How Soon We Forget

How soon we forget
The people, the places, the experiences
That made us who we are, and inform who we will be.

What fragility, the human mind
Too complex for its own good, it seems.
An ally, true, but at times an enemy.

Take for instance memory.
It is fleeting.
It offers but a glimpse
And it distorts. Oh how it distorts.

Yet what more have we?

As time’s heavy hand wears me away
It is the memories that revive at the most unexpected moments
that bring me the greatest joy.

Feeling Alright

Video

I’ve always loved the message behind this song, and it never fails to make me feel good no matter my mood. So I thought I’d share it with all of you. Enjoy. And if you’ve never heard of Rebelution, I highly recommend you check them out. They are a great reggae band based out of Santa Barbara.

A Moment in Time

I remembered a fleeting moment today.  We were on your couch.  You had put your hair up using one of those hippy bands I used to make fun of you for.  You were sitting Indian style facing me, and you were eating fruit out of a purple Anthropologie bowl.  You were wearing sweatpants and one of my old t-shirts.  I don’t remember what we were talking about, but you did that thing where you open your eyes wide and feign bewilderment, like a kid at Christmas unwrapping her first gift of the season.

That face is forever etched in my memory.  It’s the face that made my heart melt every time I saw it.  It’s the most beautiful face I have ever seen.  I will always be able to recall it in my mind’s eye, even if I’m not lucky enough to see it again in person.  I will never forget it.

And I will never stop loving you.

The Art of Self-Improvement (Part 2)

Several days ago, I began writing about certain things I have incorporated into my life over the past few months in a concerted effort to improve it.  My efforts at self-improvement have been holistic, meaning that I have incorporated changes to all facets of my life in the hopes of improving every aspect of my being — my body, my mind, and my soul.  One such area of my life that I have been focusing on improving is my creativity.

When I was younger, my creative spirit was unquenchable.  I played multiple instruments, wrote and performed my own music, wrote poetry, acted, and wrote short stories.  If I wasn’t in school or playing sports, I was creating.  When I discovered that I had the ability to create a collection of sounds or words that could evoke thought, emotion, and feeling in those who read, saw, or heard it, my life changed.  The ability to create art from scratch using nothing but my mind and my own two hands, gave me a sense of identity, of purpose.  It gave me an outlet through which I could communicate with people in a way and on a level beyond the ordinary.  It made me feel special, and it informed a large part of my development during my transition from a child to an adult.

Sadly, by the time I was winding down with college, much of my creative spirit had been dulled.  While in school, I became preoccupied with other things — mostly partying and having a good time.  Though I continued to dabble in music in private, I stopped writing, I stopped performing with others, and I stopped creating the art that had sustained me for much of my adolescence.  By my mid-20s, when I began law school, all bets were off.  Although I was no longer wasting all of my time partying, I became singularly focused on setting myself up for a successful career in law, and that really carried into the first several years of my legal practice.  As a result, the creativity I so craved and pursued when I was younger fell completely by the wayside.

Looking back at the last few years, it’s amazing to me how devoid my life had become of anything creative.  What really pains me is that the girl I was with for four years of my life — the girl I love more than anyone I’ve ever loved anyone — never got to see the creative side of me.  I never read her a poem I wrote.  I never played her a song I composed.  She never saw me perform on stage.  I never showed her this side of me because I had closed myself off from it, too.  I wish I could go back and show her how talented a pianist I can be when I’m in practice, or write a song for her on the guitar and then play it for her, or express my love for her through poetry.   I regret not having done these things when I had the chance.

A few months ago, I was in a pretty bad place in my life.  I was still reeling from the end of my relationship with my ex, and I felt like my personal life was in shambles.  I was harboring a great deal of pain and sadness, and I was bottling all of it up. I had no outlet, no means of expressing myself in a meaningful way that might provide such much needed therapy.  And then, one fortuitous day last Fall, I walked into a Best Buy to buy a television for my bedroom and ran into a full blown musical instruments department.  I walked out of there that day with a brand new acoustic guitar (and no television).  And the rest, as they say, was history.

There’s something amazingly simple about an acoustic guitar.  It allows instant creation.  You don’t need to plug anything in, you don’t need to boot anything up.  You can just play it anytime, anywhere, and it responds instantly.  Before last Fall, I had never owned an acoustic guitar; I had only owned and played electric guitars.

