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social_connection-300x300I am outgoing, the first one into the party and the last one to leave. At least I used to be, back when I went to parties. I make acquaintances early and often, even now. Maybe it’s my self-deprecating grin, or my willingness to go with the flow, or even just my ability to talk to total strangers as if I’ve known them my whole life. If I’m in a room there’s no doubt you’ll know it sooner rather than later.

But I’m not up for networking. I do it, just by nature of being outgoing. That is, I often make connections with other people who could help me or who I could help career wise, and I have an extensive Rolodex of names and numbers. But generally that’s a side effect, not what I’ve ever truly spent time and energy on. Which also means that I don’t actively cultivate these relationships, and generally my acquaintances stay just that — acquaintances.

My wife, on the other hand, is a natural networker. I think she would do well as a political fundraiser because she’s passionate about what she believes in, and she makes connections as easily as I’ve ever seen anyone else do it. While she isn’t outgoing — she’ll never be the loud, gregarious one in the room — she makes the most of her time around others who fit in her wheelhouse of connections she can utilize later.

I admire that about her, and sometimes I think it would be worthwhile to be more like that instead of just outgoing. Like tonight, for example. We were at a Down syndrome celebration dinner (World Down Syndrome Day is 3/21) and she was working the room like a… political fundraiser, but she wasn’t doing it for money. She was connecting with her network, and creating more contacts along the way. It is mesmerizing to see.

There’s just something to be said about making connections. We do it differently, but in our own ways we do it just as well.

Sam

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“For the love of money is the root of all evil.” ~1 Timothy 6:10

e12614b36f3cf0e2bc82d636af260050Love is a broad term. Some use it quite liberally, to encompass everything from tacos to their grandmother, while others quite specifically only say love when they mean the romantic kind. I guess when I see the word love I immediately think of family, but I can truly say that there are other things I love. Money just isn’t one of them.

Let me back up. I appreciate money. I covet it. I want more of it. But not because of the money itself — instead, it’s the power that money represents. I love power, and there’s a thin line between money and the power that can come along with it.

I’ve spent the majority of my life without so much as two nickels to rub together at any one point in time, living paycheck to paycheck and hoping a job is just around the corner when the previous one comes to an end. On the rare occasion that I’ve had more than a small amount of money at one time it hasn’t been about stockpiling it. It’s always been about supporting my family.

That’s what I think is the real difference between money, and the love of money. I would never roll around in a bed full of hundred dollar bills for fear that I would inadvertently lose on in the frolicking. That hundred dollar bill could be a year’s worth of milk for my family. Yes, that’s the difference. I don’t love money. If I could get those necessities and support my family without it, I would be just as happy.

il_570xn-485309020_tecvMoney is as money does, to loosely quote Forrest Gump. It’s a means to an end. That’s one reason I would worry if I hit the mega jackpot or received an 8 figure bequeathing from a long lost relative. Because I could with that kind of money easily take care of my family and still have a king’s ransom left over. With that kind of money I could fall in love, quite easily. I have an addictive personality, so I know I would develop an unhealthy attachment to having and maintaining it.

So I guess I agree that the love of money can be the root of some evil, but all evil? Too many horrible things happen in this world that have absolutely nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the depravity of human nature. Too much goes on that speaks to deeper levels of evil that money cannot touch. While I get the overall issues that can be associated with having “too much” money, the “mo money mo problems” scenarios that have cropped up all too often, I can’t make that blanket statement.

It’s not money, but how we deal with it, the true value we place on it, that really matters. Evil is as complicated as love, with many entrances and many hidden hallways to it. The love of money can be one of those conduits, but it is certainly not the root.

Sam

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cute_sitting_fox_journalDear Journal,

When I was 10 I got my first journal, and I named it Fox because it had a painting of a fox on the cover. It was rather generic, but I was excited about it anyway. It was my excuse to go into my room and put my thoughts down on lined paper instead of scraps left over from shopping lists and whatnot.

Of course, as happy as I was having a journal at long last, I didn’t know how to begin writing in it. I had no precedent, and I knew no one else who admitted to keeping a journal, only girls with diaries. So I just took out a pen and started writing on page one. It went something like this:

Dear Fox, I am writing in you because I got you as a gift, and I don’t want you to be bored. I don’t know what I will tell you, but I promise I’ll keep you safe. Well, I can’t promise that because there is no lock on you, but I’ll keep you under my bed and no one ever goes under there. I’ll write in you more tomorrow.

I didn’t write in Fox that next day, or the one after it. I got busy with life, and it was three months before I wrote in him again (it took me forever to determine whether he was a girl or a boy). By that time I had pretty much forgotten why I needed a journal in the first place, but I came back to him anyway, and I’m glad I did. Because I finally had some secrets to put down on paper. And put those secrets down I did.

