March 23, 2011

One of My "Sources of Inspiration!"

Do you believe that “things happen for a reason?” That there’s such a thing as “divine intervention?” Whether you do or don’t, perhaps the following story will lead you to think otherwise. If not, then maybe it will at least get you to thinking about people, places, things, or situations involving YOUR life, things that have “happened” that gave you pause, things that made you stop and THINK, “Wow, did that just REALLY happen?!” Before I begin, let me again emphasize something many of you already know, or at least those of you who know me personally or who have read my profile. I’m not one of those that goes around speaking of the bible all the time or attributing EVERYTHING that happens in life to God. As I’ve said many times and those who know me well know this too; I’m an empirical person, meaning I tend to give credence to those things I can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. Still, there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind, not ONE, that the Holy Spirit continues to work its way in and with my life on nearly a daily basis ever since I “awakened” from a fog of despair nearly 3 years ago.

I have a member of my extended family who lives in Kansas. She’s in her late 70’s and was a cousin to my mother. In fact, they were born only a month apart in 1932. I didn’t know her well at all when I was a child growing up in a little town called Tribune, Kansas, and it was only when I reached adulthood many years later that I came to know her better. In fact, as it turns out, her husband was one of my clients at the bank where I worked in Tribune for many years. During this time, I came to know her as a kind, soft-spoken, and gentle soul. And patient! I recall many times when her husband and she would be sitting in my office and he would start re-canting some farmer story from decades past. He’d start going off for the umpteenth time about some humorous event of the past involving one of his farmer friends and she’d sort of sit there with a glazed look on her face, not a “rolling the eyes” look mind you, and just let him go on and on. I’m smiling as I type this. She IS the epitome of a loving and PATIENT woman.

Before I get into the details why I firmly believe that “things happen for a reason” and “divine intervention” was at play when she suddenly reappeared in my life about two years ago, I think it best I tell you a little about her “connection” with my mother and how HER death almost 39 years ago, brings this whole story into focus.

My mother was killed in a horrific and tragic farm vehicle accident in 1972, an event that will be forever etched in my memory. You see, in the little town where I grew up, there were no such things as “ambulances” or even anything close to describing a “paramedic” in those days. Worse, I witnessed the accident and was the first one on the scene. I was 13 years of age. As I said before, this was at a time when I barely knew her cousin, the family member I’ve described in this story, even existed. Here’s the part where it gives ME pause, makes ME think, “Wow, did that just REALLY happen?!”

I mentioned previously in this story her husband was a client of mine at the bank. And it was during those days in the early 90’s that I came to know Ruth better, also affectionately known as “Cuz”. That’s what we call each other these days. And speaking of “cuz”, I remember how difficult it was for me to understand this whole “once-removed” business when one describes a cousin. Ruth FINALLY got me to understand it one day over coffee! Yes, Ruth Lawson, cousin to my mother, is MY first cousin, “once removed!” But I digress, that’s NOT the “pausing” part, the part that makes me believe that “things happen for a reason”, and that there IS such a thing as “divine intervention.”

Not long after my fall from grace, as it were, in the spring of 2008, Ruth came back INTO my life sometime in early 2009. I hadn’t seen or spoken with her for nearly 5 years. By that time, the “fog” had begun slowly lifting after over two decades of despair and an attempt to self-medicate that despair away. Funnily enough, it was Facebook of all things that brought us together once more. It wasn’t long though, that things started “happening.” I started getting all sorts of emails out of the blue from Ruth into my hotmail account, emails involving stories and videos of INSPIRATION. Next thing I knew, without even consciously thinking about it, I began gleaning and forming these emails involving stories of inspiration, into “notes” I created on my personal Facebook page. Some were religious in nature, some were funny, and some even involved videotape. But nearly ALL of them contained a “message” of hope and INSPIRATION. From there, the “notes” took on a life form of their own. People started responding to them almost immediately when I shared them on my Facebook page, telling me how inspiring they were and thanking me profusely.

Looking back over the past two years since that fateful moment Ruth suddenly reappeared in my life, there are literally dozens of her emails floating around in cyberspace on Facebook, in the form of inspirational “notes” or stories that I’ve created and shared, one of which I shared just yesterday, “When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking”, a post that drew a particularly large and enthusiastic response from members of my “Gusto” page, many of whom are scattered all over the United States and across the world, a page that has over 600 members as I write this!

