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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Paradigm Shifts (‘Tis the season!)

Paradigm Shifts (‘Tis the season!)

 

Hi Readers,

Before starting this post, be sure to check out this video below about Paradigm Shifts. It does a great job of showing what happens (quite frequently at times) when we start to TRY to understand what it is like for other people in times of frustration. I can’t speak to the actual intent of the creator of the video, but it’s a really heartwarming message.

So what is a paradigm shift? Quite simply, it is a change from one way of thinking to another (http://www.taketheleap.com/define.html) and is thought to be transformational in nature. I may be offering a mere cursory perspective on the subject, but I’m not here to give a lecture. I would simply like to posit that given a change of perspective, an amazing transformation can occur. For example, imagine you are in your car, driving to… wherever (the drug store, work, or the yarn barn), and you have planned the travel time pretty well (so you think). You are playing Adele at full blast as your scream out your own personal version of “Set Fire To the Rain.” You are thinking to yourself “My singing is pretty good! Maybe I can make a youtube video, get lots of hits, and may my way onto a talk show! I am sooo smart and cool…” As you merge onto the freeway, your focus quickly changes as traffic comes to a dead stop. “F*ck!” you say to yourself, either in your head or even out loud. You planned for traffic, but not this! This isn’t right. Where are all these *ssholes going anyway? Shouldn’t they be working, having brunch, making scarves or something? So you eek your way to your exit, and as you are about to take the offramp, you notice a car quickly sneaks into the lane, YOUR LANE, without waiting their turn with the rest of the folks. They do it so fast that it makes you hit your brakes rather abruptly. “How dare they?!” You want to give them the “I hate you look,” but as they are in front of you, you are S.O.L. (sh*t out of luck.) So you make sure to tailgate them so they know they did wrong. You notice something about them – anything really: their car make and model, any bumper stickers with stupid personal views and opinions, and indication of their age or gender. You want to hate them. You have good reason to. But what of it?

Changes your perception, change the worldDo you want to hate them? Do you want to teach them a lesson? Do you want them to suffer? Do you want them to feel the anger that you feel being slighted? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Only you can answer that. Chances are you feel compelled to see the other person in a negative light. But holding that negativity, with nowhere to go, may not be good for anyone. After all, long after they pull away and leave your sight, you will still have unresolved anger towards a person you might possibly never meet. Like holding on to a toxic poison. Another driver may piss you off, and probably will during the holidays, and that driver will get the wrath of the first driver. By the time you get home, who gets the wrath next? Your family? Your neighbors? Your pet parakeet Charlie? When you’re on edge everyone is annoying. And what’s worse, if you are alone, the only one to beat up is yourself. Nice. So instead of enjoying your reruns of NCIS, GLEE or Jersey Shore, you are marinating in stew of your own vitriolic hatred. Bravo!

So… where is this going? You can change. You can release the anger. You can change your perspective on things and release that which causes you discomfort. This is only my personal viewpoint here, so please take it as such. This has helped me deal with the anger I feel towards others, and I am simply showing you all how my mind works in such instances.

So here goes. Take this person. Hmmm. Her name is Laura Spaghetti. She drives a beat up Honda Civic 1998. On the bumper there is a faded blue sticker which reads “My child was student of the month at HoneyBees Elementary.” So they cut you off. They are horrible people. They deserve derision right? RIGHT? Well… what if they didn’t? Hear me out. What if they weren’t out to get you, weren’t doing it to get the better of you? What if they had a really good reason for doing their driving faux pas?

ImageNow here’s the fun part. What IS the reason? What COULD be the reason? Have you ever been so pressed for time you absolutely had no regard for the feelings of other drivers? Ever? I have. I have had some times where I have been seriously late for something very important. I have been in a hurry at times when I fear for the safety and well-being of a friend or a family member. I have had horrible days – truly dismal days, where I was so distraught I simply couldn’t get my sh*t together and where driving was even difficult. I have been nervous, distracted, in love, in jealousy, in hatred, beyond worry, and damn near hysterical. When it comes down to it, I have had times when I have driven like a jerk, and was grateful that the other person didn’t take it out on me, didn’t blame me, didn’t hurt me or make me feel worse than I already had been.

So I think of Miss Laura Spaghetti, and what she might be dealing with. I think that she might have a child but can’t afford a new car. I think that also that she might not truly like her job if she has little choice but to continue just to support her family. She could have just gotten fired and is wondering where to go to make sure she has food for the next week.

I think of these things not because I believe them wholeheartedly. Truth be told, she could be on her way to IKEA to buy some forks, and didn’t want to wait all day to get off the freeway. Hmmm… But… one way of thinking puts me in a bad mindset, and carries forth through my day. The other way of the thinking, where I try to understand the other point of view, allows me the freedom to truly rid myself of that poison.

