The Pursuit of Happiness

For the last three years, my life has consisted of what at times has seemed like an impossible quest.  The Pursuit of  Happiness.  I think I have been on this adventure for a lot longer than three years but a real concerted effort has been made on my part within this timeframe.  Think about it….what is it that we all want?  Happiness.  We disguise happiness in many forms usually consisting of money, power, and prestige but in the final analysis it’s basic happiness we all want.  Pure and simple, unadulterated happiness.  My friend Will Smith (OK, I don’t really know the guy) made a movie in 2006 effectively titled “The Pursuit of Happyness”.  The film is largely based on a true story about a father desperately trying to build a better life for his family and the immense challenges, struggles and disappointments he must face along the way.  The story also explores the incredible bond between a father and his son and the belief that with hard work, dedication, and the right opportunity, ANYTHING is possible.

In my past, I tried finding happiness through many different avenues, forms, and substances.  My pursuit included work, women, cars, booze, not working, marriages, living life above my means, and countless trips to the “adult” bar where I thought the “entertainers” really understood me.  What I inevitably ended up with was extreme loneliness and more problems than I had begun with.  I can honestly say I never found happiness at The Doll House, at the bottom of a bottle, or at my job.   In retrospect, I cannot blame these outside sources for my disappointments, but instead have come to the conclusion that it was my outlook and inner turmoil that prevented me from finding that most elusive element…..”Happiness”.  So what’s a guy to do?

Through the many ups and downs my life encountered, my main state of mind was that of the exact opposite of my quest…..un-happiness.  It didn’t matter what positive things were in my life, what blessings had come my way, how fortunate or successful I was, it was never enough.  Nothing was ever good enough, big enough, fast enough, pretty enough or expensive enough.  I remember marrying the “love of my life” and within weeks I was finding faults; accumulating reasons or better yet excuses as to why I should not be with this person.  Working at an excellent company, my day was spent devising ways to quit my job and do something else.  Finally living in a place I had dreamed of, on the water with a view of the ocean, the walls suddenly began to close in on me and my dream home was now too small and inadequate.  Is this not usually the case?  We want what we can’t or don’t have.  Women were not exempt from my desperate attempts at happiness as I often found myself as the religious folk say, “Coveting my Neighbors Wife” often revealing my lustful feelings in a drunken stupor.  While I lose focus on the subject matter, as I tend to do, it is representative of the loss I repeatedly experienced in dealing with or trying to find happiness.  Let me explain.

I always looked at external things to find my happiness.  I counted on people to make me happy.  I always had to keep up with “The Joneses” and I needed the biggest and the baddest….once I got it, it didn’t fill the huge void in my life.  Material property, my climb on the corporate ladder, my place of residence or my companion/wife at the time did absolutely nothing to quiet the insecurities, fears and frustrations that resonated inside my head…..there was a key ingredient missing in my life.  I was missing something you can’t buy, you can’t ingest, you can’t own…..I had to find GRATITUDE, if I was to truly make a valiant attempt at finding happiness.  Why is gratitude so important?

Gratitude makes us not just content, but more importantly thankful with what we currently have.  It makes us feel comfortable with where we currently are in our journey.  The saying, “I have everything I need, therefore I have everything I want, for I want nothing that I don’t need” really holds a lot of truths.  I’m not trying to knock ambition.  I believe ambition to be a good thing, as long as our happiness does not depend on those things we WANT.  I am very happy at my job, in my current position, making the measly salary I make.  I am blessed to have my job.  I would love to move up in the company and I am working towards that, yet I appreciate where I am today.  I am happy with where I am today.  I am blessed and grateful with where I am today.  I am working towards a better tomorrow, but if tomorrow never comes, I’m OK with that.  Does any of this incessant rambling make any sense to you?  I hope so.

So to summarize, if you are on that “Pursuit of Happiness” look where you are right now.  Realize that happiness is a state of mind and enjoy and be grateful for the blessings you have received TODAY.   Work towards a better tomorrow, but enjoy TODAY.  Help another, the rewards are immeasurable, and live your life with passion! 

