An Unfortunate, But Fortunate, Passing

(September 29, 2011)

My mom requested that I write something to be shared for my beloved great-aunt Laverne's funeral this weekend... she passed away just several days ago, after a very long and loving and fulfilling life of eighty-seven years. And, well, this short little essay will say the rest, as I hope it will touch others as it touched me to write it.
My earliest memories of my Aunt Laverne must be of the time that I spent, as a child, staying with her and my Uncle Wayne. I was very young, and I don’t remember much very clearly, but a few situations definitely stand out—perhaps the most striking of which is going garage sale exploring, and usually returning to their home with a new jigsaw puzzle to spend the next couple days putting together. Sometimes she would come and help me, but always she would praise and encourage my efforts.

I remember eating ice cream with her and my Uncle Wayne in the living room, and watching some old TV show, and I remember going shopping with them, and one time being allowed to pick out a can of Pringles for myself. I also remember one particular time visiting my Uncle Wayne at the Captain D’s where he was working, and him yelling at me because I tried to come behind the counter to talk to him. I think I cried, but I didn’t know any better and I always had (and still have) a tendency to cry. In fact I am crying right now. I hope it didn’t make them feel bad.

I never knew my Aunt Laverne very well, as far as “knowing” a person relates to how much one knows of another person’s deepest thoughts and feelings and opinions and interests and beliefs. But I can confidently say that I have always had a profound respect for her, because she always struck me as a genuinely kindhearted and caring person. I don’t think I ever heard anything from her other than soft and kindly-spoken words. Granted, I only knew her during her elderly years, and even so very sparingly, but still, it is very much worth noting. Because such is the imprint that she has left upon me, and for this she will always hold a favorable spot in my heart and in my memories. And, similarly, but inconceivably to me, for these same incredible traits and more, I can only imagine how lucky a man my Uncle Wayne is—because he undoubtedly knew her better than anybody and was the happy recipient of her love and influence and everything that made her her for fifty-plus blissful years.

I would have liked to probe her mind for insights into her thoughts of this crazy world we all live in—what her most cherished memories were, her thoughts on how much the world had changed in her lifetime, what sorts of advice she might want to pass on to a “youngin’” like me, what sorts of aspirations she felt had, so much later in life, proven to be the most worthwhile of all. I feel like so much wisdom might be gleaned from such a person who has lived such a long, full, glorious life. I may have missed such a chance, but she has left a legacy for herself, buried deep within all of the people she ever touched… most deeply of all, I imagine, with the person who was there with her for practically every step of the way, her lifelong husband, my uncle Wayne.

In a way they are powerful role models for me, because I hope that the love that is in my future can be as true and as long-lasting as theirs has been. Fifty years seems like almost an eternity to me, sitting here with the vast majority of my life ahead of me, but I imagine that at this moment, from my uncle’s vantage point, the very same amount of time must seem almost like a fleeting glimpse.

And so I hope that he still believes, after all this time, as I do, after almost no such time, that the best is yet to come. Not only in this life, with our loved ones, but also after this life, also with our loved ones, once again. My heart goes out to him and I wish him all of the hope and goodwill I possibly can. Because I wish for him to still experience all of the joys and glories that this worldly life has to offer him, in his friends and his family and in his passions, before at last ascending into the heavens where his true glory awaits him, and offers him her arms once more.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 1:23 AM | 0 comments

Two Steps From Salvation

There are so many trials a person might find themselves struggling through at any point in time. Many trials are within one’s own mindset, internal struggles such as an addiction to overcome, or some other habit to break, or a behavioral trait to change, or an outlook to improve upon, or all kinds of other examples. These trials involve, almost exclusively, your own willpower and (to say nothing less of their values and impacts) have at least that advantage going for them, because you have ultimate control over your own mind. The sheer force of your own will actually holds significant weight when the object of its application is within your own mind and being. Still others, many, many others, inherently the most frustrating of all, are those which require the cooperation of other people to overcome. Such trials are the most frustrating of all simply because of this fact—because no amount of sheer willpower can influence another person to act accordingly with your goals if they are not themselves pursuing a similar one of their own (or at least willing to indulge you). But for this added complication there is so much more appreciation to be had when success is finally achieved and salvation is at long last glorifying your soul.

Salvation can come in so many forms, among which I believe one of (if not the) most important and fullest of all is the mutual appreciation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires they wish to pursue with the full cooperation of another human being. But when you’ve been struggling to achieve some passionate goal for so long, fighting off wave after wave of intense opposition, battling the judgments and the disagreements and the miscommunications and the unwillingness of others to assist you, enduring countless disappointments and let-downs while all along being so ready and willing in your own mind but endlessly frustrated at the apparent refusal of cooperation of everyone else whom your success depends upon to reciprocate your efforts, it can become so easy to just let it all go. Sometimes it becomes so easy to lump such a massive accumulation of frustration and resentment into one last-ditch effort of abandonment, pack it all up in a tightly closed suitcase of hopes and dreams you were once so intent to give chase to, toss it over the edge of the unfinished bridge before you set fire to it and just forget the whole thing altogether.