Last summer, I traveled back to Tribune to visit my daughter and son during the annual celebration of the “County Fair.” One of my sisters and I stopped by to see Ruth and I had an opportunity to visit with her privately. Something had dawned on me in months prior to this meeting. I said, “Ruth, do you see the connection, with you, me, and my mom?” She said, “What do you mean?” I went on to elaborate about how I felt that God had used her as a vessel to reach out and touch me, given that she and my mom were close as cousins when they were much younger, perhaps even before I was born. Furthermore I said, that “connection” is what is reaching out, touching, and INSPIRING many people throughout the “Facebook world” in the form of notes and stories I had been creating from her emails for nearly two years. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, could be. Who knows?”

So now, you tell me. Do YOU believe that “things happen for a reason?” Do you believe there is such a thing as “divine intervention?” Are there events, things that have “happened”, people who have just “happened” to come into your life at a time when you needed them most? I do. I think He does, too.


March 20, 2011

A Shared Vision - You and Us TOGETHER

The United States, Philippines, India, Canada, Russia, Germany, Japan. These 7 countries, as well as 12 more stretching from Australia, to Chile, and on to Indonesia, represent the members of a Facebook page called “Gusto”, nearly 500 members total. Meanwhile, people from over 47 countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, Russia, Hong Kong, India, Poland, Philippines, France, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Nepal, Brazil, Sweden, and many more scattered throughout Europe and Asia, totaling 5,500 visitors to this website and blog, have STOPPED, LOOKED, and LISTENED to the words, the feelings, the heart and soul of “Ramblings” over the past year. Many have been inspired enough to keep coming back. Some visited only briefly. And a few came to see what all the fuss was about, perhaps even passing judgment now and then, of the words and the “messages” I try to convey with thoughts and experiences garnered over a half-century of existence on this planet. I can live with ALL of that.

You may be asking yourself these questions. Why? Why is he doing this? What is this blog’s purpose? I’m not even sure what the term “blog” means. Commonly, it may be referred to as a personal on-line journal. I suppose initially, that was the intent, though at the time it was created, I had virtually NO idea WHY. Certainly in the beginning, it was a form of self-therapy, if you will. And I’ve been journaling religiously in handwritten form for nearly 3 years. But over the past year, and in particular just the past 3 or 4 months, this blog’s purpose has grown far beyond what some have described as a self-serving indulgence. (Actually, I’m being NICE when I characterize it that way. I’ve heard that some say all I talk about is me...BUT then again, isn't that what journaling is all about, to document one's emotions, actions and reactions as they interact with the world around them?) 

To give you a sense of “why”, perhaps a bit of reflection may help. It was only slightly over TWO years ago that I even knew Facebook existed. To confound you even further, it was also about the same time I discovered “texting.” I’m serious! That may come as a surprise to some of you but not to me. In short, this blog and my facebook page, like me, are still evolving and growing. After two decades of being lost in a fog of despair and self-medication, it was only the result of a rapid series of unfortunate, even tragic, series of events that occurred beginning in early 2008 that finally led to an “awakening” from this fog. In essence, this blog, my facebook page, and ME, are all babies in the journey of life. It was truly a form of “resurrection” that “happened” nearly 3 years ago.

Fast forward to today. Ironically, almost 2 years ago, the woman whom I now share my love with, lost her husband of 21 years to another life-changing disease called cancer. After navigating through her own fog of grief and despair with her two young children, she too came to an " awakening"  of sorts.  She has seen first-hand how crippling and destructive grief, along with it's close cousin depression, can destroy any means of normalcy for all family members after a spouse/parent dies. As divine destiny would have it, shortly after the two of us met for the first time, it was quickly apparent we both were attracted to each others’ journey in self-discovery. We both seemed to have individually experienced an " awakening"  of sorts. Or as some would describe as a " resurrection"   from the harsh ashes of our life's trials and tribulations.  Both of our personalities are naturally very strong, energetic, spiritual and compassionate when it comes to helping other fellow human beings find their way back to God's plan for their lives. Having the desire to help others has led us to a shared vision of doing so, both through writing, speaking, and through educational and charitable assistance provided by the nonprofit organization we are establishing.

