Mars and Science Fiction

Wow. It’s been a while. Let’s get right to it.

Being a sci-fi enthusiast, I found myself anxiously awaiting NASA’s big Mars announcement this week. I mean, come on, we’re talking about Martians here. Did we find’em? They out there? Every book that’s ever been written about the red planet would be turned on its head if so. But, as we know, that wasn’t the big news NASA had for us. Make no mistake though, what we got was still big news: flowing salt water. Water. Flowing freely. That’s pretty cool, right? I mean, water is a precursor for life. And though there are slim chances of a Mars shark or a Mars dolphin swimming about the water highways of Mars, there’s always that slim chance something with a heartbeat could be on the red planet. Right?

Or as so many science fiction minds have imagined in the past: absolutely. 

From a literary perspective, Mars has been a source of inspiration for more than a handful of stories over the years. Perhaps most well-known is H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds; one of modern literature’s first attempts at the alien invasion genreFirst published in 1898 (hard to imagine), Wells’ classic detailed a battle between Earth and Mars’ inhabitants, the technologically advanced “Martians.” The book was received well and consequently influenced several other science fiction writers. Most notably, perhaps, was Edgar Rice Burroughs; the man behind the John Carter series, who wrote a series of books on Mars and his fictional race of people who lived there.

But, that’s not all we got from Mars over the years.

There was the trippy and engaging film, Total Recall, that took us to a Mars where people were trying to make the air on Mars “breathable.” Oh, and there’s mutant people in it, too. Then there was Mission to Mars, a film that tried to explain the theories of the universe through the eyes of highly intelligent alien life form (I guess that’s like having mutant people?). And there was the unfortunate box office flop, Red Planet, that tried to convince us of Martian “nematodes” that eat people. No mutants, just yikes. And for the less-than-serious takers, there was the satirical Mars Attacks! A film made to intentionally mock old school alien invasion movies while poking fun at its cast throughout. Jack Nicholson is in it. Pierce Brosnan is in it. Natalie Portman is in it. And so is… well, that’s all you need to know. Mars has been host to more than a few stories where alien life is bent on our destruction. And naturally, the general public loves it. Even if it’s coming from brother Mars.

But, what about now? Does the discovery of flowing water change much? I’d be reluctant to say that it hasn’t. If nothing else, it’s provided even more inspiration for us Earthen folk. And with Matt Damon’s The Martian coming out this year, it seems like the timing couldn’t have been better. We may not be dreaming of terrifying tentacles or tripods with ray guns (well, not as much) but we do have that much more to work with. Ice miners on Mars? Rivers filled with Martian fish?

As I said earlier, I’m eager to see what’s next.

 

 

 

 

A Clear Voice

If you’re reading this, then you may have an idea of what I’m going to write about. Or maybe you don’t and you’re just curious. Either way, welcome, and here’s hoping you might identify with this post. As we know, there is no shortage of voices who claim to be authorities for navigating life. And they cover just about every topic under the sun: “Be the Best Parent”; “Make More Money Now”; “The Best Guide to Dieting” or “Epiphanies, Theories, and Downright Good Thoughts on Video Games” (sorry, had to throw that one in there for my own sake). But, at the end of the day, how many do you listen to? Well, if you’re a parent, you may tune into more parenting books. If you’re financially insecure, you read up on managing your money. The list goes on. Much of what we read is often an indicator of what we need. Or what we’ve made ourselves to believe we need.

The tricky part is knowing just what it is we need in the first place. Because as we know, there are plenty of voices telling us what it is we need. And the messages come faster than we’d like to admit.

This past week, I intentionally took a week off from Facebook. Not because I’m trying to lead a revolution against social media (I’m here, aren’t I?) but because I knew I needed something: a clear voice. For any writer or artist that might relate, you know what I mean. Yes, it’s fun to flip through your news feed and see what’s happening around the world. Or in people’s lives. I’ve done it frequently. But, there are ramifications if one isn’t careful.