For the next several months I wrote in Fox more days than I didn’t, which was the beginning of getting my thoughts out, thoughts that I would never dare share with another living soul. When I look back at it now, though, it’s funny how irrelevant those secrets and thoughts really were back then.

Dear Fox, thanks for listening.

Sam

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“There’s nothing where we used to lie. Conversation has run dry. That’s what’s going on. Nothing’s right. I’m torn.” ~Natalie Imbruglia

happynewyear_1920x1200

It was my last year in Philadelphia, but I didn’t know it when the year started. Funny how that happens, how the monumental moments in our lives, the seismic shifts, often happen with no warning. I woke up on that New Year’s Day without a hangover, but the day was mostly over, testament to the insane amount of drinking I had been doing the night before and until the early morning hours — in celebration mode. That of course resulted in eventually passing out.

But it was okay. I was a newly minted 21 year old. I thought I was invincible.

Soon, though, even my invincible armor would be tested, as my engagement fell apart, my school lies began to unravel, and my relationship with my mother hit a huge wall. It was all my fault, but as a 21 year old I was angry with everyone else. I couldn’t blame myself because we just didn’t do that. It wasn’t the age of self-reflection; it was instead the era of pointing fingers and asking questions later. So that bluster took me from a young man who had hopes and dreams to a scared rabbit who was reacting instead of acting.

And I didn’t let anyone in, past the facade that masqueraded as my fearlessness, as the bravado that would ultimately lead to so many ridiculous and harmful decisions in my life. For me, 1998 was the turning point because so much could have gone differently in my journey if I had simply accessed and addressed my emotional state early on. It was like I dreamwalked through the year and woke up on the other side dazed and confused, and so much worse for wear.

“I don’t wanna close my eyes. I don’t wanna fall asleep, ’cause I’d miss you baby, and I don’t wanna miss a thing.” ~Aerosmith

By year’s end I was an outcast, shuffling off to Tennessee with a few boxes of my possessions, under cover of night because it was more appropriate that way. I was a married man then, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like a prison break, yet I was still natalie-imbruglia-tornsomehow in prison, as if I had escaped a maze to be told it was part of a larger maze that I was only just beginning. Leaving the city of my birth was devastating, and yet it was my own decision making that precipitated it; I could blame no one but myself.

I still blame no one but myself. But if I had never left I wouldn’t be where I am now. I make myself remember that part because as 1998 ticked down, as I turned 22 in an entirely different place (both physically and emotionally), I was worn down. It was so drastic and so sudden that I guess you could say I was in a state of shock, all my problems and issues center stage that I would have to deal with sooner or later, but probably sooner. As much as I could see all of that even then, it was a whole different story  trying to rectify the situation, to reconcile myself to the loss, to grieve and to move on.

Maybe that’s what it was all about, that year, after all. Perhaps it was more than just a turning point. It might very well have been the beginning of my whole life, the old me turned to ash and bone, eventually fading over the passage of time. I do know that the promise I felt the year owed me was quickly snuffed out, and I have never been good at adjusting to change, so it festered and left me empty instead. So I went to Tennessee, and rung in the new year with absolutely no fanfare, fast asleep with no future in mind.

Only thinking about the past, and what went so astronomically wrong. In 1998.

Sam

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“Our names are an integral part of the faces we show to the world. If we’re judged first on outward appearances, we’re assessed next on our names.” ~Sharon Bolton

ezra_nehemiah3The most popular boys’ name in the United States last year was Ezra, the biblical name of a forgettable Old Testament prophet. The name brings to mind an old guy with a cane who doesn’t wear his hearing aid too often so he talks too loudly in mixed company. But somehow enough parents decided their little bundles of joy had to wear this moniker for life. What lucky children.

When I was a kid the popular name was Matthew, which is incidentally the title of the first book of the New Testament. It seemed like every other kid I went to elementary school with was a Matt, or a Matty, or the stodgy Matthew. They all had the same look too, as if there was a mold, an assembly line that kept churning them out in groups of 12 per box. And now they’re getting older just like me…

And naming their sons Ezra.

I don’t have any sons, but even if I had one I wouldn’t name him Ezra. There are just so many names that are better than Ezra, like Jeremy, or Trent, or even Luke (if you want to stay biblical). There’s just something about Ezra that doesn’t quite sit right with me, like it’s a placeholder for a better name along the way somewhere. If I had a son I would name him Liam, another popular name, but a bit farther down the popularity list.

Girls have a better champion, in my opinion. The number one girls’ name in the U.S. for tattoo-design-name-ezra-062016 was Olivia, a classic name that has absolutely no biblical parallel (which gives it bonus points for me). An Olivia is a girl with curls, with a ready smile that says she’s up to no good but you’ll never catch her at it. She’s neither stuffy nor pretentious, just a regular girl next door. You know, like a Jenny, or a Trina, or even a Lianne.