The holidays can bring out the best in people and consequently the worst as well. I sometimes hate to try to see the other point of view, because it isn’t fair. But what’s less fair than that is having to argue with that stranger in my head all day long. I really don’t have the time, nor do I care to take on that task. I want to be happy.  I want to understand rather than judge.

I want to be free – and so I am.

-Jon

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I will be grateful for this day…

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Hello World!

Lately I have been feeling great. I am not sure why. Whether it is the world around me, or a change in attitude, I seem to be bouncing back from my daily swings into slight sadness. It’s not depression, mind you. I have been there, and this feels different. I have known folks who can’t get out of bed from their Depression (here’s the clinical definition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/ ), and those too scared to even move through life. That is a road I have seen, and I have gratefully never followed for too long.

No, today I am simply feeling blue. This is okay and perfectly normal. After a period of joy, it seems logical and reasonable that one would experience a slight letdown. So yeah. I am. Crestfallen, or whatever. So I felt compelled to take stock in the things in my life which already produce happiness. I just need a little change in perspective and attitude. Whenever I find myself a little bit blue like this, I find that doing a gratitude list really puts me back on the path to joy.

So here goes:

I AM GRATEFUL (see gratitude: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratitude )

I am grateful for my carpet: Because I remember a time when I had cold, hardwood floors, and a tremendous heating bill.

I am grateful for my computer: Because I remember a time when all I had was a word processor. I feel lucky and privileged to own such an advanced piece of equipment.

I am grateful for my family: Because I remember a time when I lost my mother to heart disease, and the toll it took on my brother and father.

I am grateful for my friends: Because I recall the lonely times when they were the only ones around still speaking with me. I have the best friends in the world because I know that despite having wonderful lives on their own, I know I can always depend on them when I am in need.

I am grateful for my Netflix: Because I remember when I had no choice of what to watch on TV, and only had a few channels to choose between.

I am grateful for my job: Because I remember a time when I didn’t think enough of myself to try hard.

I am grateful for my money (and lack thereof): Because I realize that the freedom to spend is a choice I make, and that it affords me wonderful luxuries. (ok, moderate luxuries, but luxuries nonetheless)

I am grateful for my food: Because I have seen how a lot of the world lives in poverty, and how significant it is to have all this wonderful food at my disposal. With Farmer’s Markets, Supermarkets, Food Trucks, Michelin Restaurants, and varieties of food from all over the world, one never finds a lack of things to eat in the Silicon Valley.

I am grateful for my healthcare: BecauImagese I remember when I was sick and had no one to turn to. I had been so used to having a health plan that the prospect of not having one frightened me. It was incredibly confusing and nerve-wracking trying to figure out how to get services. Eventually, I was offered help by wonderful Enrollment Specialists and Case Managers, but I never forgot that feeling of not being able to just run over and get some antibiotics for that pesky bronchitis I tend to get… I have Kaiser now and I love it. There may be problems, but there are usually a host of benefits that heavily outweigh the challenges these days.

I am grateful for my mood: For I remember being so scared to sleep that I would shake, so afraid to speak up that I would stay silent, so scared to joke that I would only cry.

I am grateful for the weather: Even on its worst day, Silicon Valley still has pretty tame weather. I have seen houses ruined and people die from storms both at home and abroad. A little rain here and there is no big deal.

I am grateful for my freedom: Because I have seen those who don’t have the power of choice.

I am grateful for my mentors and those who help inspire me everyday: Because I remember when I didn’t even think enough of myself to write a blog. This is for you. 🙂

Ok, I feel better… 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Feel free to comment and share your own gratitude.

-Jon

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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You gotta fight ’til your dying day! (Or “The test begins… NOW!!!!”)

You gotta fight ’til your dying day! (Or “The test begins… NOW!!!!”)

Nothing guarantees happiness. Every day can present problems which can knock you down. The true test of character comes not from what you are given, but what you create with what you have. Ben Kweller’s “Fight” illustrates the truly vital nature of sticking to one’s guns. All of the struggles I have dealt with growing up gay and coming out of the closet have made me a little bit stronger, but not invincible. Coming to terms with growing up in my twenties, and dealing with major illnesses have also made me realize how precious life is, but those experiences, as wonderfully trans-formative as they are, do not make me permanently positive, upbeat and happy. And throughout my life, I have struggled with anxiety, depression and the loss of my mother at an early age. Life can give you a big F-U without a moments notice. There are no memos, no Facebook invites, no Evites, no text messages. Life shows up. Some days big time. I can wake up feeling great, getting a head start on things, with a positive outlook, and BAMN – car accident! Or I can be on Vacation, loving life, and rewarding myself for all my struggles, and WHAM – come down with Food Poisoning. What happens next really depends on your attitude. Do you give up? Do you whine in misery? Do you lament your station in life and the fact that you were born under a bad sign? Well you could! You could blame all your problems on the world. Go ahead. It won’t help. The crap of the world is always a’brewin and will eventually make it’s way to you. There ain’t shit you can do about it. The universe doesn’t operate on your whim and fancy.