For example, you see someone sharing an intriguing article and you click. That action leads to another click. And another. And another. Soon, you may find yourself reading a top 10 list of what not to do in summer whereas you first started reading a blog on rioting. At first glance, it sounds relatively harmless. You’ve become more “educated” on what’s happening in the world or you’ve been made aware of several hot travel spots you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. But, here’s the point: in a span of 10, maybe 20 minutes, you’ve allowed your brain to be subject to a multitude of incoming messages. And that sort of clutter lends itself to a cluttered mind. Rather than making crucial, timely decisions, your brain is now more interested in vacations (which is coincidentally just what it’s doing now – going on a vacation). The real issue you’ve been working on is lost in the muck and hey, that’s not good.

Reading isn’t bad. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s educational. But, reading anything and everything can be bad for you. It’s why I intentionally decided to take a breather. Halt the messages and find some center ground. Not because I can’t control myself, but because it’s better to not tempt one’s self when temptation is imminent. I don’t need to be up to date on the newest blogs or even the latest hashtag. Those things have a way of finding a person if the message is good. And plus, I can check it out when I want to. Not when I feel like I need to. If what you want is a clear head, then don’t allow so many voices to fill it. It’s really that simple.

Oh, and to any I may have ignored this past week, I’m sorry. This is partially an apology for not checking my news feed. I trust we’re still friends, at least online.

 

 

 

A Dad-To-Be Perspective

I’m going to be as brief on this as I can be. My wife and I recently discovered that we were going to be parents. And more so, we also discovered that the child was going to be a boy. I’m excited. She’s excited. I could have been happy knowing it’s a girl or a boy – that didn’t matter – but it’s really cool to know what to expect. The drama of delivery day will have its own stresses. But for now, we’re happy with having an idea of what’s to come.

And of course, what we have yet to learn. So yeah, it’s exciting.

But, as I’ve been reflecting on this awesome thing, I’m overcome by something. During our ultrasound (sorry, you’ll just have to imagine the pictures), there was a quick snapshot of our little guy facing the camera. He looked like an alien, but you could clearly see a face there. Then, as if he knew we were watching, a little smile came across his face and my wife, the nurse, and myself all laughed. What a character and he’s not even here yet.

Now, flash forward to the next day. I’m out and about. I run into an older gentleman at a food store – a guy I’d put in the ballpark around 80-85 years old. He’s walking slowly. Old age, perhaps? That’d be a good guess, but I come to see that he’s lugging around a heavy O2 tank. And since he can’t carry it under his own power, the tank is positioned inside of his cart. The tubes are feeding from his jacket up to his nose and I can hear him breathing his every breath.

Knowing this, what comes to mind? What’s your impression of this man? This guy’s a smoker, right? or maybe he’s paying the price for having smoked all these years? The list goes on. I’m sure there are many quick calls we’d make upon seeing this gentleman. But, here’s the thing: as I’m walking past this man, he looks at me and wouldn’t you know it, he smiles. And naturally, I smile back.

Sure, it’s a common courtesy – to smile when you see a a stranger. Be polite; don’t be rude – years of social conditioning may have been feeding into our interaction, but as I walked away from this man, it hit me: at some point – somewhere – maybe 80 years ago, maybe less, this gentleman didn’t have a cumbersome tank of oxygen O2. He didn’t have wrinkled skin, gray hair or weakened joints and muscles. No, there was only an anxious mother; one who was probably wondering what her little guy was up to, and God-willing, a man awaiting the day his son would come into the world. All the hope of a new life was wrapped tightly inside her and steadily being made ready for the world.

Granted, I don’t know all the facts. I don’t know if this man had a runaway dad, an absentee mother, or an abusive upbringing. I don’t know what pain he’s caused in his own life or the ones he’s harmed or suffered under. But, the fact remains: somebody cared enough to bring him into the world. And because of that care – that love that was built before he was birthed – I can’t help but be knocked by the enormity of that. I may not know this gentleman’s entire story, but a long while back, God saw him in the womb and was carefully preparing his arrival. And now, decades later, this once helpless, little baby boy, is an adult. He’s older – yes – and his body has changed over the years, but he’s still capable of smiling. Every person you’ve ever met – or anyone you will ever meet – started out in this very same way.

That sort of knowledge should change the way we see others, shouldn’t it? But, of course, it’s so easy to forget. What’s right in front of our faces often trumps these simple truths, but I’m encouraged to think that if God can see us this way, as children, then we can do the same if we try.

