Oh my! How much more criminal could one be? Now, I had to go through a lot of hoops just to see if it was Honesty or Insecurity that was really on my side, at a particular moment. It was not easy to tell. And very frightening, indeed!

But that was a long time ago. It’s been sometime now since I had seen him face-to-face. Although, his spirit has always stayed with me. Like a painting or an old photograph, I will always be reminded of what he looks like. But more importantly, I was left a promise that he would always be there (albeit, in spirit) whenever I need his karate chops to scare off those venturing to hurt me. However, there’s a clause. That is, only if I get smart enough to recognize, if the ever conniving Insecurity ever gets in the way; that I would be brave enough to kick his butt (so to speak), so Honesty can do what he does best. Protect me from harm. And at the same time, teach his little big brother (or big little brother; whichever works) a thing or two about reality, as well. And, I’m happy to say… so far so good.

At this time though, my alarm goes off. Six a.m. I am now on my own, once again, in the middle of the great unknown.

Or, am I? Let’s go find out! 🙂

Do you like yourself much?

A conversation with a cynical person is like pulling teeth sometimes. It’s like… okay, somebody shoot me now! At least, that’s my experience. Oftentimes, I wonder why I even try, in the first place. Maybe, it’s the Lennon in me that wants to convince the person to, at least, give peace a chance. But then, in turn, my own peace starts to go for a train ride into helter-skelterville. Not good.

I don’t mean to be insensitive. I have known many pessimists who have lived most of their lives in less than favorable surroundings in the company of, uh, well… party poopers, if you will. It makes me sad that they’re unable to think positively. Not even for themselves, in the least. And, I just don’t know how to deal with them. Much like, I can’t be a positive influence to an alcoholic since I’ve never been one. I just don’t have the credibility.

I knew someone who ran away from home and stopped going to school out of rebellion towards his parents. “I’ll show them,” he must’ve though. Now, I know, there were times during my school days when life seemed to just suck all the time. Didn’t we all, though? But, I guess, I felt lucky to have always fought to see the bigger picture. Sure, I can run away. It’ll make me feel better. I can even indulge myself in drugs or alcohol, to prove a point. But, prove to whom? I mean, isn’t this my life? If I successfully proved something to someone, would it make me a better person? Would I be any different? I believe, the only thing that would benefit here is my ego. Either way, guess who the loser in the end is?

Although, I have compassion for them, it’s unfortunate to see some people hate themselves for whatever reason. My ex-wife couldn’t bear to look in the mirror without having to whisper some sarcastic remark about herself. She couldn’t understand that it brings me down, for her to do this. I mean, didn’t I marry her, after all? I was proud to have her as my wife. And for her to insult herself, is to insult me. As if she’s saying, I didn’t have good taste, or something. I know, it’s complicated and all. Like I said, I just don’t have the credibility. I don’t know how to continuously absorb negative energy as I go on about my day everyday. I guess, one gets used to it, somehow. Like the song says, you become comfortably numb.

I had an interesting conversation with my dad years ago when he visited me in California. We were talking about raising kids, for some reason. Hmmm, raising me? Now, just the thought of that alone, has got to be like pulling teeth! Anyhow, I remember spewing out some high falutin’ philosophy on being an ideal parent (oh sure, like I’ve been there and done that). But I think, I was able to get my point across, well enough to make him nod in affirmation. And, that’s a great accomplishment, in my book. I think, I said that parents should only instill their ways into a child’s life, if they can honestly say, they like who they are. Like, they’re comfortable in their own skin. As in, wishing others would be just like them. As in, being an example to their own selves. Otherwise, they might as well just throw their kids out to the wolves, and have them learn to survive on their own. Or, more significantly, why have them, in the first place? I asked my dad that question, and he was speechless. He knew, he was the last person on earth he wanted anybody to be like. Now, I’m not talking about morals here. Obviously, that would just defeat the purpose. I’m talking about vulnerability. Sobriety. Humility. Coming to terms with the truth. Being brave enough to face your past, and have everyone take a peek at it, as well. Sometimes, confidence and craziness are one and the same. If only, because it’s how we’ve always equated the two, in our lives.

insecurityI don’t know of any other way to heal instantly, than this way. How many times have we seen parents hide their past from their kids, only to have the truth backfire on them, at some point. I have seen this kind of devastation, one too many times. And, what’s worse, is that the kids, whose lives are still ahead of them, are now shattered. Possibly, for the rest of their lives.

