Reflections and Projections: A Look Back and Ahead

I don’t want this to be another typical New Year’s Day blog, full of resolutions forgotten by February or empty promises I make to myself. I also don’t want this to be a long diatribe year-in-review of 2013, either.

So, instead, I think I am just going to use this post as a sort of mental scrapbook for all the awesome things Lee and I were able to share in 2013, and as a wish-list of what we want to do in 2014. The central theme: gratitude. Yes, Lee and I had some tough moments last year, but they all pail in comparison to the plethora of blessings we were given.

So as we look forward to the year ahead, most of us with the clean-slate optimism of “this is my year to be great”, keep in mind the following:

  • You ARE great.
  • There is no such thing as perfection. All we can hope to do is be better today than we were yesterday.
  • “Be happy in the moment. That’s enough. Each moment is all we need. Not more.” – Mother Teresa

2013 Gratitude List

My Kids
  • Natalie’s continued success with club and middle school soccer
  • Daniel’s participation in Odyssey of the Mind and Math Bowl
  • Daniel attending Camp Gilead and Busch Gardens Camp
  • Chaperoning Natalie to Howl O’Scream
  • Kids spending the week with us over the summer and then again while their mom was traveling
  • Cheering on Wiregrass High School girls basketball with Natalie
  • Their overall good health and well being
Church / Faith
Music Concerts
Friends
  • My 40th birthday celebration
  • Beer nights with the guys
  • Weddings (Patricia & Adam, Tracey & Matt, Leslie Ann & Graham, Stacey & Sanjay)
  • Leigh S. moving back to Florida
  • Dinner nights (Jeff & Ellen, George & Ashley, Stephen & Lindsey, Warren & Gwen, Mark & Renee, Alyson & Tom, Jamie & Jamey, Jeff & Lindsey)
  • Super Bowl and college football parties
  • East coast trips to Casa de Smith
Lee

I am probably overlooking several events and people, and for that I am sorry. I guess it’s a good problem to have when your life is so full of blessings that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

As for 2014, Lee and I have some very lofty financial and lifestyle goals. We want to reduce debt by sticking to a strict budget, and also lose weight by trying the Fast Metabolism Diet. Both will take a serious amount of discipline and determination, but they work hand-in-hand given we spent about three times as much going out to dinner in 2013 than we did on groceries.

We also plan/hope to take Lee’s nephew to Cancun when he graduates from high school in May, and then travel back to Mexico in the late summer to visit my family in Puebla and spread my father’s ashes in his hometown. It will be 10 years in September that my father passed away.

Personally, I want to ensure one post to my blog per day. That’s not to say I will be writing every day. Rather, I want to make sure I add something – be it a written post, a photo, a funny YouTube video: something – to my blog every day.

Through it all, Lee and I know that God will direct us where He wants us to go. I know my faith walk saw amazing growth in 2013, and I pray that it continues to expand in this new year. I wish you all the best with your goals, dreams, and ambitions for this year.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Blessings

Why We Fail

As the month of January would have it, there are many blogs, magazine articles, talk shows, etc. centered on the topic of resolutions. “New Year, New You.” Now is the time to start fresh with all those things we all have been meaning to do, and I know I have my laundry list of resolutions for 2013.

And with each list of resolutions made comes a list of resolutions not achieved. It’s normal. You can say it’s par for the course with every New Year.  Still, it got me to thinking about all the times, both big and small, that I have not managed to reach my goals.

I’ve written before about how movies have a way of touching our lives and correlating our real world experiences to what we see on the screen. I recently sat down with Lee to watch The Adjustment Bureau – a very underrated movie about an enduring love story – and there was a part of the film that really struck a chord with a particular moment in my life.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the movie, the character of David Norris, played by Matt Damon, is asking the love of his life Elise to trust him and go with him through a door. “I can go through this door alone. You’ll never see me or the people chasing us again. Or you can come with me, and I don’t know what’s on the other side, but you’d be next to me and that’s all I’ve wanted since the minute I met you.”

I lived that moment. Well … something very similar to that moment. A love induced plea to someone, asking them to take a leap of faith and hold my hand all the way through it. It didn’t happen and I went through that door by myself, landing flat on my face, devastated and heart-broken.

I failed.

I will admit it took some effort to bounce back from that event. The road back to normalcy was not a fast or easy one, and it was one that was littered with pain and mistakes that all stemmed from that failure. It was a time at which I stumbled, fell, and stayed down.

What I realize now is that it’s okay to fail.  After all, what is failure if not the building blocks of future success? As I correlate that moment, and all the other difficult experiences in my life, to what I continue to learn in my spiritual journey with God, I find that it’s not about the stumbles we take. Rather, what’s important is our willingness to get back up. What truly matters is our readiness to be redeemed after we fall.

Even Jesus, who chose to put the weight of my sins and my selfishness and my flaws on his shoulders, fell three times on his way to be sacrificed for me. To me, there is no greater or more telling example of ‘getting back up’ than that of Jesus. Beaten, bloodied, and broken, He stood back up to fulfill His promise and redeem me from my sins.