But one should think long and deeply about such a decision, because you have undoubtedly made some sort of progress toward such a goal even if it seems like every single individual effort on your own part has been shot down and crushed under the feet of the very people you have so intensely tried to connect with. If nothing else, nothing at all else, you’ve gained invaluable insight for the future into the sorts of people who are likely going to respond in such an undesirable way, and this should assist you in your renewed search for more meaningful, more attainable endeavors—because your search should never end. There is always knowledge and experience to gain without necessarily giving up entirely on any original goal, even if you realize you have to give up entirely on certain people who were once a part of your goal. Even when you’ve come so far as to stand within two measly steps of the glorious salvation you so valiantly wish to achieve, shining so brightly right there in front of you but just slightly out of your own reach, the people in your life very likely hold the keys to unlock the final advancements—those final two steps—but, as they hold the keys, they have the advantage of being in control of their own desires and these unfortunately might not coincide with your own. You can spend vast amounts of time in constant frustration over being so close to the end but with no power to bridge that tiny remaining space by yourself.

Some goals simply require the cooperation of just one other person in order to achieve their fullest potentials. This factor makes such goals the most difficult of all because, again, the sheer force of your own will cannot impose the genuine, heartfelt cooperation of another person’s. This cooperation must come from their own desires. The only thing you truly have control over, in this case, is how you go about making your own precious intentions known, and how effectively you portray this for others to respond to. Some people seem to have a natural gift with this skill, and can seemingly influence just about anybody to cooperate with them. Unfortunately, many of these people who have such a natural “talent” seem to take a liking to taking advantage of and manipulating the people they somehow so easily gain the trust and favor of. And so the variables are further complicated by this fact, and in turn so many people seem to have become irrationally hesitant to divulge anything more than the bare essentials of a friendly relationship, and especially reluctant to invest the efforts necessary to develop something so much more deep and meaningful, such as romance, or just a closer friendship, with a fellow human being. And so because of this tendency countless people are experiencing heartbreak in every waking moment because of this clash of ideals and the separation from goals and desires which have every reason to be achieved with proper cooperation. Of course I’m not suggesting that all pursuits must be matched by the objects of their desires, but that more communication and efforts would do wonders to promote effective progress, even “negative” progress. If nothing else, at least some closure on the idea. Some heartbreaks are inevitable, in many cases because the initial premise of the pursuit was not genuine. Rationale and communication and understanding true feelings are always crucial, and even when the necessary outcome is a tragedy to one side, tragedies have a tendency to sort themselves out and bring an epiphany of sorts, as a person finally grasps the true sense of the ideal they had poured so much effort into. Nothing is truly as “good” or as “bad” as it feels at the time, but can be understood to the closest possible truth in proper time and consideration. Sometimes you might believe you are standing but two steps from salvation of your troublesome efforts and yet the only positive recourse is to turn and find a new path. Sometimes what once seemed like your glorious salvation was in reality nothing but a hopeful illusion, and your path needs to start fresh on a new course. Sometimes defeat is the necessary epiphany you need. You should never burn down the bridge, however. At least let them stand as reminders of how close you had come in each attempt, perhaps even where they had gone wrong.

But if you are genuine in your intentions, and are pursuing another person who is genuine in their own intentions, then this daunting, almost-un-scalable wall can actually be overcome to its fullest potential. And I believe that this achievement really is one of the highest beauties of this world, in large part because of the tremendous difficulty and complexity in its achievement, and also in the immense, priceless rewards that it showers its recipients with. Nothing else in this world can provide you with what a true, deep, genuine companionship with another person can. This applies to true, boundless love just as much as it applies to true, deep undying friendship. There is beauty to be had in these relations like absolutely nothing else can compare to, because the pleasures of the mind simply have no comparison in the purely physical realm. What’s most amazing to me is that this physical and mental connection with another human being can bring so much hope and joy and appreciation, and this beauty knows no rival, but it can be either provided or withheld at the tiniest possible whim if just one person involved is so reluctant to reciprocate. You can wreak some wild havoc on a person if you know how to mess with their head. Words could never do justice to the urgency with which everybody should realize how impactful this realization is. Do not play mind games with a person so devoted to their passions; let them down honestly and with care if this needs to be the case.

The truest among such successful connections are likely to be very hard-won, although there are of course many cases that just seem to click almost effortlessly. Such cases, I believe, are as close to the idea of “love at first sight” as are possible to achieve. I do not draw a distinction at this point between the love of a romantic partner and the love of a truly deep friendly one, or even a genetic one. All are incomparable in their fundamental benefits to and among each and every single last one of us. The differences are only in context and in expression. I think we all need such connections, as many as we can get our hands on, and the heavily-guarded keys that we tend to keep tucked away inside our minds might perhaps benefit from a little (or a lot) more careful efforts put toward sharing them with others who are passionately and genuinely seeking them out.