This experience is what makes children grow up, afraid to look in the mirror. Afraid to be alone. Afraid to be rejected. Afraid to be wrong. Who dares to be wrong? Anyone? Their examples are being shaped by society, instead of in the home. And, can anybody honestly say, today’s society is ideal? No, but what else have we got, right? We keep up with the Joneses, and we dance the dance. We’re careful to be politically correct. If not, we’re plain weird. Hence, the feeling of rejection and abandonment comes into play. How many single people would actually go to a party or some special event without a date and not feel awkward? How many would be confident enough to stand in a corner alone, while everyone else hurries to find someone to talk to for fear of looking odd? How many dares to eat alone? Eat out alone?

By the way, how much do you like yourself?

Insecurity is the oldest religion, in my opinion. And every one of us bows down in sheer idolatry, at some point in our lives (if not throughout), to the god of fear and shame. And, unless we brave the deep waters of vulnerability and humility, I’m afraid, we can never expect to like ourselves much.

And if that’s your case, just don’t expect anyone to like you much, either.

The trouble with flatlining

Real quick… I just have to play Queen’s Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon. Because it’s exactly what I’m doing, right this moment. Besides, I love a good quirky tune on a snowy day. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But, that’s the point. 🙂

Anyhow, I just got done watching the old movie Flatliners. Although, I’m sure, it’s not the most appealing choice for some folks, I still like it much. If only, due to its spiritual undertones. Besides, it’s entertaining to watch supposedly witty people make witless decisions and then, pay for them later. In movies, that is.

bleepAlso, I was reading some random blog somewhere yesterday about the benefits of blindness. It’s interesting to note that there are, indeed, things we’ll never be able to see, unless we’re blind. Especially, if blind from birth. Though, how ironic, I thought. I can only imagine the otherworldly experiences of such people. Their visual alternatives to what we’re accustomed to seeing in plain view, can only be sheer fantasy to us. The light that shines through their “dark” world can never be compared to the one we’re typically acquainted with. I venture to think that, it’s a little more complex than a mere flick of a light switch. Or, even the break of dawn creeping in through a bedroom window.

My thoughts on this led me to believe that, there are reasons why we’re not able to see or experience certain things we wish we could. Maybe, it’s because it’s for our own safety. Or others’ safety, for that matter. Or maybe, it’s not yet time. Or even yet, we don’t deserve such pleasure. And perhaps, these same types of reasoning can also apply to why we’re seeing things we’d rather be blind to. It could also be that we’re simply being taught a lesson. Or something.

All I can muster at the moment is that, no one is in control of anything in this world. Not even our very lives, in fact. And playing God, or flatlining, if you will, is like bungee jumping, or doing other crazy stunts like it. You’ll never know until you try, right? Of course. And, it may be the thrill of a lifetime. Yet, it may also be the last one. And, being cautious doesn’t guarantee anything, really. I mean, do you ever know for sure? You decide for yourself.

Having freewill can be both a blessing and a curse. My choices are my own responsibility. Still, one way or another, we all have to make our own. It’s a scary little proposition. But one we’re all bound to initiate individually, sooner or later.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for me. There will be decisions to be made. Dilemmas to be solved. Facts to be dealt with. It’s life. Would I like the outcome? Would I agree? I think so. Gee, maybe I don’t know. Hopefully. We’ll see.

Right now, though, I’m simply enjoying a little break. For it won’t last very long. It’s a little gift. So, I’m savoring every moment of pleasure… just lazing on a Sunday afternoon.

Blame it on the Christians

I have been thinking a lot today, about the talks I’ve had on Christmas eve with the atheist and the confused Christian. And also, the things that I wrote to them about. I’m afraid, it’s not productive for me (and, for anyone else, for that matter) to bring up a topic like this. Sometimes, the subject can painfully go around in circles. If there is no resolution to a discussion, I think, it’s worthless to even start.
But, I do have a thought that I would like to bring up; at least, this one time. And, I promise to revert back to my silly self, after this post. I seem to like me more that way, anyway . Less chances of getting a heart attack, I guess. 🙂

The one I didn’t speak of on my previous post was the churchgoer. I did say “churchgoers” on there, didn’t I? I apologize. I meant, I spoke with one person only, even though there were a few others, who were simply eavesdropping.

