New Years Worthwhile Resolutions

We are rolling along up to that date again. The date almost everyone pretends is not looming before us, now a few days away. The day the rubber meets the road. The day we can no longer limp along with crummy habits we want to get rid of.

Here is how it works for most of us. We waver back and forth on what we think we can do without, verses what we know we should change. We do not want to give up the things we know we should because they are satisfying. The things we can give up easily are things we embarrass ourselves telling others we are thinking of giving up for the new year.

When starting ‘Something’ involves some amount of physical effort, pain, or other discomfort. It too usually fails after a short run in the sun.

The sad fact is most of our New Years resolutions are forgotten either by convenience or neglect a few months down the road. We end up with another plate of guilt from yet another failure.

I believe the reason we go through this cycle of putting off resolutions, making resolutions, and letting our resolve slide into the late winter sunset is because they do not mean anything. Give up sweets, so what? Go to the gym to get in shape, so what?

After a few months negative reinforcement rears its ugly head, and we respond with positive re-enforcement which is going back to those things we pretended we were done with.

How about this year doing something different? Something that makes you happy and adds enrichment to your life? Do this: Make resolutions that are not self centered and self directed. Make resolutions that make a real difference, not some vague abstract accomplishment, but something concrete.

Make a resolution to do something over the next year for someone else. Who that person(s) is (or are) is completely up to you. What you can do to make a real difference in their life is also up to you. As long as you make a resolution and stick to it, it does not matter.

Here are some simple ideas that are also free. Over the next year, I am going to:

1. Open and hold doors for people just because I can.

2. Thank people meaning it, when they use good manners, or show an act of kindness for others.

3. Spend 10 minutes a week picking up litter on the street around my home.

4. Make or bake something for a neighbor, the one you like the least.

5. Everyday, look for something that needs doing that you can do for someone else.

6. Find something special or unique that someone is wearing and compliment them on it. Jewelry, perfume, hair style, and good taste in clothing,  are things people enjoy being complimented on.

Moving on, if you have extra cash there are good ways to use it too.

1. Pick up the check for someone in a cafe or coffee shop who looks like times are tough for them. Talk to your waitress/waiter quietly and tell them you want to buy the meal for the him/her dressed in ____ . They do not have to know it was you.

2. Go through your home and collect worthwhile items you are not using and donate them to a thrift shop, or put them out on the curb.

3. Buy some flowers, and give them to a stranger who looks like they could use something nice in their day/life.

4. Send some money off in an envelope to someone you have never met at an address where you would not want to live. Include a note suggesting they can:  Give or resend your money to another, add to your money and resend it, or use your money for their own use if they really need to.

5. Go buy some food you would like to eat and bring it to a homeless shelter. A few packages of cookies if there are children, toiletries you use yourself. New socks, underwear, etc. are all very appreciated.

6. Plant some flowers or a rose bush this spring in an empty space in your neighborhood where people walk, and take care of the flowers/bush over the summer.

I know, if you change your ho-hum New Year resolution(s) to resolutions along the lines I have suggested, your world will become a more vibrant, fun,  and thankful place. You will start living in awareness and gratefulness, and you will be happier and more fulfilled than ever before.

Your life can be richer and have more meaning. You can make a New Years Resolution you will be proud of and easily keep. Or you can give up cookies and start exercising more. Which type of resolution sounds better? You might even make new friends, or land a better job along the way!

My Christmas Wish For you

I am sitting here at work today. Yes, I too am one of the ‘lucky’ ones who gets to work both Christmas and New Years…thinking about the feeling of emptiness and how it applies to us.

Try as I might, I am not a good fit in many other peoples lives. I am the reason this is so. I can not blame it on anything else. I find freedom in emptiness, as selfish as that sounds, and I know it sounds selfish. That is selfish sounding once you go, “huh?”, and think about what I am trying to say.

It’s not that I have built up a wall around myself. I do not live as a hermit, I know hundreds of people on a first name basis, and most of them I consider friends.

