Books

Books have power.

When you enter into a book, you are beginning a journey. Perhaps this journey will take you to far away lands where tales of honor, valor, and treachery reign. You may find yourself standing in the shoes of a hero, a villain, or the oppressed; feeling what they feel, and almost seeing what they can see.

Some books take you on a journey of the mind. Topics of science, faith, history, parenting, writing, economy, biographies, diet, you name it; we can feed our minds with knowledge. It is knowledge that you have to work for, as you have to be committed and intentional about taking this journey. 

Other books may take you on a journey of the soul, the deeper layers of what this life is about. The words may jump off of the page and into your heart, creating inspiration or longing for something you cannot describe at times. Meaning, purpose, hope, and love are weaved throughout the pages, making their way into our very thread of our being; aspects of our character are molded as we read of perseverance, compassion, and empathy. These are the kinds of books that I have connected with most in my life, and most in the last couple of years.

I have not always been a reader. I actually had read very few books before I got into my thirties. My world was opened though as I finally began to put in the work to get through a book and apply myself to understand the themes. In all honesty, it was very hard as it would take me a long time to get through a book, and I had to reframe my mindset to embrace the time spent reading as an investment into not only my personal life, but the lives connected to me.

I would like to share some the books that have impacted my life in the last couple of years, with a brief overview of the theme. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

  • The title says it all. Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy guides the narrative of this book. The first half of the book is his experience being taken into, enduring, and coming out of the Nazi concentration camps. He shares stories of how men stripped of their humanity, managed to endure each day with the hope that they would some day be free. The second half of the book takes a deeper look at logotherapy.

Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen

  • This book is summed up in the journey of moving from Loneliness, Hostility, and Illusion to Solitude, Hospitality, and Prayer. One of the most impactful books I have read.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

  • This is a series that currently has three books; The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. These are long epic books. The first book sets the stage and takes you through the back story of each of the main characters. This is a great story because it takes you through themes of courage, perseverance, anger, dealing with revenge, bravery, faith, family, and loyalty. These are very long books, but great reads if you enjoy the fantasy realm of writing. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway

  • A short story that is just a good read. This book makes you want to be a little tougher, as it is a story of a fisherman. It also contains the theme of endurance and commitment. Bonus, you can say you’ve read Hemingway.

The Emigrant Edge by Brian Buffini

  • Buffini is a motivational speaker/real estate trainer. He is an Irishman who has no shortage of passion, motivation, dedication, drive, and love. This books takes you through his journey as an Emigrant (one who leaves their country to permanently live in another). He challenges us to have a strong work ethic as well as recognize the abundance of opportunity we have in this life, and specifically, America. He writes very accessibly, he is funny, and does not pull punches as he challenges us to live and love fiercely.

Soul Cravings by Erwin Mcmannus

  • I have read this book a few times since it was released in 2006. Erwin jumps off the page and into the chair across from you as he engages the reader in a conversation about faith, love, creativity, and hope. This book also has one of the coolest book covers. 

How To Be Here by Rob Bell

  • Mindfulness, contentment, kindness to self, and finding your passion are all themes covered in this book. Rob is one of the best writers of personal development, faith, and Christianity that I have read. No mater how deep he takes you, he writes in laymen’s terms, so that anyone can engage. He also has many other books I would recommend, but this is the most recent that I had read.

This is not a complete list, but these have impacted me in a positive way. I would recommend all of these to any one (exception The Stormlight Archive, due to it’s fantasy style and length of books). Books are a gift, and there is much to be gained by sitting down and working your mind through the words on the pages. We are writing our story every day, so take some time to read a story; and in doing so, you add to your own. 

 

The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.

 

The Upside of Being Down

“You Change Your Valley Into A Peak When You Find And Use The Good That Is Hidden In The Bad Time.”

– Spencer Johnson

The following post has been written over the course of the past week, and is a journey through understanding and responding to sadness. It transforms and grows as you read through it, and my hope as always is that it connects with each person who reads it

I have felt downhearted more times in the past few years than I can recall. Some of the loneliest and saddest times have peaked as well. Be it a form of depression, feeling meaningless, or just feeling unimportant and ineffective; Today though, I find myself in a space of reflection and insight. While currently in the middle of this struggle, hope is also present.