There’s really not much to say about this guy, though; except that when speaking of “the lost,” his overt religiosity seems to rear its ugly head out of nowhere. I won’t go into details. But, it sure made me think of how, sometimes, we as Christians, can be ineffective or even detrimental at times, in our purpose, due to the amount of knowledge we have about our faith. Sometimes, the best situation is to know little, and simply have a child-like sincerity. I used to go by the saying, sincerity does not equal truth. This may not be as accurate as I thought it was, now; but, speaking from experience, it does help to lead you there, somehow.

neighborsI hate Bible bashing. I really do. And, you can easily do it without even realizing it. I want to share my faith. I do believe it’s my responsibility. And my joy, as a Christian. But I believe also, that there is a way to do it, without making truth seekers feel like they’re being seen as somewhat, incomplete or terrible. They’re not. This is a very sensitive matter, indeed. That is why I’d rather not be a “teacher.” I believe, teachers have an enormous responsibility. The biggest one of which is, to be above reproach, I think. And, this cannot be taken with a grain of salt. I would rather be the lifelong student who stumbles frequently, but shuts his mouth and absorbs everything he’s fed with. I don’t mind. I have a tough system and can digest pretty much anything. I simply vomit whatever makes me sick. 🙂

The point I’m trying to make here is that, Christians are often the ones who set hurdles for those who could barely take a step. This is unfortunate. A lot of times, we get way ahead of ourselves, to our shame. We feed tough meat to those who could only chew soft vegetables at the moment. We attempt to teach Calculus to first graders. I am just as guilty as the next guy. Sometimes, the way to see your own shortcomings is to experience them in other people first. Sad but true.

I’m learning that if there’s a single lesson worth teaching about, it’s our own example. Our successes and failures (as my friend, Mike, has pointed out). And if there’s anything we can freely and proudly show off, it should be our ability to relate to those not in the know. I believe that teaching from the pulpit is not nearly as effective as teaching from the pew. The back pew, in fact. We can’t even expect to meet people halfway. I think, it’s just as unfair. We have to go wherever they are and meet them there. Start at their level and be sensitive. I believe, this act of vulnerability and humility is how we show that we truly care. Because human beings need relationships more than they need anything else in this life. And, that’s a truth no one can deny.

I’m sorry, I can’t write anymore. This is killing me.

God, Jesus and all things confusing

First of all, Merry White Christmas. It is Christmas Day, after all. At least, in my house, it is. I hope, everyone is cozy and having a good time.

Alright. Yesterday, I had an interesting dialogue with some churchgoers, a confused Christian (an oxymoron, perhaps?), and an atheist. Each, on different occasions. Hectic day, can you tell, already? Now, I’m not particularly given to discussing religious topics, AT ALL. This is so, not because I think it’s worthless. But, it simply pains me to think that I’m shoving my beliefs down people’s throats, that’s all. Hopefully, this is not the case, here. But, we’ll see…

I’m very different, in a lot of ways. Mostly, in a spiritual sense. To sum up my whole outlook in life, this is what I say: There is no proof. There is no answer. There is only faith. Because, my faith allows me to leave questions unanswered and still have peace in my heart. It allows me to see nothing tangible, and yet, see everything I need to see. It allows me to walk in the fire, and still come out, unscathed. Try these, at your own risk.

Now, I’m not saying, be stupid and get burned. We are humans, therefore we will fall, at some point. But, we can be helped back up, if only we ask humbly. Although, if you think, you can help yourself, just fine… right on, then. Just don’t come up and ask me any questions. I will neither debate nor discuss theological issues with anyone! This is an utter waste of time, I think.

However, since I’m being asked for my two cents, by a few folks, I will speak once. But, no more. So, buckle up.

I am a Christian (although, feel free to call me whatever you wish, after reading this post). And, I “believe” like you would not dare believe. I’ve always told people that I have a religion and I’m not afraid of it. But, I don’t practice religiosity. Though, for the sake of those wondering, yes, Jesus is Lord. And, I say that with utmost pride! In my walk with God, I have learned not to judge, or alienate people. Whether in person, or, in my heart. I have learned to accept anyone and everyone, for who and what they are. I am no different. Let alone, better. Oh yeah, I am also a musician who plays both “Christian” and “Satanic” music, back to back (notice the quotes?). Didn’t I say before, I love eerie music? Oh yeah. Love them, drop tunings. 🙂

So, does anyone feel like closing the browser, yet? If so, see ya. Thanks, for stopping by. 🙂

Confusion is so not Christian. Or, is it, too?

By the way, if you’re still with me, I hope I have not derailed your train of thoughts yet, by what I have said, so far. If I have, I am sorry, but this is not the place for me to explain. Nor am I inclined to do so, at any time. So, feel free to let your imagination run wild.

With that said, I digress.

