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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Last post, I explained to you my deep seeded Envy for certain things in life. It wasn't a fun post to make but it was a necessary one, where an examination of my envies would lead-hopefully-to a better understanding of myself. In this case, I think it did that... after the post was made I indulged in a feel good movie.
My go-to type of feel good movie? Romantic comedies. Yeah, I'm a sucker for them. I blame my mother for this (she and I used to watch many such movies together in my younger years) and certainly I've cultivated my tastes over the years on such movies. I like a decent romantic comedy and love a good one. 

So, I went and watched one of my all time favorite ones-if not my all time favorite-"Something's Gotta Give" starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. This one came out in 2003 (the cell phones date the movie, lol) and it has remained just as good a story over the years.

Watching this movie about these two older people finding love, learning how to deal with it, and ultimately getting together made me feel better. Sure, they were both wildly successful people in the movie, but that success-all that money, all those friends-didn't breed happiness. It only bred contentment. 

The movie reminded me that happiness isn't ultimately found in things we envy but the things we have.

Which brings me to today's post and Aretha Franklin. We all know the song "Respect" and how it relates to people... but in this case I want to take this song another way. Rather than respecting each other (which is very important, I don't deny that) let us respect what we have. 

Respect is defined as the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect. This definition is pretty important in relation to the things we have. How many times do we show admiration for the things we don't have and throw the things we have under the bus? Speaking for myself, often. Not as often as I once did but still often enough. 

Respect for the things we have also should breed appreciation for the things we have-we can't respect something without some sort of appreciation for it, can we? 

Appreciation is defined as to feel thankful or grateful for. Do we appreciate the things we have in life or do we take them for granted? I think most days we take them for granted. We don't show the things in life the respect they deserve, we don't appreciate them as we should, and then on the day when those things in life inevitably go away we wonder "What happened?"

I don't want to utter that sentence on that day. I want to say "I'm glad I had them for as long as I did." We should value the things we have, and we should remind ourselves every day of them.

"Hey, hey, weren't you just whining to us before about all the things you didn't have?"

Yes, I was. This is the flipside to that. I'm not here to list the things I envy but rather the things I respect. The things I appreciate. The things that, if the day came when they went away, I'd have to cry for I would have no other recourse. 

Starting from number ten, here's are the things that I value the most in life. 

10. My Car

One red 1994 Isuzu Trooper has been my car since I started driving. For those of you that know me, you know how much I love this car. This car took my family from Florida to Alaska, with many stops along the way, and back. It has a ton of miles on it, it's seen all kinds of weather, and it's been across this nation. It has been my place to go when I need to be alone... it has been my companion on those long nights when nothing seems to go right. 

It has its issues. It has its detractors. But that car is over 18 years old. I've known it longer than my two younger siblings and a host of cousins. I try my best to take care of it but I'm not a car guy... I suck at cars. That doesn't stop me loving that car but it does make me thing that when the day comes it decides to pass from this world that it will be somehow my fault. 

"But... it's a car... it's a CAR!" 

I get that. I'm a sentimentalist. I get that from my father, you should see how many things he keeps that serve absolutely no purpose anymore. But they have memories. I'm lucky that I got some of my mother's "neatfreakness" (<that sounds dirty) and so my sentimentality is tempered with practicality. When it comes to my car though... I just can't see myself ever willingly giving it up. I've had a chance to upgrade to something newer, more fuel efficient, and overall better... but I didn't take it. I didn't want it then and I don't want it now. There's something to be said for loyalty and that car has shown me some serious loyalty over the years. The least I can do is ride it out until the very end. 

9. The Internet

The Internet gets a bad rap these days. People always blame it for the problems of society and I'm guilty of doing that sometimes too. But it's not the Internet's fault... it's just what it is. It doesn't force us to go to websites we don't need to be going to, to watch videos we don't need to be watching, or to buy things we don't need to buy. It's there as a tool and, like any tool, it can be used or misused. 

I'm glad we have the Internet. The world would be so much more lonely, so much more empty, without it. Some of my best friends in life I met over the Internet first before we ever met in person. I've met some incredible people over the Internet-there is so much talent out there that it's mind boggling. 

Without the Internet I would have never begun writing. Without writing I would have never met any of the great writers I know. Without meeting them, I wouldn't have befriended some of them. Without befriending one of them in particular I would be sitting here around 300 pounds (if not over) and not at 140. 

