I was living in Midtown Manhattan when my grandmother was hospitalized. The smart as whip, quick witted person I had known my whole life was quickly fading. and though I could not accept it at the time., was not returning home or even graduating to one of those old age homes that, at the time, had only seen in movies and on TV. With trips from the Broadway office where I worked quickly becoming a challenge. I decided to stay with my Dad in Staten Island, just blocks away from the hospital she had been admitted to.
One weekend morning.as I held her fragile hand in mine. She turned to me and in a weakened voice inquiring about an incident I hadn’t thought of in close to twenty years. Referring to a second grade incident that I took the blame for but never played any part in or even witness. “Why did you throw that girl’s snow boots out the window?” Those words, the last she would utter before passing away served as a heavy burden I still carry today. Of all the things I did. The bloody noses and black eyes I gave out to those who came to me looking for a fight. The times I mouthed off to teachers or questioned the religious dogma we were being force fed. The one she took to the grave was the crime I never committed.
While I still look back, dream and write about my childhood and growing up. Rarely do my dreams include the angel who played a pivotal role in my growing up and becoming a man. The few times she’s showed up in my dreams, her role mirrors that of her real life presence. Through thick and thin, my grandmother was always that of a care giver and a peace maker. Whereas she always comes up in conversation with my Dad and Step Mom. I often feel that I never had a chance to thank her for her infinite kindness, hard work and guidance. I promise to always be grateful and appreciative. Oh, and just a reminder. I never touched her boots.
In moving to Seattle, Washington from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had some fear that much of the toxicity that had become a part of my daily life for so long would follow me out west and cast a negative cloud on whatever changes I was hoping to undergo. Despite a rather grim diagnosis just months after arriving in the great northwest. I’ve manged to maintain a decidedly positive outlook. Now, by no means does change come easy. Everyone is different and their isn’t a one fix fits all remedy out there that I’ve seen or heard of.
Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I went through a number of emotions that included depression, anger and self blame.. Throughout, my one constant has been trying to define what truly makes me happy while sustaining a balance that can nourish and fulfill my soul. The more I’ve searched. The more I come to realize how much the little things play a major part. When listing my favorite things, music, photography and maintaining a level or creativity on a daily basis are the first things that come to mind. However, the more I search the more I’ve come to understand how much joy comes from sharing or preparing a meal with my wife, traveling and sending silly texts to my younger brother.
As we get older our priorities change as often do the things that attract our interest and show up on our shelves. The solitude and alone time I often seek and have learned to enjoy, only improve my ability to socialize. Training myself to limit the people I let into my life and not getting caught up with too much bullshit has helped tremendously in cutting down on stress, anxiety and many of the ingredients of my once toxic personality and lifestyle. While my posts do get there share of likes these days. I would love to see some of your strategies, techniques and practices for dealing with stressful situations and day to day anxiety.
While there’s never been a day that I haven’t regretted leaving my camera at home. The practice of bringing one with me everywhere I go has undoubtedly kept me from living in the moment and learning to appreciate something without documenting it for whatever reasons I deem fit. Knowing full well the perils of cluttering your hard drive, computer or phone device with countless unwanted images. Old habits die hard and trying to capture images that inspire you in on way or another is nothing to fault someone over. Still, capturing images with my phone allows me to instantly edit and feel less compelled to keep what I don’t want. Being that I still find inspiration in things others often overlook or discard. I’m thankful for having more than one option to capture and share the things I love.
During my time in Columbia City, I’ve become rather familiar with the roads, streets and avenues that connect me to the places I like to go and need to be. As Georgetown and West Settle have become regular destinations. I’ve become quite used to traveling from Alaska Way on to South Colombia Way. When heading to Georgetown, like I’ve done the last two days. I remind myself to make a left at S Angeline before heading down the hill and to the left on cross street. Each time I do. I can’t help but think of stopping for a bit to admire the view before taking a few photos of the power lines that seem to cut through the backyards of the homes there.