Going back to my (separate) conversations with the confused Christian and the atheist, I can’t tell you how tiring it is to have to explain things. In fact, I have learned one lesson from those conversations. NEVER EXPLAIN ANYTHING. Simply share your own experience, I thought. Each one of us needs to go on a separate journey all on our own. I believe that we, as spiritual beings, need to find our answers, individually; and not rely solely, on other people’s point of view. Yes, that includes our own family’s, as well. As harsh as it may sound. We need to create and view our own perspective. My own belief tells me that, if we ask for something, we should receive it. If we’re not getting it, it’s because we’re not supposed to. Maybe, not yet. Maybe, never. So, let’s smile, and be patient. More importantly, let’s be content, regardless of the outcome. Never expect anything.  If something good comes our way, let’s be grateful, for we don’t deserve it. Maybe, we think, we do. But, we don’t. Life is unfair. Hey, lucky for us. If it was, we’d all be dead and rotting in Hell by now. And that’s the jagged little truth pill, that’s hard to swallow. I know.

All I’m saying is, we should exercise vulnerability and humility. This is all the power we have on this earth. And they are pretty powerful, indeed, if put to good use. I chose to believe in God. Heck, I even chose to believe that today is, in fact, Jesus’ birthday! 🙂 I’m not arguing about the date’s validity, either. But, what difference does it make? If I decide to celebrate my birthday three months after the actual date, what do you care? Anyhow, tangent off.

I really hate sounding philosophical, and so, I’m trying to be a little casual about my approach. But hear this, CC (confused Christian)… be urgent, but find your own answers. Ask, but don’t expect proof. You will be given none. If you’re pointing out that Buddhism makes more sense to you, then, quit whining and convert, already! But, don’t spew out your cerebral garbage on proof and logic, while at the same time, admitting you’re confused. You are just biting the hand that’s trying to feed you. If you don’t like the food, leave. But, make a decision and stick with it.

I’m sorry for getting a little uptight. I didn’t mean to. But, you’re talking to me, and asking me for answers, that could possibly keep you, in your comfort zone. I have none. So, either take my advise, or move on.

And, here’s to the atheist… I would not be commenting, if you didn’t ask me to. I’d rather not, in fact. But, I’ll say this once, and never again. Belief in God is like an association with the Mafia (relax, it’s just an analogy). If you had believed in the past, and had become a member of the family, there is no turning back. You may lose your faith today, or change your mind and articulate your rebuttal until you’re blue in the face; but the fact is, you have experienced the truth, at some point, and regardless of whether or not you’re still hanging on to it, you’re now guilty of knowing too much. And you are not safe on your own, from hereon out. And, even if you have not ever believed, having called yourself an atheist only establishes further grounds that your beliefs are, in fact, the result of a direct competition with the idea of a possible existence of God. You are still guilty, at this point, because you know that there is a God; only you believe it to be a mere concept, which you opted to reject. The Bible says, there is no excuse. You simply open your eyes, and you will see God. In everything. I chose to believe what it says. So, when you’re dead, do not say to God, you didn’t see him. Besides being a very bad idea, the fact is, you actually did. You simply covered your eyes with human logic and reasoning. There is a God, or atheism would not have existed, in the first place.

I looked in the dictionary and found out that the Greek word for atheist is atheos, meaning, a Godless person, or, a person without a God. This does not mean, there is no God. Only, atheists prefer to not have one, or believe in one, rather. But there is, indeed, a God. Whether one believes it or not. Enough said.

Sometime last week, I read a post about the topic of living a spiritual life as opposed to a religious one. By the way, it dawned on me that many still do not understand the difference between the two. But, this is a thought for another time. Anyhow, so, the post made me think about how children are normally raised in this world. And, how their upbringing affects the establishment of society, hence the entire world. This was my comment to that post…

I believe that when you are left to seek the truth for yourself, as opposed to being spoon-fed with someone else’s version of it, you will indeed find it, somehow. This is the ultimate satisfaction. To wonder; then to set out on a journey; and then, to eventually find what you’re looking for.

However, parents are naturally inclined to raise their kids the way they believe they’re supposed to be raised. It’s only natural; yet selfish and stifling. Unless spiritual freedom is allowed to reign in the upbringing of children, they will almost certainly grow up needing to break away and explore knowledge for themselves eventually.

Gaining knowledge can be full of pain, though. However, pain is where the truth lies.

Before I expound on this, I would like to quickly add, that the entire Universe is within God’s domain. That big ol’ speck of dust is sitting pretty, right on the palm of his hand. And if you think, you’re in it, I believe, you ain’t going nowhere, fast. No matter what you think, or do.

