Back to Black

I haven’t written in months. Okay, that’s a lie. I have written, but not for myself the way I used to. Lately, all my writing has been at the request of paying clients eager to fork out the cash and claim the credit. I shouldn’t sound so bitter about it. I mean, I did make the conscious to choice to sell my work. To be honest, I was really happy about it. At first, I was just excited that someone would actually pay me money to write something for them. Then, after a while it started to feel like a chore. Sometimes, I would get an order that I didn’t exactly feel passionate about, but I would do it anyway because that was my job; at least, that’s how it felt.

I had a lot of concerned family members and friends asking me about how it all worked.

“So you don’t get any credit for what you write?” They would ask me in skeptical tones. Well when you put it like that…

I would always insist that it was all part of the process in making a name for myself. Maybe I wouldn’t be recognized from the outside right away, but behind the scenes, I was developing contacts and learning quite a bit. You have to start somewhere.

I think the point where I really started to burn out on it was when I realized that I had gained all the knowledge I needed to go out and make it on my own. I was educated in the process of getting published and all I really needed to do next was, well, do it. That is as soon as I stopped holding myself back from fear and hiding behind my “freelancing.”

I had gotten comfortable in the little writing rut I had fallen into however, and slowly but surely, I felt completely dry of inspiration. For the first time ever, it was becoming a chore to write. That’s when I knew that something needed to change.

I decided it was time to take a break from the freelancing and go back to my old roots of blogging and adding to my never ending novel. The truth is, it was only a couple months into the freelancing that my blog entries decreased dramatically and I rarely even talked about the direction my story was taking. I blamed it on a lack of time, but there is no denying that I was dry of inspiration.

I have turned a new page and am starting upon a new chapter in my writing adventure. It’s not a job, it’s not a chore and it sure as hell isn’t a requirement. It is a passion, and I’ll be damned if I ever turn it into a job again. Ideas are flowing and inspiration is bursting at the seams. It’s time I go back to who I am and embrace my writing for what it is, my purpose. I’m back to basics. Back to black.

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Triumph in Times of Trials

It’s in times of grave suffering that we grow the most. On a day to day basis, when life is moving at a gentle pace and your daily routine is at a smooth flow, it is easy to remember that in difficult trials, we must focus on the bright side. Most important, we must give it up to God. However, when looking demons dead in the eye, every piece of wisdom we carry can soon be cast aside.

Recently, I have found myself back in the Grace of God. God had never left me, but I had left him. I have reached a new beginning in my life and embarked upon on a Spiritual Journey to grow closer to him. I have been blessed with a man that knows God as well and desires to deepen his relationship with him. He has been amazingly supportive in my life and continues to encourage my walk with Jesus.

Just a couple days ago I was broadsided with a crude reminder from my past and bombarded with feelings of pain that as a result I have been scared with. I found myself giving into the emotions and the past had yet again a hold on the present.

I am the type of person that never looks at the glass half empty, but rather half full. I spoke once before about finding the little things in life to smile about, even when it seems that there is nothing to feel joy over. Even in moments of trials, I try to focus on the good. However, we all have our moments of weakness, and sometimes, we don’t practice what we preach as diligently as we ought to.

I had a choice today when I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of pain. I had the choice to turn to God and give it all up to him. While I didn’t turn to destructive vices that would once masque my sorrows, I didn’t give it up to God as whole heatedly as I could have.  Therefore, God reached out to me.

As I said before, I have been blessed with a man that has been a great encouragment and supports me in ways I never thought possible. He told me to give it up to God, to triumph in my trials and be grateful for where I am today and not mourn in the life I was once living. He was right. I turned to my bible and God and gave it up to him. Immediately, I felt the burden lifted and found myself realizing something we all know but often fail to practice.

No matter how bad or difficult past trials have been, the key word in that statement is past. It is no longer, and therefore has no purpose in being brought into the present. Rather than feeling sad about tragedy, be happy about the beauty that was born as a result. If I hadn’t faced and been forced to overcome sadness, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Not only that, but I have to be grateful that the trials I did persevere through weren’t worse than they could have been, because the reality is, it can always be worse, even when it feels like it’s as bad as it could ever get.