Looking forward to the future, I will continue to write and publish my work while also assisting the love of my life with forming a nonprofit organization. It’s sole purpose? To provide charitable and educational assistance to widowed families with surviving dependent children through a variety of ways; teleconferencing forums where parents and guardians alike can listen, share, and learn from others on how to deal with the grief over the loss of a spouse/parent; camps or retreats where parents and children can learn to SHARE, PLAY, and LAUGH again; families will be embraced with love and support while being encouraged to define a new and positive family lifestyle that will foster and promote personal growth and self discovery; financial aid to those who have exhibited the need in the form of gift cards for food, fuel and clothing; and finally, even a fund is planned to provide financial support for higher education for those who’ve shown the need. Again, the most important overall goal is to help these families LEARN to LIVE and LAUGH again.

Meanwhile, “Ramblings” continues to march forward, all in a concerted effort to reach out and INSPIRE my fellow brothers and sisters on this earth by sharing thoughts and experiences with the God-given gift of the written word. Many have been telling me over the past three years, and especially over the past year or so, that there is a NEED in this world to inspire others, and to turn this blog into a book or perhaps a collection of short stories, for mass publication. Recently, I’ve decided to do just that and took a “leap of faith” into this arena. To be sure, writing wasn’t part of the plan a year ago but things change and, after all, that IS my passion and what I do best. If God sees fit to use the gift He’s given me in the form of the written word to HELP others help themselves, I’ll gladly accept it!

I’ve said many times, “things happen for a reason.” My own past has taught me many valuable lessons, one of the biggest of which is what some would see as tragedy or the worst possible thing to happen, has instead turned out to be the BEST possible thing that’s ever “happened!” One of the reasons why I always say, “No regrets. Because if I had any, it only means I didn’t LEARN anything.” More importantly, because I chose to surrender and put aside my self-destructive choices and seek help through others and God's will for my life, He has brought the most incredible and beautiful soul I’ve ever encountered into my life in Natalie Ryan-Ramirez. Put the two of us together, by combining HER experience in dealing with the loss of her husband to cancer almost 2 years ago and her “vision” with the nonprofit we’re forming together, along with my own experiences over the death of my mother nearly 39 years ago, as well as all that I’ve learned from a series of unfortunate personal events in my life during the past three years, makes us a positive force and "  source of inspiration"  for others to learn from if they should choose to do so.

That, my friends, is OUR shared vision and why I say to YOU, “We’re in this thing together.” We are ALL placed on this earth not for ourselves, but to exist peacefully with one another, to reach out and HELP one another whenever and wherever we can. After all, “Life isn’t a sprint to the finish line. It’s more like a never-ending marathon, full of obstacles and potholes, so we all need a little help along the way.” But perhaps Natalie put it best when she told me this one day recently, “All of us have something to put into the recipe, each of us has unique gifts and talents to add to the mixture.”

Join us then friends, by reaching out and sharing your stories, gifts, and talents with all of us. TOGETHER we WILL make an awesome and life-changing recipe! Good health, happiness, peace, and serenity to you and yours. Always.


March 15, 2011

Birds of a Feather

Before I begin this latest chapter of “Ramblings”, I think now would be a good time to provide the reader a glimpse of who and what I’m about. Many of you who are reading this may be visiting this website for the first time, so I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasize a few key points before going any further.

First and foremost, I always strongly encourage anyone who reads this blog to take the time, if they have it, to start at the beginning. However, I fully realize that many of you simply don’t have that luxury of “free” time to fully digest all of it at one sitting. At a minimum, therefore, I ask that you view my profile and biographical information to give you a “sense” of where I’m coming from when I put my hand to paper. I think after doing so you will have a fairly good grasp, though by no means a full understanding and appreciation, of my intentions. Secondly, I wish to make two points very clear. One, I am neither a preacher nor am I a licensed therapist or counselor. In other words, I’m not here to “fix” anyone. My own past has taught me many lessons, not the least of which is the value of humility. I stand in judgment of no one. Furthermore, I expect the same from others. Having said that, however, I also realize that by putting myself “out there”, it sometimes invites criticism and/or judgment of certain views I put forth. I’m willing to take that chance. Anyone who knows me well also knows my life is an open book. I can’t emphasize that last point enough. It’s by design.