The Internet is a tool that can be used for good or evil. I've been lucky enough that, in my life, it has been used for good. Sure, sometimes I can't get a good connection to it and I curse at it. Sure, sometimes I can't find what I'm looking for because it's being super anal about the search terms (some days it just has problems). Despite all that, I know that Internet has been good to me. I don't respect it or appreciate it as much as I should... I take it for granted a lot of days. Since I'm posting this on the Internet, I hereby extend a heartfelt apology to it for all the nasty things I've said about it over the years. I can't promise I won't say nasty things in the future but I can try not to. 

8. Cheesecake

"That should be higher up on his list! He's lying now."

Admittedly, my love of cheesecake is well documented. It's a love that I have suffered for in the past and shall suffer for again in the future. But it's just a food... it doesn't deserve a top five spot as much as I love it. I think, out all the things on this list, I take cheesecake for granted the least. I only have it once, maybe twice a year, and that means that when I do have it I respect the heck out of it (not to mention savor every last bite). 

Cheesecake has caused me a lot of pain over the years as I'm lactose intolerant. Despite that pain, the two of us know that whatever suffering it will bring me will never eclipse the joy it gives me. It's my all time favorite food. It's better than... pretty much anything. I can't stand to see it go to waste and I can't stand seeing people waste it. It's wrong. 

Should the day ever come where I can never have it again (possible), I would cry. A lot. 

7. Creativity

"Okay, now he's just screwing with us."

Hold your horses-remember, the basis of this list is the things I appreciate, respect, and value the most. I value creativity a heck of a whole lot but I don't always appreciate it. In fact, it's kinda a battle with me to respect it because the creativity and I, we don't always have the same idea. We're not always on the same page (as a writer, this is an issue). 

Some days I want to write one thing but creativity demands something entirely different. We clash. We knock heads. We don't get a lot done when one of us isn't willing to be the bigger person and do what the other asks. I usually end up being that person (since I was quite bigger before, it was easy...) but some days creativity decides to cut me a break. 

I respect it for everything it allows me, for everything it gives me, but on the days we clash that respect isn't there. I need to do a better job of thanking the muse rather than kicking it in the teeth when it doesn't give me what I want, you know?

Should I lose my creativity, should I lose the ability to turn a blank page into something meaningful, I would surely cry. I wouldn't have much else to do but cry if my creativity went away. 

6. Music

Music and I don't go back as far as I wish. It wasn't until my 9th grade year that I got into music... it took me that long to see the value in it. I had issues with music. My father, on those trips back and forth across the country in the Trooper, played a lot of country music. I'm not saying it was horrible (I'm not saying it but you can guess what I think, right?) but a lot of it didn't appeal to me. I liked Garth Brooks (he made country good) but that was about it. My father, unfortunately, was raised in the South and loved all country. He also had a deep seeded hatred for the 80s ("Music died in that decade," he said). 

Because of this early scarring with music, I didn't take too it much in my younger years. I would shun it, ignore it, and call it names. I would much rather sit in silence in the car, staring out the window, than listen to music. I just didn't want any part of it. 

But 9th grade year, all that changed thanks to one friend, a CD player, and classic rock. I was shown the error of my ways very quickly and I threw myself deep into the classic rock end of the musical pool. I drowned myself in it... I didn't come up for air for a long time. I was convinced classic rock was the best, the brightest, and the greatest of musical genres. 

Call it being blinded by first love if you like... it was rather ignorant on my part. Since those heady high school days I have expanded my musical views, slowly but surely. Music and I enjoy a good relationship... we talk often. We listen to one another (I listen to it, it listens to me beat the crap out of my keyboard as I type) and a lot of the time we find common ground. 

I need a pick me up? AC/DC. Something to calm me down? It's time for The Eagles. Need a release? Let's throw on those workout clothes and rock out to Linkin Park. I have music for pretty much everything. 

But there are days when the music I listen to gets taken for granted... I want it to do certain things, to clean certain things up about certain songs that annoy me. Every piece of music has a small flaw in it, whether it's a particular lyric that bugs me or a sound that doesn't quite fit in the song. I sometimes concentrate on these negative aspects and try to tell music to get its act together. 

In reality, I need to get my act together. But I don't live in reality some days as most of you know. 