Sometimes the biggest blessings in life are disguised through years of struggle. If it wasn’t for the things I’ve been through in my life, I would never have found the man I am with today. For me personally, that is a blessing born from what I once saw as nothing more than a curse of hatred. Whether you are facing your trials today, or mending the scars that remain, remember, from dirt grows flowers. Light can’t be seen without the presence of darkness and bliss isn’t appreciated without it replacing with what was once despair. No matter how severe your pain is, there is nothing more powerful than the mercy of God casting away your demons. If you allow him to, he will pull you away from your misery. Perhaps you won’t see it immediately, but have faith that he will, and soon enough, you will see roses growing from the soil of today.

Persevere

I think I was about seven years old when I first started to earn an allowance.  My chores consisted of sweeping the kitchen and making my bed. I was then presented with three dollars for having completed my tasks. Though it may not seem like much, at seven years old, it was a lot of money! There was something about having earned it that made it all the better. It taught me from a young age that you need to work for what you have. The concept of appreciation marinated within and I quickly grasped that anything which required effort would be greatly valued in the end. That concept has carried over in all aspects of my life, though at times it is difficult to remember.

Money is not the only thing you need to work for, but it is a great example that I know will resonate with everyone, because sadly, our society is fueled by the greed of currency. Okay, so now that I have you paying attention, I want you to think about this; day after day you clock in and clock out of work. Some days are easier than others, and on the days that you want nothing more than to call in sick and take a free day, you go to work simply because you have to. Your rent and groceries are riding on that paycheck. You don’t want to do it, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

In most cases, you have options regarding where you work. You may not love your job, but you still had the option to work there. Sometimes however, life throws work at us without giving us a choice. Stop and reflect on something difficult you are dealing with in your life right now. Did you choose to struggle with this? Either poor decisions have landed you here, or you are solely a victim having asked for none of it. None the less, no one ever wants to go through times of trials. It is then that you are faced with two options. You can either let your world be consumed by the negative effects that the universe has rained down upon you, or, you can choose to persevere.

This is where the job analogy comes into play. You can decide that you don’t like going to work and resign, but then you are faced with the reality of bills, hunger and no cash to suffice the needs. You may not enjoy your source of income, but at the end of the day, it is all worth it. It is the same principle with perseverance. The difference here however is you can see the bright side only eight hours away when you are diligently working at your nine to five soul sucking job. When faced with life’s calamities, you can’t always see what the outcome will be. That is why faith is so pertinent. You must have faith that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and know that anything worth having is worth working for.

When I was younger, my mom said to me one of the wisest statements I will forever carry with me. She told me that life is like a cross stitch piece. We see the back side where fabric is a cluster of messy thread and running knots. We see a big mess with no resolution in sight. However, turn it over and there is a beautiful work of art that the chaos has created. That is what God sees. We may not always be able to know the outcome of the events that we must preserver through, but it is important to remember that in the end, it will all have been worth it. No matter what the end result may be, one thing you can always count on is wisdom and strength, because without struggle, neither quality can be gained.

Ethnocentrism

In my family, Christmas Eve dinner has not been served until anchovy pasta accompanied by lupine beans and shrimp has been prepared. It is a tradition that I have grown up with. I can’t imagine celebrating any other way. The anchovy part may sound off putting to some, but to me, just the taste triggers a smell of pine and noel. I immediately associated it with Christmas. Whether it is Christmas or a different holiday, we all have some sort of traditions that we take part in. Traditions are a beautiful practice. They bring people together and allow others an opportunity to understand something in a new perspective.

I want you to stop and think about traditions that define your family. How did it come about? They often tell a story about your heritage. There is nothing I love more than meeting someone with a different cultural background and being introduced into their ways of life. It is also interesting to meet others sharing my Italian heritage and to compare notes on the similarities and differences between our families. The same or not, they bring people together. That alone is something to be celebrated.

To those sharing a similar background as me, common traditions that are practiced are somewhat tame compared to other parts of the world. In many Hindu cultures, the practice of teeth filing is as common as Green Bean Casserole on Thanksgiving. Teeth filing is the process of which both men and women have their teeth filed down prior to their wedding. Teeth are believed to symbolize lust, anger, greed, confusion and jealously. It is believed that by eliminating structures of the bone, they are freeing themselves of invisible evils wishing to taint the upcoming nuptials. It sounds brutal and slightly bizarre to us, however to Hindi culture, it is a sacred ritual.