This post is not intended to discourage, on the contrary, the intent is to encourage through transparency. Being transparent with our struggles is the only way to have a meaningful conversation about the inner workings of our heart, the feelings we experience, and the impact it has on our life. Therefore, I will be as honest as I can with the state I am in, in the hopes that it connects and empowers you the reader as I seek to connect and seek empowerment as well.

The theme of this article will be about the effects of sadness, and the power it has to teach us. At the core, sadness may be the greatest indicator of our purpose. You cannot be sad without trying to identify the source of it, because we desire joy and peace; and once you find the source, you find a choice. A response is needed: do we just lay down and accept that things just are what they are, or rise up and choose to do the work that must be done to climb out of the muck and the mire.

Sadness is necessary to move forward. In Disney’s movie Inside Out there is a scene where the character Sadness has to step in and help another character (Bing Bong) come to grips with the change that has taken place in his life.

Sadness-with-Bing-Bong

He cannot go on, and the character Joy has done everything in her power to help cheer him up. Sadness steps in, and instead of trying to cheer him up; she simply sits with him and acknowledges that his sadness is justified. In this simple act, she helps him accept that what has happened as the past, and she helps him get through the feeling of giving up in a way that the character Joy could not. He finds a new strength at this point of the movie. He finds the ability to move on, and team with Joy once again.

Sadness has it’s place in our life, and it has an important role in our growth and our purpose.

A common theme and open struggle that I’ve shared in previous blog posts, is my current inability to be comfortable being alone. I have come to understand that this longing for constant community comes from deep inside of me. I grew up as what I thought what was an introvert, and it turned out that I was actually just a shy extrovert; so the feeling of being torn when alone has been in my life since my adolescent days. I developed a habit of wanting to be involved, but being too scared to step out and join. I eventually became more comfortable with stepping out, but the habit of longing for more connection and involvement has stuck around. So there are times I find myself in a state of sadness because I feel disconnected, but I can see sadness as a teacher.

Here are five things sadness has taught me:

1. Aloneness is a part of life; so there must be a level of acceptance in those times. There are opportunities to grow in knowledge, strength, or creativity. Whether it is reading, writing, playing guitar, exercising, or being still; all of these activities are beneficial for me and ignite hope within me. I have written about loneliness and solitude in previous posts.

2. Sadness is a window into the soul. If you want to know what you desire, be attentive to your feelings. Just as energy and excitement in a station let’s you know you like what’s happening, sadness shows you what you need.

3. Take the time to grieve an unfortunate situation. There is a time for sadness, and we do need to acknowledge when a situation arises in life that brings heartache. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a personal injury, a missed opportunity, a feeling of failure, or the state of our nation; take the time to process that feeling inside.

4. Do something about it. If feeling disconnected from community, put forth the effort to connect. If grieving a death, remember that life and ask what they would have you do in this time. If you don’t like the state of our nation or environment, take baby steps toward making a difference. Do not let hopelessness take over.

5. Sadness calls us to be intentional, and that is why I choose to write about it today. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a quote that holds a lot of truth. We can blaze a path through this life, we can even choose which path to follow; but if we are unintentional about our decisions, we forfeit ownership of the direction of our life.

I have learned so much while writing this article over the past week. I started in a state of despondency, hoping for insight to move toward meaning; and today, I find myself hopeful. There is a fine line between heartache and hopelessness, and we must recognize the difference, because there is always hope. I thank you for reading this article, and that it brings hope if you are in need; or in the very least, it will challenge you give sadness it’s place when it comes to you.

 

To Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The quote above is from Ralph Waldo Emerson; and I often turn to it when I need motivation or need to be reminded that there is a whole world taking place as I walk through my days.

What is it to be yourself? Is this a form of destiny combined with ambition? The truest form of who we are is somewhere in our soul, and that part of our soul speaks to our mind; and in those words, we hear whispers of what we need to do. In our soul, we can feel the rumblings of purpose.

Purpose. Our purpose can be found by asking what does life expect from me? This is a question that I have mentioned before as it comes from one of the most influential books I have read titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. This question was raised as he observed not only himself, but other men who had lost everything as prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust; and had been stripped of their very humanity, yet found the strength to rise again each day and believe that there was a reason to persevere in the face of their great suffering.