Blessings Always,

Rick-

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Why I Love Motorcycles – Part 1

Originally Posted on Google Blogger: Saturday, April 11, 2009

For the last two years I have had the privilege of belonging to a somewhat elite group. I say elite, because although it seems like everywhere you look nowadays you see a motorcycle, in comparison to car ownership, the sales statistics are surprisingly low. I’m talking about motorcycle ownership.

It all began with a curiosity I had for years. I always wanted to learn how to ride but never a desire to own a bike. The thought of getting on two wheels and riding around didn’t really interest me and the reality of driving “unprotected” on the roads of South Florida frankly scared me. After all, I was a Father now, more responsible (maybe), in my mid 30’s (ugggh), none of my friends had motorcycles and when would I find the time? Yet the desire to learn to ride was always there; I guess just to be able to say I had done it.

Rewind to April 2007. I was in the midst of Phase I of a severe life changing period, details of which I will spare you. With this “change” came a new desire to do many things I had always wished or wanted to do and never had for different reasons. I decided to make a starter list, and at the top of the list was learning to ride. After a few strokes of the keyboard and a little help from Google, I found that the local HD dealer offered classes through the Motorcycle Training Institute www.mtii.com I signed up and within a few weeks I would be attending the 3 day Basic Rider Course. That would be the start of a whole new way of life.

Day one of the course consisted of an evening of watching safety training videos and going over basics. Reviewing the mechanics of riding a motorcycle and familiarizing ourselves with the basic terminology was the agenda for that first class. Not your most exciting of evenings, but the promise of hopping on a motorcycle the next day and actually riding on the range was enough to keep my attention on the information. I honestly wasn’t too focused on it since after all, this was just a weekend thing for me and I wouldn’t be riding after the course anyway.

The next day (Saturday) I found myself at 7:00am among 12 or so other wannabe riders. We all had the long pants, long sleeve shirt or jacket, boots, full fingered gloves, eye protection and a sleepy look on our face. Our class was a complete mix of people; from 19 to 63, men and women, tall/short, skinny and fat with one goal in mind…learning to ride.

By mid morning of day two (our first day on the bikes) we had learned how to start the bikes, the proper hand signals, and how to “walk” with our bikes in gear. During our lunch break, while most of the other students got in their cars and rushed to local fast food joints, I spent the time walking around the dealership looking at all the shiny, and somewhat intimidating, 2008 Harley Davidson Models. Even though it was April 2007, the ’08s had just arrived. From the huge, monster like, Ultra Classic to the Police Edition Road Kings I was fascinated by the different models, colors and of course the shiny chrome. There was almost something magical about this place. Everyone inside from the mechanic in the parts department to the cashier seemed to have a smile on their face along with an unexplainable aura surrounding them. The place was packed with customers looking at the different models, the clothing, or just hanging around talking about their latest ride. Truth be told, I felt like an outsider. After all, I didn’t own a bike, knew nothing about Harley Davidson other than the fact they made motorcycles, and apart from the few hours spent that morning on the range had never even been on a bike. I didn’t belong to this group of people, had no desire or interest to, and yet for some reason I felt extremely drawn to them.

As I walked around the dealership, looking lost and out-of-place, I was approached by a young Brazilian named Marcelo. He was wearing an awesome looking Harley button down shirt and with his Brazilian accent introduced himself to me. Never would I have imagined that meeting Marcelo would be the start of life changing events in my life, for it was at that moment, in April 2007 that a whole new world opened up to me and I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

More to follow in Part 2 coming soon.

DUDE…PULL UP YOUR FU**ING PANTS! ! !

Originally Posted on Google Blogger: Saturday, April 18, 2009

 
I’m going to try really hard not to sound like my parents did when they criticized our fashion styles of the 80’s, but what the f*ck is this “saggy pants” deal all about. It’s obvious that the fashion trend has been around for the past few years and while I haven’t liked it from the beginning, I figured it would go away in time just like all the other fads. Remember the fad of wearing baseball caps with the tags still on? Well here we are a few years later and not only does it seem like MORE people are drooping their drawers, but the pants are getting lower and lower. Can someone, anyone, please explain this to me?
 