When a loved one leaves this world behind, it is common practice to attend a wake. It is a chance to view their body as a means of saying goodbye and finding closure in their death. Some cultures would find this extremely disturbing for it is believed that to leave a corpse intact brings the deceased a restless afterlife. On that note, the Dani tribe is a group of indigenous people who inhabit the fertile lands of Baliem Valley in West Papua, New Guinea. Their method of closure involves cutting off their own hands and fingers. When a close loved one passes on, such as a spouse of child, they will remove their fingers and hands and bury them with the body. It is believed that by doing so, they will continue to live in unison even with the barrier of death dividing them from this world and the one that follows. Gruesome, but morbidly romantic if you will.

I’m sure that to many readers, you have probably uttered a noise of disgust if not given a facial expression of horror. That is exactly the negative connotation that ethnocentrism implies. Just because something is foreign to our customs and beliefs does not make is wrong. We may distance ourselves from such observances, but rather than viewing them as something disturbing, they should be seen as something beautiful.

There is a reason people study world religion and culture. It is fascinating! It is not intriguing just based on a morbid curiosity but due to the natural human emotion that it stems from. Ever heard the expression, “We all bleed red?” We all feel the same emotions as well. The way we express them may be different, but each ritual stems from exhibits of bravery, love, grief and devotion.

It can be difficult to pull ourselves out of our own way of thinking and at times even more difficult to grasp the concepts of such rituals, especially when they can appear to be grotesque. However, if you look past the painful mutilations and see the purpose of these practices, you will see that the only thing separating your traditions from other cultures is simply how they are presented. You may not be able to relate to foreign customs, but you can understand the emotion that drives their existence. I challenge everyone to find it within your realm of thinking to discover a culture that initially may seem immoral to you and rather than judge them, find the common denominator between their beliefs and yours. Just because you have been raised to believe that something is wrong does not mean that they have that shared value. It is important to stand strong in your opinions, however, it is just as pertinent to cease the judgment of others based solely on your own culture.

Roadblock

This whole challenge came about because of this word. I was in the midst of a depressing writers block when I had the epiphany that brought this third post to you today.

Roadblocks are all around us presenting themselves in our lives constantly. While they are nothing short of inconvenient, they always bring with them a long term effect that we don’t often realize.

When you are puzzled in a maze of confusion, you are forced to think outside your spectrum of every day thought. You find yourself challenged with a new way of processing. Eventually, you discover a way through that roadblock with a new perspective.

While it may seem that we are not moving forward when stuck in the quicksand of obstruction, we are actually growing in a way that will propel us even farther than we would have gone initially. In a sense, it is a maturity reboot. Just like your phone, it may shut down for a while, but once it lights back up to life, it’s running faster and longer with fresh apps and updates.

I spent weeks staring at blank paper stunted by my lack of words to write. As a result, I was forced to think of new and inventive ways in which I could craft my skill. I may have been under the radar for a while, but now, my thoughts are pouring out and my art is once again being seen.

If we never face struggles, how can we ever be expected to grow? Wisdom doesn’t come from the years frosted on your birthday cake but from the amount of trials you overcome. It is when you are frozen in chaos that you grow the most. When pushed into a world outside your comfort zone, you suddenly find yourself accessing ideas you never knew you had. Your horizon is then expanded as well as your mind.

Regardless of the roadblock you face, don’t focus on it as a negative. Allow the feelings of helplessness revolving around it to be transferred into energy of growth and knowledge to come. Realize that some of the best ideas stem from times lacking in creativity. You may not see it now, but once you break through the blockage holding you back, you will be capable of victory in any and every challenge you encounter.

Recalcitrance

In a world where dominance and submission balance, the one resounding factor is power. Regardless of your role, we all seek the feeling of being in control. In order to prevent anarchy from wreaking havoc, society has set forth law. Rules regulate what we should and shouldn’t do. What we are allowed to partake in and punished for what we pursue. With so much guidance keeping balance afloat, rebellion is often a means of potential.