Now we're at the part where I could probably not live without these next things... whereas the bottom part of the top ten was devoted to things I would cry if I lost, these are things I would cry and then die without. Their value, the respect and appreciation I have for them, is pretty deep. Keep that in mind as we move on to number five...

5. Star Trek

"A TV show?!"

More than a TV show. It's something that has changed the way people think about things, about life, about each other, and more. Star Trek, as we all know, is a show of many firsts. Star Trek has been a part of my life since I was three and it really has had a profound influence on me.

Now, you must be asking yourself, how crazy I am to list this in the "without it I would cry and then die" category and my answer is, pretty crazy. I admit, my love (or obsession, you decide) of this show is unmatched with any other form of entertainment out there. No other TV show, no other movie, no other comic book, musical group, or anything like that could come close to Star Trek... they would be stopped at Wolf 359 at the very least.

Why do I value Star Trek so much? It shows all kinds of things in the future that I hope man can achieve. The tech stuff is usually what people point out in this type of discussion. "I want warp drive... I want holodecks... I want transporters... I want phasers" but for me it's not about the tech stuff. It's about how humanity has evolved past the point where we start wars because someone important died, where we build bombs that could destroy the world ten times over just because someone else has, where we value money  over people, where we value appealing to what's wrong at the expensive of what's right. 

Humanity in Star Trek has been portrayed as more evolved, more in touch with the greater good, and far more moral than we are today. Of course, certain series (like DS9) muddied the waters to make humanity in the 24th century more about projecting those values than actually living them, but that's a rant for another day. 

These things in Trek I fell in love with early on. I wanted them in the world I lived in and I still want them that way. It has served as an inspiration to me and, though I fall short most days, I try to use my knowledge of Star Trek and what it represents to me for good. 

I couldn't live in a world without Star Trek. You don't know how bad a feeling it was to watch "Star Trek Nemesis" tank and then Trek get stuck on life support as Enterprise soon followed after it. Trek was gone, dead, and a lot of people wrote it off. It was a dark time that Trek fans haven't seen since the Original Series got canceled back in 1969 and any hope of a fourth season died... those fans had to wait ten years before Trek hit screens again. Thankful, it did. But I sure didn't want to wait ten years. 
4. Living
Do you realize how we just... you know... breathe? Over and over we breathe. We inhale, we exhale, we inhale, we exhale... and not once do we stop and think to ourselves "Hey, this whole living thing isn't so bad."
We constantly moan about our lives. About how overworked/tired/stressed/poor/unfulfilled our lives are. Do you realize how many dead people probably want to take our place? I'm serious, I think they're pretty fed up with us. We sit and complain, we moan and groan, and we're around for another day. 
I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I undervalue my life a lot. I don't take living as a blessing, I just treat it as a burden a lot of days. "I have to do this... and this... and this... jeez, wouldn't it be easier to go on to heaven?" Maybe it might be easier. Maybe it might be simpler. But it sure wouldn't be the same.
We don't appreciate our lives like we should. We don't respect our lives at all really. A lot of us (me included) do stupid, risky things that could end our lives. No one around late at night on an empty highway? Let's go really fast. A boring Saturday night? Good thing I have a few bottles of booze. Frustrated about the day and just need to chill? Got a new refill on anti-depressants... let's double the dosage.

And the list goes on, and on, and on. We're not perfect but I think we should take a few minutes out of our day to just breathe... to bask in the sun... and remind ourselves that we could be rotting in the dirt, becoming worm food, if certain things hadn't gone certain ways.

Living-the second most unappreciated thing on this list for me.

3. God

"Blasphemy! That should be higher! That should be number one in ANY list like this!"

Yeah, it seems bad. It probably is bad. But I'm being honest here and I ask you to be honest with me, if just for this moment. Is God really number one on the list of things you respect, appreciate, and value the most? For me the answer to that is a firm "No" even on my best days.

I'm a sinful, flawed, screwed up human being. And I appreciate the good Lord less than anything else on this list. On a scale of appreciation, he comes dead last. Why?

I often feel like with God (and this will probably get me smote-not smited) that he's pointing at all the things he did in the past as to why we should appreciate him. Why we should respect him. He points to all the miracles in the Bible. He points to Jesus and how he came down from heaven, saved our ungrateful butts, and suffered for us. He points to the promises of the paradise that awaits us if we choose to follow him and live by his commands.