But, that’s just me. 🙂

Anyhow, I was brought up Catholic. Now, I don’t have anything negative to say about it. My entire family is Catholic. I would still go to mass and do all things Catholic when I’m with them. It’s called respect. But somewhere down the line, I have experienced the vastness of knowledge available in the spiritual world; and what it might possibly offer me, besides what I already have. I’m not saying, I wasn’t happy with being a Catholic, I just wanted to explore further. To learn more. To discover new things. And, to prove myself wrong, even. I didn’t want to simply rely on what was passed on to me, growing up. I wanted to expand my horizon; and earn my own beliefs. And, to be able to accept things, without having to understand them. And I did. I went through the journey. It was long and painful, but I got there. I know, I did. Though, I made mistakes. I was foolish, at times. I stumbled. I fell. And, I hurt people, along the way. But, I made it through, eventually. I found home. My home.

We have heard the saying “Home is where the heart is.” I say, “Heart is where the home is.” I can’t tell you where your home is at. Though, I’d like it to be the same one, as mine. In fact, I am begging you to come home, with me. It is beautiful, here. And, safe. But, ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions. Our own individual hearts will tell us, where we want to end our seemingly endless journey. Where we want to find our peace. And, who we want to surrender our confusions to.

And then, really live.

Leaving Los Angeles, Part 2 (The truth about giving)

One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Los Angeles was bittersweet. And a lifelong lesson as well. Are you ready to take a little journey back in time with me? It’s a bit of a long trek but a worthy one, I promise.

Right around ’94 or ’95, I was going through a spiritual workout. I wanted to prove to myself that my faith was sincere and was built on a firm foundation. I didn’t want to simply go through a phase and later move on to other things. I wanted to find what I was looking for right there and then, really find it, be home and settle down for good. I didn’t want to simply get lost in a church crowd, to be a co-participant in ministry events. That was easy to do. You’re encouraged. You sign up. You all do it together. Job’s done. That was a given. It was a bare minimum. But back then, I wanted to practice true religion on an individual basis. I wanted to mean what I say. And I wanted to learn.

To learn the truth about giving.

I did a lot of things but one of the two activities (yes, there’s a part 3 yet in the near future) that stood out for me was my weekly routine of visiting the elderly at a nearby nursing home. It was a ten minute drive from my place and I used to go every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I must’ve done it for at least two years straight. Every now and then, I’d bring an interested friend with me but for the most part, I went by myself.

In this home, when you step inside the lobby, the hallway circles around the entire building. You start walking to your right. You just follow the hallway and you eventually come out of the left wing back into the lobby. Now, it takes a good couple of hours to go into each room and spend time with every single person in there. Well, at least, with the ones you can actually talk to sensibly. Sadly, some of them aren’t functioning properly anymore, if you know what I mean. Anyhow, most of these folks are different in more ways than one. Different in age, gender, race, mental and health status. So you treated each of them differently. Some will talk to you and express gratitude. Some are annoyed that you’re there. The first few visits, I remember just trying to get a good feel of each person. I thought… Who could I give just a smile to? Who could I actually say hello to? Who will want to get a little more involved and carry a conversation with me? And finally, who will crave a lasting friendship?

I could fill in the blanks for each of those categories with names. Amazingly, I remember a lot of them idividually. There was Eddie. A wheelchair-bound, 70-ish man who bawled and wailed everytime I stoop down to his eye-level to chat with him. Even more, I distinctively remember Evelyn, an 88 year old lady who patiently waited for me to come by twice a week after work. Now she came to be a real friend eventually. She knew I was going to be in time for dinner just so I can spoon-feed her. I wasn’t clear as to why the workers in the home didn’t do anything knowing she had a hard time feeding herself. Her arm shakes too much that by the time the spoon reaches her mouth, the food’s everywhere but on the spoon. She confides with me. She’s hungry all the time because she barely gets to eat her food. I ask how come they don’t help her. She said, she doesn’t know either. She could hardly speak, much less explain herself effectively enough to convince the staff to help her with her difficulties.

And so, this is what I did for the next year or so. I circled the hallway. I waved a smile to some. Said hello to a few more. Striked a quick conversation with others. And then, I spent the rest of my time with Evelyn. I fed her, spoke to her a bit, waited until she fell asleep. And then, I went home.

One day I came and did my routine, went to Evelyn’s room and found her bed made but empty.

“She passed yesterday.” The nurse informed me.

To say that it hurt is a big understatement. I did not expect this at any moment. I thought I will have moved out of town before anything remotely close to this would every happen. I was in complete shock. It was certainly a death in the family. It was the first time I felt I was given pain by something that I thought could never do such a thing.

How could you? I took care of you. I gave a portion of my life to you. And this is the thanks I get?

But I was too shocked. Too numb to feel the anger. And I was not about to learn my lesson yet. Not until way later.

