I Have So Much To Be Thankful For

thankful-thursday
Being thankful is a powerful emotion.  And an underutilized one, as well.

Like most people, I tend to only take stock of my life and realize what I’m thankful for after something significant has happened.  And that is the wrong strategy to take in life.

In my own case, I seem to only realize that I have a lot to be thankful for when I feel like my life is being destroyed.  Maybe that’s the eternal optimist inside of me realizing that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.  Or maybe its the Lord bringing it out in me.

In late 2012 and into early 2013 I was able to start looking at all the aspects of my life that were positives.  I was coming out of a very unhappy situation and I had a chance for redemption.  I had the support of great friends and I felt like I had a great future ahead of me.  I was planning a move to Illinois and had already taken some steps to get that move into motion.  I had a phone interview for a very good job and had already bought my airline tickets to fly out a couple of weeks later for an in-person meeting.  I figured while I was out there, I could start looking for living quarters and start putting down roots.  I was never so excited for a new beginning because I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.  Instead of taking that opportunity and running with it, I made a mistake of ultimate dimension and got right back into the unhappy situation I had just gotten out of less than two months earlier.  That mistake cost me my move and cost me a lot of my friends.  It cost me my dignity and my self-respect.  And a lot of wasted time and money.

But fate was able to extricate me from that situation, in the most unpleasant and painful way possible, but it was worth it in the end to be able to be able to escape such misery.

And now, I can stop, and take a look around me and realize that I am, in fact, the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  And now, I have the chance to make the most of my life.

First, I am thankful for my relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I had an amazing experience with the Holy Spirit in 2013, and I wish I had held onto that a lot more than I did in the years that followed, but when you’re involved with people who are evil, it makes it difficult regardless of how strong your faith is.  I can say, now without question, my faith is unbreakable.  I will carry it with me for the rest of my earthly life.

Second, I am thankful for my family and my friends.  I don’t deserve the friends that I have.  They are the greatest anyone could ever hope for.  I have turned my back on them, denied them, ignored them and eliminated them from my life, though against my own will, I still allowed it to happen.  And while I was disconnected from them, I leaned on my family.  My mom and dad are both elderly but they are always there for me when I need them.  As for my friends, nearly all of them have returned to me and for that I will be forever grateful.  They will never again suffer the indignities they suffered before.

Third, I am thankful for my freedom.  It’s amazing how people can change you, and not in good ways.  For instance, if you are in a relationship or marriage, your significant other should want you to be the best person you can be and remain true to yourself.  I am thankful that I am free to be me.  I can do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want without any interference from anyone.  I’m not in a situation where I am expected to make anyone else happy, and I am especially happy to be away from people who only wanted what they could get out of me.  Being single is a truly blessed feeling.

Fourth, I am thankful for all that I have.  My material possessions.  Money in the bank.  A nice home.  A dependable vehicle.  They may not matter in the grand scheme of things, but I am very happy to have them.  They are things that make me happy and that I enjoy.

Finally, I am happy just to be alive.  For 25 years I told everyone I would never see 40.  I don’t know why I felt that way, it was just an overwhelming feeling I had.  Kind of like a premonition.  In many ways, it may have held me back, because I never wanted to really commit to anything because I didn’t figure I would be around to see anything through.  I realize now that was the wrong attitude to take and hopefully I realize now that I have another 40 or 50 years to accomplish everything I have ever wanted to accomplish.

This March I’ll be taking in Spring Training baseball in Arizona for the first time, in person.  That’s a dream I have had for years that until now, had no chance of being realized.  And if my month-long experience is a good one, I am planning to make a full-time move to the desert southwest.  There I can make a real fresh start, from the ground up.  And that opportunity comes along very rarely in life, and I will take advantage of it.

I have so much to be thankful for.  And I am most thankful for the second chance I have been given to do things the right way.  I am not shackled by my mistakes any longer, I am not tied to empty words or stupid promises.  I am free and I have everything I could want in my life.  And to anyone who feels like they are at rock bottom and they have nothing to be thankful for, just think about this.  Instead of focusing on the things that are making you miserable, step back and think about all the blessings you have in your life.  I know that can be a significant challenge, but if you can do it, believe me, its worth doing it.

