Sunday, September 11, 2016

Life is what happens

"Beautiful Boy" has long been a favorite John Lennon song. This morning I played it for my beautiful boy. Every line of the song rings true when I look at my perfect little peanut. I happened to play it for him because I called him beautiful boy and it made me think of it. Besides, he needs to be well acquainted with Mr. Lennon by now - he's almost 5 months.

"Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"

Then that line happened and I found myself at the intersection of multiple emotions. On one hand, I'm watching my boy smile at me and play with his tiny feet. On the other hand, today I'm reminded of the last part of that in a specific and unique way. Life surely does happen while you're busy making other plans. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as they say. I never planned so many of the events that led me to where I am today. And where I am today is a good place.

We have Mr. Nick on one hand, and the unending grief of today's date on the other. To make it more complex, the T in NickyT is for Thomas. The middle namesake I share with my son is for my uncle and godfather Thomas Sabella. To the world he's remembered as one of the brave 343 who laid down their lives 15 Septembers ago. To us, he'll always just be Uncle Tommy. A man with broad shoulders and a broader smile; a smile present in the great-nephew he never knew.

For 15 long years, I've run the gamut of emotions on the anniversaries. I've had varying reactions. I've tried various things to deal with it all. I've cried. I've drank. I've sat quietly in the dark. I've gone to memorial events. Right now, I'm writing this to all of you and watching Mickey Mouse with my boy.

I have lots of plans for the future, but as the former Beatle reminded me today, life happens the way it happens, often contrary to and in spite of those plans. What I do have is today. So I'll spend it watching cartoons and playing with my Nicky boy. I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Which lives matter?

There's been a movement in America for some time. It has its dogged supporters and its vehement detractors. It's a topic I've flip-flopped on since its inception. I've actively avoided talking about it. But it's been back in the news after a brief lull and I feel compelled to make a statement.

It's actually the #BlackLivesMatter. I have to admit that I initially felt strongly against it. All lives do, in fact matter. That is a valid point. We fight to end segregation and ease racial tensions and our big move is to start a trending movement around one race in particular. It seemed counter-productive and, frankly, dismissive of the plights of all but one group. Black people are not the only ones who have a difficult time. I've seen lots of stats about who has it worse, etc, and so forth. The world overall is in tough shape, so let's not pick one over the other.

And I desensitized myself to the concept and promptly ignored as a cause du jour. But it didn't go away. So I sat back quietly and thought on it for some time.

I think Black Lives Matter is important. Let me be specific. I think it's important to address individual issues individually. Maybe Black Lives Matter is a mistake. I don't really know. What I do know is that the need to crush things that are individually important to people and homogenize society is the true mistake.

We have all kinds of initiatives and fundraisers for so many individual causes. Should we stop funding AIDS research because there are other diseases? Should we start a "sickness fund" and put all our efforts into one place. We don't treat AIDS and cancer the same. They don't have the same doctors. They don't have the same research. Why blend the 2? We'd never consider it.

Don't raise awareness for homeless veterans anymore, please. Just homeless people. Pay no special attention to any one category. Don't build homes for soldiers who lost limbs in the war because some people are born without limbs. None of this paragraph makes a damn bit of sense.

Now... if blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, and whoever else all got the same treatment in every part of life, then all lives would matter as one big blended cause. But that's not the case. Just because we bleed the same, doesn't mean we get treated the same.

I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying that all of those killed are automatically exonerated and all cops are out for blood. There are good and bad in every bunch, but that's a conversation for another day. For now, all I'm saying is that we can treat every situation equally when everyone in these situations is treated equally.

Until then, racism is an issue and replacing "black" with "all" is to pretend it doesn't exist. If there are other issues under the ___LivesMatter umbrella that exist, then address them. Give them their own time and effort if they matter to you. Don't cut off one issue because there is a 2nd. Just have 2 issues.

Believe me... I long for a day where BlackLivesMatter doesn't matter because we don't even notice the difference in people on the surface level. That day is not today unfortunately. If you're a specific BlackLivesMatter detractor, wake up. There's still a race problem here. If you're a BlackLivesMatter proponent, then keep it civil. Protest without violence if you want to be heard.

I worked hard at choosing my words so they could not be twisted. Please don't molest this message. All lives do matter, but addressing problems individually instead of a lump is an important decision.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Don't have resolutions; be resolute

Before I even get into it, let's look at what each of those words mean exactly.

Resolution - a firm decision to do or not to do something

Sounds like it's about the "something."

Resolute - admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering
Sounds like it's about the person.

Every year people make New Year's Resolutions. Any they are often empty promises to oneself that fade into obscurity before Valentine's Day (if we're being generous). This is so often the case, that many people joke about other people announcing these platitudes to the world. People even forget and shout the first thing that sounds good before the first Swarovsky crystal touches down atop Times Square. 10... 9... 8... "Uhhhh...ummm..." 7... 6... "My resolution is to..." 5... 4... 3... "Shit, this year I'll...." 2... "LOSE 10 POUNDS!" 1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That sounds well thought out and determined, right? We aren't programmed to stop a certain behavior suddenly while humming along and make a sharp change any more than your car wants you to yank the E-brake at 80 mph on the highway. Newton's first law - an object in motion stays in motion. And if that motion is lifting a cheeseburger to your mouth, you're not likely to stop doing it all at once. And certainly not because your drunken reflection in the champagne flute told you to choose that just moments before the imaginary expiration date.

That's what these NYE resolutions are: a last minute decision to to a thing. But being better at life isn't about individual things. It's about all things in aggregate. You are greater than the sum of your parts. However, if you were to skip the resolution to do a thing at an arbitrary time and be resolute about the greater concept (live healthy vs lose weight in 2016) then you are determined and unwavering, and more likely to succeed.

It's less about these dictionary definitions and more about the when of the decision. I get it, we like arbitrary numbers. It feels nicer to start with clean slate and approach a challenge, but these dates are, in fact, arbitrary. More importantly, we shouldn't want to wash away 2015. We've all seen this image:

But do we want 2015 to be erased? Can it be erased? The answer is no to both questions, of course. Our lives are cumulative not approximately 90 individual and isolated years. We learned from 2014 into 2015 and 2015 into 2016 and so and and so forth. The phrase "how do you know where you're going if you don't look back" comes to mind. Our history is responsible for our present. So why get rid of it? And this image isn't discriminate. If we're wiping away 2015, then all of it has to go - even the good stuff. For me, for example, with the weight I gained in 2015, I'd have to shed my new job, the memories of my wedding, all I earned and learned. 2015 was somewhat of a banner year for me and that sounds terrible.

I guess the point is to not focus on some individual thing and make a resolution to do that activity until the novelty wears off and old habits set in. Decide something that's important to you, that matters, that's worth achieving and be resolute. Don't waver. It was my NYE resolution (many years ago) to quit smoking and I failed year after year. In the summer of 2013 I decided to quit (after 22 years). I was sure. I was ready, I was resolute. As of this writing, it's been 896 days since my last cigarette. 

I could be off the mark. Maybe your resolutions will stick. I wish everyone well. Hoping for failure to prove my point isn't my style. I just know that when reading those definitions, despite the root of one being the other, they feel very different.