A Prayer For the Human

Dear god,

Please allow me to be the best human I can be today, and please grant me the knowledge to understand and accept the limitations of my small and unimpressive existence, so that I might use these tiny moments in the best way possible before my share of time is over.

-With Love,

KP

Forgiveness is Freedom

98d2d8a3d72241bb4fdea2d5509e9151

I was raised Catholic; on a scale of 1-to-Natural-Family-Planning, I’d say we fell somewhere roughly in between always eating fish on Fridays and reenacting crucifixion scenes in school for fun.  Catholicism didn’t turn out to be the right match for me, but it did introduce a subject that has followed me and evolved in my life as I’ve gotten older–forgiveness.

The problem with the Catholic idea of forgiveness for me was that it seemed to be about forgiving other people because the creator had forgiven you (basically for just existing), and I didn’t quite understand this logic.  It was as if forgiveness was owed as some sort of karmic debt to a mystical Don Vito Corleone I had never met and didn’t understand what I had done to piss him off.  Hadn’t he adequately punished me enough when he decided that I would be born with the hair of the lovechild between Gene Wilder and Harpo Marx!?  unnamed

(For the record, I was really unattractive between ages 1-25.)

Seriously, what had embryonic-me done that was so bad that I was in this constant state of reprimand?  “You embryonic glutton!!  Your glucose consumption has reached heights of the likes never seen–repent now!!”

(I actually googled “embryonic gluttony” to see what would come up; I can’t believe I had the nerve to do that knowing what the internet usually yields.  Here is a picture I found:)

glutton

In all seriousness, I have never felt that forgiveness is something you owe to anyone, actually.  What I have found to be true in my life, is that forgiveness is ultimately about myself, and not anyone else.  Being able to honestly and fully forgive has come down to allowing myself to finally be freed from negative influences in my life, and also being able to forgive myself for whatever negative beliefs I held about myself or my actions.  It has nothing to do with being noble, or “choosing the high road.”  It just came down to getting to a point where I could let go of the things that were weighing me down.  I think maybe for some of us, that point comes quickly, for some it takes much longer, and for others, it never comes.  It doesn’t make us better or worse for however long we take, or don’t take, we are the ones who ultimately have the key to lessening our suffering.  Everyone experiences life in their own way and in their own time, and I can only speak from my experiences, but I offer these words up to anyone dealing with similar issues, or anyone just looking for another viewpoint.  Or anyone who really just wanted to see a side-by-side comparison of me, Gene Wilder, and Harpo Marx.

Even though my days of crucifying my friends for fun are long gone, I think there are important takeaways from many world beliefs, regardless of whether we identify as religious/spiritual/Pastafarian/whatever.  Suffering and learning to grow from it is a universal component of being human, and ultimately, part of building our ethical character is that we have to learn what works best for us in order to do so.  In the Bible, one of my favorite passages remains Ecclesiastes 3:

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

We forgive in our own time, and we accept the freedom it yields in our own time.

Weirdmaste, my friends.

-KP

The Irony of Intolerant Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

So I just ate a bag of chocolate–ok, not the whole bag, but I definitely just ate a whole bunch of chocolate, and it was delicious.  And it kind of went like this, minus the throwing-up-on-the-carpet-part:

url

I really just wanted to share that picture with you all.

Anyhow!  Good evening and Weirdmaste to all!  A friend posted a “weirdmaste” image on Facebook recently and I thought that it was pretty spectacular, because I am all about honoring the weird here at KP.  I mean, one of my childhood heroes was Weird Al Yankovic.  Let’s be honest—UHF should have won an Academy Award for awesome (and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it).

uhf03

It’s time to spin the Wheel of Fiiiiissshhhhh!!!!

But I digress.  Actually, I wanted to touch on a more serious topic tonight; Facebook is an interesting animal.  Most of us use it to showcase the positive aspects of our lives: travel, engagements, weddings, children, pets, how we didn’t get fat after high school, how awesome and perfect our lives are–spoiler: they’re usually not as exciting and perfect as we try to make them out to be…and maybe we only take carefully angled pictures and use Instagram to filter out the wrinkles (and adult acne, for some of us).

Facebook-Honesty

But we can also use Facebook to spread information.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the information itself.  In certain areas of the world where information is limited to the general public by government, the advent of social media has proved to be a highly effective way for connecting and furthering causes, such as the push for civil rights in Middle Eastern countries.