To go back into that building was too much for me to handle at this point. I felt like moving on, one way or another. One day, I noticed for the first time that the building across the street was actually another nursing home. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before. Could it be that all I ever noticed in that street was the old beloved nursing home I go to week after week. To be honest, I don’t remember what else was in that neighborhood. Everything was vague. Except for my sole purpose.

Eventually, I was able to muster up enough strength to walk through the doors of the building across the street. Here I am. About to warm up a new bench again, so to speak. New folks, new faces, new acquaintances. And hopefully, new friends.

In this building I had a lot more fun actually. The people were more upbeat and wanting to be funny with you. There was this room that had about 10 beds. I did my rounds one day, walked in the room and told some jokes. Back then my hair was long. The folks in that particular room, for some reason, have bad eyesight, I reckon. I found this out later when one lady asked if I had a boyfriend (long hair could be troublesome at times). In my shock, I spoke a bit loudly and exclaimed with sheer dignity…”Oh no, I’m a guy!”

The next two to three seconds after that moment was a sight to behold. All ten women, of which most appeared to be in a slumber, all of a sudden got up, with eyes wide open and staring at me, altogether controverted… “YOU’RE A BOY?? LIAR!!!”

I could only wish though, that every room in that home was as lively as that one. But it wasn’t the case at all. There were folks in there who were too bitter, too unpleasant to talk to, in a way. However, there was this one room. It had maybe four beds in it. But there were only two occupants at the time. One of them seems to be passed out all day everyday so you couldn’t even say hello. The other was a woman I eventually came to know as Jean.

Now, Jean was funny. In a bittersweet kind of funny, that is. She was only in her early 60’s, I think. But she was struck by some kind of sickness that made her seem like a weak person in her 90’s. And like Evelyn, she also came to expect a visit from me on a regular basis. And this, only because she insisted.

“Kish, I want you to come back shoon. Pleesh, Kish.” “Okay, Jean. I’ll be back soon.”

Funny lady. In fact, like I mentioned, she’s bittersweet funny. She once made a confession to me, complete with animated excitement. She admitted that she loves me more than she does her own husband now because I’m always present and he’s never there. It nearly killed me to hear this. But I kept my composure as I meticulously julienned (using a plastic spoon) a few pieces of Hershey’s Kisses (her favorite) which I eventually started bringing with me everytime I come to visit.

“Don’t say that, Jean. That can’t be true. Wasn’t he here the other day?”

“Yes, but you come more often.”

I’m taking this with a grain of salt… I’m thinking right now, as I shove one julienned piece at a time in her mouth that would only open very slightly (hence, the way she talks). She looks down as she picks it up from the tip of her lips with the help of her tongue. She slowly brings it into her mouth and leaves it there to melt. Then I notice her chin gently moving up and down. This must be the greatest tasting candy in the whole world, I thought. A moment passes, then she looks up to meet me in the eye. Still nibbling on the chocolate, her eyes begin to water gently.

“I’ve been longing to taste this candy for many years now.” She whispers with a trembling voice. “Sometimes, someone would bring me some but because it won’t fit in my mouth, I couldn’t eat them. Until now.”

Jean and I had a very good friendship, to say the least. I will never forget the times we spent together. But much like with Evelyn, I had somehow forgotten, once again, that there is a certain truth about giving. The truth that when you decide to give, not only is there a possibility of not getting anything in return; but also, there’s a distinct danger that whatever else you have which you did not intend to give at all may also be taken away from you. It is a tough lesson, yet it is something that made me the person that I am today. And for that, I have no regrets at all.

After almost a year, it was now just another regular routine. The same ol’ drill, right? Tuesdays and Thursdays? Got it. Although, for some reason, I couldn’t make it one Tuesday. So hey, no big deal, I thought. I’ll do it tomorrow instead. And so, on a Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the grocery store to grab a new bag of Kisses after work. And I merrily trekked down the ol’ building to do my routine. Now, usually, when I come down, I take a sneak peek at Jean’s room before I make the rounds. And then, when I’m done with everyone else, I come back to her for my last stop. But this time, when I walked in to peek at her room. I was greeted with the darkest of memories. A made but empty bed. My legs were shaking as I ran towards the nurses’ station.

“I’m sorry, she passed away last night.”

Last night. Tuesday night. I was suppose to be here. Come on, what’s another day to wait?

“You’re Chris, right? She’s been asking for you.”

Before I could let the nurse see my reaction, I had simply turned around and stormed out the door. Tears uncontrollably running down my face.

For the first time, I knew. I knew the price of giving. I knew that it costs more than what you’re willing to bargain for. I now will have to remember this for the rest of my life. And even though I decided at that moment that this was just way too much for me to give, I also know that I would never wish to turn back the hands of time either. That I would instead be proud and grateful that I was able to accomplish what I set out to do. That I was able to be unselfish enough to do something like this. Even when it was just for a short period of time.

