Oh, What a year pt. II

Part ii of the mini-series. When you reflect on this past year, did the pandemic win? Or were you able to adapt, adjust, and find new unexplored areas of experience?

Before I begin, the intent of this blog isn’t so I could dump all my ‘stuff’ online. The intent is to be more about shedding light in our darknesses and to bring hope and joy.

Enter interruption #2. FAMILY!

With that said, I do believe allowing people into my reflections over this year is valid as we all share in the human experience. If I can go into my own solitude and enter into my mess, and chaos, then that will allow others to do the same, thus creating spaces where people can be free to enter into their own story.

I learned the importance of family, staying together, adapting, and communicating.

Now! To continue on the year. If you read the first post of this series, the year started off with an amazing opportunity career-wise. Being able to work at Equinox was a personal trainer’s dream. Great management, great teammates, and top of the line fitness equipment.

Then… boom. #CORONA.

Enter interruption #2. FAMILY!

I say interruption because if we are honest, we don’t spend all day with our family. Before the pandemic, we worked, went out to bars and restaurants with friends, so it wasn’t like we were with our family for 24 hours all the time.

And that’s an interruption, right? Learning what everyone’s schedule is while we learn to work from home. Not getting in each other’s ways, but doing our best to curb cabin fever.

Forget work, forget all of the extracurricular activities, were you able to spend quality time with your family?

We, like everyone else, had to find a schedule, a routine, and sometimes… we were all over the place!

On the times I would be with my family, my Mom and I made it a point to spend some time together and exercise. Being a trainer, I would give her exercises and create a workout for her.

She would eventually create her own exercises LOL

But, as the summer progressed, lockdown was still in place, I spent the majority of my time in the East Bay with my girlfriend’s family.

We did our best to get some sunshine, whether it was a hike, or going to the beach, we had to do our best to curb cabin fever, cause… it got ugly sometimes.

One last thing- I always found it a miracle that Katia’s mom (pictured right) and I got along, almost right away. – When we first met. So the first three months of quarantine were chill- we played monopoly… a lot. I would either make simple foods, or order takeout for the family, but we spent a lot of the first three months really just, talking over coffee, playing board games, and occasionally I would take her through a full-body workout.

I do hope that, if you are reading this, you were able to spend time with your family. This year really allowed us to shift the way we do life with those closest to us. I do hope that with the interruption of the pandemic closing everything down, that we were all able to adjust, and adapt, and love and hug those we love. If we were not able to, then yes, the pandemic really did win. But to see the interruption as a blessing is to say I’ve gotten a little bit closer to my family because of it. Forget work, forget all of the extracurricular activities, were you able to spend quality time with your family?

My family watching Mulan together

Oh, What a Year pt. 1

It’s been a whole year of being locked down and now I finally reflect on what the year has meant.

As the anniversary of the pandemic reached the U.S. and the anniversary of when S.F. was put into lockdown, I thought I would do a mini-series of reflections of what I have learned over the year. Reflections, laments, joys, surprises- All of these themes I’m sure will come up as I sort out this past year.

It has been one whole year since the pandemic interrupted our lives. Now, before I reflect over the course of this year, let me take you back a couple of months prior to COVID-19 rampaging our country.

I had just left a school I was teaching at and while teaching is my passion and joy, it can sometimes be choked by certain systems. And yet, little did I know that I would be walking into, and leaving shortly thereafter, one of the greatest experiences of management, and team cooperation. The contrast between the school, and Equinox was very noticeable.- Under adequate and healthy management, a team can thrive.

I loved every second of my experience at Equinox. From orientation week- meeting a bunch of trainers from all over the bay all focused on becoming the best trainer, to meeting some high-class managers and top tier trainers leading us in sessions, to the actual experience.

My manager was grade-A. She was kick-ass in all that she did. Monique was phenomenal in her work and I appreciate how she took care of all of us trainers on the daily.

The team around me was also kick-ass. Monique, Morgan, Mikey, they were all a guy needed to succeed.

Needless to say, my experience there was nothing short of a dream job in a dream career in a dream field.

Then BOOM. COVID-19 came-a-knockin’.

I remember the last day I stepped out of those Equinox doors for what it seems to be the last time.

Fishermen’s wharf was EMPTY! And if you know anything about the Wharf, it is anything but empty! I have grown up in S.F. my whole life and I never found it empty, it was always buzzing with tourists walking around, shopping, and locals trying to get some IN-N-OUT.

We ate at an Italian restaurant and they had already closed off parts of their indoor dining and unbeknownst to us, that would be the new norm for a year to come.

That’s interruption #1 and the first reflection of the series. Stay tuned!

The Blessing of Interruptions

How different would our lives be if we started to see the interruptions in our lives as a blessing? An opportunity to nose dive into life and there would we find deeper sources of vitality.

Now, I know that might sound like a strange title but hear me out–

We all succumb to the ever frustrating interruptions of our daily lives– kids, traffic, illness, weather, — you name it– and that usually sounds like adults who have grown old, and have become bitter.

But what about a global pandemic that literally shifted the way we do life.