From the moment I bought that acoustic guitar, my life changed for the better.  I began creating again.  The process was a slow one — playing for 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, hearing a song on the radio and learning how to play it at home.  Slowly but surely, though, I have fallen back into a regular process of playing and creating music.  In many ways, I feel like I did when I was 16 and the possibilities were endless.  I know that my life is much different now at 32 than it was at 16, but when I put that guitar over my shoulders and start playing, the feeling is the same.  I’m creating, and it feels fucking amazing.

Infusing musical creation back into my life has also inspired me to be creative in other formats.  I have begun writing poetry again, a couple examples of which I’ve posted on this blog.  I’m no Edgar Allen Poe (quoth the raven), but writing poetry helps me feel better because it allows me to express myself in a way that I can’t do otherwise.  At a very fundamental level, writing poetry helps me improve my life by allowing me to reflect, ponder, and create.  And I’m so very thankful for the ability to do all of that.

My next creative goal is to get a piano.  I played classical piano for 17 years — from age 5 to 22.  I was pretty good, too — I could play all the big-time composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Bach.  I haven’t played regularly in a decade, and I really want to get back into it.  So much so that I wish I had a piano right this second.  I may have to do some hand-wringing with the landlord on this, but I’m really hopeful I can make it happen.

Reviving my creative spirit has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.  It has allowed me to cope with the pain and sadness that accompanied my break-up and still lingers despite the passage of time.  It has also given me hope, and made me a more determined and confident person.  It has grounded me and reminded me that life is amazing — the ability to create art, even if only for oneself, is a gift that alone makes life worth living.  I am so thankful to have this gift, and I’ve made a promise to myself that I will not let it slip my grasps ever again.

The Art of Self-Improvement (Part 1)

What is human growth?  How does one define it?  How is it measured?  How do you know it’s happening?

These are questions I’ve been pondering recently.  I’ve reached a crossroads in my life where the decisions I make today will have a significant impact on the rest of my life.  I’m trying to make sure I go down the right path.  I don’t want to be one of those 65-year-olds who looks back on his life and wishes he’d done more to take care of himself when he had the chance.  So, I’m working on improving myself mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually — any word that ends in “ally,” really.  (Ha.)

“Self-improvement” is a strange concept.  It presupposes several things.  First, it necessarily assumes that you have unfulfilled potential.  Everyone has unfulfilled potential, of course, but not everyone cares to admit it.  Second, it requires intention.  Self-improvement is an intentional act, a purposeful act, with some end goal that is the ultimate focus of the exercise.  Third, it contemplates desire — a desire to be better, to be or to have more of something that is good and virtuous and beneficial.  Intention alone is not enough — the true motivation lies in the desire to become a better person over the long haul.

I once heard Jim Harbaugh say that we never stay the same — we either become better, or become worse, but we never stay the same.  (Yes, I realize I just quoted Jim Harbaugh.  Also, go Niners.)  Over time, I’ve really come to believe in this mantra, and I’ve taken it to heart.  My desire to become a better person in all facets of my life has never been stronger.  And while it’s easy to say that, it’s much more difficult to carry out a plan of action that actually helps me achieve it.  I’m doing my best to put my money where my mouth is.

In my next several posts, I’ll go over some of the things I’ve begun doing to improve my body, my mind, and my soul.  If anyone out there is looking for ideas for self-improvement, perhaps some of the things I’ve been doing will serve as springboards or inspiration.

I’ll start the discussion off by focusing on perhaps the most obvious areas of self-improvement for most people — nutrition and exercise.  I mean, there’s nothing more important than being healthy, right?  Yet so many of us ignore this essential component of our lives.  Until about seven months ago, I was one of those people.  I was out of shape, underweight, overworked, sleep-deprived, and stressed out from work and personal struggles.  And I’d been that way for the better part of my late 20s and into my early 30s.  Pretty good recipe for a heart attack at 50, right?

But something finally clicked last September, shortly before I hit my 32nd birthday.  I remember getting up one morning and telling myself that I wasn’t going to live like that anymore.  And over the past seven months, I’ve slowly but steadily planted certain seeds that I’m hopeful will, in the long run, transform my body and put me on the path to long-term health and happiness.

