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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

be you

Now I don't think I have shared my love of a certain pop star with you yet. I love this not only cause I just think she is absolutely brilliant and awesome but because she is nothing but herself. She has no qualms about doing whatever she wants and is completely comfortable with who she is. Now of course I am talking about Lady GaGa. She is who she is and who cares what anyone thinks? I can't even express how happy she makes me by simply being who she wants to be.

I am glad there is an influence out there who just says "be who you want to be". I think there needs to be more of that in our culture. Growing up there was too much wear this brand, own this bike, play this sport... I am glad there is someone in the mainstream and popular who is so outspoken about being yourself. When I was in middle school I had to find that message in punk rock, I can only wonder what I would be like, how different my life would be like if there were more folks like Lady GaGa when I was growing up.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

it's okay to let me in

Now that I look back on the really low times in my life, I can see how much I’ve grown. I had often put on a fa├žade of being strong, tough, and independent like a man should be. I knew that I wasn’t going down a good path. I knew my depression wasn’t getting any better. But I couldn’t bring myself to get help. Help?? Like see a shrink? Who are you kidding? They are for psychos and crazy people and weak people. “Weak people.” That phrase repeated in my head and I thought to myself that I would never and could never accept that fate. The fate of so many people who can’t even handle life, so they end up crying and whining about their problems to an old guy with glasses.

But during my senior year of high school, my guidance counselor called me into her office because she had heard I had been cutting myself. She told me a story about how she was raped and how she was afraid of what people would think of her if she said something. But she somehow gained the courage to tell her parents what had happened, and had gotten help for herself. She found the courage to speak about one of the worse things that can happen to a person. She was able to break her silence.

It wasn’t until about a year later when I had gone through therapy that I realized how strong she really was. I was doing better and was finally healthy, and realized that I should have asked for help from the start. Because getting help didn’t make me weak, and having an illness that I couldn’t cure myself didn’t make me weak. I would have shown my strength by going up to my parents and asking for help. To submit to someone. To say I am letting you in my life and letting you help me along my journey to become healthy. That is courage. That is strength. That is love.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the courage to give thanks.

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I want to write about the courage to freely give thanks. As I have said before, I have a theory that we, as human beings, do not express our feelings to one another very well. In fact in my very first post I said:


I think that to do these things takes courage because they make us incredibly vulnerable, they show our raw humanity.

But let’s take a second to imagine what the world would be like if we all ran around expressing to each other how truly GLORIOUS we all are… In the words of Thomas Merton:

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

But, you see, I believe in the depths of my heart and soul that this is possible. The power is ours and the shift can take place within each of us, one at a time, day by day… it comes down to having the courage to take the risk and say…

Thank you for being you. I am grateful that you are in my life.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Now before I start I don't want to step on anyones toes. I am by no means telling anyone that my views are the 'right' way of thinking. In fact that is the point I am trying to make here. All humans have the right to feel free to express their opinion and keep their own moral standards. I have my own moral code as many of us do which we hold ourselves too. However, there is a line however gray it may be at times that I strongly encourage all of us to beware of. A point where I may push your beliefs on others. This isn't to say I can't debate or even argue values and morals with folks but if I begin to think less of someone purely based on a belief they have then I have failed myself. True, I am guilty of this and I try to catch myself, but I think the struggle is important. To hold myself to the standards I set for the world.

The scene I'd like to share is from one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing. It follows fictional president Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and his senior staff and the everyday things they do (national disasters, wars, elections, etc.). President Bartlett is a devout Catholic and quite "liberal", he often finds himself struggling with the religions right on numerous issues. In this scene he confronts a radio personality and Bible literalist from the religious right who questioned his faith earlier in the episode. Here we see Bartlet stick to his conviction.

Again I would like to say I am not saying what he says is right or not, merely showing an example of sticking to your guns when others try to make you feel bad about what you believe.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I can't do it alone

So I know the Lost series finale was a while ago, but I felt the need to talk about it. I really wasn’t into the show that much, I mean I watched the second and third season, but then didn’t really keep up with the rest very much. But I decided what the heck there’s nothing else on TV and no one was around to go line dancing, which I absolutely love. The beauty and wonder and the feelings of freedom and spirit that fill up inside me while dancing is just amazing, and you can really open up and be authentically you if you let go and just dance. I think my courage helps me get out there and just be me. So yeah, I just decided to put it on. By the end of the show, I was tearing and in awe at the wondrous message the writers sent. The whole entire show, the whole reasoning behind the show and the themes of the entire series were given in this last episode. Those themes were love, friendship, and above all courage. Throughout the show it was one scene after another where one character would perform a selfless act to help another. However, there were three main spots that shot out at me as amazing.