Do not despair. There is hope. Here it is. Acknowledge what you can change, and what you can’t. Sound familiar? It should. It’s part of a prayer commonly known as the “Serenity Prayer.”

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

So knowing what you can and cannot change afford you the opportunity to focus only on what’s in front of you. Some may consider suicide an option, or maybe other harmful behaviors – gambling, sleeping around, excessive drinking, using street drugs, robbery, domestic violence, or even just shutting down. As the Flaming Lips would say “To fight is to defend.” To push through pain sometimes we must fight. Sometimes pain is constant. For some the pain of depression, addiction, or other physical or mental illnesses can be a daily struggle. To merely wake up can be a challenge. One can challenge one’s lot. One can fight. For those whose struggle come on a daily basis, one must fight every day.

It’s not always easy, and it’s not always pretty. You can fight and fall flat on your ass. There’s no use in pretending. Another line Ben uses in his song “Fight” is one of my favorites “Some days are Aces, some days are Faces, some days are Twos and Threes.” (@ 2:25). Just because a day don’t get you to feel ecstasy doesn’t mean it wasn’t a success. Sometime just suiting up and showing up can show that you passed the fight test. Hell, sometimes just getting out of bed is good enough. Fight on and never give up. The test begins. NOWWWWWWWWW!

And as Shakira would say “Every day there’s a war to fight, and if I win or lose never mind.” You have to fight every day no matter what. 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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This is me… Bulleted

This is me… Bulleted

Hi Readers!

Although I feel like I have much in common with many people, I also notice that I have some quirks which make me unique… Well maybe you do these too! Hmm. Well we shall see. Here are some parts of me that I’d like to share with you today. I’d like to hear your quirks too. Please comment. 🙂

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Vesper drowning in Casino Royale

  • When I am watching a movie or TV show and the person is underwater (for whatever reason), I tend to hold my breath. Ok, not sure why, seeing as the impending doom of the actor on the screen has little to do with my environment. It is a knee-jerk reaction. I suppose I overly sympathize with the character’s situation.
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    Blastin’ that super bass. Gangsta!

    When pulling up to a car at a stoplight, or passing a car, I always look to see if their window is open. I like to play my music with the windows down sometimes (depends on what I’m playing). For some reason I always hope they will have their windows down so they can hear the music. I guess on some level I hope that they will recognize the music I play. I like some alternative and indie artists. I suppose it is my effort to make a unique connection with someone.

     

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    Lord of the Rings again? Omg I’m so stoked.

    I like to watch movies over and over… When I find a movie that makes me feel good,usually epic or sci-fi, I buy it on DVD and watch it multiple times. I feel like this may be different than a lot of people, as many of my friends decline watching and/or renting a movie they’ve already seen. Well, not me!

     

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    And then he… uh… died. I guess.
    Whatever. I do know he was shirtless at
    some point though! 🙂

    I have a hard time remembering the ending of movies… Despite my affinity towards watching movies multiple times, my brain tunes out the endings. It certainly makes it worth it to watch the movie again, to remind myself of how it ends. It also prevents me from inadvertently giving away the ending and ruining the movie for someone else. But it is a bit troubling to have that certain inability to remember…

     

  • I love colored plastic, gems, and neon lights. Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday, as there is something special about the abundance of lights. I feel safe, loved and protected. I always have to resist the temptation to put up my Christmas lights too early.

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  • My favorite song is classical choral music. I have a particular love of this song as I remember singing it when I was in the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. The Miserere Mei by Gregorio Allegri circa 1630.

So that is a part of me… bullet-ed. If you can relate, wonderful! I have found a kindred spirit out there. 🙂 If not, I’d love to hear about your unique quirks, habits, and joys.

Thanks for reading. Comments always welcome.

-Jon

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Habits and Hobbies, Music, Uncategorized

 

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A Letter From My Future Self

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Despite the unlikelihood that my iphone will last 22 years, the calendar does indeed allow me to “look” that far in the future. lol

I liked the Daily Prompt topic suggestions, but as I began writing I realized that I wanted to take a different angle on the assignment. So… I decided to write a letter to myself, but not to myself at 14, or to myself 20 years from now, but rather from the vantage point of my future self twenty years from now – more specifically, from November 4th, 2032.