Emptiness is not something I spent my life planning out, and am now basking in the fruit of my emptiness labors. Rather, emptiness has always been a part of my life. Until these last years however, emptiness was my enemy, and not my solice.

It took some time, a lot of time actually, to learn that what I want my life to be and what my life really is, are not on the same tangent, not even close. That is where emptiness comes in.

Emptiness is the void we all have inside of us; no matter how we pretend we are full, and life is really good, and every day we jump out of bed, get dressed, and have a full day of new and exciting experiences.

Some people, and I was one, kind of learn to cope with it. We think emptiness is a normal part of my life, and I can set it aside and it will be ok. The thing is, we can only avoid emptiness for so long. When something is missing, sooner or later, we are have to acknowledge the missing.

For myself, I was trying to live my life in one way and one direction, when my life was meant to be lived another way in another direction. Once I gave up on having it, “My Way”, things got really interesting.

Life became truly exciting! The void in me was filled. I did not have to ignore it or rationalize it away. There was no void that needed filling. It was like I woke up for the very first time living my life, and not the life that was programmed into me.

Everyday since then, life has been wonderful, well almost. There are a few days now and then when I think I have lost touch with the world. Now that is quite an irony. Feeling like am losing touch with something I never really had a firm grip on to start with until after the emptiness void was filled.

I wrote about the experience in my other blog over at venagozar.com. If you are interested, search for, “Dark Night of the Soul”. I believe that will lead you to other posts of the same vent.

Today and for some years, emptiness has been a blessing and a salvation, though it was hell on earth getting to that moment, where emptiness was not only okay, it was wonderful. It was not an easy feat, and many lose their sanity in the process.

I do recommend taking the trip to everyone however. Only most of us are so cocooned in our own version of what our life should be we do not allow ourselves the possibility, that maybe we have it all wrong.

In the mean time however, my life is full. I embrace emptiness as I embrace my own mortality for together they are the fruits of a good life, and not a single day ever feels wasted. Each day I relish the gifts that today has for me. Some days the gifts are slight. Most days the gifts are wonderful yet subtle.

Some days the gift of life overwhelms me, and I wonder if I can hold it all in. The feeling is like listening to the most moving music you have ever heard, while watching the greatest movie you ever watched, and being in love for the very first time, while holding the feeling of being deeply in love, all at the same time, with fourth of July fireworks thrown in.

It was hell taking that first step. It was a worse hell not taking that first step. I chose to believe that wherever I was going once I took that first step would not be any worse than where I was at that moment, the first step was an easy one. The following steps were where the real trials started.

I had my belief system turned inside out. Many things I knew were true were nothing more than fantasies of my self mirrored back at me. I found I was not alone, nor had I ever been alone.

I found along the way it was me who pretended he was alone, and not that the world had cut me off from its presence. I found a hundreds of other ideas and beliefs that I thought were set in stone, were really only illusions of my own creation. Some pills are harder to swallow than others.

I had to screw up my courage, take risks, and accept what was instead of what I thought I wanted, and the rest was a walk in the park, though I really would prefer not to do it all again.

So what is the real purpose of this post I bet you are wondering, hoping its not me proclaiming that I achieved the pinnacle which so many suffer and strive for? That is what I would be thinking as I read up to this moment.

It is my Christmas Wish for you, that if you have not yet moved past your own life illusions which are making you miserable, are enduring rather than enjoying your life, that you too find it in you to start on your own journey.

It’s not an easy matter to let go and take that first step. Nor should it be done lightly on a whim. Done properly when you reach the other side, and give yourself some time to adjust, you will agree it was well worth the fear, pain, and angst of letting go and taking that first step. Merry Christmas my friend.

Christmas Eve Nights and Fights

 

The only memories that really come to mind about Christmas Eve are the fights. They would talk about if they were going to go or not going for a couple of weeks. When Christmas Eve finally arrived, a decision would not be made until sometime in the afternoon. They decided we would go after all, which was the usual.