This pandemic might be the biggest life-altering interruption we will ever face. Traffic, and bad weather impeding our travel plans seem minuscule in comparison to being locked down for an entire year.

What if the interruptions are actually blessings, and opportunities?

Allow me to submit this- What if the interruptions are our vocation? Vocation is another word for purpose, or mission. What if the interruptions are our work? What if the interruptions are actually blessings, and opportunities?

Henri Nouwen says it best –

“But what if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities, if they are challenges to an inner response by which growth takes place and through which we come to the fullness of being?”, “What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact the invitations to give up old fashioned and outmoded styles of living and are opening up new unexplored areas of experience?”

And what, exactly, would we be moving into if we saw these interruptions as blessings?

If we have the courage to see the beauty and blessings of interruptions- our lives would move from fate to opportunities, hurts become warnings and boundaries, and stagnancy an invitation to search for deeper sources of life and vibrancy.

Seeing interruptions not just as fate, but opportunities, I can then experience life with a much deeper vibrancy

Maybe these interruptions- however frustrating they might be- are invitations and opportunities for us to loosen our grip on life, and our illusion that we were ever in control of it in the first place; that they are loosening our ties to the ground so our wings can spread freely wherever the wind carries us.

I, like you, am deeply saddened and frustrated at the vision I had for 2020 and the reality that was the pandemic. I take joy knowing that I have something to do about it- there is liberty in knowing I can respond.

When we start seeing interruptions not just as fate, but opportunities, we can then experience life with a much deeper vibrancy; to develop a new style, a new way of living only if we choose to view the interruptions (however big or small) as a blessing, and as an opportunity.

Who are You?

In a world full of voices telling you who to be, this post aims to answer the age-old question, Who are you? Maybe the storms are here to reveal who we truly are.

Who are you, who are you, what you gonna do?- Daveed Diggs- from the musical Hamilton.

That question came as Hamilton was figuring out his next moves but with that question, I ask you.

If I’m honest, our identity is found in a myriad of places- video games, our various addictions, work, relationships, family, accomplishments and achievements, sports, our possessions, etc.

And that is completely human nature. We naturally find ourselves in people, places, and things, but the danger is when those very things that are meant to benefit us, are elevated to a god-like status. Reigning on the throne of our hearts.

So again, I ask you, who are you?

Strip away work, relationships, cars, possessions- who are you?

Who are you?

A lot of us find ourselves also waiting. Waiting for that thing to maybe complete us, or fulfill us. And I’m not gonna lie, I find myself in that position sometimes. Like, maybe I’ll wait for the next workout machine thing to get in shape. Or, maybe if I wait long enough, a situation I’m in might be different.

Furthermore, we wait with our hands in our pockets waiting for the storm we are in to clear. We complain and whine for the storm to go away and we just end up getting soaked, or worse, there is damage all around us.

Now, waiting is good. Sometimes, seasons of waiting can do our character some much needed refinement.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We are the change we are seeking.

One thing I’m finding out as I journey through life is that, in the waiting, in the storm, who are we becoming? There’s a couple of lessons we can learn, if only we have the patience, the guile, and the resilience, and humility to take the storms as lessons. Who are you becoming?

Maybe, the storm won’t improve, but your perspective might. Maybe, the storm isn’t really a storm but a reflection of the storm brewing in us, and before the world outside us changes, we have to learn how to calm the storms inside of us.

who are we becoming?

Joy in the mid(s)t of darkness

Joy can be our companion while traversing dark seasons in life. Don’t underestimate the power of Joy.

Let me start by saying, Welcome!

The purpose of this blog is to really shed a light into whatever darkness you may or will be in, and to remind you that the light is never too far away. Another thing, writing is a gift that I have been given, and as any gift, it is only beneficial if we actually put that gift to use. With this blog, that is my hope- to put my gift to use, so that readers, like yourself, will be able to harness whatever gift you have been given to better your corner of the world.

Welcome!

I named this blog- Joy in the Mid(s)t of darkness because no matter what season you may be in, joy can be found. Joy can be your companion in the midst of darkness, but the good news is that darkness is mist- it will not last forever. Though your season may seem like an eternity, I assure you it’s not. The light will never quit, which means neither should you.

How I came up with the title?

There was a season in my life where I kept hearing news of friends committing suicide. It was a very peculiar season… and the news of one friend struck a chord. It made me stop in my tracks, and reflect on why many of my peers were committing suicide. After a couple of days, weeks, of reflecting on my friends lives, an idea resonated with me and convicted me to start writing about said idea. The idea is the title of this blog- Joy in the mid(s)t of darkness.

Joy can be found

I hope you will join me as I seek to find joy in the darkness. I do not intend to minimize the darkness, but dare I say, we should not allow the darkness to have power over our lives. Yes, life is hard. Yes, there are difficult seasons where loved ones leave, a storm comes (physically, metaphorically), and we must take care of ourselves and our community when the darkness comes, but I assure you, that Joy is right there in the midst of it. And that darkness is mist, it will pass.

While I am just starting out, please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, suggestions, questions, thoughts. I, like you, want to learn, and as I learn, share what I have learned with you.

darkness is mist, it will pass.