Facebook also allows us to see many different opinions, and this is where the topic for tonight’s entry comes into play; the irony of intolerant tolerance.  I claim to be a highly tolerant person; I think all humans deserve to be treated with equal respect, regardless of gender identity, race, age, nationality, body type, etc.  However, I still find myself critical of others at times, and I know part of learning to be tolerant is allowing others to be who they are, even if I don’t agree (although some people…just, no):

 

westboro_baptist_church_light_shirt

 

Give me back my rainbow, damnit!!

I’ll never forget, I knew two people who had a very tumultuous relationship because one was Catholic and the other was Protestant.  As someone who doesn’t follow any set religion, I didn’t understand why the two had such a difficult time, because I thought it was silly to be so divided on what I considered “trivial” issues.  One day, while on my soap-box of “How-I-am-right-and-you-are-silly-and-your -problems-are-silly-because-I-don’t-understand-you,” the girl looked at me and said, “You know what I really dislike?  Non-religious people telling religious people how they should think or feel.”  And she had every right to say that.  I had no right to lecture her on my beliefs.  People are entitled to believe what they want, and as long as we are not harming others or supporting causes that harm others, etc, we should be free to our own beliefs.

100% absolute tolerance might not be a completely achievable goal, but as long as we are actively working toward a greater understanding of others, we will progress as a human society.  We can practice tolerance by stepping outside ourselves and trying to see things from another’s point of view.

quote-tolerance-is-giving-to-every-other-human-being-every-right-that-you-claim-for-yourself-robert-green-ingersoll-91195

Thoughts?

Reflections from a Failure

dcea81a913078e91fab644b093038f38

I started this blog in 2011 because I had experienced something which, at the time, was traumatic.  I was also experiencing high levels of stress at work and had forgotten how to use creative outlets to reconnect with the world.  It’s very interesting to look back on the last three years and see how I have grown, what lessons I have learned, and recognizing that life is very cyclical.

Writing has always been an important part of my life, and it is only recently that I have begun to share that with the world.  I don’t think anything I write is exceptionally special or earth-shattering, but I realized that the reason I was reading books wasn’t only for the sake of reading a book; it was because I was trying to connect with what the author was really trying to say.  I don’t think writing is necessarily a choice; it’s more of a compulsion.  Anyway, what I’m really trying to say here is that I write because I hope that someone stumbling upon this diary can find some solace in the words of a stranger, and to know that as humans we are really very interconnected.  It’s scary and intimidating to lay your inner thoughts on the line, but this isn’t about showcasing emotions like cakes in a bakery display; it’s for those that need the connection.  Somewhere, someone has felt like you.  Maybe I have felt like you–maybe you have felt like me.

I was inspired by author Jo Coudert’s book, Advice from a Failure, when I wrote this journal entry.  I offer up my reflections to anyone else who has felt something similar at some point.

***

11/10/14

I have searched and cried and prayed, and whatever god exists, exists without bias, and without human mind.  At least without a human mind that my simple one can comprehend.  Instead, there is a god–maybe like the ‘god of small things’–who exists somewhere deep inside.  “Here am I,” it says, small and far away.

And here am I, small, and tiny, and afraid.  My tiny life is no greater, and no less than any other tiny life in this world.  And maybe I have failed, maybe I have failed countless times.  I have failed to be so many things, and to have met so many expectations, and I have failed to have continued to see the Way.

Maybe I failed because I wasn’t small and neatly packaged enough.  Maybe I failed because I came with too many stipulations and too much necessity for compromise.  Maybe I failed because I was not strong enough or maybe because I was too strong at times.  Maybe I failed because when I was rejected and turned away I could not leave well enough alone with dignity.  Maybe I failed because I wasn’t something else entirely.

But I am this thing; I have always been this, and to deny it is to deny myself.  And if all else changed in the blink of an eye, I would be left with just this.

It is not love to deny the self, or to feel quashed and trapped because of the desire to quell the self for another.  It is not love to deny what we are.  So, to stop pursuing love is to find it.  To find it in those who have always loved us, despite our faults.  To find it in the small acts of kindness we ourselves can attempt to offer, the compassion we can attempt to give.  In the ability to look at our fellow man and not judge his or her shortcomings, but to feel only compassion and empathy for all who suffer from this human condition.