Life is not bad, life is good.  But you have to eliminate the negativity, whether it be people or possessions or addictions or whatever is causing you strife.  Sometimes those things are removed independently of any action, and I was lucky in that respect.  I was saved from my miseries without really having to fight them.  But if you do have to fight them, fight with all that you have.  Don’t back down.  Don’t go back into the same patterns and deal with the same people.  Life is worth living and it is worth protecting.  At all costs.

In closing, let me say that if you just ask God to help you, you can absolutely depend on the fact that He will.  It may not happen overnight.  But I can say, without hesitation, that God has delivered me from every bad situation I have ever found myself in, and if you just trust in His plan and realize that everything will work out in the end, the road you are traveling will be a lot less difficult.  Be thankful for what you have and give all that you can to make sure you utilize the power of being thankful every day, not just when you are at rock bottom.  Be thankful for your blessings every day of your life.

Peace.

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“Hello, Me, Meet The Real Me…” – Seeing Myself For The First Time

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Self-evaluation can be a strange and uncomfortable practice.  Since we don’t see ourselves the way others see us, we naturally assume that we are right and everyone else is wrong in their evaluation of us.  I know I have been.  I have been stubborn, arrogant and hateful, but I never wanted to admit it, because I have always pictured myself as the man I see in the mirror, a man who put self-respect and honor above all else.

After some very therapeutic conversations with some close friends who are not afraid to step outside the lines to help me, it pains me to realize the man I saw in the mirror is not who I am or even who I hoped I was.  In fact, I’m almost the polar opposite of him.

While I may have saw myself differently, I certainly never adhered to the “golden rule,” treating others as you would have them treat you.  Jesus is very specific about this in the book of Matthew, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  But when your vision is skewed and you feel superior to other people who may be in your life, you are not apt to follow that advice, as in my thinking was “I’m better than you, therefore you will take what I give you, but I expect you to respect me as I am better than you are.”

I am talking about this on a very human level, down to the bone.  Not what clothes we wear or how we act or the things we do, right or wrong, I’m talking about man to man, woman to woman, woman to man and man to woman.  All equal.  I never looked at myself from that perspective, and when I did today, I didn’t like what was looking back.

“The real me.”

While talking this over today with my closest friend and confidant, she said, regarding how I had treated people in my past, “no one wants to feel like they aren’t loved enough to be lived with.”  That was exactly what I was doing.  I was, outside of my own thought process, being a jerk without actually wanting to be or trying to be a jerk.  In fact, I was being worse than that.  I was allowing my overblown view of myself to take control of what I was thinking, feeling and doing, and running over people in the process.

In fact, it may be a simple case of cognitive dissonance, which is seeing or feeling two sides of an issue or, in my case, being involved in it, to the point of it causing mental issues.  I thought I was a great guy but I knew, on the basis of what was being told to me by people I was affecting, that I was, in fact, not a great guy.  The great guy was inside of my head, and the not-great guy was inside of my head, and they were coexisting in there.

Problem is, the not-great guy was the one getting most of the traction and it was affecting me as a person and those around me, as well.  But when I looked in the mirror, the me that was looking back was not the same one that was dealing with those around me.

This may sound almost like a textbook case of schizophrenia, but its not.  Its not that I am unable to understand what is real and what is not.  Its more that I may have simply closed my eyes to what I knew was real and would rather have thought of myself as the man looking back at me in the mirror, rather than the man everyone else saw.  No one, except maybe the most anti-social among us, want to see ourselves as the “bad guy.”

I have made myself absolutely miserable on a few occasions just to not be the bad guy.  I was in a horribly unhappy relationship that mercifully ended in 2009 and should have ended three years before except that I didn’t want to be the bad guy.  The guy who stared back at me in the mirror was just too nice to be a jerk and end things, so he suffered for years when he could have found actual happiness elsewhere.  That helped absolutely no one.  One thing you cannot get back, once you have wasted it, are the years of your life.