Those are all valid points. I can't argue with any of them. But I feel-and I know it's wrong-that God is trying to skate by on what he's done for us in the past and what promises he'll fulfill in the future. Like an aging Hall of Fame player, we should respect and appreciate him for all the times he's pulled our tails out of the fire with a clutch play, a key adjustment, or just plain guts.

On a certain level, I do respect him and appreciate him for that. But I want to know... what have you done for me lately? That's the question that comes to mind when I ask myself why I don't appreciate God more than I appreciate Star Trek. I look at Star Trek and I have the benefits, the goals, the inspiration it provides me on the tip of my tongue. I can quote episodes, characters, story arcs... you name it.

When it comes to God I don't have that ability. I have never had that ability. And maybe that's why I don't appreciate him more than Star Trek... I just don't feel like he's doing much for me lately.

Let me emphasize that my feelings in this matter are conflicting with the facts. Factually, rationally, I know he does plenty for me. I have been blessed with a lot of things that I don't have a right to. I shouldn't feel anything but incredibly grateful. Instead, I feel a bit of resentment... what he does for me isn't always what I want. Not getting what you want sucks and makes you feel a bit unhappy. Well, count me as a bit unhappy.

So, God, you're the least appreciated thing on this list. For that, I'm sorry. We'll work it out. Or you'll smite me. Whichever works for you.

2. Friends

There are two types of friends in this world. One, the friends you call friends but can't name three good moments you've had with them. Two, the friends you can sit down and talk with for hours on end, the memories you have of them being cemented into your mind.

I'm talking about the second type of friends. I am really grateful for my friends. I'm not the easiest person to get along with. I'm moody. I'm insane. I reference old TV shows, Star Trek, sports, and comic books in most conversations. I am a social reject. I have problems asking for help, saying thank you, or apologizing verbally-you ask me to write it, I can write it, but you ask me to verbalize... well, it's much tougher.

I'm not an easy person to put up with. I'm incredibly stubborn. I see things in a black or white view... all or nothing. I want to do things my way and when that doesn't work I want to barrel over whatever is in my way. I have horrible handwriting (for those of you that have had to grade some of papers in class, my apologizes), I have neurotic tendencies that must be met, and the best I can do to repay the vast majority of you for your friendship is to listen.

I respect the heck out of you guys and gals. I appreciate you a lot. Some days I seem less than appreciative of you. Some days you say things that bug me and make me want to slap you upside the head. But I imagine you have those same feelings for me, so it's all good.

You guys and gals are people I feel close to. I can talk to you about virtually any subject. Some of you, more than others, have heard my take on particular subjects. We engage in intelligent conversation and debate. We excel in making each other laugh while pissing each other off. It's a strange thing we have, friends, but it works.

I don't make friends easily. Being the social reject I am, I tend to not be very outgoing. I'm not adventurous. You guys are among a select group of people... so thank you for putting up with me. Really. Without friends, I would not go on in life. Perhaps that speaks to my issues. I don't know. I just know that, with you, my life is better.

1. Family

"Well... that's a little bit understandable."

 I could make a case for anything in the top five of this list to be number one. God, of course, should probably be up there and him getting snubbed for first should invalidate the rest of this list. But family? I'm uniquely blessed in this respect.

Sure, as far as friends go, I have a wide ranging group of them. I love that. We have tons of things to talk about, tons of opinions to express, and that suits me just fine.

But family... now there's something that's like friends but not. It's hard to explain. I have, in my life, three families. Each I value about equally but I'm not going to do any rankings-it's not about that and it never will be. Each family brings something unique and different to the table... and I am the most appreciative of that. I have the most respect for them because of that and other facts. We'll just do this chronologically.

A. My blood family

I was lucky enough to be born into a loving home, one that didn't just embrace the family concept but pretty drowned itself in it. I'm thankful for that despite the annoying things that come up from time to time. I have a wonderful set of parents who, despite my many failures, love me. I have an equally amazing (if not a bit more sarcastic) group of siblings who love me, each in their own unique way. I have cousins that I like (how many people can say that?) and I have Aunts/Uncles that are quite unique. I have loving grandparents, loving great aunts/uncles (but we don't use the "great" part) and I have access to three generations worth of experience, advice, and wisdom.