Secondly, many of you who are reading this for the first time may also be relatively new members of my Facebook page called “Gusto.” You may be wondering, “Who is this guy? Is he for real? What does he want from me? Can anybody remain so upbeat like that ALL the time?” Trust me, I haven’t always been this way. More importantly, I’m human just like you, meaning I have my bad days like anybody else. But I’ll tell you why I’m so PASSIONATE at times. Two words, LIFE and FREEDOM. I’ll never take either for granted ever again. I almost lost the first, not just once, but THREE times because of an insidious, powerful, and baffling disease. And I DID lose the second back in mid-2008. After that short spell of not seeing the outside world for awhile, it shed an ENTIRELY new light on what the word freedom means to me. Finally, I’m not here with a hidden agenda though I wouldn’t be totally honest if I didn’t tell you I have visions of turning “Ramblings” into a book or collection of short stories for mass publication. That’s where you as the reader come into the picture. In other words YOU can, and WILL BE, absolutely great ambassadors in an effort to INSPIRE and motivate others. That’s what I mean when I say “We’re in this thing TOGETHER.” With this in mind, here we go!

Wikipedia defines the “Law of Attraction” like this: The Law of Attraction is a metaphysical New Thought belief that "like attracts like”, that positive and negative thinking bring about positive and negative physical results, respectively. According to the Law of Attraction, the phrase "  I need more money"   allows the subject to continue to "  need more money".  If the subject wants to change this they would focus their thoughts on the goal (having more money) rather than the problem (needing more money). This might take the form of phrases such as "  I will make more money"  or "  I will find a job that pays very well".  Now, let’s stop there for a moment for another key point about this blog. When I write, I attempt to do so in ways that the reader can identify with by sharing some of my own experiences with the topic at hand, in this case what I’d rather describe as “Birds of a feather flock together!”

Before I get into that, let me say this. There are absolutely dozens, maybe hundreds of people out there promoting “self-improvement” or motivational programs, New Age movements, they’re all over the place. We’ve all seen them on TV or read about them. Most purport that if you do A, B, and C, you’ll find a way to happiness, wealth, and security. Pardon me for saying so but that’s hogwash. We all know life doesn’t work that way. Nothing we do comes easy. There are no shortcuts to happiness and success and anyone who tells you there are is either A) selling you a pipe-dream and/or B) simply trying to make a buck off of you. What’s really important is what YOU find works for you. Everyone’s different and everyone has to find their own secrets to happiness and success. Life is complicated that way. At the same time, it’s pretty simple when you stop and think about it. It’s the simple things in life that are important, those values instilled in ALL of us when we were children; values like being respectful and honest, living with dignity, integrity, and sincerity. Loving one another with no pretense, no agenda, just pure, sincere caring for each other. Doing the “right” things, the things that we know in our hearts we were designed for by God. That, to me, is the secret right there to life. When we embrace those values we ALL hold dear I’ve just described deep into our soul, and live accordingly with our ACTIONS and not just our words, is when we truly find a place of complete happiness, peace, and security.

Moving on then to the topic at hand. Most of you who are here for the first time, did so because you made a conscious decision to press the “like” button on your personal Facebook page. And though some of you may think you were invited, the truth is you still had to press that button. Why? After all, I’m no different than you or anyone else. I have the same problems as you and, in some cases, maybe worse! The answer lies inside of you, deep in the far recesses of your soul. A friend of mine, someone who has been encouraging me for well over a year to write, told me this in December 2009, long before I moved to California and well before this blog and the associated Facebook page was created. She said, “Gus, you have a tremendous gift of knowledge and a heart that knows no boundaries about what it can give to this world. People NEED to hear what you have to say. There’s so much pain, anger, and frustration with their lives. You’re here to HELP them. You have a way of expressing things that the rest of us feel but just can’t put into words.” I think back to that day she told me that and it still stuns me. Especially given what’s happened since. The creation of this website, which has seen well over 5,000 visitors from people representing 45 countries around the world, the Facebook page that, as of this moment, has nearly 400 members, the creation of my first book yet to be published, “Ramblings – A Source of Inspiration.”All in less than one year.

Consciously or not, you came here for a reason. Similarly, when you examine your own life, think about what it is you WANT, not what you NEED. Look back on the definition described above about the Law of Attraction. Personally, I don’t believe it takes a rocket scientist to figure out this simple concept: If you think and ACT in a negative fashion, in whatever aspect of your life, whether personally or professionally, chances are pretty good the results WILL be negative. Of course, the same holds true the other way. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying just because you think positively ALL the time your life will be perfect. We know that’s simply not the case. But by consciously attempting to do so every day, even with the simplest and most trivial of things, chances are good that EVENTUALLY, your life will transform to what you WANT it to be. It’s really that simple. My own experience stands as a testament to that statement and I can GUARANTEE you that if you continue to say and DO the "  right"   things, your life WILL become far better than you can possibly imagine! As Will Smith said during one of his interviews about his views on life, “First, you decide. Then you just do it. Period. It’s that simple. There’s no need for Plan B because it distracts from Plan A.” Powerful words aren’t they?