November 4th, 2032

Dear Jon Breen Sr.,

So I bet you never thought you’d live past your early 30’s. Well you did! I’m looking at the pictures of myself back then and I can still see the utter confusion in that beautiful face of yours. For you at 30, I can definitely say you have only seen a little of what the world has to offer. Frankly, I envy you. You may not know it, but you are in for the ride of your life. From all our “star trek” watching, you must know that I cannot divulge too many details of the future, for that would alter my own timeline. It would be a dangerous thing to disturb the delicate thread of our existence. For I like who you have become. Not to sound narcissistic, but your future self is pretty great (humble too, most of the time! *laugh*) You have no idea of the wonders you will embark on – but I do. I do not wish to tell you what is to come, for had I known of the challenges which would come before me, I probably wouldn’t have left the house from the years 2022 to 2024. Don’t ask me why, but you will soon find out. I can’t tell you everything you would want to know, but I will tell you what I can.

You will find love. You will also realize that you have already found it. You will propose to someone who you truly love. They will say yes, and you will be very happy. Unfortunately, the happiness will be short-lived due to a crisis. And despite the pain and anguish you will suffer, you will come out of the experience happy to have done it. It may sound crazy, but I truly hope you won’t stop yourself now, having known what I have told you of your love-to-be.

You will have many good friends, but only have five truly great friends. Protect them. Tell them that you love them. Yes. Love. Not care for, not kinda like. LOVE. And you must be there for them. You absolutely must not waver on this. I beg you don’t EVER take your friends for granted. You will lose one to illness, but that will be completely out of your hands. You will experience great sorrow and loss, but again, don’t lose sight of the fact that they are a part of you, and with you and through you, they will live on. And you live on through you impact in their lives. You will have mentors who will continue to inspire you throughout adulthood. Paul has finished his 18th book from his home in Montevideo, Uruguay. This one is another fiction novel (although it seems to have some basis in reality). It is always a blast to visit him down there.

Photo from New York Times – all rights reserved

You will have a rather tumultuous career path. Don’t get me wrong, you will find great successes in you career, but it will not be anything like you might have thought. I’m going to leave out the details, as you really do need to follow your own path. I will say this. You will be glad you went back to school, although it will be a challenge for you and test your serenity. You will practice medicine but not in the United States, at least not for quite some time. Learning languages will fill you with more joy than you will ever realize. I must say, your Spanish will get better, and, oddly enough, you will develop an accent. You learn a third language – which will give you a unique opportunity to travel and help those in another country. (sorry if I’m laughing while I write this part, but you will see later on why I am…). That experience will test you more than any other experience before. But you will survive and will have your family to thank for that.

As for family, your father and mother are still happily married and are enjoying their lives in Montreal. You father is still composing music for the conservatory and will be teaching a couple advanced Kodaly classes at Harvard in the Spring. You mother’s clinic is still thriving, and has recently been recognized for their achievements over the years. Your brothers are well and are all still teaching. Max has accepted the position of Principal at his old high school, and his tattoos have been recently featured in INK magazine online and Erik is planning his fifth trip to Mount Everest. He is now teaching a climbing course to first-timers. You have to see the pictures from his last trip! Patrick has been offered a position with the Oxford University Department of Philosophy. A post he didn’t expect to receive. He does however want to consider his options prior to accepting the position. Most likely he will. Your nephew Francis just graduated college, so Patrick and Bethany might now consider moving again when Bethany can find someone to overlook her Art Gallery.

Your travels will be amazing. You will meet a Prince (you will not marry him, sorry,) you will find a muse for your writing in many different places, you will sing and dance in the wildest places. You will live in a palace for a year (had to tell you that one), but you will be there on a mission, hard at work, and will create something wonderful while there. You will find great despair living in a run down apartment in Europe. But this time your friends will be your salvation, and will help you recover.

Your stories will bring joy to lots of people, but mostly to your children. You will write songs for just for them, and one day you will lose the desire for any fame. Your only cares will soon become the children in your life. Jon Jr. and Sara will bring you great joy. I am still waiting for our grandchildren, but I think they will come soon.

As for your love, your partner, you must find this path yourself for you will know when you have found the one.

But remember to love yourself. And never give up. I believe in you! Which, by extension means you believe in you! So you really do have good self-esteem. Remember that!

Time moves fast, but never make it go faster by forgetting to take the time to show those in your life how much you care for them.

I hope you enjoyed the letter.

Love,

Jon

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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