It’s amazing to me how much what we put into our bodies affects our behavior and mood.  I have a busy career and an active social life, so it’s never been easy for me to focus on a healthy diet.  The notion of “healthy eating” was always a nice thought, but when push came to shove, I was never really wiling to work for it.  Things have changed.  Since last September, I’ve really made an effort to improve my nutrition and cut out all the bad stuff out of my diet.  Among other things, I’ve almost completely cut out all sugary drinks out of my diet.  I might go weeks without having anything to drink other than flat water, mineral water, coffee, and milk.  (Mineral water is amazing, by the way.  It tastes great, is refreshing, and has none of the unhealthy ingredients found in soda or juice.  It’s sort of been a lifesaver for me.)  I’ve also cut out processed foods and red meat out of my diet as much as possible.  This means only natural snacks at work, and red meat no more than once per week (down from 3-4 times per week).  Finally, I started “juicing.”  Yes, everyone in L.A. (where I live) is juicing now.  But it friggin’ works, man.  I bought a bullet blender for about $100, and it’s the best hundred dollars I ever spent.  (No, you don’t need to spend $700 on a blender.)  Every night I get, 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables with that thing, and the results have been noticeable.  I generally feel better and have more energy (despite cutting down on my coffee intake), my skin looks and feels better (with fewer breakouts even when work gets stressful), and because I drink a 100% natural fruit smoothie every night (with flaxseeds to boot), I almost never eat ice cream, cookies, or various other treats I used to indulge in regularly after dinner.  All in all, I feel much better, both mentally and physically, because of these changes to my diet.

Along with improving my diet, I have made a concerted effort to get back into the gym.  I was an athlete in college and in decent shape in my late teens and early 20s, but after I started law school, I went almost five years without stepping into a gym more than a handful of times.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true, so I’ll own it.  Back in September, when I finally decided that I had had enough, I hired a personal trainer and got back into the swing of routine physical activity.  I am so thankful that I did.  I usually make it to the gym at least twice per week now, though I’ve made an effort to increase that to three times per week for several weeks now.  So far, so good.  I’ve also begun taking more advantage of all of the amazing outdoor spaces that L.A. has to offer.  I particularly enjoy hiking, which not only gives me a good workout, but allows me to catch up with friends or just get my mind clear if I do it solo.

A healthier diet and more active lifestyle have combined to help me look better, feel better, and feel better about myself.  It’s all very much a work in progress, and it’s a lot of hard work.  But I have committed myself to a path of self-improvement that, I hope, will ultimately be transformative.  I’m excited about what the future holds.

Untitled

What are you doing right this second?

Are you at home, taking in the night?
Are you thinking about me?
Are you with HIM?
He who replaced me.  But didn’t.
Nameless
Faceless
A shadow
My insides shatter at the thought.

Another day of longing.  Of Distraction.
Of sadness and desire and hope and confusion.
What can I do but tell myself to stay the course?
To endure.
To forge ahead.
To become better, stronger, smarter, wiser.
For her, yes, but not for her.

For me.

Another night, and here I am
Alone
My final thought, as every night,
That I won’t awake next to her.
I will not see her tomorrow.
I will not hear her laugh.
I will not hear her sing.
I will not feel her breathe.

Things will not always be this way,
I tell myself.
But yet life is pain.

A Good Decision

It’s important in life to make good decisions.  But what does that really mean?  I’ve been thinking about this question a lot today.  The answer I’ve come up with is that making good decisions means not putting yourself in compromising positions and avoiding situations in which you might hurt yourself or others.  Admittedly, this is not a strong suit of mine.  But I am working on it.

I made several poor decisions while I was out with some friends last night that I need to get off my chest.  To understand why I did what I did, you need to know two things about me:  (1) I don’t drink very much anymore, and thus have a really low tolerance for alcohol; and (2) I’ve spent the past couple weeks trying to convince my ex-girlfriend of 1.5 years (whom I was with for 4 years) to get back together with me, and have had a lot of conflicting and intense emotions permeating my brain.  Bad combo.

The long and short of it is that I went out for drinks with some co-workers yesterday at happy hour.  Because we don’t have too many opportunities to hang out away from the office, the general feeling was that people were ready to let loose.  Before long, people started buying rounds of shots and generous pours of scotch whisky, and happy hour turned into a night out.  And then I woke up.  Yikes.

There are few things in life that I hate more than waking up in the morning and not knowing how I got home.  There was a period in my life (my late teens and early 20s) when this was commonplace and not such a big deal.  But I’m a grown man now.  I am trying to live a healthy life, a righteous life.  Blacking out doesn’t really move that ball forward, you know?

As I began orienting myself upon waking up, the first thought that ran across my mind was, “Did I drive home?”  The answer, unfortunately, is “yes.”  It goes without saying that this is problematic for a million different reasons, but what bothers me more than anything is that it’s such a huge risk, and so completely avoidable (i.e., take a fucking cab).  That was poor decision number one.