Three years ago, I was in a “place” where I thought I had the world figured out. And I was proud of it. Problem was, it was false pride. Before long, that world blew up in my face, figuratively speaking. I nearly lost it all because I was too proud to admit I had problems. I was too busy trying to be something I wasn’t designed for. I was totally lost. Lost financially, spiritually, mentally, personally, and professionally. It wasn’t until a series of tragic events occurred that I finally “awakened.” Today, I look back and realize I was a very blessed man and still am, even MORE so! In spite of losing my job, my home, my children, and financial security, today I’m happier than I’ve been for as long as I can remember. Why? Because I CHOSE to LIVE. I CHOSE to change, to seek out people I WANTED in my life. People who not only THINK positively, but also ACT positively, every day to the best of their ability.
As a result of this NEW way of living and new way of life, I’ve had people come into my life that still astounds me. People of substance. People of character. People of honor, respect, dignity, and sincerity. People like the woman I love dearly and to her, I say only this: “I’m grateful, humbled, and HONORED to walk beside you in this journey we call LIFE.” Doors have flown open right and left professionally, several of them just recently, doors that keep propelling me to new heights as a person and as a man. Most importantly, my children have come back into my life! Why did all this happen? Because I did the one thing, the only thing really that any of us have. I made a choice, the only one God gave us as His children. Free will. The freedom to choose right or wrong, good or evil. Simple decision, wouldn’t you agree?

If you are like me, a person who values substance over style, a person who values and cherishes deeply all those ideals instilled in us as children; ideals like respect, honor, dignity, sincerity, and genuine love, then I WANT you in my life. I won’t bother to address those that don’t. My guess is though, not ONE single person reading this would choose the opposite. The same can be said for you, and like Will Smith says, just DECIDE who and what it is you WANT in life. Then go get it. Period.

But hey, who am I to say, right? I’m just one man, and a humble one at that. Either way, I thank you for being a part of my life and I look forward to sharing more with you as the days, weeks, months, and hopefully, the years go by.

After all, “Birds of a feather…flock TOGETHER.”


March 6, 2011

A Message for Members of "Gusto"

NOW is the time!

I want YOU to be a part of a bigger vision. Margaret Mead, a noted American cultural anthropologist once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Before I begin this latest chapter however, I’d like to thank and welcome all of you who have graciously joined this page. I can assure you, your “presence” here is MY “present” and I’m honored with your participation!

For those of you who have recently joined, a little bit about “Gusto.” Gusto was a nickname given to me by my father when I was just a young boy growing up on a small farm in Western Kansas. Of course, that’s just an extension of my first name and I’m not sure why I was called that to begin with. Perhaps it was because I showed signs of “passion” even then as a young boy. As the years went by and I grew into adult-hood, the name quickly faded from memory. However, shortly after I joined Facebook about two years ago, one of my friends on my personal page called me that in passing one day. Obviously, it still “sticks” after all these years!

Elaborating further about “Gusto”, one morning in early April 2010, shortly after arriving here in Southern California by way of my home state of Kansas, I awoke with a vision. I sat down to my computer and the next thing I knew my fingers had excitedly typed out these words;, the title of the website. “Gusto” for my nickname of course, and “Ramblings” since I tend to be rather verbose, a tendency, however, that has proven time and again to be a “Source of Inspiration” for many people from all walks of life! From there, events proceeded rapidly. First the creation of the website, then the blog called “Ramblings”, where I share some of my thoughts and experiences about life in the hopes of INSPIRING my fellow man, and finally, “Gusto”, the Facebook page used initially as a “launch pad” for “Ramblings.”

Today, in less than a year, there have been over 5,000 page views of “Ramblings” from people representing 45 countries around the world. The Facebook page YOU are all a part of, now has nearly 400 members in that same time period. But it doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. Here’s what I mean.