We don’t have to able to save the whole world. But if we can just make one lowly person smile, it is a job well done.

Well, are you ready for part 3? It’s not as much drama as this one but it’s just as good.

Stay tuned!


One ordinary afternoon back in the late 90’s, a couple of my friends and I were walking down a street somewhere in North Hollywood… heading from one guy’s apartment building to another looking to hang out and watch a movie. Along the way, we stop by a yogurt shoppe to get some… well, from what I can remember, yogurt.

Now, we walk inside and immediately drool over the choices behind the see-through freezer. Here, the shoppe’s counter is right in the center when you first walk in. To the left are tables filled with a number of customers hanging out, enjoying their yogurt. To the right are a bunch of tables as well. Unoccupied. Except for one person sitting on the far corner eating his yogurt by himself. The three of us can’t help but stare at this man as he surely looked familiar. He’s a heavy-set, older individual we all knew too well. Without  second thoughts, we start our trek towards the gentleman, much to the other customers’ dismay. Our eyes are wide in amazement as we shamelessly invade his privacy. One of us wastes no time and immediately breaks the ice.

“Hello, Mr. Brando, my name’s Paul. These are my friends, Steve and Chris. We’re big fans of yours and it is such a pleasure to meet you in person.” Mr. Brando takes one last scoop of yogurt into his mouth, looks up and glims at each one of us with that famously contemplating look. And with that all too familiar Corleone-ish tone in his voice, he speaks…

“You come up here to talk to me because my name is Marlon Brando. You know Marlon Brando but you don’t know me. I bet, if you spotted an ordinary no name big old fat pig instead, you wouldn’t have bothered. Now would you, boys?”

I don’t know about Paul and Steve, but I am mightily convicted at this point. How do you respond to that? What do you say to Mr. Party Pooper? There’s no way out. He knew the truth. The bitterness in his voice is very telling. He must be used to this, I thought. No, he must be so sick and tired of people doing this to him. All the time. All his life!

As much as I am saddened by the fact that he knew that people only love and respect him for being a great actor and not because he is simply a human being longing for sincere affection, I am, in fact, even more devastated by my own lack of concern and sensitivity. I was starstruck. And that’s all that mattered at that moment.

Anyhow, Mr. Brando is kind and understanding enough to not drown us further into a pool of guilt. He starts conversing with us, in fact. We all confess to him that we’re musicians and entertainers ourselves trying to break into the business. He in turn tells us a little trivia about his early life. He’s a closet drummer. Wow, I bet you didn’t know that! Yes, he loves to play congas at home. When he was growing up, he hated the idea of being an actor but instead wanted to become a professional drummer. One day, he was at a big band concert where his idol, the legendary Gene Krupa, was playing. Wanting to get some inspiration, he walked up to him to shake his hand after the show. Sadly, Mr. Krupa refused and turned his back on him. Too proud, perhaps? Too big a star to shake a supportive fan’s hand? That simple gesture alone made him change his mind overnight (albeit in rebellion) and decided to go ahead and become an actor anyway. Sometimes, I wonder if Mr. Krupa ever knew that story? Amazing though, how someone’s simple but thoughtless action can turn one person’s life around completely. Indeed, large ships are steered by a very small rudder.

Well, needless to say, we had to part company. So, we bid our thanks, goodbyes and goodlucks; and the three of us proceed to the apartment building to watch a movie. Still  high on what just happened, guess what we decide to put on? That’s right… The Wild One.

Never forgetting a second of that moment, I wrote a song about it years later. The title pertains to Mr. Brando’s character’s name in this movie as I imagined him introducing himself to us by.


My Name Is Johnny

i don’t think i like it when you come talk to me
no, i don’t think it’s fair, this is my time and space
this might sound crazy to you
you don’t know me like you think you do
i bet you haven’t got a clue
so let me tell you

my name is johnny, how do you do
my name is johnny, i’m just like you, yeah

i don’t think you’d ever spot me in the movies
no i don’t think you’d even recognize a star, no
well here’s my candle to burn
move over cause it’s my turn
you’ve got bigger lessons to learn boy
so let me tell you

my name is johnny, how do you do
my name is johnny, i’m just like you, yeah

cause i’ve got fake tears in my eyes
i’m so numb to all the lies
my shadow’s falling over me
and i’m not so strong
tell me where i’m wrong

i don’t think i’ll ever go the way you did
cause i’m too big to fit through the eye of a needle
yeah, cause my name is

my name is johnny, how do you do
you think i’ve something, well so do you
yeah, u-huh

i feel your pain boy
could you give me back my little joy
cause my
my name is johnny, how do you do
yeah i’m just like you

my name is johnny
uh huh, yeah, i’m just like you
my name in johnny
i’m the wild one
i’m the wild one on a ship of fools
my name is johnny
uh huh, i’m the wild one
but i’m just like you
my name is johnny
uh huh, yeah

How ’bout some are ree yes pee eeh see tee?