Being in somewhat of a rush and the fact that it has rained every day in Seattle for over a hundred years, (Ask anyone.) the chance to stop and smell the green, green grass hasn’t exactly presented itself. Last night while driving down the same street. I decided to put it on my bucket list and set aside a less than rainy day to get a few shots.
So today, when the rainy morning forecast turned to sun. We jumped in the car and headed on that same route to Georgetown where we basked in the sun and enjoyed bottomless cups of Joe at All City Coffee. All in all, a pretty good day. One in which we were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather while staying pretty local.
It might have taken me longer than some but, I’m quickly coming to learn that much of my happiness comes from life’s little gifts. You know, the ones that don’t make your eyes bleed when your monthly credit card bill arrives. In moving to Seattle, my hopes were that some of the stress regarding expectations, wants and needs would diminish and ultimately, help me see what was right in front of me all along.The first months of living out of a couple of suitcases at fully stocked corporate apartments I quickly realized how having less things allowed me live a fuller and much happier life. Though the wanting to be reunited with my “things” eventually came to mind. Those thought quickly turned to anxiety when I realized much of that freedom I had experienced would soon be taken away by adding things I no longer wanted or needed.
Looking back at the last ten years and how many items I’ve purged through selling, donating or just plain throwing out. I can’t help but give myself somewhat of a pat on the back. Regardless, when I look at the big picture. It seems as if I’ve hardly made a dent. Reading books and watching videos about minimalism and people who freed themselves of years of material possessions to live happier lives with less things, less worries and less things to maintain. I’m both inspired and overwhelmed. Where do I start, where does it go and what is all this stuff worth anyway? With more questions than answers, I’ve decided to start my quest with a one day at a time approach. In the end, I feel luck to understand that my happiness doesn’t come from owning things. Happiness comes from experiences, travel and being around people I love. Once I realized that. The journey became a lot easier and the destination seemed so much clearer.
Not a day goes by when we don’t mention how much we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to move out west and experience life in ways we might not have back east. All things considered, our move to Seattle and in particular Columbia City , has offered more than its share of rewards. Great food, weather and plenty of things to or not to do. That said, not a day goes by without talk about Seattle being a two year pit stop on the way to another town, city, state or country. Being one who lived his entire life on the East Coast. The idea of traveling to different places and living light, really appeals to me. Who knows where life brings me. If I can be happy and inspire, I’ll take it. (The pictures below were taken this morning at the park adjacent to where I am currently living in Columbia City, Seattle.)
As we were celebrating my brother’s 21st birthday over a couple of tasty lobsters yesterday. I wanted to share with him the little wisdom I still had to offer. For the most part, we talked about school and the new baby our other brother had welcomed into the world just a day earlier. Though I wanted to speak as few words as possible and listen to the words of someone in the throes of becoming a unique and very intelligent adult. He seemed more interested in the city I grew up in years before he was born. My brother’s curiosity and curious nature had me on the hot seat.
Speaking in the most positive way this old coot could muster. I explained that much of the city I grew up in was gone. Yet my own personal experiences and stories kept it alive in my heart. How, while the drastic changes to the both the cities landscape and overall chemistry did not appeal to me. There was no reason they should deter him from finding his favorite corners, nooks and destinations. Change is inevitable and an integral part in our growth process. Without movement and change, we become stagnant. For me, or anyone else for that matter, to expect things to remain the same would not only be selfish. It would be downright foolish. And as much as I find myself shaking my fists at tourists and the franchises that have replaced many of my old haunts. I’m finding new and exciting things that appeal to my senses.Later that day, just blocks from the Bleeker St. corner where we enjoyed our meal. I came upon some pretty eye-popping street art. A convenient reminder how change brings possibilities. As I get older, I’m coming to realize it is not healthy to live in the past or worry about the future. To live in the moment. To enjoy the now. That’s my happy place.