The first was when John Locke was wheeling himself up to the church and Ben was standing outside. Ben did terrible things to Locke and even killed him at one point. Ben understood the error of his ways and apologized deeply for what he did. That in itself is such a wonderful thing to see to show that even the darkest of people can find the spark of light they have in their hearts, one of the many reasons I love people. But even greater than that was when John look him square in the eyes, smiled, and said I forgive you. That really shows how great a person he was, that he could forgive a man, a human being, for the evil things he did. Because he understood that people aren’t evil, the things they do may be evil and wrong and hurtful, but by forgiving and showing love and compassion John knew it would mean the world to Ben and bring out Ben’s greatest light. Forgiveness is a truly selfless act.

The second involves Hurley. Hurley is the epitome of unselfishness throughout the entire series helping anyone he can and doing everything he can. Yet like most every other character, and like many unselfish people, he took on tasks always by himself never asking for help. Many people view asking for help as weak because how can a weak person who asks for help possibly help a person in need. You look to the strong and brave ones for help that stand out and can do everything by themselves. But Hurley finally saw this as untrue. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It takes courage, bravery, strength, and more heart than a lone rider could ever have to ask for help, to realize your flaws and your weaknesses and say I need your help. It takes trust and love to ask a friend for that help, to say can you help me, can I put my trust in you to stand by my side through the thick and thin because I cannot do it alone. That’s love. And Hurley found it. He was appointed Protector of the island, a solo job, one that embodies power and prestige, but Hurley went up to Ben and said can you help me, I can’t do this alone. I can’t even fathom the amount of courage it took Hurley to be able to say, this is too much for me to do alone, I need a friend and a helping hand. A friend to grow with, to love, to work side by side with, to have help you all the way. It’s not helping everyone you see by yourself, it’s learning to let people in and saying I can’t do it alone.

And lastly Jack. He’s the doctor, the person who took control from the start of the series and became protector of the island at the end. He had to save the island by going into the heart of the island and fixing it, a task that would probably kill him, and his words were “I have to do this alone,” it was always meant to be me and me alone. Well he completed his task of saving the island and he was proud, but he died for it. However before he died his father came to him and told him something that opened his eyes. He said it was always about the people. The people you lived with on that island, ate with, hurt with, and cried with, they are the people that matter. And we all die sometime, but we have to make the most out of every second and every moment we are with the people that really mean the most to us. He told him it was never about just him, and not about him saving the island or trying to save others by going at it alone. It was and is about the people, his friends he met and those loving friendships he will forever keep. Because people matter. Love matters and friendship matters. And Jack finally came full circle dying where he awoke on the island, or maybe finally coming alive in a new place. A place where he sees that he is not alone and he doesn’t need to be what he thinks is a hero. Because the real hero is the one who has courage to love, to open up, to let go, and just vividly live with the people around their and never feeling too righteous or too scared to ask for a little or a lot of help now and then. It’s not weak to ask for help, it’s courageous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

courage to love.

I used to be somewhat unenthusiastic about courage. As an overly enthusiastic person, this is odd. I think I associated courage with what I might call bravery--risk taking for the ask of risk taking--which is fine and dandy, but as I said, I am somewhat unenthusiastic about it. I then came upon a quote, painted on a wall in an art museum that changed my level of excitement about courage (well, along with the fact that Gryffindors are known for their courage):

The word "courage" comes from the Latin word "cor," which meant heart. That's where the courage comes from. It is not an act of bravado. It has nothing to do with ego or adrenaline. It has to do with falling in love and having the courage to give over fully to it.

I had never quite thought of myself as courageous and never thought about where courage comes from. What else could inspire a person to overcome fear--fear that can be so paralyzing, so limiting--but the love in that person's heart?

If I really think about the things that inspire courage in me, they are the things I love most in life: liberation, honesty, human beings, justice... the list goes on, but they all come back to love. Love gives me courage and that courage expresses the love that inspires it. They go hand in hand--we have the courage to love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boy Wizard

I wish I could be more like Harry Potter. I also wish I could marry Harry Potter (I would settle for Daniel Radcliffe), but at the end of the day I would accept being more like the green eyed boy wonder.

Why? Well, for starters he’s frickin’ awesome. But the more important thing is that he has a great deal of courage. Could you see yourself leaving your friends to fight the Dark Lord? I didn’t think so. We all have our own Dark Lords, things that we are afraid of and need to fight to be free. I just wish that I had a little bit of Potter inside of me to fight my Dark Lords.