Poor decision numbers two and three were more personal.  Quickly realizing that I had blacked out at some point last night, I turned to my phone and started checking my texts and call log.  I saw the two texts that I remember sending to my ex before blacking out.  I indicated my then-current state in one of the texts, so she was aware that I had been drinking.  Reading the texts with a sober mind this morning, I immediately deemed them to be idiotic.  I then viewed my call log and saw that I had called my ex twice within a ten-minute time span at around 10:00 p.m.  Thankfully, she didn’t answer the phone, as I’m sure I would have just made an even greater fool of myself.  But the act of me calling her is damaging unto itself.  Drunk dialing your ex when you’re trying to show her that you’ve grown up and that she’s not crazy for giving you the time of day is not conducive to repairing your relationship with her.

Realizing what I had done, I e-mailed my ex shortly after I was able to collect my thoughts and apologized to her for my behavior.  Her response was understandably short, and I was left asking myself how and why I allowed myself to screw up in this way.  Here’s what I’ve been able to conclude so far.

I didn’t make good decisions last night because I put myself in a position where I wasn’t able to think clearly.  That is what alcohol does (and indeed is intended to do).  It follows, then, that the obvious way to avoid the types of decisions I made last night is to not put myself in a position where I might be prone to making them.  That’s just common sense, and it’s about time I started using it.

I’ve flirted with the idea of cutting hard alcohol out of my life completely several times before (once or twice seriously), but have always decided merely to cut down my intake instead.  The result has been that I don’t drink nearly as much as I did ten years ago.  That is a very good thing, but it’s not enough.  It’s clear to me that the only way I will ever be able to avoid nights like last night altogether is to give up hard alcohol permanently.  And that is exactly what I’m going to do.

This was not an easy decision.  I love my expensive scotch and craft cocktails, as well as the camaraderie that accompanies sharing those drinks with others.  But it’s the right decision — a good decision borne out of three bad ones.  It’s a way for me to show my ex that my assurances to her that I’m working on improving myself are not hollow words.  Believe me, she’s worth it.

Empty Space

All is silent
but for distant memories
ringing like echoes in a slight wind.

The sound of her laugh,
the smell of her skin,
the taste of her mouth,
remembered.  Reminders
of times past, of days ended,
when life was full of nascent possibility.

Here lies a hole,
a chasm.
A man in its center breathes
softly
slowly
wondering
pondering

Is the empty space in his heart because
what was once there is gone,
or what belongs there has yet to be?

Day One

Dear Internet,

Hi.  You don’t really know me, but I know you.  You and I go way back, actually — to the days of Prodigy on the 1200 bps modem.  (Like I said, waaay back.)  I’ve finally decided to give this blog thing a try, so I thought I’d introduce myself.  Mucho gusto.

Why am I starting a blog now, you ask?  It’s a fair question (the Internet needs more blogs like the world needs more lawyers).  Well, I have some ulterior motives that I can’t really reveal right now, but suffice it to say that this blog is going to serve as a new creative outlet for yours truly.  You see, I’ve been all about creative outlets recently.  I’ve experienced some momentous life events (both good and bad) in the last couple years that have caused me to reflect on certain aspects of my life.  One of the conclusions I’ve reached as a result of this reflection is that I have way too many interesting things going on in my head not to express them in creative ways.  So here I am.  Flesh, bone, keyboard, and all, typing away to my heart’s content.

Now I know what you’re wondering:  what sorts of amazing things am I going to be discussing on this blog in the coming weeks/months/years?  Well, my friend, you can expect a cacophony of literary revelations — a smorgasbord, if you will, of original thought, opinion, creation, and reflection.  One day, I may do an opinion piece on a topic that’s important to me.  Another day, I may lighten things up with an album review, or spice things up with a poem.  Perhaps I may even post a song or two of my own (remember that whole “creative outlet” thing I was describing earlier?).  Really, the blogosphere is my oyster, and I’m going to slurp it all up.

Wait, that came out wrong.

The point is, this blog is going to be a lot of different things — many of which I can’t really envision or predict right now (you’ll just have to come along for the ride).  But it will be 100% genuine and 100% me, through and through.  I will not hold anything back.  This will be my time, my venue, my space for expressing myself as I see fit.  And I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

Anyhoo, it’s a pleasure to formally meet you after all these years.  You’re not quite as depraved as I imagined you’d be.  (That’s meant to be a compliment, by the way.)  While we’re on the topic, can you stop posting my home address everywhere?  It’s really scary that anyone can look me up and see exactly where I live.  I mean, we’re friends now, right?

Thanks a million for reading.  This is going to be fun.  Good night, kiddo.