A Feast for Souls

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So, what happens when two foodies get together to make dinner? Turns out it’s way less about the ingredients coming together, and way more about the chemistry forming between two chefs.

 

The food was really great, of course, but secondary to the playful ribbing, witty banter and simply bonding with someone who shares common goals and interests.

 

Needless to say, we took over three hours to make dishes that could have easily been done in way less time. Sometimes it’s not about sticking to a recipe. It’s about the aimless beauty of unplanned outcomes.

43.4895⁰N Latitude 70.4419⁰W Longitude

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The Earth is a pretty big place. You could roam across this big blue planet all of your days and still not see everything. There are points on our personal maps, however, that touch us and fill us with a wide range of emotion. Some places represent happy beginnings while others make us recall tragic losses.
Everywhere you’ve been chronicles something that changed you in some way: a life-changing encounter, a really big idea, a first kiss, or even painful heartbreak. The itinerary of your life tells your story and defines your truth. The locations you have discovered are specific coordinates on the globe – latitudes and longitudes that help you find your way back to the places that transform you. Even if time erodes the landscape or alters the terrain – the exact coordinates remain constant and reliable.
I recently drove out to a place that I had been to maybe thousands of times when I was younger. It was a place where I experienced some tender firsts, forged a lasting friendship and came of age. The entire ride there, I had a solid mental picture of this spot with vivid detail. I even visualized the person I shared this spot with so many times before. In fact, we even talked about it recently and wondered if it was still there – sadly, it wasn’t. Time had re-purposed this place, and no remnants of yesteryear remained. We were both heavy-hearted but grateful that the memories remained anyway.
This specific point on our mutual maps that were filled with tears of happiness, tears of sorrow, shared hopes, inspired dreams, and deep friendship may have been physically hidden from our view but the coordinates brought us back to the place where it all happened. We still celebrate those days of long ago, and still visit 43.4895⁰N Latitude and 70.4419⁰W Longitude from time to time. It is a constant and reliable point in our shared itinerary and as long as we have a good compass, we’ll always have the ability to find it. That’s a beautiful thing.

The Space Between

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Life is sometimes funny, bittersweet, and even ironic. There are pivotal moments in our tender years that follow us well into the narrative of who we are. The space between is often paved with a blend of poignant memories, rites of passage, unseized opportunities and the haunting of words left unspoken. The series of events that ultimately unfold as we fumble through adolescence isn’t scripted and – try as we might – can’t be re-written. We can either resign ourselves to wallow in remorse, or we can seize a shot at redemption when the opportunity presents itself.

I was an awkward boy when I was coming up. Not awkward as in eccentric or strange, but awkward as in shy and very unsure of myself. I was born into a staunch Catholic family and went to parochial school. For the unindoctrinated, this only meant two things: (1) that your entire existence was predicated on guilt, and (2) the notions of expressing your feelings or desires quickly got you labeled as impetuous and incorrigible. I can speak from experience that if you ever strayed too far away from the established dogma, the benevolent Sisters of Mercy would (in their own inimitable way) conspire to bring you back “into the fold”, shall we say. But, I digress.

Contrary to the above paragraph, this isn’t a story about dogma. It’s really a story that starts out with an awkward boy and an awkward girl sitting together upon a storefront stoop on a summer day in the mid-Seventies. Apologies in advance for that bit of literary whiplash I just caused you but stay with me because, I promise you, this is all about the space between two people who met early in life and the irony of how unscripted events can sometimes lead to redemption from the sins of the past.

I started working from a very young age. Some people reading this will know that my family had a neighborhood grocery store. I was 12 years old when I learned a lot about small business and the importance of a strong work ethic and working with people. I made a whopping $15 a week – when you’re 12, this is the textbook definition of “rolling in it”. I wasn’t exactly introverted in that environment and lots of people knew me. I could hold my own with customers of any age. The store was one of the rare places where I didn’t have to be shy.