If you have thoughts on the blog itself- namely, the website, navigating the website, or thoughts on the writing itself, let’s have a discussion. I would love to chat with you.

Please feel free to share this blog with friends and family who might be going through a season of darkness and could use encouragement.

Joy, Joy, Joy

The darkness is here to mold, to shape, to edify, if we only have the heart and courage to endure.

We all know what it’s like to be in a season of darkness. The darkness can take many forms. We know it all too well. So instead of giving the darkness power by naming it, I’m going to talk about who our companion can be while we are in darkness.

Now, again, Joy does not mean the absence of pain, or darkness, it means that with Joy, we will be able to endure the darkness.

As many of us may know, it is always easier to come up with ideas, and stories of the bad in our lives. It is always easier to seek out the negative things that are going on, the wrong that is going on in our lives. If it’s coming up with a movie, or a story idea, coming up with the evil, or the villainous parts come more naturally. Or if we are catching up with a friend, we always talk about the negative things going on in our lives, and it’s harder to seek out the good that’s also going on.

The hard part is having a different mindset, a different perspective. Now, what I do not want to do is simply state a positive perspective. I don’t want, for myself, and for you, to simply overlook the bad, ignore the bad, and act as if everything is okay. No, that is not my intent.

What I want us to do, and what I believe joy to be, is that while we are walking in the darkness, while we are living in it, knee deep in the crap and messiness of darkness, is to put on a new lens, and to have a new frame of mind.

Joy, unlike happiness is not fleeting. I believe there is a fundamental difference between joy and happiness. Joy allows us to walk through the darkness. Joy allows us to see when it is pitch black. Joy is our strength, when it seems like we have none at all. We may be happy for a moment, but joy is everlasting.

Joy is everlasting

As it says in the good news translation from Psalm 30:5- His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

But Joy comes in the morning. It comes. Definitive. Absolute. Certain.

Don’t believe the lie that whatever darkness you’re in will last forever, or that you are stuck with that darkness. Don’t believe the lie that the darkness is here to stay, because, it’s not.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Before your next season, before anything bad happens to you, and even when it does, the darkness already lost.

Joy comes in the morning.

But we mustn’t wait for Joy. We also mustn’t wallow. We have to be intentional, and willing to change our frame of mind, and to gain a different perspective. That’s why community is so important.

Will it be hard, yes. Will it be worth it, absolutely. Joy will come in the morning, but we have to endure the darkness to see the beauty.

Now, again, Joy does not mean the absence of pain, or darkness, it means that with Joy, we will be able to endure the darkness.

As one of my favorite artists have said, “our scars are life tattoos”. We will come out of the darkness with scars, we will not leave unscathed, but, having endured the night, facing the fear, facing the darkness, we come out of it matured, refined, edified. Our character being tested and tried, is more valuable than silver or gold.

So you see, it’s not about ignoring the pain, it’s not about avoiding the pain. With Joy as our friend, with Joy as our companion, we will able to face the darkness head on. Joy gives us the courage to move forward.

Joy comes in the morning.

As I write this, I don’t want to give off the impression that we should try to zoom through the darkness, either. There is a lot we can learn about ourselves. In the wilderness, in the quiet, in the darkest of times, it’s tempting to self-medicate, indulge, tune everything and everyone out, and allow our thoughts to dictate our actions.

What I’m trying to say is that so often, society, and culture will tell us that the darkness is our enemy. That whatever doesn’t make us ‘happy’, or if something doesn’t ‘feel good’ then it has no place in our lives. And on the contrary, just because something ‘feels good’, or makes us ‘happy’, doesn’t mean we should automatically run to it.

Example- our emotions, the full range of them, are our friends- they are trying to tell us something about the situation we are in. While we shouldn’t fully give into them, they are indicators of something that is going on. If we can truly listen to what our emotions are saying, what a different world we would be living in.- This is a blog for another time, but this isn’t that time.

The mountaintop isn’t a place of endurance, it shows what we’ve had to endure to get there.

And I want that to be the same about the darkness we sit in. Because culture/society says that negative is bad, or that the normal is to be happy, overworking, and busy, isn’t always the case.

What if the darkness is meant to reveal what’s inside of us. What if the darkness wasn’t necessarily meant to destroy us but to reveal what’s inside of us. And it’s up to us to discern what stays, and what goes; the parts of our character that we need to keep building on, or do away with.

What I’m trying to say is, the darkness isn’t necessarily our enemy, and the darkness is for our good, not our demise. The darkness is here to mold, to shape, to edify, if we only have the heart and courage to endure.

The mountaintop isn’t a place of endurance, it shows what we’ve had to endure to get there.

The valley is where the meat is at.

The light, the end of the tunnel isn’t the struggle, the darkness is.

The darkness is where we are tested. It is where we are refined. Like gold in fire.

If we can see the darkness like that, how refined we can become.

Yes, the darkness sucks, yes, we rather not have any darkness at all. But if we only shift our perspective to see that the things that happen to us by volition or not, are ultimately for our good.

The darkness isn’t your enemy per se. You are stronger than you think, or could possibly know. While the darkness may bring you to your knees, you have the strength to rise up, and walk.