We would get ready, dressing in our best clothes. I would be exited to see my cousins. I had not seen them all since Thanksgiving which in a child’s mind is just short of forever. We would snack on goodies, open presents, and play. We cousins all knew how the night would end. I think it made us play extra hard, We did not want to lose even a minute because who knew when we would see each other again once the night was over.

The Grown-Ups were always coldly polite to each other. No one wanted to be responsible for starting the first argument.  Generally the talk would be about work, the weather, when they were kids at this time of year, or one of the Old Ones we kids never met, but stories were always told with fond memories we kids did not share ’cause they were gone before we were around. We only carried their names, not their memories.

Then it would happen. Someone’s lips would get a shade too loose, and the first disguised barb was uttered. Of course everyone would pretend to overlook it, but they all made a note on the scoreboard they carried in their heads. Conversation and posture would get a little more tense. We kids would play harder, we knew time was getting short.

Talk would turn to something more pointed. The President, the war which was still around because everyone was effected by it, who was the favorite when they were little, one of the in-law’s or their family, usually a parent or their nationality. Voices would get raised, barbs turned into daggers, and it got louder.

We children were in our own world, it was not worth listening to the grown-ups, because we heard it all at least three times a year. For sure our time was short. We became wilder ourselves, never sure if it was the energy the grown-ups were throwing off, or our over excitement, fed by being over sugared and tired. At any rate, the noise level continued to rise, and their sentences became more accusations and defenses than anything else.

Then it would happen. “Get your coat, we are leaving!”, I would hear. We cousins knew what that meant. One of the Grown-Ups said one thing too many. There would be a slew of digs thrown about, everyone angry with the other, trying to talk loader and say something meaner. All of them wondering through their own brain haze, why they bothered – again. Most of them wanting to get, ‘The hell out of Dodge’, too, but not wanting to make it too obvious they wanted to get away too.

I would hear it rehashed all the way home, as I am sure my cousins heard their families version too. This, that, and every other thing that gets brought up every get together except maybe one or two new slams or slaps were brought up this year. It was always someone else’s fault, they were trying to be polite, and keep their tempers in check. “Hell with it, this is the last time”, I would hear.

Christmas day would start early for me, usually after only a few hours of sleep. Due to the hangovers, their day started some hours and a ritual later. Church followed by cups of coffee and aspirin for good measure. The angry discussion would start, over coffee this time. “I don’t want to go”. “I am mad she said that, who does she think she is. Ma always liked her more and she knows it.” So on and so forth through the early afternoon.

I was sure this time they meant it. There would be no family dinner, no cousins to play with, just the drone of the same old family matters never settled, nor would they ever be as they were pulled from the past, and tainted by faulty memory and perception.. “I suppose we better hurry, we’re supposed to eat at four”, or whatever the chosen time was. Yeah! We were going! There is a God, there is a Santa Clause!

They would all sit at the adult table, looking a mix of sheepish for what they remember saying to each other, and a little ill from to much of what made them say what they said to each other – again – last night. It was brushed aside while we ate dinner. The kids at the kids table, trying not to eat too fast, or look too excited being together again. We had to reflect family opinion and values. After all, we were the foot soldiers of the battles long fought. The adults at the adult table making small talk as if they were strangers and not family.

After dinner, we would gather around the Christmas tree and open out present(s). A couple for each kid form the other families, and something for each adult. Some of the gifts were funny things no one would really use. We all knew to act excited and be happy their was at least one gift for each of us.

The kids would look at and play with their gift(s) for a few minutes, the adults would sneak off to the laundry room where the liquor was kept. The Mom’s would watch the toys with eagle eyes, ensuring they were played with right. Everyone would relax as the headaches and queasiness went away. They conversation became almost jovial, telling happy stories about each other. The Women would gather up the toys as we kids started playing with each other.

These are memories of Christmas time, probably modified by time. Forgetting some things, and adding others that may or may not be true, but are from a child’s memories of times long ago. One thing about those memories is real. They are better memories than many of us have, and better than some in the world will have. There was family, love, presents and plenty of hot food. There were cousins to play with, and Aunts, Uncles and Grand Parents to fawn over us kids and make us each feel special. What more would anyone want?