But Ezra… it is a throwback to a different time, another era that has come and gone. Perhaps everything really is cyclical and we just come around to the same things over and over again if we wait long enough. Maybe we never learn our lesson, that maybe there should be something new under the “son.” Or it could all just hearken back to the idea that our boys should have biblical names, that by naming them something religious in origin maybe we will destine them for some kind of greatness.

But Ezra… I just don’t see it.

Sam

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balloonsWhen I can’t quite describe something I tend to say it’s like trying to define the word the. Everyone uses it, and everyone knows what it means when they use it, but a sterile definition of what makes a specific article important is as useful as a screen door on a submarine. It’s in the usage that it derives its real meaning.

That happens often too, these requests for definitions. We have to define everything these days. Define our relationships. Define our likes and dislikes. Define everything that has to do with everything, and also everything that has to do with nothing. It’s the way of the world, I guess, with no one taking anything at face value anymore. Perhaps face value doesn’t exist because it’s been overwritten so many times in so many ways.

It’s what I call fatigue syndrome. It’s like experiencing gravity. We have seen its effects a million times, but if we’ve never experienced anything but gravity it loses the awesome power that it should always contain. Because gravity is an awesome thing, a dynamic construct that is enormous, but we’re so used to it that we don’t recognize it for what it truly is.

So we  can define it. We can talk about the enormous pull. We can do everything to understand the phenomena, but we are just scientists in a lab, not out in the wild getting our hands dirty in zero-gravity. We are simply human beings who are doing our best to give others what they want, what they request from us, but we have never defied gravity. We have never taken control of our situations and transcended them. We don’t get it.

We throw around these words like they’re salt on icy roads, but we never truly analyze them, words like love and hate and depression and want and need. Sure, we often tell people that we love them, but have we ever really broken down our feelings and emotions to uncover what that truly means? We say we hate things, but have we really thought about it in concrete terms, not just abstract concepts?

Because everything has a concrete counterpart. The word the can be clearly defined by its usage, after all. So when we say we want or need another person, or a physical thing, what do we really mean? Do we need it like gravity? Have we just said the words so long that they’ve lost all meaning? I can’t help but think it’s this reality that haunts us every day without us even knowing it. It bleeds into everything that we do and say.

So we should imagine what it would be like to defy gravity, to step out into space and not come back down to earth, to soar like we never have before, because only by doing this can we truly understand how precious what we have is, how special and unique. When we love we can love with our whole hearts instead of just because we are expected to love. When we hate we can do it for solid reasons, not just because everyone else might hate.

Only when the abstract becomes concrete can we truly define and accept it for what it can’t help being.

Sam

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Unnamed

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~Plato

the-power-of-names

I fear the unknown. That’s my biggest fear. Because anything else I can see coming, even if I can’t necessarily adjust for everything else. But the thing that sneaks up on me, the thing that surprises me, that is the thing that shakes me to the marrow, just thinking about it. I spend so much time trying to anticipate everything that I literally drive myself insane. In that way the anticipation of what cannot be anticipated can sink me before the unknown even shows up. It’s a cyclical fear.

All of the harsh moments in my life have been previous unknowns. There was no build up, no lead in, no time to even catch my breath before they descended swift, sudden, and most times final. I never had enough time to put a name to these unknowns, to pin them to the canvas and start the countdown.

It’s funny about names. The ancient Egyptians believed that for someone to know your real name, your true name, it gave them control over you. Perhaps somewhere far back in my history I come from that same type of heritage because I’ve always felt the exact same way.

When we meet other people usually they see what we look like but we have to introduce ourselves. It’s in that moment before they know our name that we have the greatest singular power in the world, that we are simultaneously everyone and no one at the same time. It is probably one of the biggest unknowns ever, and in that moment before I give my name to another it also sparks that fear. When they know my name, it is like they have a piece of my essence.

But not everything has a name. Not everything can be categorized, can be neatly tucked away in a box, filed away for the future. Too many things are nameless and shapeless, endless reminders that we don’t really have power in this life. These unknowns haunt us like living, breathing specters waiting to expose us to the air where we will shrivel and die, shrieking for an impossible salvation that will not come.

So I fear the unknown. I fear the sudden nature of this life that can take away just as swiftly as it hands out. I fear the power that names have when they come to light, when they are no longer hidden behind artifice. I fear the reality of a life that cannot be scripted, no matter how often I try to put it together piece by piece like a giant puzzle. All of these fears come home to roost. They keep me up at night, waiting, nervous and fractured. They remind me that I am essentially powerless, and that I always will be.

And that’s okay. Life isn’t meant to be scripted. Not every second of every day needs to be planned out, and contingencies set. The best parts of life are lived in the margins, in the unknowns and help shape us for the better, even if we don’t like them at the time. Life is an unnamed masterpiece sitting on a far wall. We just need to move a little closer to make it out.

Sam

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