Everything sort of went “sideways”, as they say, on a warm day in June. There was this neighborhood girl, you see. I had seen her around before – sometimes with her family, other times not. Picture an attractive, unassuming, kind … crush-worthy girl. So, of course, being the clumsy, awkward, doe-eyed boy that I was in those days, my cat-like reflexes kicked in and I did the most unintelligent thing I could muster – avoid her. While she was crush-worthy, I was cringe-worthy. What a pair.. This dance went on for weeks. She would come in, I would suddenly find something to do where I could see her from afar. It was a whole thing.

I think she got wise to me, though. There came a day where she just followed me and proceeded to talk to me. It’s not that she was bold, it’s that I so wasn’t. After what felt like an eternity of me trying to formulate some really cool banter, my Uncle wisely told me that it was time for a break and shooed the both us to the outside stoop where I inexplicably regained my composure and just….talked. School, the weather, mutual friends, favorite everythings, movies, music – I would have talked about the most mind-numbing topics one could imagine. She was easy to talk to and we just connected. Our occasional stoop time was always good, always special – a rite of passage that got me out of my shell.

All throughout that time, and for many years afterward, I never once let on about the crush. It’s hard to say why, exactly. Fear, no doubt. We all build prisons of a fashion in our own headspaces. We fear not having enough courage, we fear rejection, and we hesitate too long on things that later make us remorseful. These are all demons of our own making. For any of you that follow music, the Eagles got it right when they wrote the lyric in Already Gone, “So many times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key..” I’ve always regretted the silence of things left unspoken.

Over the years we randomly kept in touch. Catching up, exchanging pleasantries, trying to set up casual meetings that never came to pass for one reason or another. Year after year passed and I kept a futile torch aflame. There comes a time in all of our lives when we face another rite of passage – that of having to let go of things that seemingly no longer serve us. It gets too hard to move forward when you’re tethered by things that you think will never happen. You start to re-frame your outlook and take on a new forward-looking mindset. Still remorseful, but able to wrap my head around it

Flashing forward to the present… in a most unexpected way, our trajectories crossed again. We’re no longer that awkward boy and awkward girl sitting on the stoop. We have each our own libraries full of diverse life experiences, each having both mountainous highs and riverbed lows, and both evaluating what’s next. The stoop is no longer a place we can rendezvous to, but we have slowly been interacting and talking about the universe it would seem. Like old times. Little by little, some of that old remorse seems to be fading away. Maybe redemption is at hand, maybe not. What’s important is that the space between doesn’t have to be silent and unspoken for anyone. The sacrifice just isn’t worth it and serves no end. Life is too beautiful to not be free to live your life out loud.

Unsent Letters

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One of the biggest regrets I harbor in my life is not being bolder when I should have, more transparent when I needed to be, and less afraid of being rejected. I’ve had so many chances over the course of my life to bare my soul and wear my heart on my sleeve but failed to do so. As a result, I carried an unwavering torch in silence and to no end. So many unsent letters have been penned inside my head; things I should have said, things I should have done, moments I should have seized had I not hesitated.

Even now, in the autumn of my life, the recipient on all those unsent letters leaves indelible marks upon my soul – all the while not knowing and unassuming of my interests. My intended will almost certainly read this and wonder if this is about her even if the encounter may have been short or fleeting. All I’m saying is that those indelible moments defined who I have become, what destinations I explored, and shaped the things that I hold sacred. I am eternally grateful for all of it.

This isn’t a lament. Nor is it a futile attempt to re-write history. I’m grateful for the cards I’ve been dealt and the milestones I’ve experienced. This is really about retrospection on how our lives are really the sum part of all the choices we make along the way. At the end of the day, I’m just seeking a sort of absolution from my inactions.

I’ve written before about the importance of blessings and lessons. I’ve been blessed with a life rich in experiences. The lesson in all this is that unwavering torches and unsent letters really serve no one, and leave us with too many unanswered what-ifs. While still a bit outside of my present comfort zone, maybe it’s time to send those letters after all and refuse to let fear write the remaining chapters of my story.  Previous regrets can be turned into future joys. Another epiphany.