And, finally, to hear the voice that says, “Here am I,” far away in the depths within, and to answer, “Here I am, I will never leave.”

roy_to-love

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Recently, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and, as always, he doesn’t disappoint.  What I like best about Murakami’s writing is that it is filled with philosophic, historic, artistic, and musical references.  Somehow he is able to take things that have struck a chord with him in his own life and apply them to his writing.  His works are also usually laden with psychology woven into them, and subsequently open to interpretation.  Sometimes his concepts are strange, but he is able to showcase the human experience very well, and in my opinion it is by the open-ended aspects and the non-definitive.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking recently, reflecting on my experiences the past year up till now, and a certain part of the book really resonated with me.  One of the main characters, a boy who calls himself “Kafka,” is staying at his friend’s isolated cabin, which is filled only with survival necessities and books.  Kafka begins to read a book about a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked to find the “final solution” for the Jews.  Eichmann was very systematic about it, considering financial costs, the cheapest methods for the transportation and disposal of human bodies.  He was given a situation and mapped out the best possible, practical way to complete the task.  The shocking part is that Eichmann never questioned the morality of any of it, and when he was tried as a war criminal he was lost and confused.  He was just following orders; he was just being a good officer.  The boy, Kafka, finds a note his friend has penciled in the book.  It reads:

“It’s all a question of imagination.  Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.  It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities.  Flip this around and you could say where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.  Just like we see with Eichmann.”

I thought about this and I realized this concept is a major part of understanding the human condition.  Not everyone shares the same reality.  Our reality is shaped by our own consciousness; this may very well explain the source of all human suffering.  With regard to relationships this can be expressed as: Not everyone views love the same way.  We can beat ourselves up time and time again, we can cling to the past and think of the should’ve-would’ve-could’ves, or we can cut ties with those who have hurt us and accept that the way to heal is to just leave and move on.  Because people experience reality in different ways, we can not expect them to suddenly see and understand our reality.  There are people who will never see things from our point of view.  There are people who will never know how cruel they have been to us.  And it’s not our responsibility to tell them time and time how they hurt us and expect them to magically turn into someone else.

10455823_10152787018968707_5563325809132777942_n

 

In Kafka on the Shore, the concepts of God and Karma are very present.  They tie into everything; our relationships included.  Two quotes that have struck me are:

“If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” 

“Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” 

I don’t know if I believe that everything is fated, or even what really exists within the universe, but I know that if we shape our realities from our own consciousness, while I have the faculty to see what would be poor choices for my physical and mental well-being, I am going to try and make the wisest decisions I can.  I am not going to worry about the choices of others.  Maybe my suffering in this life is caused from some karmic debt, maybe not.  Regardless, when it comes to people who treat me poorly, I will do what I know to be the wisest decision in this life I live now:  I will let them go completely.  

If a person treats us poorly, it is their karma, not ours.

how-people-treat-you-1

Purgatory is only Temporary.

Today I spoke with a very close friend of mine, and we had a long talk about some of the issues we both face.  I am not ready to share with the world some of my deep, dark secrets, because I don’t feel comfortable revealing that side of myself just yet, but some of what we talked about was about relationships.  We talked about how work has had me traveling for months and how it has felt like the echoes of my last relationship have been heard loudly everywhere.

K said to me, “It’s like you were in Purgatory.”

And she was right.

 

Neil Gaiman says it best, “I think hell is something you carry with you.  Not somewhere you go.”  I have never had such a jarring emotional experience of that magnitude before in my life; maybe some people can brush this sort of thing off easily.  But for those unfortunate, overly-introspective types like myself, it’s not that easy.  I still, months later, ask myself what I could have done to have been enough.  I know, rationally, the answer to this question is simple: NOTHING.  People who want you to be part of your life make you a priority.  They don’t push you away, they don’t disrespect you by being dishonest and secretive.  It doesn’t make this any easier to swallow, and we still beat ourselves up because of their betrayal.  Even as time passes, in the words of the late Maya Angelou, “People will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

The pain is still there and I know it will be there for a long time to come, but I also know that Purgatory is only temporary, and now I am here in Hawaii to start a new life, and the ghost of the man from my past can not come to these shores to haunt me.  This is a place of healing, and I concentrate on trying to let go of the hell I have carried within me for so long.

10371607_623342644989_206051426713305459_n

For anyone out there going through something similar…if you don’t think it will end…I understand.  It’s not over for me, but I can finally see the beginnings of the road to healing.  The pain lasts a long time, but we don’t have to be buried under it forever.  There are still beautiful things to be seen, and we can find an abundance of kindness and goodness in the people who continue to stand by us and support us.  Our worth is not defined by those who have treated us badly, or the poor relationships we once were part of.  

 

Our worth was and always will be determined by ourselves.