Truly, life is a miracle. And I can’t wait to share in the life of my son’s.

 

New Year, Past Reflections, Familiar Gameplan

When I was my 15, I couldn’t imagine being 20. When I got to 20, I couldn’t imagine being 25. And now that I’m 30, I can’t imagine being 35 someday. But, I know I’ll get there (God willing) and when I’m 35, I’ll probably ponder what 40 will look like.

Most of us do this – looking towards the future with an unsteady sense of what our next five years may entail. When I’m journaling or being reflective, I tend to look back five years at a time. What was I trying to achieve? What was I trying to avoid? Did I get where I wanted to go? The best laid plans don’t always come out as we envisioned them, but often, the results are even better than we expected. Ironically, one of my biggest life lessons has been to not look too far ahead. But, if I were to look back five years, what did that look like?

From a personal perspective, I’ve done much over these five years. Most recently, I got married. And to a wonderful woman. What a big change (and a big blessing) that has been. You can learn a lot from living on your own, but I think the experience is amplified a hundred fold in marriage. It’s not just you who is traversing through life now; it’s you and someone else. And that means taking on their life adventure, their story, their trials, and their tribulations along with your own. But, it’s not all hardship, it’s the joy of working together too. That’s the big thing. And something I’ve been learning and will likely continue to learn as she and I move forward. I’ve become more active in my faith; something that’s been a real miss for much of my life. I don’t know what’s worse – knowing there’s something wrong with your soul or seeing the same struggle others are experiencing, but never having the words for them. Well, nowadays, I have better words than I used to. Not that I know it all, I just have a greater peace where once I was a mess of things.

From a professional perspective, I’ve had several vocations – insurance, contracting, and even ministry – each of which I’ve learned much about myself and how I work with others. I remember when I used to work the drive-thru at Burger King and how I would become angry with how people treated me. I’d take it personally if someone were upset with the way a burger was made or how their fries were done. I felt like a “good day” meant having no complaints. But, as you can imagine, that didn’t leave many “good days” at all. That being said, I’ve learned not to take things so personally at work – regardless of where I am at. No one is as big a critic on Josh as Josh himself, but I’ve learned that this notion of being a self-appointed critic is incredibly unhealthy. It’s better to be able to receive criticism and feedback rather than beat yourself up all the time. You can learn to take things in stride at a much better pace and be quicker about applying certain changes to your work style, if need be. Again, our biggest enemies are usually ourselves. That’s as much a personal observation as it is a professional one.

Lastly, from a writing perspective, I’ve achieved quite a bit also. I’ve self-published three books in three years, my most recent an ebook on Amazon. I’ve written consistently every day for more than a year. I’ve kept this blog going for more than two years. And I’ve got several projects awaiting final edits before I release them. It’s been a rough journey, but I’m slowly starting to see the break in the tide I feel I’ve been under.

Twelve days into the new year, I feel like my game plan remains the same: don’t look too far into the future, but maintain a healthy focus on what I’m working towards. It may come with age, but my own use of time – and my view of time – continues to change. It’s not as much a commodity as it used to be, and I don’t find myself doodling away when I could be more productive. For me, that’s one of the better lessons I’ve experienced as I move into this new year. That our use of time trickles into every aspect of how we live: personally, professionally, and how we pursue our dreams.

 

Persistence – what does it look like?

The end of the calendar year can often look like one of two things to people: a time for reflection or a time to scramble and finish whatever project was begun way back in January. Several folks will float between both categories, naturally, and do so till December has ended and the new year has begun. Some will even be fortunate enough to have their eyes completely on the year ahead, content with leaving the year behind. I find myself as one of those ‘floaters’ – alternating between reflection and completion. There’s plenty I’ve completed and plenty I’ve yet to complete. There are still many goals out there, but there is one solace that keeps my unfinished ventures in a healthy perspective: my persistence.