If you think I am being overly dramatic or exaggerating, consider the fact that in March 2008, the Florida Senate (that’s right folks – the GOVERNMENT got involved) passed a bill that would require suspension from school for students with sagging drawers. To do one better, the city of Riviera Beach passed its own “Saggy Pants” law with a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail for repeat offenders. “Orlando Senator Gary Siplin, the bill’s sponsor, has said the fashion statement has a back-story — it was made popular by rap artists after first appearing among prison inmates as a signal they were looking for sex.” (Reuters)

I had heard that the trend was originated by gang members as a means to conceal weapons and frankly this made perfect sense to me. Obviously, I was completely mistaken yet knowing the true origin makes me wish my version of the origin of the droopy pants was true. So now I ask myself, out of all those saggy, droopy pant wearers, how many of them know what their exposed buttocks is representing? In essence, it is advertising an open invitation for homosexual sex.

I just find the whole thing ridiculous.  This whole PANTS ON THE GROUND.  For starters, it can’t be comfortable. The pants now hang at the bottom end of the gluteus maximus, requiring a belt to be severely tightened in order to prevent a complete “wardrobe malfunction”. Second, I see these guys constantly adjusting, pulling up, pulling down, tightening, etc this particular piece of clothing as it’s impossible to get it “just right” as well as being forced to walk bow-legged in a vain attempt to keep their pants up.  Lastly I wonder….when they go to the bathroom, do they lower their pants even more? hmmm……

So the next time you see one of these fashion aficionados, Mr. Tough Street Guy, go ahead and grin a little as you wonder what they would do if they knew what their exposed back-end was really advertising!

So for God’s sake Dude…. Pull Up Your Fu**ing Pants!!!

When Did We Become So Desensitised?

I admit it….I still cry at movies.  I don’t believe that makes me less macho or weak, but rather someone who can be transported into a fantasy world through the magic of celluloid.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I got teary eyed at a movie, but every now and again I’ll  catch an episode of  “Extreme Home Make Over” and that usually will get my tear ducts working.  So the question is, how can someone, ME in this case, get overcome with emotion at a TV show or movie, yet read the newspaper or watch the news and feel nothing? 

This morning at around 6.30am I was in my living room having a much-needed cup of coffee and watching Channel 7 News.  For those of you that don’t know, WSVN Channel 7 in South Florida, a FOX affiliate, is by far the most sensationalized local news channel we have.  The top of the news cast is usually led by a murder, stabbing, or theft, quickly followed by the weather and our usually scantily clad “weather girl” complete with an obviously purchased set of Double D’s.  Mind you, I have absolutely no complaints about the weather segment and I often look forward to it with a smile for the brief moments I am told about the record temperatures, chance of precipitation and movements in the Gulf Stream.  Frankly, I am in love with our morning weather girl and would gladly become Mr. Fahrenheit if given the chance.  

Yet what amazes me is that in between my gawking at our local weather girl, the stories of murder, rape, shootings, thefts, etc don’t even phase me, make me think, or even make me feel grateful for my blessings.  Wow, a bank four blocks from my home was robbed and a customer was shot; that sucks, time for a refill on my coffee.  A student was brutally raped at the local University; people are sick, wonder if I have any doughnuts left.  

I’m not sure why or when this desensitization to tragedies took hold of me but I don’t like it.  I remember when the war in Iraq started and the first few casualties were reported.  I was crushed, hurt, full of sorrow and legitimate pride for the sacrifices our soldiers were making.  Today, eight years later, we barely hear any reports on casualties, wins or defeats.  The story of the war in Iraq is no longer mainstream news.  Yet in the brief instances when a report is aired I continue about my business with the same ambivalence as the most recent local crime.  Is this what our society needs, desires, or better yet deserves?

I cannot pretend I have all the answers or better yet ANY of the answers.  To analyze why I feel one way and not another, why “Extreme Make Over” moves me and a child being killed in a car wreck does not, would probably take years of weekly therapy at approximately $120.00 an hour.  What I can say is that I believe that we, as a society or culture, are constantly and consistently bombarded by the mass media about tragedies and misfortunes.  The 30-45 seconds devoted to a news story simply reveal the facts, supposedly in an unbiased way, and leave us with many questions.  The amount of air time dedicated to human interest stories or positive occurrences in our neighborhoods and communities is rare and always limited.  With that said, I do not blame the media completely.  With its “blood and guts” stories and continuous bombardment of tragedies, WSVN is the top rated news hour in the South Florida market.  Not only are we watching repeatedly and consistently, but we are buying the products advertised on the channel thus rewarding and encouraging the status quo.  As channel 7 is a for profit business, as a capitalist, I understand completely station management continuing their current extremely successful news format and business model.