My blood family is unique in that they've seen me grow as a person, physically, as well as mentally. I have gone from the little kid who beat his head against the hardest object in the room because I didn't get my way to a guy who is decently level headed on most days. They've seen me learn responsibility, learn trust, and they've taught me values in a society that increasingly seems to be valueless (despite all the value menus floating around).

They have helped me grow in ways I can't begin to list... they've embraced my uniqueness (my obsession with Star Trek, the Florida Gators, and hatred of all condiments-especially ketchup). They've dealt with me successfully and have set the blueprint in place for others to deal with me. I got issues and they keep dealing with them the same way: with love. 

I'm a lucky, lucky guy... I don't always treat my blood family with the respect it deserves. That's probably because we've been together so long now that it just kinda is unsaid... taken for granted... all these things. But it won't be this way forever. It never will be the same as it was before. Which is why it's value is so high to me.

B. My church family

I haven't known them as long as my blood family. We don't have as many dramatic memories as my blood family and I have. But we have a long history. My church family is unique in that is has seen my evolution spiritually in a far more open/blatant way than my blood family. I'm not exactly the most open person around (despite my propensity to blog about a lot of things this is a recent occurrence not traditionally associated with me).

My church family has helped influence views on subjects I wouldn't have known the first thing to think about. They have been with me through the good and the bad. I haven't taken advantage of their wealth of knowledge like I should have (very much like my blood family) but it's there, should I ever need it.

I've seen the many little ones in the church grow up to become teenagers. Babies I held in the nursery 10-11 years ago are now preteens. It's a weird feeling thinking how much has changed in the time I've been with my church family. Out of the three families I have, this one is the one I feel as though I have really taken for granted the most. It's not the same as it once was with my church family. We've had people leave the church or go onto heaven... the dynamics have changed.

It's almost like that great TV show that has cast changes towards the end of it's run. It should have bowed out gracefully when it had its entire original cast (or most of it) in place. I feel like that with my church family, that I should have bowed out when we were at our best, when we were on top... but then, you can't do that with family.

With family, there is no bowing out. Thick and thin (I've been both), good or bad, you're stuck with them. I don't mind that at all, really. I just wish I had figured out that Hawaiian shirts weren't the only thing you could wear on a Sunday morning sooner.

C. My Virgina family

This is the one that is newest, that is freshest, but that doesn't negate it's value to me. It's value to me is very high and it's the rare combination where, not only do I feel they're  family to me, but that they're also really close friends too. That's a combo that is present in smaller ways with my other families but it's not the same.

Every family in my life brings something different to the table and this one is like a combination of the other two, yet unique in it's own right. They haven't known me for long-nearly a year and a half-but I feel like they have. They haven't seen me go from baby to what I am now, yet they have seen me as I was (nearly 300 pounds) and now see me as I am (holding steady at 140).

They haven't witnessed my multiple meltdowns over the years but they know I have the capability to meltdown. They haven't seen me do many really stupid things but they take my word for it that I have. They trust me. I trust them and it's an amazing thing to find that such feelings can come forth in such a comparatively short time period.

I consider them my second blood family... like we almost should have been together from the beginning but it was meant to be that we would find one another later in life. I admit, I'm just as confused about the hows and the whys as they undoubtedly are about how this scenario came to pass. I don't pretend to know all the answers or even some of them.

But that's kind of the point: I don't pretend. There are no past behaviors or routines that have been cemented into their minds about me. They don't have the years of history that my other two families have to judge me by. I tell them all the things I've done, be sure of that (I do like to tell stories) but it's different... telling them the stories means they weren't there to witness it with their own eyes.

When you witness something with your own eyes it doesn't go away. It stays with you.

And here, with this family, I feel that the majority of what they witness from me is decent. Maybe not good, but certainly not bad. I'm not confident in that feeling but I'm not confident in many of my feelings.

I am confident in the fact that I love each family I have in my life. That I would do whatever it took to do what's best for them, period. There is no doubt of that. I will fight for them and I will do my very best not to mess things up for them. I won't always succeed (I hate admitting that but it's true) and I won't always feel be in a good mood (remember, I'm moody). But I'll be there when called upon: rain, snow, shine, hail, hellfire, comets, or ketchup (if it was raining ketchup I would hesitate for a second, I admit that, but I would brave ketchup... I hate ketchup but I'd brave it).

These are the things in life I appreciate and respect. The things in life that I value.

I encourage you to take stock of the things in life that you appreciate, respect, and value. You might be surprised what ends up at number one.

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