There is nothing more exhilarating than doing the opposite of what we are told. To march to the beat of your own drum enables a sense of control. The ability to do what we want the way we choose.

Recalcitrance can be as tame as wearing fishnets with jean shorts cut high enough up the thigh to provide more of a statement than coverage. While abiding the law, it proclaims a stance of free thinking and rebellion. It is a safe way to rebel allowing the peace of mind that consequence cannot go much further than a frustrated parent. Certain fashion statements or even mild behavior can turn heads with shock without facing a damp cell and bunk. Then, sometimes one pushes the envelope and avoids repercussion. This is where the ultimate danger lies.

There is a thrill that comes with any danger. An adrenaline junkie doesn’t jump out of an airplane for a better view of the city, but to feel the rush of knowing that at any moment, their parachute could fail. There is no actual hope for death, but being on the brink of the end sends a surge of epinephrine through ones veins. Acting on a wrong knowing that you could get caught allows a similar rush. No one ever wants to actually be penalized, but it’s a risk associated with the high. However, just like any gateway drug, eventually, that high just isn’t enough.

As a child, we all tested our parent’s patience. Defiance was an assessment to see just how much we could get away with. Once established where the line must be drawn, we dabbled with disobeying, and even after being punished, felt the satisfaction of having misbehaved. In most cases, a spanking or public scolding was enough to prevent us from acting on further deviance. However, you would only get in trouble if you got caught. It was then that the game of insubordination was born.

The most common displays of disobedience among us are somewhat limited. Truthfully, it comes down to how much you are willing to risk. Ditching class could land you in detention whereas cheating on your spouse could end your marriage. An hour after school will be forgotten in a week. A failed marriage will permanently define a part of your life forever. I think it goes without saying that some endeavors are not worth the temporary buzz. Then, comes a quite hazardous expression; “What do I have to lose?”

When resisting authority becomes the only thing left to live for, recalcitrance holds a much grimmer connotation. At the highest reach for zenith, anything and everything goes. As the perpetrator, the only rule is, there are no rules. Until they are caught, the game continues. Infamous participants including Jack the Ripper, Black Beard, and Bundy hold world records for their so called “achievements.” They created the Olympics of mutiny. By becoming breaking news and leaving legends in the pages of history, they achieved what all rebels seek, attention. The only difference between their sickening tales of horror and you going fifteen over the speed limit, is where you chose to draw the line, and they chose to cross it.

Decay

When I was first presented with this word, my initial reaction was as natural as death itself. I was immediately haunted by a gruesome image of rotting flesh and tortured souls left to decay in solemn despair. Something that is left to decay is simply wasting away. All sense of life has been drained and replaced with a hollow rotten mess. However, flesh is not the only thing that is prone to decay.

Anything that was once pure and prosperous has the potential to eventually wither into nothing. Without there having been something beautiful to begin with, the process of destruction would not be worth mentioning. I asked myself a simple question as I was pondering this word; have I ever encountered the risk of decay?

From a literal standpoint, our bodies will not give way to the earth till our soul has parted. From a metaphorical standpoint however, aren’t we always at risk for corruption? Certain events have provided me with spiritual, emotional and mental growth. Sometimes you go through a dark time and come out stronger and sure of who you are. Other times, the opposite takes place.

We all have ups and downs in our life. I recently spoke about how we don’t always live the life we have chosen and sometimes require a long hard look in the mirror to reevaluate our priorities. I’m not talking about temporary lapses though. I’m talking about the all-time low of hitting rock bottom. A hell so dark and buried in our subconscious that just like death, it cannot be escaped. Is it possible to decay even while living? Yes.

Shortly after we take our final breath and venture to the life following this one, the corpse we leave behind begins to follow the natural course of decomposition. To decay in the mind, heart and soul is the opposite. It is an unnatural process that takes place when evil has overcome and replaced all sense of life with something drear and wicked. Serenity is dead and left with nothing more than to decay.

Perhaps we haven’t all been faced with trials that led us to a place as dark as this, but many have. Unlike the physical deceased, can those who face metaphoric death be resurrected?