In the Ashes of the fire…

I spent some time at Moonville Friday with the Zaleski Fire Department.  A fire had ignited in the woods near the area and while some departments put together efforts to contain the fire, others stood by and kept watch for other dangers.  It was already near dark when I arrived at the scene, and containment efforts were winding down.  I stood with some of the firefighters who were keeping watch on the road near the Moonville Tunnel, as we all waited for the latest updates on the conditions in the woods.

As we waited, I noticed something falling from the sky.  Further observation of the falling material revealed to me that I was standing in a shower of falling ash.  I could not see the fire from where I was standing, but the smoke, the burning smell and the ash that was falling caused me to realize I was probably closer to the fire than I had thought.  Suddenly I knew that if containment efforts fail, I could be in a dangerous place.

I didn’t doubt at any moment that the situation was being properly handled by the firefighters.  I didn’t fear that at any point I would need to scramble to quickly remove myself from the area.  I felt secure.  I was safe, and I didn’t feel the need to panic.  I wonder though, if the fire department hadn’t been on the scene if I would have felt the same way.  Would I have jumped into my car and get out of the woods as quickly as possible if I had been alone?  I am not sure what type of alternative outcome would have came if I wouldn’t have been near members of the fire department.  I am thankful for the people who sacrifice their time and effort to protect people like me and keep me safe.

I think about the way I felt in the woods Friday.  I wonder about my own life and the lives of those around me.  How do the people who depend on me feel when they are near me.  Do my kids watch the ashes fall and know they are safe because I am their father?  Does the burning smell cause my loved ones to fear where they stand or do they feel comforted because I am near?  When the smoke is thick and the only thing left to do is count on someone else for protection, am I the one people feel they can turn to?

My life feels like a fire sometimes.  It seems that there is always a fight to protect what little I have.  I think the people who are close to me can see the smoke.  They can smell the fire.  They watch the ashes fall when they are near me.  Though some run away for fear that the fire will grow, there are those who stand in a safe place.  They feel safe in spite of the proof of dangerous territory that surrounds them.  I want to end the fire that burns in my life.  I want to rise above the smoke clouds that roll off of my existance.  I’m not going down in flames, I’m emerging from the fire.  I am climbing out of a death trap that has held me bound for years.  If you watch the ashes fall, don’t fear the fire, just know I have taken another step into the clear.

In the future, I hope that my children feel safe because I show no signs of destruction, rather than because I carry them through it.  I want the best for my kids.  Even though we have marks to prove we have been through the fire, I hope they’ll carry on without fear of that fire.  If my success marks the success of my children, then I must succeed.  There are no other options.  The ash still falls, but the fire is behind me.

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Navigator down…

Yesterday I decided to travel to West Virginia to visit with my girlfriend who is moving there for a job that she just started working recently.  Unfamiliar with the territory, I decided to use the gps on my phone to navigate the course to the hotel she is staying in.  I was probably about half way into my trip before I realized there is something wrong with my gps.  It refused to work for me.  I was without direction.  Luckily, i remembered the route in my head from when I looked it up earlier in the day.  I arrived at the hotel with no problems, but I did show up with an understanding that I need to figure out why the gps on my phone isn’t working.  I could have easily gotten lost if I had not remembered the directions.

It is always nice to have a voice to tell you which turn is the right one.  It helps to know which road we are on and which one is coming next.  It is comforting to know there is a turn coming up that we previously were not aware of.  These are the kind of things gps will point out to us, but without them, we must navigate on our own.

I feel like this is the lesson we need to learn in life.  All of us can appreciate that voice telling us where to go and how to get there, but many of us are finding our own way.  Most of us do not have the course mapped out for us.  The best chance we have is to take the turns that seem to be the right ones, and hope we end up where we set out to go.  The answer is coming to us in spoken form, but it comes with a good educated guess and hopes of heading in the right direction.

