Friday, December 30, 2011

An Unwavering Presence

Allow me to pose a question: ever look at something and realize it's an intrinsic part of modern culture? A seemingly always-present factor in life that has not only had an influence on society as a whole, but has had an impact on individuals too? Sometimes it's not an object, but a person.

It's not common for me to talk about celebrities, but there are times when an individual deserves additional positive recognition. I'm not talking about idol worship or any other such thing, but more to point out the positive impact an individual can have on the public.

Having read the news this morning, I was reminded of a celebrity who has had an influence on many people from my age bracket. With New Years Eve rapidly approaching, many of us from the post baby boomer generation are reminded of an iconic presence – the indomitable Dick Clark. A man who never seems to age regardless of what happens to him. Being in the public eye with his hosting of American Bandstand which started in 1952 and continued on until its cancelation in 1989, he become synonymous with Top-40 music and dance.

Even the demise of American Bandstand did little to remove Dick Clark from the public eye. Like the Rock of Gibraltar, he holds strong and makes his appearance on the Rocking New Years Eve event which is aired as a live event. As a further testament to his determination, after suffering a stroke in 2004, it has not subdued his desire to share his enthusiasm with the public. He continues to rises up, meet the challenges caused by stroke-induced speech impediments along with mobility issues and makes his appearance on New Years Eve as always.

I for one, tip my hat in respect to Dick Clark for tackling life head-on to share his positive can-do spirit with all of us. His unwavering presence, his sheer willpower along with his timeless appearance provide inspiration in so many ways. Good on ya Dick Clark!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Year of Living Dangerously

I'm sure at least one or two of you have noticed how I've been playing Houdini, seemingly vanishing for long periods of time. My coworkers have been not been spared from my “Be back soon” syndrome either as I've turned down numerous offers to go out at night, attend BBQs and I even passed on attending a rare appearance by Ramstein (they play German industrial music) here in Seattle in order to keep marching on my mission.

True enough, I've been absorbed in my plans and more focused on action this year but it felt necessary. I started the year off running full pace already knee-deep in a bathroom remodel that didn't wind down for months. Non-stop nights and weekends were invested so I could finally stop taking showers in my kitchen and return to normal life. Well, in April, the sun came out and plants started blooming. That was all it took. I'd been working on the bathroom remodel from the start of the previous December and I was sick of spending all my time working in one little room every single spare moment of my life. So outdoors I went ready to take in some sunshine.

Needless to say, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire as I took one look at the front yard and said, “This looks terrible.” Next thing you know, I'd cooked up a plan to rip the entire front lawn to shreds. With pick and shovel in hand, I dove in head first acting more like a badger than a human. Spring zipped by as I feverishly dug up the traditional suburbanite grass and left behind what looked like devastation from a strip mining operation. Summer raced by as I replaced the barren soil with compost and an entire new landscape of plants. It wasn't until late fall that I found myself slowing from the break-neck pace.

Ah, but something wasn't right. I found myself sliding into a bad place. My motivation dried up completely along with any feeling of creativity. I lost my inspiration. I found myself sleeping late on weekends, not wanting to do anything. After a few weeks of feeling down, something unusual happened. My oldest brother called me out of the blue one day. Seems he had a pair of tickets to attend a seminar and asked if I wanted to take a trip to see some fella by the name of Tony Robbins down in LA. “Tony who?” I replied. A quick conversation with my oldest brother enlightened me to the fact he was a very successful motivational speaker. After a few calls from my brother asking “A few changes would do you good... how about a trip to LA? Are you up for it?” I finally decided to give it a try. Mind you, I rarely travel. I'd never experienced traveling during any of my formative years as my family never took trips, never talked about vacations, and, well, you get the idea. Quite simply, it wasn't anything I'd learned to incorporate into my life. Well, here was an opportunity and I decided not to squander it. Fortunately, it didn't take much to convince my boss at work to let me take off time off. He was happy to see me finally take time off to go on a trip out of town.

The day finally arrived for the trip to the seminar. It started off a bit rocky as we missed our flight out of Seattle due to bad traffic holding us up on the freeway. But, during that time, I found my first hint of inspiration returning. I spotted a piece of art at SeaTac airport that piqued my interested. While quite small, it was symbolic as it was the first sign of change.