When you speak, be sure your words are tasty and sweet, not bitter; lest you have to eat them someday.

I’m not sure if someone’s already quoted this line before. It sounds pretty much common sense to me. But I’m assuming so anyway by not taking credit; just to be safe.

Anyhow, lately, I’ve been feeling the impact of this simple but profound admonition. I’m not going to list the details now. I just want to express myself at this moment by saying… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered things out of haste and frustration just to look back disgraced over what I’ve said. Nope, no one’s judging me, I don’t think.

No one but myself anyway.

Oh, don’t you just love it when you realize your behavior is suddenly the exact same way you hate it in others? It’s terrible. It’s like a trap. Like you’ve set out to win no matter what, and then all of a sudden, you lose. Miserably. Like shooting yourself in the foot, I guess. It happens, and there’s no easy way out.

This year I’ve been a bit more conscious of the way I talk to people. The way I establish contact… with my family, my friends, the grocery cashier, anyone. Even at work, in fact. When I communicate with co-workers, when speaking at a conference meeting or on the phone with whomever. When simply making eye contact, or composing emails, letters and… ahem, posting a blog! It’s not that I’ve lost it or anything. I’m just trying to re-assess my people skills. It’s more than just a professional gesture, I think, Sure, there are things I dislike about some folks, and it mostly pertains to their demeanor, the tone of their voice and their choice of words when they speak. I’m not saying I possess the scroll that reveals the proper way to act respectably. This only applies to me. Maybe because I’m a little tender in some ways? And need a little tlc, perhaps? Ha! But I sometimes find myself unconsciously expecting more of others than I do myself. And that… that bugs the daylights out of me. After the fog clears up, that is.

I think it’s important to always be aware of your aura around human beings. As tough as it is to do so consistently. Whether they’re the closest person in your life or a complete stranger, there needs to be an uninterrupted flow of respect at all times. It’s a science and an art that I’ve been trying to master for as long as I can remember. But no matter how long it’s been, I always discover there’s so much more to learn. Or re-learn, for that matter.

I have heard over and over that respect is suppose to be earned. To a degree, I believe it. But then I thought, we’re human beings. Prone to greed and naturally hungry for control or power in one way or another. Morally speaking, if something has to be earned, it becomes a thing of value. For purposes of trade or exchange, that is. Like money and stuff. Y’know, like working to earn a living? You know what I mean. Anyhow… and so, we all say, I want some. And then, I want more. Sooner or later, I want it all. Now! Suddenly, it becomes an object of individual desire. Everybody works hard for it. Terribly hard! And that’s when the idea of respect gets caught in the crossfire of good and bad intentions. Respect now becomes a job. A chore. Think about this for a moment…

Respect is earned, but…

Redemption is… currently on sale! Cheap! Limited time only! Hurry!

Get it?

I hate being sarcastic.

And going off on a tangent.

Now, where was I?

It’s difficult for me to bring it up again but I have to constantly face the truth; that the failure of my marriage is partly due to my inability to maintain respect when it’s most needed. When your emotions get the best of you, for whatever reason, it matters not what you instinctively know to be right or wrong, all you see is either the person you have locked up and has somehow managed to escape or the one you never even knew ever existed. In my case, it was the latter. Because I am not one to display physical manifestations (oh please, not the door slamming again), I tend to be swayed by having to defend myself either through the blurting of foolish words I don’t really mean or, for the most part, with complete and deafening silence (Ooh, this one’s the rusty jagged-edged blade you don’t want to feel, trust me. I can be silent for months on end without breaking a sweat). I have learned since that neither of these demonstrate respect. Well, duh! But it’s almost impossible to see at the time.

I’ve experienced that, much like an elephant can be startled by the presence of a tiny mouse, there are times in life when your desire, faith and confidence can easily be disabled, disarmed, surrendered, and without notice, by a single person’s action or circumstance. It’s so easy to lose yourself. To forget who you are. To forget who people are. And more importantly, to forget what you believe in and stand for. Integrity disintegrated. All these things you’ve worked all your life to gain… gone in sixty seconds. Literally, sometimes.

Uhh, such a rude awakening!