The promising thing for me was that I did have a map to look at before I left.  Although I relied heavily on my memory to get me to my destination, I was able to get there without a navigation system.  I think the reason why most people don’t get to the place they were wanting to go is they didn’t take a moment to look over the map before they got on the road.  Without the map, finding direction is an impossible task.   You will get lost, and you most likely live that way.

Take a moment to map out your course before you make a move on the road of life.  Your gps system may fail you, but with the proper direction locked into your mind, you can get there.  You can and will succeed in finding your destination in life if you take the time to seek for proper direction.  I’m late.  I tried to drive the course alone.  I went with no gps, no map, no voice to tell me where I am or where I’m going.  I went alone.  Still, I don’t think it’s too late to look at a map and get on course.  This way, every step I take from here on I will know where I am, and know exactly how to get to where I’m going.  I might feel a little uncertain without my gps, but with the directions in my head, I can and will get there.  You can too.  Map it out.

Walking Blindfolded…

There is a game people play (I’m really not sure if it has a name) where one person places a blindfold over their eyes and tries to navigate a course while their partner directions them on where to go.  The game teaches players to learn to listen and accept guidance.  When a player can successfully make it through the course without running into anything, they win.  The more this process is practiced, the better the players will become.

Sometimes I feel like I am navigating a course as well.  I feel like I’m walking blindly, waiting for instruction, but I hear no voice.  I walk alone.  At times, If I spread out my arms and feel around, I begin to think I can do this, I can make it, but then I walk straight into a wall.  I pick myself up and begin again, only to find myself in the same situation, hitting another wall.  This game seems unwinnable.  It seems unfair.  Sometimes I wonder if the people who are supposed to be shouting out direction to me are instead sitting back and laughing while they watch me fail.  But that can’t be true.  No one is there.

I know what you might be thinking.  I guess I should point out that I am not speaking of a higher being here.  I am simply speaking of that group of people who are close to you.  The ones who shape your life by being a part of it.  This is where I lack.  When I think about it, there are plenty of people who are friendly to me.  There are a lot of people who could shout out my directions to me.  But they are so far away.  No one is close.  Everyone is far.  Every once in a while a voice gets close enough for me to hear.  It tells me where to turn, when to stop and when to go.  It tells me where to go.  It guides me.  Then I can’t hear it anymore, and I walk into the same wall again.

So I sit here, knelt down on the floor, my head dropped in despair.  Why do I keep hitting this wall?  Why can’t I find my way out of this maze?  I want to remove my blindfold, but even if I do, I have already accepted the hard truth.  I wasn’t meant to do this alone.  There were supposed to be voices guiding me.  Every wall I hit I fall down again and cry out, “Where is that voice?  Where is the voice that is supposed to guide me?”  This game is unwinnable when played alone.  Some people can’t solve the puzzle . . . they just become a part of it.  They stay in the maze.  They get lost in the game.

I don’t want this to be my fate.  If I have to hit this wall so many times I bust a hole through it, then so be it.  I don’t want to be here.  I want to get past this.  I want to win.  Sometimes the only voice of reason we hear is our own.  I can’t see where I’m going but I can remember which way not to go.  It hurts to do this alone, but I want to make it through.  I will finish this game.

Writing the story before it happens..

Yesterday was election day.  In the past, election day has been a day where I go vote then head home to turn on the television and watch results.  This year was much different for me.  Now that I am a reporter, it was my job to make sure people received information about the election.  I was the one who was responsible for writing the stories that would be in the newspaper the next day.  Let me say, the task is not an easy one when you are up against a deadline.

I was fully aware the day would be hectic.  I knew ahead of time that I would need to prepare my stories, laying the ground work for news that would be coming, so I began writing election stories prior to the vote count being taken.  This was new for me.  It was the first time I had written a story before it actually happened.  I felt though that the job would be much easier If I would anticipate outcomes based on my knowledge of what was happening and write the stories as closely to that as possible.  Of course, I was able to later change some of the information depending on what happened.  I left blank spaces for all of the numbers and additional spaces for any quotes I might receive after the election.  I found this to be very helpful in assisting me at getting the stories out in time last night.