I’m realizing that I am not a very courageous person. I will gladly go tell someone that what they are doing is wrong, and I’m prepared to fight them in an epic battle (I’m being figurative when I use the word fight, because fighting with someone wouldn’t be very Quaker like…I wonder if there are Quaker wizards?). Anyways, I have found that I’m not very adventurous; I’m not one to fly a car to school because I couldn’t cross through platform 9-¾. I would probably wait to tell my parents, and see if we could sensibly work something out.

But in the words of Dumbledore “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” So I suppose as long as I have the gumption to stand up to Ron and Hermoine then I have all the courage that I will ever need. I may not be able to fly a Nimbus 2000 with a Hungarian Horn Tail chasing after me, but I can stand up to my friends. I don’t let other people change who I really am—I guess I’m more like Harry Potter then I ever thought.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The most difficult time for me to be courageous isn't when I'm staring down a ferocious monster in the street, or giving a speech to thousands, don't get me wrong I imagine both to be very difficult and challenging. However, I must fight the hardest against myself. Facing my own demons, even acknowledging their existence is incredibly difficult for me. From suffering from a broken heart questioning if anyone would ever love me, to struggling to find the strength to apologize to a friend I may have hurt. There is a song which helps me face these demons, see they exist, and gives me some fortitude to challenge them. I'd like to share it with you in case you ever find yourself needing to have a hand finding the courage to stand up to yourself.
-Three Feathers

"Change" -Tracy Chapman

If you knew that you would die today,
Saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that love can break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

If you knew that you would be alone,
Knowing right, being wrong,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings up pain that can't be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

Are you so upright you can't be bent?
If it comes to blows are you so sure you won't be crawling?
If not for the good, why risk falling?
Why risk falling?

If everything you think you know,
Makes your life unbearable,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you'd broken every rule and vow,
And hard times come to bring you down,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today,
If you saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you saw the face of God and love
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

Friday, November 12, 2010

thank you for being you.

Just yesterday, I was in a class and was doing this exercise. The exercise focused on Ignatian Spirituality. Now I go to school at a Jesuit institution so I’ve heard it all. The Magis, Cura Personalis (care for the whole person), men and women for and with others. And I’ve always said yeah yeah I follow that, I’m like that, heck I won the Cura Personalis award at my school. But I always pushed it away. Now I don’t consider myself religious, and so I always tried to make it known that I separate myself from all this Jesuit stuff, however that day, yesterday, made me realize that my views on life and love are so very similar to the Jesuit tradition. This activity made me see that spirituality was more than just your relationship with God.

So I sat down thinking this lecture/activity was going to be a waste of my time, and the first thing the person said was that it all starts with you. And I turn my head to him and think, “hm…maybe this is going somewhere.” I agree totally. Everything starts with you. I believe if I can’t love myself fully and if I don’t have a healthy relationship with myself, I cannot serve and show compassion for others. Then he goes on to say that the second thing Ignatian Spirituality talks about is being attentive. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you, aware of people, of human beings, of the world. And because I live in this world, I believe I am called to be aware of everyone around me because I truly care. So I start to think to myself that this person might have something here.

And then he talks about reverence. I’m like huh? Reverence. The exclusion of the exclusion. Wtf?? So he tells a story of how he runs with Back On Your Feet. An organization that runs with people who are homeless. And he said that the first time he went there he was incredibly nervous because he was going to be around former inmates and addicts and such. But when he walked into the circle they formed, everyone went up to him and gave him a hug. No one knew him, no one knew if he was homeless or not, no one knew where he was coming from. And I just lit up inside. To be able to see past everything that a person did/has gone through/is doing right now and to really see that person as a human being deserving of love is such a glorious thing. It was so much of what I believe and so much of what I do. To truly see someone and to say to that person, "I see you," is amazing. To exclude everything that may exclude another person is to welcome him or her into your life fully. I love it.

Finally, he talked about revelation. He called it a mutualistic learning from two people. Two truly open people who are willing to see each other for who they really are. Two human beings saying to each other that I’m here for you, no matter what circumstances you have been through. It was this man feeling at home with these homeless men and women. It was they making him feel like he had a home, even though he wasn’t homeless, even though he had a nice place to sleep. He was originally from a different town, and they made him feel welcome. It’s a giving, a knowing, and an understanding that says I’m here for you. It’s knowing that love and compassion are two-way streets. It’s feeling like you aren’t alone. It’s knowing people care and caring all the same. It's meeting people where they are, not where they were or where you think they should be, but truly sitting down with someone for a cup of coffee and saying, "you're story is beautiful, thank you for sharing."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

my tender heart.