We can learn from their perseverance, and find strength from their strength. So I ask, what does life expect from you?

Another of my favorite quotes that I have shared before is from Howard Thurman about coming alive:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What moments in your life did feel truly alive?

To be truly alive is akin to being yourself. When the task at hand can be done with joy amidst struggle, or the process becomes  more enjoyable than the product; perhaps you have glimpsed your purpose. This is found in the space where your skills or talents align with what you enjoy doing. This is a sacred space when you discover that your passions and talents also align with what the world needs.

I ask you these questions as I ask them myself. Perhaps together we can find our true self, our purpose, come alive, and in turn provide the world around us with what it needs.

 

Tales from the Trails: Why We Run

I like to run. Actually, I may even go so far as to say I love to run. That wasn’t always the case, and I didn’t actually start running consistently until about six years ago.

When you start to talk about running, you are met either with passion or disdain. It’s a love/hate relationship for some, a hate/hate relationship for others, and then there is the love/growth relationship for the rest of us.

We run for clarity.

We run for peace.

We run for community.

We run for pizza and beer.

While I was on a run a few weeks ago, I found myself able to be fully in the moment. 2400 feet of elevation gain in 3.8 miles, and I found myself loving every minute of it; which was new for me. Bombing down those 3.8 miles was even more fun! Typically, I would see the climb as an obstacle; but this time, it was an opportunity. I enjoyed the pain, the grit needed to keep moving, the smell of the forest, and the chill in the air. I discovered something that day.

Visualize the good and true

I usually prepare for a run the day before. I will start taking in a little more calories than usual and hydrate all day; but I also will usually start worrying about waking up early, will I get enough sleep, will I be able to keep pace with the pack, and how much water or nutrition to bring, if any. That is a lot of mind space dedicated to negative thinking. This time around I chose to visualize everything that I will love about the run:

I love being in the forest, I love being on mountains, I love a good view, I love the rain, I love the way my body feels after a run, I love eating after a run.

I also spoke basic truths into my mind:

My legs are strong, the outdoors rejuvenates me, I can run 8 miles, I have sure feet, the view from the top will be worth it!

I was not only ready to hit the trails, but excited to get out there.

Define your fears, remember the good and true

I defined what was making me anxious: elevation gain and waking up early.

Elevation gain: The fears were the pain and the ability to finish. The good and true; Pain is my friend, pain leads to growth, and I will finish, because that’s what I do. You don’t get mountain top views unless you climb mountains. Fear of elevation gain dissected and removed.

Waking up early: The fears, dragging myself out of bed to the alarm again, starting the weekend sleep deprived, being zonked the rest of the day with my family. The good and true: I get up early everyday for work, I have always been a “morning person”, I love the forest in the early morning. Also, I need some sleep.

I responded to this fear different from the elevation gain. I was particularly exhausted last week, and felt like I needed a day to wake up naturally without an alarm. It was a 5:45am meet up time, and that made me anxious. This time around, I contacted the crew that I would not be able to join. Now I love running with friends, but I felt a huge weight lifted. Apparently, the only thing that was making me anxious was not getting the sleep I needed.

I slept like a baby, and actually ended up waking up at 5:30am without an alarm and full of energy. The anxiety of waking to an alarm was removed, therefore, what remained was clarity. I ran alone, but what I found was solitude.

Clarity, peace, strength, community; the list goes on, and this is why we run.

The Fortunate Ones

I love my wife.

There is no one is this world who knows me as well as she does. That is because there is no one in this world I trust more than her, for we have bared our hearts to one another.

That sounds pretty romantic right?

What that means a lot of the time though, is that she gets to hear me complain more than anyone else in my life. She gets to see me lose my temper more than anyone else in my life. She gets the tears, the fears, the rants, the stresses, the heartaches, the insecurities, and insight to the darkest parts of who I am…oh joy.

“Wow, what a lucky lady!”, you say.

The truth is, true love takes you much deeper than walks on the beach and candle light dinners. When two hearts become entangled with each other, our emotions can be experienced on an exponential level. The hurts cut much deeper, the losses rip you in two, and our words and actions are not given as much thought as when in the presence of others.