I realized after the long day had ended, that life should also be the same way.  I have always struggled at planning ahead.  I think if something happened today that I was not ready for, I wouldn’t know what to do.  I would be lost.  There are some people who are really good at anticipating the future, I am not one of them.  I know now that preparation takes more time in the beginning, but saves a great deal of time in the end.  I really hope that in the future, in all of life’s moves, I will begin writing my stories before they happen.  I want to leave blanks for the spaces that can be filled in later, but for the most part, I want to be prepared for what happens next.  Obviously I cannot predict love.  I cannot predict tragedy.  I cannot predict the moments that change the course, but I can prepare for anything.  I can look at my life and consider the course I would like to take.  Sure, there may be changes or alterations, but If I write the story before it happens, I won’t have to start fresh each time something changes.  I will only have to fill in the blanks.

Look at your life as well.  Where do you want to be in the future?  Where do you expect to be in the future?  Where do you WANT to be in the future?  You have the ability to write the course for yourself.  This is your story.  Life is only a co-author.  Don’t let all of life’s situations tell the story for you.  You need to author this.  In the end, you will find it easier to make the best of your time if you have a pre-written life.  Don’t be the person who waits to see what happens before you decide what to write about your life.  Write it now.  It is time to start writing your story…Before it happens.

Behind the Mask…

I spent the day with my children yesterday walking the streets in search of Halloween treats.  It seems to me, with every new year, there are more and more children dressed up and wandering around, door to door, to fill up their baskets of candy.  My kids went as the Mario Brothers.  They seemed to get a pretty good response from passers-by as they passed other trick-or-treaters on the streets.  You should have seen them with the big mustache that covered a large part of their face.  I couldn’t help but smile when I caught some of the responses of people as they walked by.

While my kids had a simple costume, you could tell who they were by looking at them.  Some children were completely covered in a body suit.  Whether they were going as a gorilla, a race car driver (complete with helmet), or any other costume requiring a mask, I couldn’t tell who these kids were.   Some of the kids who passed by waved at us, but I couldn’t recognize them.  The only thing I knew about these kids was what outfit they had on.  I could recognize the mask, but beneath it, the mystery loomed.

I think we all wear a mask from time to time.  Obviously, I am not speaking of a literal mask.  I am talking about something that covers us, and makes outsiders recognize us in an entirely different light than the people we reveal ourselves to.  Many of us wear masks to hide our imperfections when we are around other people.  By wearing a mask we can become unrecognizable.  We can hide the part of us we don’t want people to see.  We can become another person.

Why do we all have to do this to seek another’s approval?  Shouldn’t we find comfort in ourselves and walk boldly in front of the crowd?  I think the world would find itself in a better place if some people would take off their masks.  While my mask may suggest I am a young, happy father of two kids who lives a comfortable life as a reporter in the county I live in, I struggle.  My life is not easy.  When I think about it, I don’t know if any single aspect of my life has been easy.  Although some people may look at me and see failure, if they had walked in my shoes and been in places I have been in life, they might begin to believe I am a great story of success.  What makes success?  To be honest, I must say the answer to that question is still up for debate, at least in my head.  What I can tell you is that the prettiest mask you can wear will not change your leve l of success.  Your mask will not make you better.  It is solely dependant upon the drive of the person under the mask where you will go in this life. 

Take off your mask.  Nobody wants to see a lie.  People want to know the real you.  They will only respect the real you.  Your mask can’t earn respect, and while people may respect your lie, it is a matter of time before the mask proves its inability to carry your load.  You are better without the mask.  Your progress will come when you lay it down and move forward without it.  Regardless of your position in this life, wherever you may be, your mask will never go further than you carry it.  It is your footsteps that get you where you going in life.  Throw down the mask, and walk on.