SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 366: “The Stranger Inside Myself”

Wow, this day has come way too fast… and exactly how do I express the impact “Project 365” has had on my life?

Intent is the word that wakes me this morning as my eyes cracked open and my mind began running its sleepy headed reflections, booting up while pondering just what to say in wrapping “Project 365.”

A very emotional task indeed, and in my reflections an unusual word creeps into my imagination… intent.

I’ll confess, I’m caught off guard. Why such a very technical word to explain a very emotional and spiritual journey? Yet the more I think about it the more I understand how it applies to the change that 365 has had on my life.

Although the inception of Project 365 was pure in desire to better understand my fellow human, and came from a very emotional core, there was a little strategy involved, for behind it was the whole SEO thing, and I figured that my reach-out would be good for my traffic, and give me something to share, not only with you, but with my potential clientele. An ethically thought-out win-win.

Wait, don’t sign off!  I am not a commercial dog… Project 365 has made that powerfully apparent to me. And while I feel tremendously blessed to have the business that I do, 365 has radically changed the way I do everything that I do, even managing my career. 365 has matured me more than I expected, and at fifty-one years of age, I feel as if I have passed through an enlightenment that has lifted the weight from years of disciplined learning off my shoulders.

More strange, since I’ve been on the journey, I have not sent one single promotional email, attended only one portfolio review to sell my work, and basically put the greater part of my energy into meeting the world around me, and in doing so I’ve focused as best as I can on not letting my priorities fixate on overworking to grow my business, and have looked away from the worries of life. I’m not stating that I have become irresponsible, quite the contrary, I’ve just reprioritized, and because of it, I will never be the same.

Intent, I say, the word reaches deep into my heart this early morning, (5:30am) as my fingers are at laptop keyboard. The pounding question in my heart, “Will you ever go back to past perspectives and slip away from the life attitude that 365 has provided you?”

My honest answer, I pray not, for through it I have realized that the wonderment of life is not so much in what we do, it is more about how we understand and who we become.

I’ve said many a time, “I am no Gandhi,” a great man of peace and courage, a man that would be impossible to measure up to. Yet, he taught us great lessons in tolerance, and proved to the world that having the courage to do the right thing does not necessarily translate to aggressive or self-centered behavior. I mean not to make my final entry a tribute to Gandhi, but to not mention the influence his example has had on my life would not be just. Nor do I mean to preach in any way, I promised you a revealing of how Project 365 has taught me about me.

Thus, back to intent… and why did I really go into my 365 year? I think Rabbi Mentz (Day 362, We Are On The Right Road) hit the nail on the head, “To discover myself,” true, but in the process, and more importantly, I discovered you and the world around me. Again Rabbi Mentz, “All souls are connected;” a belief that transcends into just about every traditional faith as well as untraditional perspectives on religion and spirituality. I know this first hand now, after approaching well over two thousand strangers and feeling of their acceptance. And yes, I also bore scorn or ridicule from many. The result, it’s not about me, it’s about, again, understanding.

Sure, in the first months of this blog challenge, I had no clue as to what was happening to me… and I still don’t. All that I know is my heart is softening, my mind is opening and my thoughts are becoming actions. Actions that are deeper than any physical act, and begin at the very starting point of my thinking processes. Something that I dream can happen to all the people whom I’ve grown to call the “silent majority.” Again, you and I… the real people.

With this call, I have to plug my challenge: Chin up and eyes open to the world for one year. Please say your hellos… and try to visualize your feet in the shoes, or footprint, of others… when you are lacking understanding, own the fact that we were all once infants, and question, “What happened to make this person that way.”

Also, it is so difficult to express tone in writing, so know that as I give this challenge, it is with a great smile and happiness to be able call you either friend or stranger. For in either case, it really matters not, “We are all in this thing together.”

Thanks for the indulgence, I’ll step off my soapbox.

Basically, all that I am… is one of you… a real person… with real joys… with real trials… with real fears and hurts… with real strengths and weaknesses… having my moments of genius and my moments of absolute stupidity… a real human, living in a real world.

I’m a bit of a skeptic as to how I feel about astrology, but for those of you who follow the Zodiac, I am a Taurus, you know me, the romantic bull in the china shop. And although I can be quite passionate, I can also carry an unintended aura of arrogance. Most of my friends don’t see it, but I know in my heart that my pride is my Achilles heal. So why do I reveal such an exposing statement? Because I have to. Again, another one of my 365 friends, Dez, Random Acts of Kindness, Day 128, who asked me if I think my blog is a form of narrative therapy… absolutely is the answer I can reply.

But the thing about it is the realization that the more I write about others, the more I discover myself. Christ said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of your fellow-man.”