I have learned two things in life that are key to contentment and purpose: Mindfulness and selflessness. Mindfulness is the ability to be right here, right now; and experience life as it is happening without constantly setting expectations for each moment. Selflessness, is the ability to see how our decisions affect those around us, and consider the needs of others when considering our own needs. Knowing  this and putting this into action are two different things.

I know that a red light means stop, but what really matters is that I stop. Likewise, understanding mindfulness and selflessness are not as important as putting them into action.

I write this blog today because my wife got to see me lose my temper during a project yesterday, and I pretty much threw a full on fit… 36 year old man style. The impact it had on her floored me, and stopped me in my tracks. I had lost sight of the bigger picture of the present. My wife and I had a day to ourselves to work on a cool house project together. It was a gift to work hard and problem solve together, it was an opportunity to grow closer through accomplishing something together.

If I had put my mindfulness exercises into practice, I would have taken a few seconds each time a tile broke to breathe and realize that this is just part of the project. I could have decided to maximize our experience together by rolling with the imperfections, but I chose to minimize the experience because I became selfish instead of selfless. I chose to gratify my own selfish desire to get angry, clench my fists, and say some choice words. In doing this, I changed the dynamic of our day together. I introduced a darkness and a new stress into our project; and this really hurt my wife.

Love exposes the best and worst of us. Though it is a gift to be transparent with someone, we need to remain mindful and selfless of the time we have together.

I titled this blog “The Fortunate Ones” not because I like CCR (which I do), but because I considered how our friends and acquaintances in our lives usually get to see the best of us…how fortunate. We strive to motivate, inspire, and energize those we interact with to leave our mark on this world; the one’s we love most deserve the same intentionality.

Let us make the choice today to bring not only our whole selves, but the best of us, into the spaces where we love the deepest.

Healing in progress

Two weeks ago, I was about 6 miles into a 20 mile trail run; and I came across this sign: Healing in progress, stay on designated trails. Wow, did that statement ever hit home.

I had been stressed out lately trying to balance life, while pushing towards goal completion. Work demanded a lot from me, our house project demanded a lot from me, my youngest daughter was now entering dress week for her play that she had been working on for the last four months, and my other daughter is entering her pre-teen years (which is a wild ride all of it’s own as a parent). I was trying to stay mindful of my role as father and husband, and oh yeah…I signed up for a 20 mile trail race a couple of months ago.

These are all good things, but spreading yourself thin can set you up for failure if you are not intentional about your commitment to the goal.

If work is demanding a lot from me, then I must be doing something right. The house project is a gift and a privilege in and of itself, but it takes some serious mental grit to keep grinding on it after work and on the weekends.

My daughter has found a true passion for the theater which brings joy to my heart. My other daughter is still searching for something to commit to,  and I would run myself ragged for my kids if it enables them to pursue their dreams.

Being a husband and a father takes commitment and time too. I want my wife to know that she is valued, that she is important enough to me that I am willing to put in the work to develop a strong mind. She is an encourager, a hard worker, and she has mental grit.

I came across this statement from Bear Grylls in the book Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris (pg. 231)

“Hold tight, focus the effort, dig deeper, and never give up. It isn’t rocket science but it’s hard, as most people, when it gets tough start to look around for an excuse or a different tactic. often, though, when it starts to get tough, all it requires is for you to get tougher and hold on. The magic bit is that when it gets like this, it often means you are near the end goal! One big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, and you often pop out the other end. Look around you, though, and you see that most people are gone – they gave up in that final bit of hurting.”

I write this morning as I near the end goal of this Spring stretch. My daughter’s final performance was last night. We completed a major milestone at work. We are laying floors and installing cabinets in our addition; which means that the end goal is near. I finished my 20 mile race a couple of weeks ago, and left it all on the course. I have been trying to give 100% in all areas of life, and it has not been easy; but it is a challenge that is worth the effort.

Back to the beginning of this blog. Healing in progress, stay on desgnated trails.

The sign I saw on the side of the trail during that race impacted me deeply. It helped propel me to a new level of awareness during that race. I realized that the pain I was feeling, the hours ahead, the sweat on my brow; were all part of something I needed…healing. I embraced that I was doing something I truly loved. I went into that race overwhelmed,  with no real time to train for it (other than eating a lot and drinking beer); but I found myself being renewed.