To some people, persistence is a way of life – an invaluable character trait. Nothing comes easy in life so anything easy just can’t be worth the effort. Failures may come, but it’s the failures that define and mold those who count themselves as survivors. From there, they adopt an enduring will for anything else that crosses their path. For others, persistence may appear to be wasted time; wasted energy; or even wasted talent. Only swift results with immediate impact – anything other than that is not a worthy investment. Persistence through lengthy challenges can be seen as inadequate planning. Instead of weathering an impossible storm, one’s persistence should be in finding what’s best for him, not what’s the most challenging way to do something. Staying in one place for too long may be a sign of weak-mindedness; a person who has yet to find his way in life because of immaturity or inattentiveness to his own desires. Because that’s what we should be persistent about – personal happiness and personal gain; not personal challenge.

One may look at either ideology and be quick to attach it to a certain age group or even a generation. Persistence belongs to the older generation, but the younger generation will argue that persistence belongs to them. And depending upon what angle you’re looking from, you can make these same assumptions too – that persistence really does belong to any one generation – depending on the source.

But, as I type this short entry, I can’t help but feel like persistence doesn’t belong to any one generation. Nor does it belong in any one part of life necessarily. That any generation’s persistence is always motivated by one thing: hope.

Hope is what drives anyone to be persistent; be it through challenges, through personal development, through jobs, or life in general. There must be hope at the end if there is to be persistence in anything. Otherwise we would find no need to attach ourselves to the future we are all heading towards. And it’s this faith in hope that keeps me persistent in life, as it should anyone else. No matter what the trials may be or what generation you find yourself within.

Courage – under whose authority?

Today’s world has trouble defining courage, but it has just as hard a time defining authority.

Mine was defined at home. When I was growing up, I learned to have a respect / fear of my father. He was the man in charge; the king of the household; the last line of defense at home. Essentially, he was the disciplinarian. His word was law and if I abided by his law, then I could live peacefully under his roof. That sounds fair enough, right? My mother had authority too, but it was a different kind of authority. She was more the hand to hold; the warm embrace; the ear to lend your voice to – she was the lifeline. And if I came to her with an issue that needed comforting, I could live more peacefully under her roof. Once again, sounds like a fair enough arrangement, right? Yes, it does – when things are running like they’re supposed to.

But, what if they’re not? The result looks much different. If my father’s law is skewed and his discipline unjust, then I feel the ramifications. If my mother’s lifeline is damaged or absent, then I feel the ramifications there too. And the consequences look like this: my idea of authority has been crushed. Moreover, my idea of a loving authority has been shattered. For if the people who made me – the ones who watch over me daily – can’t handle their own business, then what right do they have to govern mine?

And this is where it starts. That disillusionment with authority; that break from looking up to people and the conscious/unconscious decision to look elsewhere for guidance. Because let’s be honest, everybody’s parents mess up at some point – there are no “perfect parents” in the world; as good as mine were and are, they still had their bad days. So depending on how “bad” a parent messes up, the more work it’ll be for the child later. The more work it’ll be to fix the now disjointed views of a child who, after years of soaking in the brokenness of a broken home, has fractured more than than their view of parental-child relationships – they’ve fractured the very nature of how the world was meant to operate.

Whoa – back up, right? That sounds like a lot of pressure for a parent. But hey, let’s not forget – it’s a human life we are talking about; not a truck or a vacuum sweeper. These things, when fractured, can be easily replaced. The same cannot be said for a human life.

But, here’s the good news: fractures are mendable things. A fractured bone, for example, doesn’t have to stay that way. In fact, a broken bone will do whatever it can to get back to its original state. The only thing it requires is time; time to heal and time to mend. However, if the bone is disturbed too early, then it may become further disjointed and take even more time to heal – a more painful experience than the first.

This becomes even more delicate when dealing with authority. Bad experiences with authority figures can leave a person severely jaded; stricken with little desire to trust authority ever again. And the thought of ever being “ruled” by another is seen as detestable; to be avoided at all costs. So, in order to cope with this, a peer-to-peer kind of authority is established. “You don’t tell me how to live and I won’t tell you either” is the new mantra. And if we abide by these rules, we can all live peacefully under the same roof.