Prodigal People

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If I’ve learned nothing from life, it’s that we never meet people by accident. There is purpose to every encounter. People come into and out of our lives all the time. Some of them stay and some of them move on. We meet some of them early in life who have parallel journeys to our own until a fork in the road send us in different directions as we write different stories – only to have the divergent paths come together again at the most unexpected of moments. A reunion of kindred souls is a very rare and precious gift.

The people in our lives are not random. The truth is, we meet people for a reason and everyone is either a blessing or a lesson. Those who aren’t permanent have something to teach us about ourselves that hasn’t been discovered yet. Those who never leave your side bless you in very soulful ways that bring out the very best in you.

Particularly special are those who start the journey with you, follow a different trajectory, and cross paths again with you later in life. Those people are both blessings AND lessons. Blessings because they played a hand in shaping who we would later become. Lessons because there are times in life when we lose our way or we fail to recall our best qualities. The prodigal people in our lives come back to re-ignite our passions and remind us of the divinity within ourselves.

I’ve recently had the honor and pleasures of such a chance reunion, and I am all the richer for it. Life is a beautiful story unfolding before us every day. Celebrate the blessings and lessons equally. We would all be very hollow without them.

 

Awakened

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Every morning begins in meditation. The process is like putting on armor for the day’s battle against my own impatience, inadequacy, resentment and hostility. It leads me to the stillness and serenity that awakens the best pieces of me.

For a short while there is a deep silence that has a melody of its own – a sweetness unknown amid the harsh discord of the World’s sounds. It is a sanctuary of my own making.

Meditation is not about mastery of the technique, but about letting go of control. I am liberated to venture in any direction I choose. Sky above me. Earth below me. Fire within me.

Immersed

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Every story has and end, but in life every end is a new beginning. I used to think that endings were mournful – they’re not. Endings are wildcards that life deals you when you’re lost. Play them well and at the right time, and you venture into a new and exciting direction.

Baptized in valor, I immerse myself in the waters that cleanse my wake and set a course for the next beginning. Today, I disembark from familiar harbors and sail to new ports of call. I’m not worried about getting lost. Truth is, if I never get lost, there’s a good chance I may never be found. Life is interesting..

Survival

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Meditation is my solace and my gateway to self-discovery. Every day it teaches me something that brings my experiences into perspective. Today, I learned that every adversity has been a test. I have been conditioned to survive. I’m a survivor because the fire inside me burns brighter than the fire around me. Another moment of clarity..

Breathless

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My spirit is wild and untamed whenever she calls to me. I walk the line between wholly enchanted and passionately intoxicated. Her song never fails to immerse me in the waters of Elysium where I am baptized in a rhapsody of whispers – completely surrendered.

I’ve come here to lose myself, but she relentlessly reveals my identity and teaches me that the story of this life isn’t about the number of breathes we take, but the number of things that truly leave us breathless. Every day ultimately fades into every night, and the dance begins again with her familiar beckoning call..

Unraveled

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The seaside is a fusion of elements that always make me reflect inwardly, It is both my zen garden and my saving oasis. I come here to bare my soul fearlessly and unabashed in a cathartic way. It’s here that I am catastrophically enamored with the great loves of my life. It makes want to hold on to each with a white-knuckled intensity because I love them like a drowning man loves air.

I cast all of my hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties in stoppered glass bottles upon the water in belief that they will reach their intended recipients, all the while waiting for answers to my midnight petitions. Each message in a bottle leaves me a little raw and exposed, but it’s not unanswered prayers that I am afraid of – it’s being unraveled to the point of no return.

Our deepest desires are only ever granted to us by way of a blind kind of faith. Sometimes you have to be willing to bet the house and accept the odds because not taking that chance will translate into the biggest ass-kicking you’ll ever give yourself. If you risk nothing, you gain nothing. It’s worth a little unraveling if your dreams come true in the end.