A little less than two years ago, July 2009 to be exact according to my daily journal, LONG before I moved to California, and well before the mere thought of this page and the associated website came to light, I awoke early one morning with this waking dream and vision. It was about 2 or 3 a.m. SOMETHING was stirring deep inside the far recesses of my soul. I walked slowly into the bathroom of my house in a little town called Elkhart, Kansas and turned the light on. That’s when it “happened.” Without even being conscious about it, I suddenly had this surge and burst of energy. What I’m about to tell you next may sound strange but believe me; I’m entirely about integrity and character. None of this is made up. Like so many other things about my life over the years, but particularly so the past three, people and events have just sort of “happened.” I was speaking in front of a large group of people, gesturing and talking animatedly about life and what it means (metaphorically speaking) to fall, nearly die, get back up, and slowly but surely move forward to a “new way of living” and a new LIFE. It was entirely about sharing KNOWLEDGE and AWARENESS. Everything I am can be summed up with that statement. When I was done, I felt this incredible peace and calm surround me like a warm blanket. I went back to bed and I’m certain I was smiling as I drifted into a much-needed and restful sleep for hours! Call it whatever you want, my imagination or whatever, but I simply KNEW it was divine intervention at play!

Fast forward to now. It’s March 2011. The dream and vision continues to expand and grow, and although it may not be exactly as I envisioned nearly 2 years ago with speaking, it DOES involve writing. After all, that IS my passion and what I do best. Moreover, I feel it is being used in a divine way to reach out, INSPIRE, and HELP other “awakening” souls with one’s knowledge and experience. Finally, and most importantly, it involves YOU. I’ve had many sayings I’m fond of sharing over the years and this is one I’ve heard and repeated often; “BE the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.

So this is where I’m asking for your help. Continue to share and suggest this page called “Gusto” on your personal Facebook accounts with your friends, your family, and anyone else you may feel needs or wants another “Source of Inspiration” in a world often seen and felt as complicated and confusing. Finally, I ask that you share with “Gusto” your own personal stories or testimonies to add to the “Ramblings” blog. The ultimate goal is to turn that into a full-fledged book, or collection of our short stories, for mass publication. Working together, we CAN make a difference for our fellow brothers and sisters. By doing so with honor, respect, dignity, sincerity, and love in our hearts, minds, and souls, I am CONVINCED is the best way to achieve REAL change in this world. Change that INSPIRES people to share life’s lessons and look beyond their normal everyday existence. To realize that the possibilities are endless for us as a race, when we only open our hearts and minds.

In closing, let me share with you an example of that statement about “possibilities.” One of my favorite movies, a real-life story about a homeless black teenager taken in by a white female and her family, a story that eventually led this young man to stardom in the National Football League, well…you probably know the one, “The Blind Side.” And one of my favorite songs, “Chances”, by the group Five for Fighting, is the soundtrack for that movie. The final lines of that song go like this; “Chances are the fascination…Chances won't escape from me…Chances are only what we make them…And all I need.”

This is OUR chance. Chances lost are life’s torn up pages. Let’s not waste them. Now is OUR time!


March 2, 2011

The "Living" Years

If you’ve ever hurt anyone, be it physically, emotionally, financially, or whatever, this story is meant for you. The scars and the emotional pain can sometimes linger for years. If those who’ve been hurt have truly forgiven you and you’ve both moved on, then good for you! However, as many of us know, life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, people just aren’t willing to “let go” but usually it’s because they simply can’t. Perhaps you’ve even been on the receiving end. If you are, remember this. The pain you feel is real, of that there is no doubt. But the level of pain you feel is many times far less than those who have hurt you. One day, you will move on. They often live with it for the rest of their life. Either way, the story you’ll see here should resonate in both cases. What I’m about to say next may surprise some of you, but the lessons you learn from it, and the steps you take to face and rectify past errors, will determine your inner peace and serenity for the rest of your life. Do NOT live with any regrets about your life and your past. Doing so means only one thing. You haven’t learned a darn thing. More importantly, you haven’t taken the steps to pull yourself out of yesterday’s events so you can move on with your life in a positive and productive fashion. Living with ANY regrets robs you of TODAY, leaving you no hope for tomorrow. Lastly, things “happen” for a reason. Nothing in God’s world “happens” by mistake. Your awareness and acceptance of that statement is also critical for your emotional health. Now to the story on my mind. 