As the pain in my body increased over the 3.5 hours, and my feet began to throb with each step; I knew I was being refined. I would leave this race stronger, both physically and mentally.  I would be able to go back home and work hard, and I knew that a resilience was being built in me.

 

The Struggle is a Privilege

Have you ever found yourself impacted by a quote or statement?

“I love a good quote.” – Me

I am constantly looking for tid bits of wisdom in blogs or books, or listening for them in conversations and presentations. Whether it’s inspiration or insight, I find that words can have a great impact.

I was downtown with a friend at a local coffee shop, just talking about life’s happenings; and we got on the topic of how much change takes place in middle schoolers as the journey of identity and physical change takes place. There is such an internal struggle to understand why we are the way we are, who we are supposed to be, how we want to dress, how we want to be perceived, and so on. That was a long time ago for me, but my daughter is just entering that phase of life.

As we discussed the struggle for self discovery, he said,”The struggle is a privilege.”

He went on to explain that our society and culture allow for us to have these teenage years to fumble through finding our identity. There are kids around the world who do not get the time to figure things out, because necessity draws them into work or affiliation to survive. There are many kids in America even, who do not get a chance to complete high school before duty and survival calls upon them.

“The struggle is a privilege.”

I have not been able to kick this phrase since I heard it, and I do not want to forget it. These words bring perspective. These words flip the world upside down. This phrase has been challenging me lately, because I have been struggling and stressed. I have felt like somewhat of a failure in some regards, feeling like I am mediocre at best in all parts of my life; instead of focusing in on each opportunity to the best of my ability.

Yet in the midst of the whirlwind, I remember “the struggle is a privilege.”

I can now step back for a moment as I remember this phrase, and I can see that though I feel spread thin; I am spread thin over opportunities, beauty, love, investments, and chosen commitments. Each one is something to be thankful for. So, can I put these words into action? Yes. I can, I am, and I will.

Complaining about what needs to be done, is time wasted; time that could have been used to actually accomplish something. This time could be used to establish a positive mindset about the path before me. The minutes and hours spent in downheartedness; I believe they were necessary to get me here, because it was a real feeling. It is usually when we get close to the bottom, that we finally reach out. Like in the movie  What about Bob? I am starting with baby steps towards who I need to be, and what I need to do.

So, if you find yourself weighed down with the expectations laid upon you; stay true, stay focused, and realize that “The struggle is a privilege.”

 

 

 

 

 

Of Death and Life

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”Marcus Tullius Cicero

I was listening to some Harry Belafonte the other day, and this silly song came on about an ugly dad whose kids are ashamed of him because he is ugly (Mamma Look a Boo Boo);  and I started laughing, because it is a song that my dad would have loved. My dad was not ugly, but it was something that he loved to joke about as he got older and lost more teeth; and he loved it when me and my brother would razz him about it.

I had my bro listen to the song when he visited and he loved it (I’m pretty sure my mom would love it too). We started reminiscing about our dad, his life, his death, and his strength leading up to death. Since that visit, I’ve been thinking more about death and how we respond to it.

We are surrounded by people affected death, though we don’t always know it. Most, if not all, who cross our path daily are not too far removed from a loss of some sort; whether it be a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. Maybe some folks are supporting a friend who has just lost someone.

Personally, I have friends where death has hit so close to home, that it has formed who they are, as well as how they care for others who suffer a loss. There are others in my life who have had to brush up much too close with the looming fear of death, that it has also shaped their framework for life.

Having lost, as well as grieving with others who have lost; I have learned a few insights that I would love to share.

Dealing with it

There is not a specific way we are supposed to deal with death. The important thing is that we deal with it. We must face it and we must accept it…we must let it ruminate in our hearts and our minds. If we try to be overly optimistic, or minimize our lost because it is not as extreme as someone else’s loss; we miss the beauty and importance of the impact it can have in our life, and we can minimize the memory of that person.

Many problems in our life can be fixed, many of our situations can be changed; but death is finite. The defining line that death draws, draws us in to a reflection of life.

Here are some of the ways I dealt:

  • I cried. I let it happen when it needed to happen. If the tears would not come, I would make time to cry. This may sound silly, but it helps.
  • I wrote. My blogging started with my dad’s death. I had to let his passing be known to  as many people who knew him as I could, so I wrote an online eulogy that sparked something inside.
  • I got counseling. There was other stuff going on in my life that moved me in this direction as well, but it opened me up in a way that I didn’t know I needed.