There is something you should know about me. I am extremely tender-hearted. And I mean like crying at Splenda commercials tender-hearted. You know the one where children are baking with what appears to be their grandma? I can't even handle myself when I see it. As I like to say--get a freaking grip.

I always knew I was sensitive (or over-sensitive, according to so many people in my life), but this was the moment I realized that my tender-heartedness was something to celebrate. I was standing at a soup kitchen holding a massive bowl of salt and pepper packets when I lost it. And I mean completely and utterly lost it and started crying my eyes out in public, in a room full of strangers at that! (Don't even worry, Ponyboy, you're not alone!) I attribute the cause of this breakdown to one specific man. We didn't speak a word to one another; he didn't do anything out of the ordinary. He was just an average man with the look of total exhaustion behind his eyes. I looked into those tired eyes and I cried.

Here is what it comes down to: I have seen my own father's eyes look that exhausted. I have looked into my dad's eyes and known that he gives every ounce of his strength for his family because he loves us and that love drives him. He is such a good dad. Right down to his core, he just wants to do what is right and what is good. The difference is that my dad's stresses are not about survival. We never had to worry about our basic needs. Dad always took care of those needs and much, much more.

Even if it wasn't true for that particular man, there are people working to the point of utter exhaustion out of untiring love for their families who, regardless of these efforts, cannot provide for all their basic needs. Standing there, crying into a bowl of salt and pepper packets, I wondered why these stresses of literal survival weren't my stresses. They easily could have been, but I was born into privilege. I asked myself: why me?

I am tender-hearted. That tender heart breaks for human beings because, in the end, your flesh is no different than my flesh, your bone no different than my bone, your blood no different than my blood. We feel pain the same way, we show show joy through the same smiles and the same laughter. We are human and that connects each and every tender heart.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"They say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time" - Talking Heads

I’m in a funk. At least that is what I have been saying. Not like in a get funky with it funk. But like a blah funk. I believe my funk stems from this question: At what point do you stop worrying about others, and worry about yourself? Lately I’ve felt encompassed by the level of compassion I’m called to show for the people around me. Almost every day I drop what I am doing to listen to their life traumas. And it’s bringing me down. I take everything I am told, and it becomes my concern. I too become over whelmed, just like the person who is confiding in me. I’m just trying to be a compassionate person, but is there a point where you can become to compassionate?

I feel like I need a release.

I need some Ponyboy time.

I need to be compassionate towards myself.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel compassion for others. In fact, one of the things I like about myself is that I am compassionate, my tears flow. I just feel overwhelmed. Because I am not being compassionate towards myself, I cannot fully be compassionate for other people. I’m at this state of exhaustion, where I’ve lost all emotions. NOT. GOOD.

I think most of these emotions stem from the fact that I feel like nothing I do or say is making a difference—basically, I’m frustrated. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for those who confide in me, but nothing I can say guides them towards that light.

So I need to guide myself towards that light.

I think we all need to guide ourselves to that light. Embark on your journey towards inner compassion. Let me know how it goes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I was on a cross-state backpacking trip with my spirituality and the environment class a few years ago. We had just completed three days of solitude by ourselves in individual sites with only a tarp, a sleeping bag, a knife, a gallon of water, water purification tablets, and our journals and pens. Our teacher was handing back our watches and we were all still pretty dazed. One of my classmates kept saying his thoughts out loud. Actually a few of us did, after all three days alone in the woods you start to talk to yourself to not scare yourself with the absence of human noise.

Not only were we isolated, but we were fasting as well, it was pretty difficult not to go a little crazy. A brook ran near my campsite and I built a dam in it to pass the time. then when I was finished I could swim in the deep spot I had made. Time passed differently, It wasn't just the fact that we didn't have our watches, It was that we had nothing to keep time for. Our assignment was to write down whatever it was we "perceived". A few days earlier before we started our trip a poem stuck with me. A saying from a Northwestern American Indian tradition.

What to do when lost in the woods?
Stand still.
The trees beside you and the rocks below are not lost.
Wherever your are is called

These words carried me through and as we were getting our watches back I thought back to them. I often forget that not only does the world not revolve around me, It doesn't revolve around humans. When I leave this place it still exists. That dam I made, my unconscious desire to leave some mark of myself on where I was, even that will be washed away. Not that I don't matter but I am a piece and not the sum of the equation. It will keep going long after I have disappeared. long after all my other dams have gone as well.