Both of them are still among the living, though far away from me, one in Virginia and the other in Kansas. With me being in California, we are distanced from each other literally from one end of this country to the other, one on the west, one on the east, and one smack dab in the middle of the heart of America’s “heartland.” Although I’ve done this already, I’d do it again without hesitation, if only to cement what’s already been said one last time. If they were here right now, standing in front of me, I’d tell them this, probably with a tear in my eye: “I CAN’T change the past, but what I CAN do is to change the present. To do the BEST I know how, at this very moment, and do the “right” things.” They are two MEN, one a generation ahead of me and one behind me. I’m standing in the middle. On my left is my father, the man whose side I barely left for a minute while I was awake and growing up as a young boy in Western Kansas. On my right is my son, still not quite 18, but still very much a man in his own right. He’s had some tough cards dealt to him over the past few years. So has my father. Cards that I had a hand in dealing to both of them with my words and actions in years past.

There’s a song written by Mike and the Mechanics called “In the Living Years.” Here then, are portions of the song: “You say you just don't see it…He says it's perfect sense…You just can't get agreement…In this present tense…We all talk a different language …Talking in defense…Say it loud, say it clear…You can listen as well as you hear..It's too late when we die…To admit we don't see eye to eye…So we open up a quarrel…Between the present and the past…We only sacrifice the future…It's the bitterness that lasts…So Don't yield to the fortunes…You sometimes see as fate…It may have a new perspective…On a different day…And if you don't give up, and don't give in…You may just be OK.”

 As most of you know by now, many times I choose music to express my feelings. Words are powerful and the lyrics of this song sum up some of my own feelings very well. That’s a reality and a universal truth from which there is no escape and I, of all people, realize this more than ever as I reflect back on the “past.” But with that ONE WORD, it symbolizes everything for me. The past is just that. It’s gone. None of us can change what we did, didn’t do, said, and didn’t say, five minutes ago, let alone five months or five years ago.

Nearly ALL of us, at one point or another in our lives will do or say things that hurt other people. But, there’s another reality and universal truth about that statement. MANY times, the things we say or do hurt the ones we love the most. Most of us know this. We also know that many times, these SAME people are the ones who are least likely to forgive us! But it is at THAT moment that separates those who are AWARE enough from those who aren’t to realize something else. You may find this hard to believe but I’ve discovered that the vast majority of mankind STILL hasn’t “cottoned” to this concept. It goes something like this:

Sometimes, you just HAVE to move on with your life in a positive, productive fashion, and look back with NO REGRETS. But there’s only ONE way to do this. First, you must ask God for forgiveness for your transgressions against others. Then you forgive yourself. Finally, you ask forgiveness from those you’ve hurt. Again, most of you should know this. Here’s the toughest part of all and here’s where many of you get stuck in the past. Those you love the most may NEVER truly and freely forgive you. Your ACCEPTANCE of that cold hard fact of life is critical to your emotional survival! Instead though, you hold on, you KEEP trying to get them to accept your amends. In fact, sometimes you almost beg for it. That’s when you get stuck in “yesterday.” So you keep doing and saying things, trying to “make up” for the past. Meanwhile, you’ve forgotten what’s important. Yourself. Today. You end up sacrificing YOUR future all in the vain and desperate attempt to convince others that you NEED their forgiveness. Fact is, you DON’T! If you’ve truly asked God for forgiveness, forgiven yourself, and merely by the action of making amends the best you know how to those you’ve hurt, then you’ve done your job. What others do is their choice. Will they stay stuck in “yesterday?” Or will they realize that they have a choice as well? Do they move on with their lives, leaving the bad baggage behind? Will they take only the good memories with them in the present?

Life goes on. When we “let go and let God” is when miracles happen. Before long, those we’ve hurt come back at some point in our lives and our relationships with those we’ve loved and hurt rises to a level of beauty and consciousness that astounds us! Last summer, my Dad and I saw each other for the first time in two years. Up to that point, we’d spoken by phone with each other probably only a half dozen times. It was magical. And although we’ve again hit another bump in the road recently, I’m confident that magic will return.

Meanwhile, my son and I recently opened up a dialogue after months of silence between us. He sent me this Facebook message only two days ago, “I don’t hate you Dad. The past IS the past and life moves on.” Wise words from someone not quite 17, wouldn’t you say?

People ask me, “Don’t you have any regrets with your life?” The answer sometimes surprises them and it may do the same to you, but when you think about it, it’s pretty simple and easy. “NO. Because if I did, it means only one thing. I didn’t learn a darn thing.” And so, like the song says in “The Living Years”,  “Don't yield to the fortunes…You sometimes see as fate…It may have a new perspective…On a different day…And if you don't give up, and don't give in…You may just be OK.”