The balance between acceptance and hope

Once you have lost someone to an illness such as cancer, or any rare disease, the reality of our fragility and mortality becomes more apparent. Moving forward, we are more sensitive to the possibility of the worst case scenario; though we need not succumb to it. There is a line that must be walked in face of illness, injury, and unknown; and it runs between acceptance and hope. Acceptance is our ability to see the face value of the potential reality, and hope is optimist that clings to what our hearts desire. If we can float in this space, then the lives around us benefit from it; We learn and we teach at the same time.

Hope helps us make the most of this life, and the time that we have. It allows us to persevere and endure, though all around may be crumbling.

The Response

I was looking up the origin of my last name Grayum, and it all goes back to Graham. It must be the americanized version of the name I guess. The Graham family crest has the house words on it, which are: Ne Oublie, which translated means “Do not forget.”

Therefore, I do not forget. I remember and respond; and I allow the memory of this man to feed my life moving forward.

Wherever you are in you journey, do not forget those that have gone before us. Be with those who are here now. Remember… in all things, there is always hope.

 

Good Things

I have heard it said that “you can never have too much of a good thing”, and I believed that for a time. What I have found during the last year though is quite a different train of thought.

I discovered that too much good food can make me feel sick, and potentially pack on unnecessary and unwanted fat. Too much good coffee can keep me awake all night. Many clothes means more laundry, and it also means more closet or dresser space. Ultimately, I realized that I had been brought up in a culture of more. Seeking a good deal not to save money, but to have money left over for more stuff; and the more I bought, the more I wanted….truly a vicious cycle.

I remember being frustrated with life a couple of years ago. Some bad stuff happened, but I believe that just drew out and maximized the discontent that was already growing inside of me; and I was trying to hide it.

Life was good. Life was so good, yet I allowed comparisons, expectations, and regret to convince me that I had a right to be unhappy. I had become accustomed to instant gratification instead of long term gain. I resisted investing money, but jumped on a chance to buy another shirt, get a hotel, or go out to dinner. I needed to feel wanted and included by everyone in my life, so I laid unfair expectations on my friends and family. I wanted more…more of everything, and it was destroying who I was.

One of the events a couple years ago that brought me closer to rock bottom (figuratively) was the death of my dad. Diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of November 2015, he died January 4, 2016. He was a rock in my life, and I missed him (and still miss him) more than I thought I ever would. Later that year, I slipped off of a boulder while rock climbing, and landed face first. I lost two teeth, broke four more, and split open my chin and lip…literal rock bottom.

I had a month off of work after that accident. I couldn’t do much, talk much, or eat much; but I had plenty of time alone with my thoughts. That was not a place I wanted to be. I usually kept busy to handle sadness, anger, or disappointment; but now, I had to deal with it. I could no longer hide in a crowd, or behind a smile… literally.

Now let’s jump forward. 2016 ended much better than it started. I had sought out some counseling (at the request of my ever so patient, loving, and tolerant wife), and began to truly deal with who I was. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty; but it was good. I didn’t want to run away from my emotions any more, I wanted to understand why I was feeling the way I was, and get to the root of the issues. I began to declutter my life, which inevitably led me to find minimalism.

I found that less truly was more, and I removed a lot of stuff (both physical and emotional) from my life. I began to find it easier to focus on what mattered and accept who I was. I had to learn from mistakes instead of dwelling and covering them up. I had to look at each day as a gift, as a chance to live better than the day before.

My family and I have removed A LOT of stuff from our house, and we have developed a renewed appreciation for what we already have. We have tried to consume less, and have a level of mindfulness for what we do consume. We have a long way to go, but this is a journey not a destination. Since joining the “minimalist” movement, I have found a greater sense of purpose; and a greater sense of responsibility to share our story.

Perhaps “you can’t have too much of a good thing” is intended to transcend possessions or consumables altogether. Perhaps the intangible aspects of life such as friendship, mindfulness, focus, compassion, and the like are the intent of the phrase.

Let us bring much good to this world, and may we find enjoyment along the way.