Yet again, this sounds reasonable and fair, doesn’t it? It does and yet, this concept breaks down rather quickly. For if there is no one to lead, no one to establish what is best practice, then the roof ceases to exist. What’s more, one person’s idea of best practice will inevitably collide with someone else’s. And another with another. And another with another and so on. The result being the exact opposite of the original intent; the individual’s desire to be more important than the whole splits everything into pieces, which will leave people feeling isolated rather than unified.

So what to do? Well, it takes courage. Not just courage to lead, but courage not to follow. And the “not to follow” does not mean to reject authority – it merely means to reject the notion of authority being a bad thing and to reject your own perceptions as being the ultimate reality. Children reject authority because they want to have their way all the time. As adults, this concept should be understood as not practical. Or better yet, not fulfilling. But, by today’s standards, embracing this understanding has been forgotten. God’s governing hand is only relative and as long as I can Google an answer, I’m better off. No, Googling answers does not require courage. Neither do blanket comments or fact-dumping. Courage is carving in stone, not writing in sand.

Imagine a home where your stay is just and your stay is kind. It’d be a joyous home, would it not? Not the kind of place you’d want to leave. But, you can’t get to that place without first having a response – to recognize there is more to be courageous about than your own agendas.

Sounds reasonable and fair, does it not?

Desktop Update – September 2014

I’m a little late to the party with this post but I think I deserve some leeway because of what’s been going on in my life. The biggest news being that I got married about a week and a half ago. Very cool and very awesome. My wife and I are slowly starting the process of settling into life together. Moving into an apartment, getting her signed up with my last name, figuring out who gets to shower when – you know, important administrative stuff. Indeed, the road ahead is a new thing for both of us but we are excited about what’s in store.

What’s also exciting is what “post-wedding” life is like. After all the planning, the honeymooning, and the moving in together, there’s no specific blueprint for figuring out your spouse. You just have to live life together. And that can be as daunting or invigorating as you choose it to be. Yesterday I met a woman who was going on her 50th wedding anniversary. Yes, 50. I’ve only been alive for 30 years – not being married – and this woman has lived almost twice as long with another person. When I told her I’d been married not longer than 2 weeks, she immediately jumped in with advice: “It’s hard but it’s worth it.”

Simple and to the point – I like it. I thanked her for the wisdom and went on to write this post.

Which brings me to the next topic – where does that leave the individual? I’ve got a partner for life but there’s also some new things happening for me too. All kinds of changes; changes that have affected this desktop of mine, for example. I recently became the recipient of a brand new computer; a gift from my amazing wife and I’ve begun the process of transferring data from one computer to the other. It’s more painstaking than I would have imagined and reminds me how much we tend to store our lives away on personal computers. Possessing storage applications like Google Drive and Dropbox are great, but when you find you have tons of personal photos, old word documents, and other buried treasures like past resumes and cover letters lying around, it really makes you wonder how much of your life is still sacred; not hiding away on some ancient hard drive.

Cleaning house....

Cleaning house….

The good news is: new computers mean new stuff. So that’s really what I’m up to this week: cleaning house. A somewhat humorous thing if you Google the terminology online. Don’t worry, they’re G-rated.

But more importantly, “cleaning house” now means more than just my own stuff – it means somebody else’s too. Once again, exciting, to say the least.

Did I mention I was excited?

The Joy

Last month I decided to look at pressure and how that affects a person – specifically in the realm of writing. With plenty of writing ventures up in the air, I’m feeling both the angst and the excitement of many good plans coming to fruition – or not coming to fruition. ‘Such is life,’ some may say. But, that’s only looking at the problem rather than where you’ll eventually get to. And where you should see yourself getting to is a place of joy.

This month, I’m more about the joy – or rather, I want to be more about the joyPressure tends to steal joy away; eventually leading us to “comfortable dissatisfaction”: a locale where the majority of middle-class Americans are liable to find themselves. It’s a draining existence if you don’t make a conscious effort to pull yourself out of that dark void and it’s a place where a close friend of mine saw me headed – so he took action. But, instead of doing the “normal American thing” and taking me out for a happy hour, he gave me a book to read and promised to follow up with me to make sure I was reading it. Well, I started reading it and he followed up as promised. The book was called, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life and it’s written by Tommy Newberry, president of the 1% Club and a recognized leader in business/family mentoring. Here’s a pic of the front cover:

40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, by Tommy Newberry

40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, by Tommy Newberry

The book’s cover is unassuming – it appears to be have been written by Wal-Mart’s founder – but don’t be deceived: there’s a ton of good material worthy of application. And I wanted to highlight a few I’ve taken and applied thus far.