 

Guns, Mass Murder, and Suicide; Acceptable Fear

The question is not who kills people, the question is who kills people with what? If guns are banned, another method will be used to kill innocent strangers such as were used in the mass murder via Sarin Gas in the Japan Subway System a few years back, and Jim Jones using cyanide in Kool Aid a few years before that.

Guns are only one device used for killing people and not really that effective in accomplishing mass murder. What guns have going for them is availability and simplicity.

The bigger question we should ask ourselves about these repetitive mass murders is what is the price we are willing to pay for our right of freedom? What price is acceptable, allowing deranged people to kill other people, and the killing is tolerated because eliminating guns would further erode our already greatly reduced personal freedoms?

One the extreme side of protectionism there are people who value personal safety above all else. They would be perfectly happy allowing camera and microphone monitoring into their homes 24 x 7 if it would guarantee their safety. They eat right, exercise on a regular basis, and never do anything that would be considered a risky behavior by an average adult.

On the other side, we have Gang Bangers, Red Letter Motorcycle Clubs, Drug Dealers, Prostitutes,  and Extreme Sports risk takers. Their values are quite different than the first group, and personal safety is not their highest priority. Most of the people in this group with the exception of extreme sports people, will use violent behavior to protect their way of life. Lifestyle of freedom reigns supreme and will be protected over an individual or group.

Which group would we identify with, when our personal safety is at risk? Do we want to be safe. Do we want to live without fear. What price are we willing to pay? Is our personal safety worth everything or is complete freedom worth more?

Is taking away freedom to provide more safety the right thing to do? Is it correct to legislate which weapons are acceptable in America and which weapons are not? To a large extent this is already been decided. The average American does not legally own any weapon outside what would be considered a hunting or sporting weapon. I do not own legally or otherwise any weaponry typically associated with the military in a war type environment.

Everyday we pay other people to take total control their daily life. Individuals and businesses take over our individual safety needs. Our insurance agents, Bus and Taxi Cab Drivers, the local Police and Fire Department, our Doctor. They all take charge of our personal health and welfare. Our children are taken care of by their Teachers, and School Bus Drivers. Maybe a Family Member, Sitter, or Day Care Center takes responsibility for our children’s safety after school and before us.

Up until a century ago, it a given that an individual living on one end of America could not pack up a few belongings, and travel across country without facing a large amount of personal risk. This is still true today if one chose to hitch their way meandering across the country. It is not a normal part of a safe life style to wander about in any inner city. Travel into some other countries, and one is likely to disappear without a trace.

There is no answer to the mass killings we see today except to compare them to almost any time and anywhere before the 1900’s. A time when one undertook great personal risk to travel too far away from home. Far being as little as a few miles in some circumstances. In those days public protection afforded strangers today did not exist as we know it today.

More regulation or more gun control will not make us safer. Nor will restricting certain types of weapons, and sizes of ammunition clips. Safety can only be legislated so far. After that it is up to us individually. At present, the only thing that will halt mass murder in America is time.

Eventually we will be sickened by people being murdered to change our cultural mores, ethics, and thinking. We should not feel the need to have one or more assault rifles next to our bedside, and pistols under our pillows. We will not need the false comfort of having multiple weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition about us. We will as a people grow tired of living in fear, and start living in life instead.

America is entrenched in groundless fear of fear itself. We are drenched in fear daily by the media, and indirectly by our own government. We fear our neighbors. We fear teen age boys who dress and act differently than we think they should. We fear strangers. We fear anyone who is not us. We fear murky, unnamed heads of unnamed states trying to impose their way of life on us by force. We fear those things we can not see. We fear the stranger in the black car, or the brown van. We fear dogs.

We fear the boogie man. We fear the Devil. We fear ourselves. Until we decide to tame and manage our totally irrational fear, mass killings and suicides will be a part of the network news. We live in the most peaceful and safe time the world has seen in our known history, and we still choose to cling to fear.

What for? Are we happier living in fear? Is fear the control method of our modern life? Do you enjoy being afraid?

