Friday, September 2, 2011

Appreciate it All: Thoughts of Taxidermy and Motherless Children

My computer transmits information to my mind via the blink of an eye. Three blinks, payment sent, payment received, quote work for new job dispatched.

Eight tabs compete for my attention like twin boys after the first plate of mac & cheese. Dinnertime.

My mind wanders, scores of buzzing, bleeping, and blinking, what was I doing again?

I didn’t actually attend my ten year high school reunion, but if I had, I would have no description for what I do, nonetheless who I am. I’m not a lawyer like Tom, or an Engineer like Billy, or a teacher like Sarah. I’m an entrepreneur? What’s that? Sounds a lot like unemployed to most people. My neighbor asked yesterday, she isn’t the first to think I’m a drug dealer. Should I tell them different, what would it matter?

A year ago I was still trying to tell them, still trying to make my life matter, which is a fruitless endeavor for those that are still in the identity trap. Be forewarned whatever you do to enrich yourself personally won’t actually make you feel much better, not for long anyway. I reflect back to this day one year ago, all I see is dark clouds, no twins, no tabs sitting on the screen strong enough to distract me from the pain. Riddled in debt, dating, LIVING, with a girl I couldn’t even stand, driving a truck that leaked energy, literally and figuratively, we all fall short.

One year later I’m like my Chow German Shepherd mix Jill after being gone 18 days, she was found immobile in a patch of brush on the side of the road. I was found in my home, not on a single day, but in a single year, I was found. Jill had a deep gash on her leg, and was tied up like a Christmas tree to a roof of a car in rope-like branches that held her from walking. How long had she been there, in the 100-degree heat no less, days, weeks? She was wounded but alive. The first time I saw those sweet tender eyes in nearly a month I broke down, the whole animal hospital staff did too. The tenderness of being alive was more joyous than any cut, scrap, or disability on earth. For those that never loved a dog, they feel anxious, happy, sad, aggressive, and lonely. Dogs go through many of the same emotions humans do each day, as Jill’s wet eyes ticked up to meet mine, as she bowed her head down in exhaustion, all I could do was thank God.

Being thankful isn’t easy in a world full of people trying to impress us. You live where? You drive what? You vacationed in what country? I wonder what that really makes people feel inside. The great irony of trying to impress other people is that it often turns them off entirely. I don’t know about you, but I’m far more touched by the single mom working 60 hours a week to pay for their child to go to a good school than the socialite posing in designer duds on a yacht in the Rivera. To quote a Sia album title, Some People Have Real Problems.

We can have it both? That’s the rational I hear the most, we can have balance, you know hit the Rivera one week, and then the soup kitchen the next. Here is the problem with this theory, once you hit the Rivera being around homeless people in the soup kitchen is less of a calling than a duty. It’s gratitude bargaining, and it never works out right.

Being thankful for your life, for what you have, isn’t just about not living opulently, or looking down at people that have less, or making their life worse by intentionally pushing your more in front of their less, it’s about being true to who you are as a human.

Being gracious sets off a domino effect of goodwill that will properly season your insides to be better on the outside. You’ve got to be proactive, just like you are with your budget, or your diet, or your time, or anything else in life, sacrifice your selfish desires for the better. In a world full of people proposing the opposite, this is often easier written than done.

I’m surrounded by two things all day, commerce and money. Commerce the court on which entrepreneurs play their game, and money the scorekeeper. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of what it all means, of what you picture in your mind is a successful entrepreneur- Ferraris, private jets, foreign models, and a casino. Right, that is what you think entrepreneurs live like when they make it right? That is what the media has portrayed us to be, free willing sin-machines, with a little charity sprinkled in for good measure. It’s thanksgiving, somebody get a turkey for the homeless people, let’s throw them a bone. Disgusting.

We come in all stripes, some entrepreneurs don’t care about money at all, that’s how they make so much of it, they just don’t care. I’d like to think I fall into this category, though I’m tempted, I’m human, and dang if Porsche isn’t making this Panamera for me, it’s got 380 horsepower, vroom vroom.

We’re all tempted to just look inward, when so often we would be happier if we looked and acted on what we could do for others. Seriously, this post is for you, to make you happier in your life, like I’ve been in mine lately. Less is more, this is a movement.

So what I do to refocus my energy on others might help you. It might make me you think I’m crazy, but that’s ok since I stopped caring about my identity about a year ago, so either way this is what I’ve decided to share with you. An exercise in being grateful, take what you will, and know for me it works every time.

Lately I’ve been nurturing a fascination with reindeer. Maybe two or three years ago I learned they were real. I thought they were just as made up as the person they’re most associated with. But no, reindeer are definitely real, thanks to my zoologist friends for setting this straight.

After discovering the existence of reindeer I bought a picture of one and placed it in my room. It sits atop a metal storage rack, a casualty from one of my many failed businesses. The reindeer is docile, but massive, it’s body plump, antlers so pronounced they steal the show wherever the reindeer goes. If you look at the antlers closely on a reindeer, it becomes clear they are one of the highest reaching antlers of all the mammals walking the earth today. Stunning.

I’m a tactile guy, I like to feel and touch, not just see. Luck would have it I found someone that sells arctic reindeer hides, my bedroom needed a rug. Match made. This is what I think about when I start having impulses that aren’t in line with giving, with being a better person. I think about the cruelty of life, that if not our grandmothers, our great grandmothers were skinning and cooking these animals to live, to survive. Our life hasn’t always been about the iPhone, Netflix, or Lap Band surgery, it was once about finding enough food to eat.

So many people in our great nation are totally unaware that in some parts of the world, they still can’t get enough food to survive. There are no arctic reindeer for them to skin, they eat little to nothing and eventually perish. 20,000 air-breathing humans will have died from the famine in the African Horn region this year. And you want to go on a cruise? To upgrade the thread count on your sheets. There are people dying in Africa.

We sit back, and nod, we’re numbed to the pleas ever since homeboy got on the infomercials in the eighties and beat the subject to death. African starvation is like theatre, it’s in front of us, but it’s not real, right? Wrong.

I saw an interview recently on TV with a man from one of the hard hit regions in Africa where people are starving, ironically he is now working here in the states at the Plumpy’nut factory, where they make bars to sustain those starving in Africa. This one effort, started by a single mother of four no less, has surely saved thousands of lives. The man, he stood with a hint of anger in his face at the factory, and said something to the extent of, when we were starving we wondered why people didn’t come sooner, why they weren’t doing anything if they knew we were dying over here. This was his words, the gospel that compels us to do more for others is not always sugar coated, should we wheel barrel the dead bodies to your doorstep to get you to do something, when does it become real to you? I wouldn’t write this blog post if I didn’t think it is entirely in our power to eradicate world hunger forever. It is people, we can do this.

Gratitude is understanding how lucky we are, and acting on our thankfulness by reaching out to others and giving from the well of what we have to offer. Time is so valuable, if you knew how much I spent on people’s time it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars each year. Money is fine, but other currency exits. You have ideas, share them. You have connections, start connecting.

We become machines of change when we oil our soul with the humility that being thankful brings about. The engine for change already exists in our hearts, it’s just waiting to be fueled with gratitude and put into drive with execution on all that stuff you’ve been meaning to do.

In the hour or so I’ve been writing this post at a coffee shop a couple next to me has kept their arms around each other the entire time. Gratitude can be manifested outward, and if you take a minute and look around, you’ll see it is everywhere.

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