The first being this: how we prepare our minds is a reflection of how we will respond later.  For example, when something happens and it’s unexpected, do you focus on the good? Or do you focus on the bad? This is not the same as being happy-go-lucky or being naive all the time. The difference is preparation. A guy cuts me off in traffic and suddenly, I’m angry all morning. All because of one guy’s errant traffic violation. My response exposes me as being ill-prepared. Not for the bad driver, but for circumstances I can’t control.

To piggy-back off that idea, Newberry argues how we are not our emotions. Our feelings fluctuate constantly throughout the day and they can dictate our experiences if we allow them. Therefore, recognize an emotion as being a fleeting arrangement and you can distance yourself from the emotion before it consumes you. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, it would be easy if it weren’t worth the effort. A good thing to train yourself for those “heat of the moment” situations.

Lastly, the conscious mind can only populate one thought at a time so why troubleshoot more than one? I find this to be the most applicable for the modern worker. Emails, social media, texting – all can be severe distractions from what really needs attention. Too many detractors means too little time to deal with matters elsewhere.

I would encourage any person to pick up Mr. Newberry’s book and give it a read. More than just a great exercise, it’s good for the mind and the soul – literally. Just don’t plan on me calling you to keep you on task like my friend did. Find a close friend of your own. Unless, of course, I’m your friend already. Then, I’ll consider it. With a smile.

How Much Pressure Do You Face?

Pressure can be a cruel thing.

As a noun, pressure functions in two ways: first, as “a persistent physical force exerted upon or against another object that it is contact with” or secondly, as “the use of persuasion, influence, or intimidation to make someone do something.”

As a verb, pressure functions like this: “any attempt to persuade or coerce (someone) into doing something.”

Basically, whether it’s being used as a person, place, thing, or action – pressure is defined in one way: to throw off the balance of whatever it is in contact with. And it does so from the outside, but the level at which it is pressing is defined by what’s on the inside. Not the other way around. In other words, whatever pressure you find yourself under, it’s often blown into the proportion that you – yourself – have made it to be. Your expectations are causing you duress – not the thing you must accomplish or succeed against. And that’s a key understanding to have when you’re talking about or dealing with pressure. That whatever you feel is pushing against you – whatever you feel is dominating your existence – well, it starts with your flag in the ground. A strong stake in the dirt can weather those onslaughts and keeps a person from thinking he needs to avoid every bit of pressure that comes his way. So beating pressure is not about avoidance, but about influence – influence over our own mind.

And hey, that’s good news because you can at least control your own thoughts day-to-day.

You don’t have much control over life anyway, right? Life is not a movie called ‘You’ and life will go on regardless if you have a good day or not. So having a desire for perfection – specifically in one’s own self – is a fool’s game. You may be able to perfect certain areas of life like, a great golf swing or making a solid chili recipe. But to place the same expectation on one’s own self – in its entirety – is never a good plan. Wholeness of one’s own being should be the goal; not perfection. A wholeness of self will handle pressure like a feather landing on your shoulder; not the brick you may be accustomed to.

Life will always pushing back in some way so it’s best to have a firm stance where you’re at. What does that look like practically? It begins in the mind. As a writer, I struggle with a need for perfection in my writing. If I’m not careful, I can spend a good hour mulling over a single paragraph. And when I’m done mulling, I find I am still not satisfied. Why? Well, imagine the mental spiral that follows: Why’d you do that; That took too long; you should have went with your gut; look at all the time you’ve wasted; you’ll never get this done… and so on. Yes – not good.

But it’s not the need for perfection in the sentence that does me in – no, it’s typically the pressure I place on myself – caused by that mental implosion. That absolute need for me to be perfect comes out because I’ve led myself to believe that if I can be perfect, then I can produce a perfect work. A root problem most people experience as they try to complete the tasks set before them, but few recognize the issue as being from internal duress.