Cowboy Charlie, Low Limit Poker Pro’s, and Prostitutes

I just came back from a few days in Las Vegas. It was an exceptional time. Met with friends, took in a floor show, had some great meals and did some gambling. The National Final Rodeo is in progress and Vegas was full of Cowboys, Cowgirls and a few tourists thrown in.

In the gambling department there are two things I really enjoy. Craps and Hold’em Poker. They both are challenging, need some amount of knowledge, and are a lot of fun to play. At the poker tables is where Cowboy Charlie made his personal debut.

Craps is fast, challenging and also a lot of fun. Between the Poker Room, the Craps Tables and my room was where the Prostitute entered the story. There are also a few assorted small stakes Poker Pro’s who are out there every day trying to grind out a living.

Playing Poker is unique to a Poker Room. It’s not really a social event except for small talk and banter between players, half of whom happened to be drinking at the Las Vegas tables. Because drinks only cost a tip to the server, drinking while playing poker solves two reasons people go to Las Vegas.

Prostitutes are not found in Poker Rooms. Prostitutes are found between the Poker Room, the Craps Table, and the room you are staying in. Cowboy Charlie is a rare event generally unique to a few poker rooms, but generally quite rare.

Cowboy Charlie is pretending to be Cowboy Charlie because of the Rodeo finals going on in Las Vegas. Other times Cowboy Charlie, might be Tourist Bob, Gambler Joe, or Bubba from the Gulf. As Cowboy Charlie he played a tired out, overly drunk, and generally burnt out guy who was killing time at the poker table. Cowboy Charlie was all those things, but most of all he was a good poker actor, and a better poker player.

The local low limit pro’s are fun to play, because they are always serious, sober, and overly consumed with the state of their chips in front of them at the table. Some of these local card sharps are very players, and others are really struggling. I was lucky in most games this feel, as mostly struggling Pro’s were the only Pro’s present. They are fun to play, because they weigh their options carefully before acting.

What makes local low limit Pro’s fun is they weigh their actions towards protection of their chips. They go into pause mode, make some spread sheet comparing their hand to the hand the opponent may be holding and error on the side of caution. It is fun to watch them act out their scene before they fold and tell the table what [they think] your holdings are. Of course they have only lost a small percentage of their chips in the process.

When it comes to Prostitutes, I am fairly open minded. With few exceptions, I think in Las Vegas the women who circle the casino’s gaming areas, looking for men rich enough and willing enough to pay them for sex of some sort, can not make a living any other way. While I wish they would find other work, I treat them with the same respect I treat all people with.

I also wear a wedding ring, and do not look like some famous actor, or for that matter, look as if I have much much money as I walk between room, craps table, and poker room. Not deterred, I hear such pleasing conversation as, “Hey, want to take me to bed?”, “Can I go to your room?”, “Want to have some fun with me?”, and so on. None of the lines are better than worn out pick up lines, women must hear in the clubs on a Friday night.

I am polite, and mumble out something. When they press on, I explain I am happily married, old enough to be their Father with a few years extra, and finish with the idea they are pretty young women.

When some of the Prostitutes press further it restarts to bother me. I gave a 15 second presentation on my morals, ethics, and state of life, and they go right over the top of it. I mean come on, trying to make a living is one thing, but playing with someone’s ethics, morals, and life state is a little too much.

I try to be polite, and respectful instead of being mean and derogatory, but too often it falls on deaf ears. Respect is a two way street, pressing someone to break their moral, ethical, or religious code is a serious life infraction.

So back to Cowboy Charlie the very sober, actor playing a drunk, tired cowboy. At the poker table, lying and acting is expected by most of the players. When it comes to the low limit ‘Poker Pro’s’ they put themselves out to be lied to and and cheated within the boundaries of good poker play.

This is part of the game of poker. When you run into Cowboy Charlie at the poker table, give him a lot of respect, he will take your chips because you aren’t paying attention. When it comes to the real life, each of us should respect the wishes of another, Prostitutes included. Respect for each other helps make the world a better place for all of us.