 

It is Well with my Soul

I recently finished Dr. Terry Gordon’s book, No Storm Lasts Forever, a diary he kept throughout the first few months following a tragic accident that left his son Tyler paralyzed.  Dr. Gordon is one of those rare individuals who can draw insight and wisdom from life where many see nothing but random occurrence.  Although my storm is very different, and not in any way comparable to Dr. Gordon’s, it is still a loss, and it has caused me to experience the various stages of grief.  When we experience loss, it opens up a void within us that can become susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions.  I myself am a victim of this, and recently have been plagued with my own fears and self-doubts and questioning of my path entirely.  I do know that ultimately it all comes down to this: we must be the heroes of our own stories in order to save ourselves and come to peace.

saved-alone

In 1873, a man named Horatio Spafford decided to send his wife and their four daughters on a trip to Europe.  They were to sail ahead of him, as he had to deal with the aftermath of real estate investments that had been destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871.  Tragically, the ocean liner his wife and children were on collided with another vessel and sank.  His wife survived, and from England sent her husband a telegram that said, “Saved alone.”  Spafford then sailed to England to meet her, and as his vessel passed the place where his four daughters had passed, he penned the words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Loss is so painful to deal with; and as I journey through these days and weeks I can see that although I may be training my physical body to become strong, I have been neglecting my mind.  There is a psychological term called, “rumination,” in which we let our worries overcome us.  We must be strong and not let ourselves be sucked into the vacuum of despair.  In the words of Plato, “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.”  We either come to terms with our respective lots or we are destroyed by our own sorrows and insecurities.  And in destroying ourselves, we destroy others along with us.  I wonder what sort of world this would be if every man was able to come to terms with his own demons.  I imagine there would be so much less suffering.

Finally, to close with some wise words from Rafiki:

rafiki011

Finding a Higher Purpose

6e996da49e25b56cd960d07ab5ead93b

Today I started day one of my fitness project, under the training supervision of fitness pro, Kim Oddo.  I was referred by a classmate of mine to him, and after receiving my nutrition and fitness plan, I was expecting some of what he put together, but also surprised at some of the restrictions.  The interesting thing about nutrition is that for each person there are minute details which can be tweaked.  His plan goes down to each meal in detail, calories are overall most important for the day, but it is not as simple as just that.  I am allowed to swap out certain foods for like foods, but sadly, I can not consume 1500 calories of Peanut Butter and Nutella (although how amazing would that be?!) and call it a day.  Although I completed my marathon back in November, I can’t say that I was consuming the right kind of foods.  I think protein rarely made an appearance in my diet while I was living in Japan, which is really not a good thing, considering how important it is for overall health (and muscle growth).  If I had been taking in the right foods, I really have to wonder how much better I would have performed on my training runs and on race day.

Over the past few months it has been difficult dealing with the aftermath of my failed relationship.  I’ve been reading a few different books over the timespan to help me through the grieving process, to understand what went wrong, to recognize the signs of a toxic person, and most importantly, to once again find my higher purpose.   I recently began Richard Bach’s classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  I am still working through the book, but the basic premise is that we need to do what we believe in, regardless of whether it is what everyone else is doing, if we think that it will lead to our purpose in life.  When I was in my relationship, I thought my highest purpose was to love my significant other, but I noticed I began neglecting myself.  When the relationship ended I was left with a massive void where that love once was; it felt like a vacuum.  I thought: What is there for me if this person is now gone from my life?  What other purpose could I possibly have if not to love him?  Although I am still working through these emotions, I truly believe it is the love of oneself.  Author Jo Coudert puts it perfectly in her book, Advice from a Failure:

You do not need to be loved, not at the cost of yourself.  The single relationship that is truly central and crucial in a life is the relationship to the Self.  Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never lose.  

I think of the Alanis Morissette song, Underneath, where she sings:

There is no difference in what we’re doing in here
That doesn’t show up as bigger symptoms out there

What we do within, for ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, manifests in the world.  And it is so hard to feel good or to feel okay when somebody abandons us, but we must ultimately accept what their choices were, and realize it is not about us. 

95ecd51830e513e623091b3e2e9138e6

My fitness project, along with the increase in my writing, are ways that I am trying to regain what I felt called toward once before.  Seeing internal strength, willpower, and dedication manifested as physical strength.  BEING MY BEST SELF.  That is what my higher purpose is.

 

ed2db8cbe693b04a36ca1b844fc09754

What I Learned from Running a Marathon

69b5b0de9ccd25afc72e7b415afc41a2

My coworkers are probably sick of hearing me talk about running a marathon.  Look, okay, running a marathon doesn’t suddenly make you a better person, you’re not “holier than thou.”  I will tell you this, though–it teaches you an incredible amount about YOURSELF and what YOU are capable of.  Sometimes it takes 26.2 miles of pain to figure sh*t out.  Oh yeah, there’s a little bit about running that you learn about thrown in there too (like don’t wear gear you’ve never worn before on race day, don’t forget to bring warm up sweats when your race is at the end of November and you’re the only idiot walking around in shorts in 35F weather before the race actually starts, and don’t just “wing it,” your body will thank you later), but mostly, it teaches you about life.

1. COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION ARE THE PILLARS OF SUCCESS.  You have to really be committed to the goal of finishing a 26.2 mile race.  I love the quote, “Do or do not, there is no try,” because you are either going to finish the race, or you aren’t, plain and simple.  Who the hell gets satisfaction in walking away saying, “Yeah, well, I tried to run a marathon.”  Injuries aside, you are going to be the one to ultimately decide whether or not YOU are going to cross that finish line.  Can you envision it?  Is the goal greater than the momentary doubt or pain?

2. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.  I have NEVER felt so much continued pain in my body before.  Hours of pounding pavement is absolutely killer on the joints.  By the time I reached mile 20, I was really, really spent.  I thought about giving up so many times, but I kept thinking about crossing the finish line and about why I was even running the race to begin with.  Wasn’t it to prove a point to MYSELF that through willpower all things are possible?   And if that’s not enough, think of all the people, good and bad, that were there along the way–the naysayers, the people who supported you, the people who hurt you, and the people who ran alongside you through the pain–think about them too.  

Fuji Marathon

3. DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOU DESERVE.  This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned. Since YOU have put in the time and the effort, you have pushed past the pain and torn down the walls of doubt, you know what it takes to be extraordinary, you know that success means being better than you were before, and we all have the ability to be better within us.  Don’t make excuses, don’t accept excuses.  You will never succeed by taking either action, you will only be holding yourself back..

4. CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.  If after touching down in Japan 2.5 years ago, someone would have come up to me and said, “You’re going to run a marathon 2.5 years from now,” I would have laughed in their face.  I had never run more than 5 miles in my entire life.  Why would I even waste my time doing something ridiculous like that?  Well, because sometimes the things we once see as “ridiculous” and “impossible” suddenly become important to us, and as I learned how to push past pain I understood what it meant to change.  It was a long, slow process from within that required the aforementioned commitment and dedication.   Change isn’t easy, but it is possible, and it allows us to grow.

5. BE GRATEFUL.  You have a body that allows you to absolutely feel what it means to be alive–everything that you are made up of is working together intricately, allowing your body to run the race.  Be grateful you have the opportunity to do so.

996644_602823670179_1950010205_n

Run for those that matter, run for those that don’t, because in the end you are going to have made the good ones proud and you will have left the bad ones 26.2 miles behind.

***

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” -Da Vinci

Reflections before a Marathon

20131122-234114.jpg

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”

― Asha Tyson

This is not a post about running. This is a post about the end of things and how life comes full circle at times, and how what is necessary to come to pass will eventually come to pass.

November 2011 I lay in my bed and I could feel my insides twisting in burned confusion; not about love–or at least nothing resembling love–but about people and about life and where I was even going. Success was not unreachable, but I found the path muddled and convoluted. It was like reaching through a thick wall of tangled yarn trying desperately to see what was on the other side. And there was part of it that took hold of the fragile core deep within me and held it tightly in its grasp, threatening to shatter it into a million pieces.

But somehow I refused to let it break; finally the hold lessened, and I drew into myself to protect that core. I ran mile after mile, in the cold, in the heat, in the early morning light watching the sun rise over the ocean, in the rain, and in the coolness of the night. I ran and ran and my legs ached and my stomach churned, but my veins surged with the one thing pushing me on–DETERMINATION. Sheer determination. There is nothing beautiful in a distance run. The body grows weary, it starts to give out at times. The joints ache from the continued pressure, and your insides churn from the constant motion. Why then, do human beings continue to distance run?

Because the run only reaffirms being alive, and in the end, when you finish your distance, you know that you are stronger than you think and that anything is possible when the mind and body are tested.

I lay here now, the culmination of my running efforts barely 48 hours away, and thoughts flood my mind like a relentless sea. Things that I have done and seen and felt course through my body and invade my mind, and I question whether the path has been the right one or not, but I already know the answer; there is no wrong path, only doubts and distractions that keep us from reaching the end goal. I think about god and how he/she/it keeps me from stopping to count pebbles or convincing myself I am too tired to push on; and the force comes like a great rain that washes down over the earth and pushes deep into the blackened soil, forcing nourishment. I chose HOPE to symbolize this post because it is this painful, sometimes forced grace that allows hope to spring forth, even if we didn’t think it possible. When we are open to reception, we will always receive the guidance and truth that is necessary in our lives to make us better people.

I carry these things with me as I run the race.