There I was hiking out of the forest far more confused then when I entered. Trying desperately to grasp on to an idea I still have trouble holding on to. You are Here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

a look between friends

There’s a scene in The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King where Frodo wakes up from destroying the ring and completing his goal. He was knocked out and hurt badly, but was able to recover. After greeting people whom he departed from earlier, and meeting friends he hadn’t seen in a while, he looked over and saw Sam. Sam was the one who stuck with Frodo through the whole journey. He was there to see his ups and downs, to support him, to care for him, and to ultimately serve him. Frodo was there for Sam in the same ways. They were so connected through this journey and the things they endured that they had this amazing understanding for each other, a love like no other.

Donald Miller in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years talks about a cross-country bike ride he went on with fifteen strangers. He says that when he called his family and friends and talked about the heat or the weather, it was just like a normal conversation, but with his fellow bike riders, it was something more entirely. They understood what hot meant to him, what pain in the legs, sweating, and burning up felt like. They could connect on a level that was unreachable with others. For me, that is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world, to feel that you truly have someone who gets you, who empathizes with you, and to know you are not alone. To have that long pause, that smile and look between friends.

“A look between friends”

Sometimes words just crowd the page.

It’s that feeling that you get when he looks at you,
she looks at you,
it…looks at you with the understanding that means I know
without saying I know
without speaking to you to say, “I really do get it.”

Those eyes gazing into your eyes
and psychic waves of wonderful emotion
transmit from one human to another to silently utter those simple reassuring words:
"You are not alone."
But because of the pain
and how it makes you think,
you feel like you are


when you are actually Surrounded by love,
a love that is so amazing and more beautiful
than words can ever describe.

I would take emotions over words any day.

And when you start to feel it in you,
when you feel that the person you are staring at is the one who
is so very attached to you,
in a way of understood emotion
you start to see that there’s something to this whole silence,
this look
this gaze,
this repeated sound in a phrase
like a repeated reassurance
that they really do get it.

A final mutualism.
Not the kind where compromises are made,
but where compassion is gained.
A true understanding of one another.
A true respect.
A true friendship.
Love at it greatest,
With no interfering words.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

what IS solidarity?

I think that compassion allows us to see ourselves in another, to recognize the human in another, and to extend that humanity to all people. I think that compassion, when cultivated, has the potential to lend itself towards solidarity.

So, what IS solidarity? The first time I gave solidarity sustained thought, I associated it with being untiringly ACTIVE. I have been told that solidarity means not sleeping until all people are sleeping with a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. Shit. I guess I can give up on sleeping, then. I have also been told that solidarity lies within the giving away of not only one's excess but of one's own possessions, only showering once a day, fasting, or sleeping outside. Eh, I don't know if I buy this.

So, for real this time, what IS solidarity? To me, it's oneness, unity and community. It's standing arm and arm with one another because we are human because we believe that we all deserve the same things. It is seeing yourself in everyone you meet--the little ones who can't fight for themselves, each person you pass on any given day, the ones doing our world harm...

Get your cute butt to this site and get your solidarity on: http://www.fallingwhistles.com/

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"I'm not crying...it's just been raining on my face."

My name is Ponyboy and I have a problem. I cry too much.

I know, I know. Crying too much isn’t really a problem, but let me explain myself. I can’t get through an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition without balling my eyes out, in fact within the first three minutes of the show tears are falling upon my t-shirt, creating a monstrous wet spot. I don’t know what it is. Even when I see another person crying, I will start to cry. I don’t know why they are crying, I just follow suit. It’s like when you see a person yawn and then you yawn—the only difference is that yawning is relatively less embarrassing.

I have found that it is also very hard to express my emotions. Instead of telling people why I am upset, I cry. This tends to be very frustrating for the people who show concern for my wellbeing. What usually happens is that when people ask if I am o.k., I cry more. The fact that they care about me enough to ask if I am o.k. makes my tears increase exponentially.
I cry when cutting onions. I don’t just tear up. Enough water pours out of my eyes to turn my whole face black from the mascara I am wearing. I look like a raccoon.

I cry every time I watch the first season finale of The O.C.

I cry when laughing.

I cry while reading (I’m referring to you, Bridge to Terabithia).

I’d like to think that I cry a lot, not because I am emotionally unstable, but because I am full of compassion. I suffer with others, hence, when they cry, I cry. When others show compassion towards me, I cry because I never expect to be loved. And I am o.k. with crying uncontrollably if that makes me a compassionate person. I’d rather be a compassionate person with a red splotchy face, then someone who refuses to acknowledge the feelings of the people surrounding them.