Having the luxury of looking back, now more than seven years removed from my personal rock-bottom experience, and being able to apply the context of hindsight and lessons learned, I know that I would not be where I am today if not for that moment of failure. That door being shut turned out to be the opening to another door that has yielded thousands of wonderful and exciting memories.

Accomplishing your resolutions for the New Year is great, and it’s something towards which everyone should diligently strive. However, it’s important to be reminded that it is not the end of the world if we don’t achieve those goals. The important thing is that we try, and when we fail, we get back up and try again.

The Fantasy In My Head

Random Writers: Write about what you want most out of life.

In my future fantasy world, I’m sitting on a plane – first class, of course – when the person next to me engages in conversation.

“So, are you going to New York for business or pleasure?”

<slight hesitation> “Ummm … a little bit of both.”

<curious look> “Really? Do you care to elaborate?”

“I’m killing two birds with one stone. I am meeting up with friends in New York, but I also have some work to do.”

“Oh. What kind of work do you do?”

<irritatingly large smile> “I’m a writer. I’m going to Manhattan for a book signing.”

Yes, that’s the conversation I have with my imaginary travel companion every time I think about what I want most out of life. Well, when I think about the personal, selfish version of that question.

In reality, what I want most out of life is for my children to grow up healthy and happy, and to see them realize all their goals and dreams. That’s perfection for me. But if I allow myself to indulge in a personal fantasy, it has to be receiving a paycheck – a big, substantial paycheck – for something that I wrote.

It’s a fine line, however, given that writing for me is fun. It started as therapy that metamorphosed into a hobby. It began as something in which I dabbled and evolved into something I can call much more concrete than that. Still, writing has never been a job nor the source of my livelihood. My mundane, corporate-world, 8-5 job takes care of that for me.

Instead, writing has been a recent ambition of mine. One where I can fantasize about sitting behind a table, meeting new people, and signing my name until my wrist falls off. Of course, in my fantasy world I look less like me and more like Richard Castle, but that’s neither here nor there.

Having self-published two short novels – and completing the third in that series – was a great experience for me. Having never written anything like that before, it was so amazing to receive such great feedback from my friends and family. It opened my eyes to the reality that God did grace me with a modicum of writing talent, and if applied properly, I could produce something someone else might find interesting to read.

Still, the realities of day-to-day life provide the perfect series of excuses for not pursuing, and ultimately not fulfilling, those dreams. “I’ll try to find some time to write tomorrow.” I’ve been saying that to myself for about a year and a half now.

So maybe I’m putting the cart before the proverbial horse. In thinking about all the things I allow to keep me from writing, perhaps the one thing I want most out of life is to have the dedicated time to invest in my writing, an effort that could one day possibly lead to my fantasy scenario on a plane.

Dedicated time for writing? Now THAT’S a fantasy!

Giving In

It’s a daily struggle for me to get into gear. The blessing that is working from home has a flip side, a side that is weighted down by sluggishness and complacency. I thoroughly enjoy not having to commute into work, but I also have to fight myself to ‘get going’ in the mornings and get the ball rolling. Sometimes inspiration – not to mention the crack of the boss’ whip – comes soon after 8:00 AM. Other times I feel like I don’t get out of second gear until well past 10:00.

Still, there is no rhyme or reason as to why or when the moment of energetic infusion hits. It could be a pressing deliverable for work, it could be a crisis situation (which in my work world usually means systems outage), or it could be the right song playing on the radio at the just right time.

Sometimes it’s a tweet from a friend. Sometimes it’s a blog post that I take a moment to read because, after all, I don’t feel like doing much of anything else. Sometimes something as simple as someone’s Facebook status can change my perspective and outlook for the day.

Inspiration is funny like that. She’s a clever little devil.

I’ve had this voice in my head for the past month now. It was a little, nagging whisper I’ve been ignoring for some time, and it finally go to me today.

“You need to write more!”

For weeks and weeks, it was there like that faint buzz you sometimes hear when an electronic device is turned on. I’d simply cast it aside like an annoying pet begging for food next to the dinner table.

“Go away. I’m ‘busy’.”

“No you’re not. You’ve been staring at ESPN.com for thirty five minutes.”

So as I gave into my lack of motivation this morning, I was bombarded online by message after message after message. It’s as if this little voice took over the Internet and deliberately directed content my way.

There was a tweet about how Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at some point the project DID start. My friend wrote a blog the mentions how Stephen Kings writes every day. Another friend’s blog got me thinking about what my calling is, and whether or not that voice in my head has something to do with it. This all came to a head when I received notification that someone I admire and is an inspiration to me is following me on twitter (yeah, I don’t get it either).

So here I am … BAM … shaking off the morning molasses and feeding the voice in my head. Call her my muse, call her a bitch; either way, both are probably correct.

Lazy is tempting seductress, one that fills you with emptiness and the regrets of missed opportunities. I know her well. Still, you never know when inspiration is going swoop in to help save you from lazy’s quicksand grip. Once she does, however, don’t let yourself hide behind excuses. I know I have.

The reward of the accomplishment is in looking back at all that was overcome to reach that point.