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I Am, Then

Where are you right now? On your couch at home? At your desk at work? Standing in line at a coffee shop? Wherever you are, you will always be there. Wherever you were an hour ago, that “you” will always be there. Every moment exists in time. Think about it. It then follows that whatever you will be doing in the future….is already happening. Take it however you wish (“What about free will?”), but think about the novelty of it; specifically, what it means to be “in the past.”

You will always be sitting at your desk. Or on your couch. This very second — the one right now — now — ……now — of you reading this sentence, remains. Forever. Sorry if you think it was wasted. But you (and I) will forever be sitting in front of a computer at work  or stuck in traffic or saying goodbye to a friend  or preparing for surgery or some kind of therapy or going through a bad breakup or holding in a heavy, dark secret.

That breath you just took? You’ll be breathing in for all eternity, in a sense.

Now doesn’t that make you feel sick.

But you have to remember that everything exists somewhere in time. That includes the day I made a fool of myself in class and broke out of my shell; the best present you were ever given as a kid; the best end-of-finals party ever thrown; the day I found out he liked me at all; that reassuring phone call; the day she decided to spend time with you instead of him;  all those days before taking on that secret.

Sometimes, I have to focus on the past to remember who I am as a person. My grandparents are all young and happy at one point or another, however short-lived their childhoods may have been. She’s gone now, but Nicole exists somewhere in time as my first friend in high school, and will always be walking up to me to say hello.  I am still perched on the steps of my high school with a sketchbook. I am a baby playing in the creek by my aunt’s house; I can barely walk on my own. I am wading by myself halfway across the stream, searching for interesting rocks. I am taking a series of pictures by the water and proclaiming my wedding vows on a nearby hill.

It’s what happened before that shaped me. It’s the thought of their eternal existence that continues to have an effect on me. If I linger on the subject too much, I begin to feel closed in and surrounded by everything that has ever happened; all the people that used to live in this house, all the big trees that used to be seeds; all the papers and posters on the walls that were printed in rooms far away from me…. Yet at the same time, it’s comforting to know that I am part of the fabric of time and place; I contribute to our entire history and future.

I am always utterly aware of where and when I am. I am now. I am then. I am, then.

Dancing Shoes

Six years ago, swing dancing changed my life. Now I dance tango, waltz, swing, and blues. I wanted to share dance lessons — not the footwork, but the developmental ways in which partner dancing has helped me personally:

* Resolve   Few people actually have “two left feet”. The first times you go dancing, it’s awkward. Doubly true for guys, having to lead. Stick to it, and within about two months, that feeling passes. Practice, learn, get better.

* Leadership   Guys have to be confident and lead the dance, think ahead, and watch where it’s going. But the best ladies will, given opportunities, lead stylistically. Sometimes slow, sometimes energetic; it depends on the song.

* Listening   Listening to the music is easy; you can practice by concentrating on one instrument in a song. Dances can be styled on those cues. Listening to your partner is the most difficult. It’s called…

* Connection   At a base level, it’s physical touch, but involves respect, intuiting your partner’s actions (crucial in Tango!) and, wordlessly, dancing together to the music. It’s very personal. There are great dancers I can’t connect with; conversely, there are newbie dancers that I can. Somewhere in ‘connection’ is a metaphor for interpersonal relationships of all kinds.

-Steve

Stars

Look up my friend, look up to that night sky above you.

Those stars you see, impossibly far from where you stand, are the same ones I see.

Those stars, some have witnessed the birth of humanity, others burned out a millennium ago and all we see is an echo.

Impossibly far away, yet  impossibly close, I hope the vastness of the universe makes your troubles melt away and brings you back to another time, I know it brings me back.

I see these stars over me, and I am comforted by that fact that the same stars shine over your head.

One day, that may be the last connection we old friends have.

It is a promise, a promise that as the years pass, we will never be completely alone.

That we will always have this, a faded photo, a scribbled note, a memory of days gone by.

A promise that us two weary travelers one day will meet again, and watch the stars together again, separated by neither mountain nor sea.

My Father’s Advice

I would have loved to write a public love letter to my wife, to my two daughters and tell everyone why I have the greatest parents, in-laws, siblings and family. I wanted to discuss the physics behind Baumgartner’s free-fall from the edge of space, share the world’s best pie and cookie recipes, debate survival strategies for the impending zombie apocalypse, and tell everyone why we should fight for capitalism, small government and a return to the gold standard.

But I’m not going to.

Instead I will share a handful of my father’s rules of survival. Read them slowly:

It is always my fault.

No problem is bigger than I am.

No one can offend me.

No matter how much good you do in the world, someone will always be pissed off at you.

How you make people feel will be remembered long after they forget what you say or what you accomplish.

No matter how much money you have, once you are married it is never enough.

Grandma at the Party

My cousin got married last night. She is the first among my generation to get married, so this is the first time in over a decade that this branch of the family has been all in one place. Right now many of the people I care most about are recovering in the next room. The ceremony was beautiful, the food was wonderful, and a 10PM noise ordinance means we will talk forever about the cops shuting down the DJ at the reception.

So here is my advice:

Love your family. You don’t always have to like them, but love them when you can.

Don’t stress the small stuff – it isn’t a real party till the cops show up. (Or someone stomps off in a huff.)

Travel – many of the guests (myself included) traveled 12+ hours to this party and not one person regrets a moment of it.