I really have lost touch where I am going with this or what I can do to change this, but for my spiritual well-being I can no longer watch these aired stories and remain impartial or unaffected.  I refuse to be a man who cannot feel empathy or sympathy for the injustices   and tragedies that occur around me.  I want to go back to being that guy who can shed a tear when something moves me, and another’s suffering should be enough to evoke those emotions within me.  I no longer want to live in a bubble where what I see or hear doesn’t move me because it doesn’t affect me directly.  I believe that to not feel these things is to stop living.  So for now, I will choose not to watch.  For now I will get back to a world where I know these things happen, but will not be bombarded with it as often as I was before.  I will miss my weather girl and her mini skirts and tight tops, but I have to give her up as part of my desired change.  So goodbye Ms. Double D’s, until we meet again!

If We Are Lucky…

Life takes many twists and turns, but eventually, if we are lucky, we get a chance to “Go Home”.  By “Home” I may not necessarily mean our childhood residence, country of birth or even our parents domicile but rather “Going Home” for me, means briefly returning to that place or situation where we felt the most comfortable at some point in our lives.  For this writer, going home meant going back to High School and reliving some incredible memories, wholesome fun and just a tad of innocent mischief. 

I recently attended my 20 year High School reunion.  While the thought of my 20th reunion makes me feel my age, a feeling I have fought tooth and nail to avoid, I was enthusiastic about seeing old friends, perhaps an old crush and even an old childhood rival.  I was lucky enough to experience all of that, and then some.  The evening started most embarrassing as I approached a gentleman dressed all in black and requested he bring me a beverage.  To my chagrin, this “waiter” was one of my old high school friends who I simply did not recognize.  After apologizing profusely, we caught up and exchanged the cliff notes version of our lives during the past 20 years. 

The old high school crush did make an appearance and frankly, she looked amazing.  The teenage awkwardness on her part had been replaced by an air of confidence and self-worth, along with a genuine smile that lit up the room.  Her boyfriend I could have done without, but while she presented herself as a strong, confident woman my teenage insecurities and self-consciousness seemed to make a return almost as immediately as she walked into the room.  It seems that the nervous dynamic between man and woman or boy/girl in my case at least, never seems to change regardless of how many ticks go by on the calendar. 

While the immediate moments following her entrance were consumed with “The Crush”, and determining the seriousness of her new relationship, more subsequent time was spent and dedicated to catching up with old friends.  There were the jocks, who shall we say politely, may have put on a few pounds over the last 20 years, along with the nerds who frankly weren’t so nerdy now and had turned their dedication to their school work into an impressive career. There was the class clown (ME) with a new-found seriousness that was almost eerie, and of course the party guy who was tanked by the time he arrived.  It was an eclectic mix of characters and while physically many of us changed, got older and developed careers as well as started families, deep down we remained the same. 

The real highlight of my evening though was a special surprise guest.  Namely our Dean of Students and Journalism teacher.  If We Are Lucky, someone comes into our lives at some stage or another and makes a significant impact on our development.  This was the case with my Ms. Cramer.  I say “my” Ms. Cramer because through my last two years of high school this woman became not only my teacher, my mentor, my advisor and my friend.  We built a bond between teacher and student that I cherish to this day, 20 years later.     

The title of this post is “If We Are Lucky” and I named it that because over my reunion weekend I got the honor to do something few of us, I assume, get the opportunity to do.  I got the privilege of sitting across my teacher, Ms. Cramer, as two adults now and thanking her for her devotion, care and leadership.  Being a teacher cannot be easy and standing at the front of room facing 25-30 smartass 17 year olds would frighten anyone.  Yet Ms. Cramer not only commanded respect and attention, but she also grasped our attention with her teachings and lessons.  While she demonstrated this hard, tough facade, those who knew her saw a totally different side.  Beneath that mask, the true Sher Cramer was and is the most loving, caring and nurturing human being I have ever met. (My Mother excluded!)  I was lucky enough to say “Thank You.  You made a huge impact in  my life,” and that dear friends is one of the reasons why I am so lucky.   Blessings Always.