“About 7 years ago, I had a new f250 super duty white beautiful truck, and a 26-foot cabin cruiser that I loved, and a home south of the Blvd. in Woodland Hills, and because of construction jobs going bad and some cocaine abuse I was arrested for going to a customer’s business and asking to get paid. They obviously had some pull in Santa Monica and had me arrested for stalking… of all things. Because I had no money for a lawyer, I had to do 90 days in L.A. County Jail, which isn’t fun. Then, to get out early, I took the option to go into the Salvation Army where I stayed for a year, living there in Santa Monica. I lost everything in a day… or hours. Was pretty tough. I’ve been sober now for 6-plus years and sometimes things just happen that aren’t very fun and are very painful, but you come through the other side a new person, completely changed and searching for the new ‘you.’ It’s a life-long journey. But it’s much better being healthy and sober. As far as the dreams that were crushed, that’s still yet to be seen. But so many have already been fulfilled.”
Musician, drummer and contractor, Mark, hides no secrets in speaking of his life history. A man of sincerity, he sits next to me today as I hang out at a California park, surveying that area for new friends.
He pedals up with a warm “Hello,” striking up a casual conversation about the day. And you know me… any stranger who talks with me is a new friend of ours.
This whole 365 thing is a very interesting proposition, and now with only a few interviews conducted since taking pause from my original daily challenge (September 9, 2011 to September 9, 2012), I feel as if I am getting a booster-shot to loving the world around me. The vaccine? A much healthier perspective than a closed heart that fears hurt or rejection. The fine writing on the medicine label: “This vaccine may remind you of the fact that we are not alone in any of our personal experiences. You are human, and the more you look beyond the confines of your own skin and situation, the more you may realize just how much slowing down your pace of life will allow you to see the people around you, and yourself, more clearly.”
Yes, my time away from writing daily entries really left a hole in my life, and now that I am recommitting to at least a few articles a week, I find myself reopening my eyes again, and more importantly, my heart, to the world around me… something that I will always encourage us all to do.
It is far too easy to become isolated within our self-defined comfort zone, figuring that our situation is unique and no-one understands. So instead of risking the exposure of dropping our walls, we stand strong to terms like endure and self-protect, rather than leaning to more active outlooks, like share and listen. We program ourselves to defend rather than accept, to argue rather than resolve, to judge rather than to question. A scale of perspective that, once chosen, is the foundation of modeling who we are or who we are becoming. We do have the power to attract or to repel. In the end, the choice is ultimately ours.
One of the greatest men of all time, Mahatma Gandhi, gave us a key to guiding our choices when he said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” And sometimes it takes only a simple acknowledgement of the person next to us to put us on the right path.
So the question then is defined… do we pause to allow the therapeutic results of this simplified view of the world to take effect in our lives? And if we do, what will the outcome be? One thing I now know from experience is that, at many times, the most remarkable unifier can be even the smallest of kind gesture. We all leave wakes in our path and they are palpable influences to many around us… no matter where we are. I could write a book on the subject (actually, I am… hoping to have one completed by the end of 2013), but the uplifting possibilities are universal to all who embrace one simple notion: even though we all have diverse histories, attitudes and burdens, we all flow the same red blood.
Mark is brave to open his drug abuse history to us. In doing so he extends the greatest trust and, I bet, he is also rewarded with a greater confidence and purpose for his existence. As he said, “Sometimes things just happen that aren’t very fun and are very painful, but you come through the other side a new person, completely changed and searching for the new you.”
He tells us a little more about his years of cocaine use. “In a way, you just start to pull away from the world and isolate. Because things might not be working out, people might not be responding how you want them to. You start to judge and predict a lot of what is going to happen. Your whole perception of life changes a little bit. You isolate further and further… it’s a bad place to go to. I was not a huge user… I did a little bit every day for a long period of time.”
We talk about the pros and cons of our actions and decisions, arriving at a unified consensus. In Mark’s words, “Being healthy and respecting yourself and your body. Eating right. Sleeping right. Trying to stay close to friends and relationships. Finding out whatever it is that makes you tick… inside. Looking for what makes you happy and trying to achieve it. If it is too big of a goal… having a back up for sure, so you don’t get your heart-broken, and just being kind to people for the most part. Not hating. Trying to smile and wave at people. Saying ‘Thank You, and being polite.”
I have to ask, “How do you find what make you tick?”
“I believe in God,” Mark admits. “There is definitely a higher power.” He continues by challenging us to listen to our internal voice. “Try not to do something if you don’t want too. For example, don’t get married if you don’t think you can do it. That’s a huge mistake that so many people make in their life because they want a mate. I see people in marriages that are really unhappy and divorce is really huge. It breaks everybody apart. Find the things that you really love to do and do them.”
Easily said, but a tall order to fulfill. Especially in a world with so many external influences pushing us to go left or right. Even at times suppressing us to the unhappy acceptance of, “This is just how it is and there is nothing I can do to change it… live with it.”
So I probe further. “How do you find the things you really love?”
Mark quickly responds, “’You have to try things. Sometimes you just have to walk through things and have them happen before you discover what it is. You can always say, ‘I think I am just going to do this.’ For me, I think God just put inside of me a lot of drive to just do things.
“I think there is a bigger power that is watching over us. I think the world will never destroy itself. I think we are kind of on the right track. I think we are getting a little bit better, which I didn’t think would happen. I think people are starting to be a little bit more friendly… feel more open. I see more people starting to go out again. I think we’ll keep growing as long as globally, as a unit, we don’t try to destroy the world. If we can try to communicate more as a people, and be kinder to each other…
“I think we are kind of on the right track,” Mark suggests. And if this is true, there is one point we must fully examine in deciding exactly how we will contribute to what’s ahead… Simply: What make us tick?
Mark, I hope to see you again my new friend!