No comparison there, we already know that I am no Gandhi, and there is no way I will even try to compare myself to Christ. But, in his lesson can be found the key to greater self-understanding. That is, to really find out who we are… we need to look beyond ourselves and be willing to learn who others are. I know, it’s crazy and against every textbook on self-affirmation. But as hard to accept as this premise is, if practiced with an open mind and heart, it reveals itself in the most powerfully affirming ways.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in our own world and allow ourselves to disassociate with the lessons around us, a real problem in this virtual world, where we all are suspect to living vicariously in, or directed by, our digital domain. Not knocking it, technology is a wonderful tool… even a gift, for without it we would not be having this dialogue.

Yet, as amazing as it is for dropping boarders and bringing us all together, it is also Pandora’s box. A fact that has hit me squarely between the eyes over the last year as I have spent a minimum of three hours a day buried to the 365 screen, lost in typing away; even now, my daughter is sleeping on the floor beside me, her way of compromising in getting a bit of daddy time as he works on 365… again.

The upside, although my family has sacrificed much of my time, and even sometimes joined me in frustration when daddy misses dinnertime… again, we are all together in the cause of 365.

The blessing therein comes when I watch my little girl looking at the world with 365 eyes. She is not afraid of strangers, yet she is aware, and will not walk into harms way. Her mind is sharp and free of judgment, and she is confident enough to reach out and wise enough in knowing who to stay away from. She has no fear to be in the world, and (tears coming to my eyes), holds no contempt for anyone. Other than the usual, how come I don’t have that LPS?

My wife… although a bit more skeptical than I (and I love the balance she brings into our family) has continued to push me out of the house on the days that I was in the doldrums, and every time she did, both of us became at peace with the lessons learned through living up to the commitment we made in sacrificing our time to a cause greater than ourselves.

Thirty-years of fighting in building my small business —  a career that I love and continue to love and have neglected horribly in putting 365 at the front of the queue; strange as it may sound… it has blossomed. And, I am happy to say that this year has been a banner year. What does that say about letting go and trusting that higher power thing?

“To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of your fellow-man.” Amazing council that can be found in so many religions and life practices, but so scary to believe in, and even more difficult to practice in this modern world.

Two thousand people plus have I approached, and in all, two-thirds have spoken with me… many even embracing me. I’m humbled to the center of my very being, and every time that I speak with a stranger, even in the rejections, I have felt a peace that is hard to fully explain. The easiest explanation, “It is not about me and I am not alone.”

There was that repetitive song, “Don’t worry… be happy.” In its playful lyrics is great wisdom. Now, so you now, I worry a lot, I think most of us do… we’re human and impressionable.

And yes, the world is in trouble in so many ways. In it, it is so easy to become paralyzed and discouraged in turning to bury our heads in the sands of negative attitudes and behaviors. From vice… to isolation… to the creation of horribly defensive walls, the choices of defeat are endless.

I, too, am suspect, and often fall to the frustrations of the day. But 365 has challenged me, forced me to look a little deeper into any situation, trained me to breathe a little more relaxed and provoked me to listen a little longer, so hard for a Taurus dude to do… let alone an artist.

So back to intent, that driving subtext of life that we all possess, the stuff that move us to do what we do from the moment that we wake in the earliest hours, to the time we rest our heads on our sleeping pillow. 365 has held me accountable to examine my reason for doing all that I do and has taught me well.

The answer is lengthy and does not have a black and white conclusion, but it lies in this thing we call self-mastery. I have to state once more, most of the time I am a babbling idiot, but my greatest moments are those in which I can muster the strength to control my brain power, my fears and my hurts in simply letting go… to look… to listen… and allow myself and others to feel.

Yeah, life is tough, some days are terrible, but in equal balance,and if we are open, others days are magnificent. Hundreds of people have courageously shared of themselves with me over the last year. Both bright times and dark times have been had. From these experiences I have seen many sides of the equation of being human. I will not hold any punches, it is what it is… the world can rip the very essence of compassion and hope from any of our fragile spirits. But we have the tools to be part of a silently active army of the hopeful. And as many times we have said – the power of one is magnificent!

My dream in continuing forward with what is to come in  my outreach is pretty transparent, to share whatever I can to open our eyes to one another in a unified voice of inspiration and truth.

Absolutely, things are thrown at us and burdens are placed upon us, yet in the center of it all, light can be found, that is if we recognize it.

I’m no saint, I’ve screwed up a lot of things in my life, I’ll be the last to stand on any podium and profess of any grand answer to all of life’s questions. And without a doubt I am nowhere near where I thought I would be in life and am only just beginning to grasp the slightest clue of why I am here. But one thing is certain, after one year of reaching beyond my own problems, pushing past my fears and opening up to the many amazing people I’ve met over the last twelve months, I think I have met one very close stranger… me.

I will never be the same again… and 365 will never cease to exist.

Here is the tear I’ve been anticipating… for the final time of this project, “Talk tomorrow my friends.”

A quick swallow… the tear has past… and realization has hit… we will talk again my friends… the voyage is only beginning.

Operation 365 has set sail, building the technological back-end that will grow us closer. This time we will be able to hear from you… and how cool is that! We’re not done yet!

Awake and nnite my friends!