“I have so much against me everyday….”

“I am under so much pressure….”

“If only things were easier at my job….”

I’m not downplaying any one person’s situation. This is strictly fundamental and getting back to basics – how you perceive yourself in any situation is likely how you’ll respond, react, and take action. And if you’re having a hard time about it, how do you combat it? In my case, I’ve started learning how to halt this pressure – this unneeded, unwarranted, and unsolicited pressure – and consider how I am bringing myself into my work. Basically, training myself mentally. My work doesn’t require me to be perfect – it merely requires that I follow through with clarity; clarity that I have done all I can and if I haven’t, I’ll learn what I need for next time. Today’s culture struggles with this lack of commitment to go full force and with that – a HUGE fear of failure. Every duck need be aligned; every piece set; and every avenue walked before taking that said step – or even the littlest of said steps. Our lives are on a social platform now and the world is watching us, we feel. So unless we have a sense of wholeness and mental discipline about ourselves – that one failure does not define us – we are sunk before we even cast off from shore.

And “too much pressure” will always be an easy out whenever we cop out. A sense of wholeness should be our goal; not the need for absolute perfection – the latter of which will leave us staggered under the pressure we feel and robbed of any joy in the work we produced. A cruel concept when you think about it.

The Worst of Enemies

I wanted to share an epiphany I had this week. One that has to do with the battles we face. Trouble is (ironically), I’ve been fighting my own battle as to find the proper medium to share it. Mostly, because I wanted it to be short and sweet. A quick dose of pick-me-up and then gone. But Twitter only allows 160 characters and Facebook is chock full of random quizzes, shared videos, and daily updates about bad drivers so I didn’t want it to get lost in cyberspace. So back to the blog we go.

My moment of clarity came whilst I was standing on familiar terrain: warring over a crucial decision. And doing so with myself. There’s such a tendency to point fingers in life – to make it appear that we, ourselves, are without fault and the world is against us. In many ways, the world can be cruel, but the more I travel through this thing called ‘life’, I find the greatest enemy isn’t necessarily the Devil or any one person or circumstance: it’s me. If you’re a Type-A, insanely-driven perfectionist, you can relate. If you’re a Type-B, oftentimes procrastinator, you can also relate. And if you’re someone who isn’t sure of either, you too can relate. Basically, I feel like any one person can relate to being one’s own worst enemy.

This conclusion doesn’t sound practical. I feel we’d prefer not to believe we have an evil doppleganger somewhere inside of us. After all, that sounds crazy. However, I’d argue that we do. I’ve experienced it and I’m willing to bet that so many others have too. And he’s bigger and more in control than you think. The reason? He’s all about survival; reaction to situation. Not about living life, not about conquering new heights, and certainly not about victory.

There are several major projects I’m working towards – a novel, a short story compilation, a new website – so at times, I find myself becoming easily overwhelmed. And something inside me says, “Hey, it’s too much. Take a break.” And I do. And then a day, maybe two days later, I resent myself for taking that breather. So I gear up. I get going. And a week later, I’m further along. Then the voice returns and I’m back to being comfortable. Then, almost immediately after, I am defeated again. Ugh.

I’ve tried overcoming this internal enemy many times in my life, but only now – some 30 years later – am I getting a better handle on how to press through his advances. The secrets aren’t necessarily buried in well-written self-help books; no, I’ve found silent time to be the most life-giving. Quieting the mind is of utmost importance. It keeps distractions from becoming the focus and it keeps you from focusing on those distractions. I cringe when I hear people say they’re “so busy” all the time. Are you really? Or are you just really, really distracted? There is a difference. Consider if this applies to your life and take action against that.

As a writer, it’s so incredibly easy to get distracted. A new idea comes along and *ping*, it’s off to the races. But if the idea fizzles out and nothing gets done, then that feels like a failure. Then that voice comes back again. “You’ll never finish”; “Your ideas aren’t that good, try something else” – this is what can go through your head as a writer. More so than I’ve given credit to in the past, but I’m learning how to quiet that noise. How it’s me I’m fighting; not my next publication. A freeing and liberating feeling; one I’m slowly becoming more familiar with.