Summer, where’d you go?

Your inability to disengage and rest is a reflection of where you find your identity.

In my early years of formation as a young man, I learned to view life in seasons. When I view life in seasons I am able to be grateful for the experiences that that season invited me to. We all know certain seasons bring with it joy, and mountaintop experiences; and for other seasons it brings pain, and the valley.

Long story short– for the past year, thankfully, I was able to freelance as a tutor. I am thankful for that opportunity as that season of being a tutor really forced me to think about what I want to do coming out of the pandemic– and now, I am back to teaching, and pursuing higher education for child development.

If you have something you want to achieve, take yourself seriously. There is too much on the line for you to not take YOU seriously.

Before I transition into a new teaching position I know that I need to decompress, and restore my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Education takes a toll, and requires all of us, and it engages all of who we are. For me, I take a holistic approach to teaching in that I bring all of me to and in the classroom.

For the past two months or so I have called this my summer break. And what a break it was. Luckily, my girlfriend lives in L.A. now so I was able to spend my summer break in a different city away from the normal stresses of S.F.

We all know certain seasons bring with it joy, and mountaintop experiences; and for other seasons it brings pain, and the valley.

And as I think about it now, with all of the different commitments outside of career, I have been able to rest mentally, and more so emotionally, heck, even spiritually.

I have learned now, to take myself seriously. And I don’t mean that I’m going to stop enjoying life, or laughing, or smiling, no. What I am saying is that I am going to start taking my health seriously. I am going to start respecting the boundaries I have set in place. I am going to start taking my mental health seriously. I am going to start taking my goals seriously. It’s time we stop playing ourselves by putting our goals on the backburner. If you have something you want to achieve, take yourself seriously. There is too much on the line for you to not take YOU seriously.

Take yourself seriously.

And what I am not saying is to be selfish. Still love your neighbors. Put other people’s interests above your own. And I think what I am saying is that it’s a tension. And that’s love. How do we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves?

But at the same time, it was a season to enter into my own mess and humanity so that upon coming back to S.F. and transitioning into normalcy, I would be able to more fully and deeply enter into the lives of others and the communities I am included in.

We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. And maybe that’s why this world is so parched and hopeless. It’s that we can’t love the people around us because we don’t even know how to love ourselves. We’re drunk on knowledge and self fulfillment that we’ve forgotten and are parched for vulnerability and deep committed relationships.

And that’s exactly what this break was. Yes, I was able to spend time with my girlfriend in L.A. and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything else! But at the same time, it was a season to enter into my own mess and humanity so that upon coming back to S.F. and transitioning into normalcy, I would be able to more fully and deeply enter into the lives of others and the communities I am included in.

We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. And maybe that’s why this world is so parched and hopeless. It’s that we can’t love the people around us because we don’t even know how to love ourselves.

Often times we don’t realize that our desert souls and hearts are longing for an oasis. The hard work of entering into this oasis is leaving behind (for a season/moment) our commitments and work. I would argue that if you struggle to disengage from your work or commitments, have you made them a functional savior? Have you turned your work and commitments into idols? Your inability to disengage and rest is a reflection of where you find your identity.

For the sake of our family’s, friends, and communities we are a part of– I urge you, for your neighbors’ sake, to learn how to rest and enter into the desert. The valley. The quiet. The solitude. That is where we find ourselves. That is where the chiseling of character can happen. It is where we learn that we are not, but are more than, our work, and our commitments. It is where we discover our humanity, our frailty and need for others, and love.

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

Simplicity

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

Have you ever noticed that it’s the most simple things in life that gives us great joy?

My friend recently gifted himself with an electric bike- He’s been super ecstatic about it and has not stopped telling me about it. I have a one wheel- if you don’t know what that is… Hit me up and I’ll show you how to ride it. It’s a wicked invention! It incorporates surfing, and skateboarding all in one… on one wheel!

Have you ever noticed that it’s the most simple things in life that gives us great joy?

So my friend and I finally decided to go riding together in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park!

Beautiful day it turned out to be and for those of us in S.F., we have the luxury and freedom to ride in the streets of GGP since they closed it off to traffic once the lockdown started. It’s a different feeling riding in the streets freely with no cars.

After we rode around GGP, we stopped in front of Academy of Science- and parked out front are a number of different food trucks!

Knowing us, we had to get a taste of Sam’s Chowder Mobile- seafood!

I say all this to say because on that beautiful sunny day, we did some wonderfully simple things that brought great joy and wholeness.

Now more than ever, we are stuck in front of our screens, and our posture and health are paying the price.

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

This is more of a reminder to myself when I say this- let us enjoy the simple things in life. Go for a walk, take deep breaths, laugh, cry, and don’t ignore the activities that fill your soul.

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

I challenge all of us to start doing things that bring us joy- talking with a friend, taking a walk, stopping to smell the proverbial or actual roses, these things also bring wholeness in our lives which increases our mood, health, attitude, and outlook on life.

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.