Live in the moment – Grandma can’t remember anything that happened 5 seconds ago, but she spent hours last night in her chair at the party watching everything. She had no idea what was happening or who was getting married but she was thrilled to be at the party.

That said, I hope you all have a chance to be as happy as I am right now. I have my family around me, beautiful vistas of the mountains of Tuscon outside the windows, and nothing to do but bask in the post-wedding serenity until my 7AM flight tomorrow.

Quality Time with My Grandparents: An Audiotape to Remember

This was a day I won’t forget. I won’t let myself forget it. Here is how quality time with my grandparents unfolded one afternoon.

I was in college at the time and assigned a project to record the childhood of someone important to me. I chose my grandma, who I knew had grown up amidst a large family in Worthing, a town in England.

I figured the best way for me to capture her childhood experiences would be to go to my grandparent’s condo, which was within walking distance from where I lived at the time, and audiotape her. That way I would be able to play back her words and form a cohesive written essay for school.

What happened next was amazing. Quality time with my grandparents that day came in two different forms. First, there was the joy of hearing my grandma talk about her seaside adventures with her siblings as a girl, her time volunteering and her love of poetry. Seeing her smile as she recounted the fond memories is something I will always treasure.

The second happening was unplanned and exquisite. As my grandma talked about her childhood, my granddad came into the living room, where we held the recording session. He sat down in his armchair and quipped in with statements of his own about how he later met my grandma at a social dance. The way he looked at her, as he told me of how they met, while I caught his words on tape, was so loving, and it touched me deeply.

I recall how granddad then tried to pester my grandma and me, during our conversation, just to make us laugh – which he was well known for doing! He asked us when we would be done and joked about being a part of the recording. We all laughed, and I felt like we were closer than ever from that day forward.

That day with my grandparents meant much more to me than completing a written essay for a college course. It was about creating new memories with my grandparents that I will always treasure. I don’t have the cassette tape anymore because the tape inside of it got damaged. My grandparents have since passed away, and I miss them very much. I treasure my memory of that day and replay it in my mind with a love for my grandparents that will never diminish.

Want to remember more stuff?

Sometimes, we cannot recall things which we want to recall, and we cannot see a full picture due to missing details.

We are afraid to make a decision since we don’t know the outcome, and all this leads to mistakes that we prefer to avoid.

It would be great if our memory was like a hard drive, so we could store and recall anything any time, and if we could correlate all events from the past and see all connections.

This way, we could make no mistakes and precisely forecast the future.

But… our memory is not a hard drive, thus, it cannot work that way.

However, there is something that we can do to improve this:

– When you are preparing to sleep, lying in the bed, try to recall all events of the past day, exactly in the order as they happened, with all details. – If you are finished and still awake – try previous day, and so on. – Next morning, after waking up, briefly recall previous day.

In the end, you will feel the boost. Your memory will improve, you will begin to see the future, you will intuitively avoid mistakes.

But please, be patient – it could take days, weeks or even months, this is very individual, so don’t panic if nothing happens quickly – eventually, it will – or money back :)

Just be persistent.

Choosing

This month marks the seventh anniversary of finding out I had multiple sclerosis.  I was stunned.  Irrationally, I was certain that I had already been through enough hard stuff, so I shouldn’t have to deal with any more.  I lost an eye in a childhood accident.  I was widowed at the age of 39 and raised four children by myself.  But I worked my way to a lucrative career and we thrived.  Nothing kept me down.  Now, surely, this was my time of reward for surviving all those struggles.

Well, as we all know, life does not work like that.  There is no cosmic balance sheet of adversity vs. good fortune.  It was just my time to face another bad thing.  But I didn’t want to, damn it!

The disease progressed and I started a downward spiral.  My high powered career and life began to crumble.  Loss mounted upon loss.  And I was consumed by bitterness and anger.

Devastated by my deterioration, I became virtually homebound.  Everything I loved was slipping away.

Full of resentment, I was tired of picking myself up.  But so many sources were sending me the same message: pray.  And if you can’t pray, just say “Give me strength” over and over.  To not make the effort seemed like a slap in the face to all the people who love me and give me credit for being braver than I really am.  I knew I had to choose to pick myself up once again.

Marriage Identity

When we were planning our wedding, Jamie and I talked about names. I started from the assumption that she would be taking mine; she started from the assumption that we would make that decision together.

So I told her that I had always believed my wife would take my name, that it seemed natural. That I would feel awkward otherwise. She talked about giving up that part of her identity and I pretended like I understood. I waxed on about starting a new family and how we would want to have the same name.

Here is the thing, though. On a really fundamental level the person that wants to have a conversation is always correct. She knew I was being an asshole (I can cuss here, right? I waffled on the terminology but I was a real dick about the name thing) but instead of getting angry she kept talking to me, and I got it through my head that just because something is socially common doesn’t mean it’s not a burden.

We picked a new name, for our new family, and that’s how we became the Edwards.

ps i’m not telling you how to live your life but if you’re going to do this get his name changed before the wedding so it’s free to change hers after, otherwise changing names is hundreds of dollars

pps i’m seriously not defending my behavior through that process, I’m still a little ashamed of my baseline assumption, but I figured it’s worth acknowledging because I guarantee a lot of decent people have struggled with that, feel free to comment with whatever thoughts you have on the subject!

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