There are people I have mistreated to no end and in my mind, I was being a benefactor, when in actuality I was being more of a socialist dictator.  Not just with my money but with my time and attention.  But I didn’t see it that way, even when it was explained to me.  I thought I was being benevolent and that anyone who was blessed with my presence for five minutes a day should be thankful that they got that much of me.

I went into a culture shock after being accused of something I didn’t do andI immediately fell into what you might call “victim mode.”  I was still seeing myself as the guy in the mirror who was benevolent and perfect.  Even though I am not guilty of what I was accused of, that doesn’t mean I was a great guy.  I was a jerk to those around me.  And in the majority of cases, it wasn’t justified at all.  But that didn’t matter to me at the time.

Now, that I am kind of outside the box in every situation of my life, I am able to see the big picture, and the picture it paints is pretty grim.  I never set out to be a jerk, I never sat and thought “I’m just going to be an asshole, for fun.”  And I never saw myself in that light, no matter how mean or hateful or selfish I was being.  I could always justify it in my mind that I was a great guy, that guy in the mirror who was looking back at me.

Ultimately, it cost me a lot.  But, it also gave me a second lease on life.  I was at a point where I sincerely didn’t care anymore, and while I hid it from everyone around me, I was quite open about it to myself.  I was almost waiting around to die, because my life was at a point that I felt like I had bottomed out and there was nothing left but that life.

I would have preferred things went a little differently over the past month and a half, especially where the false allegations are concerned, but maybe it was the extremeness of that, of being pushed to wall and to the breaking point, that had to come into my world to break me from where I had been and where I was going.  It shouldn’t have taken that much to break me, but when ego is running the show, maybe it had to.

Those that I was mean and hateful to won’t see this, and that’s by design, because it makes no difference at that level.  That time, and those people, are gone.  They will never be a part of my life again, and that is best for all involved.  But that does not mean that I do not owe an apology for the years of hatefulness and selfishness.  The “I give you money or things I buy, then you go fend for yourself because I have more important things to do” attitude.  When this was rebuffed, I took it as a personal affront, not realizing that my time may have been more valuable to them than anything I could have bought, and that my time might have been better served doing something I didn’t think was as important as something else I may have wanted to do at any particular moment.

So, to those affected, in front of God and anyone who reads this, I am truly sorry for that.

And now, that I am at the bottom and seeing me for who I really was, I can begin to climb back up and try to be the man in the mirror and make him the man everyone else sees.  I can do things the right way instead of the right-for-me way.  To those who remain in my life and those who will come into my life as the days, weeks, months and years go on, you will get the better part of me.  The man I was is not the man I want to be anymore.

I feel as though I need rebuilt from the ground up.  Physically, yes, but more spiritually.  And once I take my Arizona sabbatical, I hope my life is ready to come full circle.  There is a lot of good to be done in the world, and I can be a big part of it, once I look past myself and realize that there is more to this world than the man looking back at me in the mirror.  And I am 100% ready to make that move right now.  Without delay.

After nearly nine years of just being a jerk, its time to bury that part of me forever.

My support system has changed drastically in the past six weeks, and I am confident that they will see me through this, not just through the false allegations but through a total transformation that will make the world better for all of us.  I don’t deserve the friends that I have, they are all better people than I could ever hope to be, but that will be the bar by which I will measure myself, to be equal to those who have stood by me.

In closing, I want to say thank you to God, my family, my friends and to the soundtrack of my transformation, Megadeth, because without the sounds that I wake up to every morning and go to bed every night, I think I would feel lost.  And between the conversations I have had today and the Megadeth track “Sweating Bullets,” referenced in the GIF listed above, I think that is what finally knocked my head into gear and made me realize my footing was not nearly as solid as it needed to be, so I needed to dig deeper.

Thank you to everyone who reads this, and if you’re fighting your own battles, know that we are stronger fighting with a support group that believes in us.  I learned that the hard way, because without the support of those that care about me, I would never have even admitted to my problems, and admitting there is a problem is the first step to correcting it.  And I will begin correcting my problems immediately, with my supporting staff.

Peace.