Eventually, we caught another flight and arrived in LA around midnight. It wasn't until about 1:30 AM that we arrived at the motel. Ah, a few moments of sleep before getting up to go register for the convention. Now for anyone who has never heard of Tony Robbins and his motivational seminars, let me tell ya, these things are taxing physically. Imagine being in a large auditorium for no less than 12 hours a day over the course of four days. Then imagine leaping up every fifteen minutes or so and kicking it to some dance music. I'm talking really dancing your tail off too where you're jumping around, shaking your booty and sometimes shouting out as loud as you can. Think of doing that in an area filled with 4000 other people all doing the same thing. The small group I'd bonded with was jumping about so much at one point that my calf muscles started cramping. Even more humorous, the event was also focused on letting go and being a kid. Well, one of my seat mates rather enjoyed grabbing hold of me and pitching me up in the air at times. Keep in mind I'm small for a fella so it's not too hard to wing me up high in the air. For that matter, it became a habit over the four days for several different people to suddenly grab me under the arms and toss me up high in the air when the dance music really started jamming. I'd help out by flinging my arms up so I would make a bigger spectacle out of it for those around us. Seems the crowd got a big kick out of it too as I had more than a few people come up to me and say, “Your energy is amazing! Keep it up!” Shoot, I even had a couple ladies tell me they had a fantastic time dancing to the music with me in the aisles. Nothing like a positive thinking seminar to get people relaxed and willing to have fun. Heck, it was worth it just for the dancing.

Ah, what's the point you ask? The seminar was fundamentally about facing fears to realize they don't have to control our actions. To prove the point to us, on the first night of the seminar, we walked on fire. Yup, I walked barefoot on a hot bed of coals and had a blast doing it. The purpose of walking on fire was to show us we can face fear. When we can face fear, we can achieve more in our lives as a result. And that's exactly what happened. As each day slid by, I felt more charged up and ready to change my life. When it was all said and done, the seminar did have a large impact on me so in ways, I'm a changed man – cheesy as that sounds.

So when I returned home, I was exhausted but inspired none-the-less. I set about making changes such that my emotional state of mind would remain positive. First and foremost, I had to clean up much of the clutter in my life – physical and emotional clutter. Sometimes one has to make a big mess to clean up a mess. For the physical aspect, I set about cleaning up the house which had become a disaster after the bathroom remodel. The utility room was the source of chaos in the house, sort of like an inverse eye of a hurricane so I dove in head first. Down came that crummy old wood paneling along with the glue-covered drywall behind it. The heaps of drywall on the deck went bye-bye to the dump. And the floor finally become visible again as I picked up the heaps of tools, vacuumed up the dunes of drywall dust and most importantly, fixed up the lighting around here. Now one can go into any room and find not only sufficient reading light, but some rather atmospheric ambiance mood lighting. The latter being a nice touch to improve my emotional state. When you look good, you feel good. The same goes for where we live.

And in the midst of all this, I started making other changes. A quick call to the credit union kicked off a a refinance application for lower interest rates on the home loan. That in itself will save me a lot of interest money. As you can see, I'd neglected many things but all that is changing daily. Ah, but more changes needed to be done. Being a caveman, I had to come into the twenty first century. After all, how can anyone get a hold of me if I don't have a cellphone? So out went the old land-line to be replaced by a rather cool Motorola Droid Razr smartphone. Yep, I'm digitally connected now. While there are many more changes waiting such as acquiring a reliable vehicle, I'm actively taking steps to make things happen.

And as for a relationship, I've realized my approach needs some revamping too. I've been trying to linear task everything in my life. I'm either fully focused or completely disconnected. That doesn't work, especially with finding a relationship. A person can't focus solely on hunting for a partner, it scares the hell out of people. Nobody wants a bulldozer coming at them wouldn't you agree? Nor should I focus entirely on my goals. A little socializing will do me good so I'll do my best to balance my approach properly. :)

All in all, it's been quite the year and next year is looking to be equally as interesting. Change is not just in the wind, it's here and happening now.