We all desire those deepest of connections. We all envision those everlasting friendships, those uncompromising family relations, those fairy-tale romances. Assuming an effectively rigorous system of filtering through to those people who really are legitimately reaching out to you for genuine friendly or romantic companionship, then those who slip through the barriers and traps and land mines and pitfalls and armed defense systems are worth your efforts to cooperate with—as you are worth theirs. Once they’ve proven themselves mighty in the face of your own personal defenses, then you should devote some careful consideration into how much of a future relationship (friendly/romantic) is likely to be successful. At this point the odds are heavily in positive favor, as they’ve already overcome whatever number of hurdles you’ve set up to keep the reckless fools at bay… assuming your traps are effective. So now give them the time of day they deserve. They’ve come this far for good reason.

In my case it has been both the genuine, deep friendships and true romantic companionship that I have been fighting for so long to establish further—although the latter of which has been, by far, the more intense struggle over a recent two and a half years and is the primary inspiration in this. There have been moments in which I felt like everything was at last falling into place, only to have the rug pulled so violently from underneath me that I didn’t even realize I was crashing to the ground until the sudden onset of pain forced the realization. For so long I was given only vague, all-but-concealed tastes of a connection which was never actually placed within my own reach. It was always kept dangling just beyond the ability of my own efforts to grasp, and yanked away every time I finally felt that I had figured it all out. Efforts were not genuinely reciprocated, and it took me far too long to realize this had been the case all along. This sort of thing can be avoided, for all people, male and female, friends and lovers, long-held relations and brand new ones. Nobody needs to go through so much just to finally have the truth laid bare in front of them whether or not there actually is anything genuine and worthwhile for them to gain and offer in return.

For so long I have been a mere two steps from this salvation from my own worries—two steps from achieving the goal that I have been so vigorously desiring and pursuing, the goal that has been so vividly, brightly shining in my own mind, so beautifully portrayed in my dreams manifesting in the depths of the night, but all the while so helplessly dependent on the cooperation of just one single other person that no amount of sheer willpower alone could bring within my grasp. At times it felt like success was so close, so near to me that I could almost get a grip on it, but it had always ended up slipping through my fingers right at the moment I made the lunge. I am not proud to say that I persisted for far too long in what was so often made painstakingly clear to me was a fruitless endeavor—I was blinded by too much optimism and too much desire to see it through to an end that was never actually achievable, for achievement requires mutual interests and in these cases I was indulging far more efforts than were worth the returns on my investments. Any situation which isn’t demonstrably mutual is in all likelihood a dead end, and the sooner you can realize this fact the sooner you can reassess your efforts and pursue something which actually holds the promise of cooperation. I believe this is, by far, the most important consideration of all, but also the most difficult to accurately judge, because everybody is ridiculously complex, which is the single factor which makes this whole concept so frustratingly laborious to accomplish.

I eventually let go of the pursuit I had spent so much time and effort chasing, after finally realizing that my efforts were fruitless in the face of so much confusion and unwillingness. The weight of all that I finally released from my grip severely blistered my fingers, which is funny because even an illusion can wreak such unimaginable havoc on your mind and body, but of course they would heal in time—although I had no idea how long this would take.

But then, not so long after, almost as if as a reward a newer, much more brightly-shining potential revealed itself to me as I realized that a dear friend of mine was returning home after a very, very long trip overseas was coming to an end. And I realized, not only during all of this struggling for so long but again when pondering the possibilities of what could be once again pursued and reflecting on the long, memory-filled history that I share with this person, that there is an extremely deep and valuable lesson that I have learned during the two and a half years that have separated our story, which is that the willing cooperation of another human being to share with you your own thoughts and feelings and passions and lifestyles, while sharing their own lives with your own thoughts and feelings and passions and lifestyles, is meaningful beyond the scope of any possible combination of words. This cooperation is the key to everything that a genuine companionship must build its foundation upon. This wild epiphany suddenly rushed into my head, and it was almost as if I fell to my knees under the weight of its realization. The people you should be sharing your life with, and your deepest thoughts and feelings, should be returning the favor. And this will be obvious. You should not be perpetually shrouded in confusion. The genuine people will want to spend at least close to as much time with you as you want to spend with them. They will let you know their own feelings about you just as you so desire to let them know how you feel about them. They will set aside time, that wondrously wild commodity we so often take for granted, for you, because they want nothing less. You will suddenly be contacted by those who care just as often as you have been trying to contact them, and they will ask you for your time just as often as you have been trying to ask for theirs. The precious people who genuinely appreciate and desire your company will make themselves known to you. They will cooperate with you.

And so she returned, and we reconnected, and as the storm clouds retreated from my muddled mindset I realized that we both have similar goals and passions and hopes for the future and, most striking of all, we both want to share our most deepest-held thoughts and feelings with each other. And so I have at long last found that which I’ve been struggling to find in another human being for so long, in the person that I never even knew whether I’d ever see again. It’s absolutely incredible how quickly two and a half years can melt away into the newfound mesh of old-and-new interests and experiences, and blossom into not just what it always was, but everything that it had ever hoped to be.

There is an incredibly beautiful phrase, made even more beautiful by its incredible simplicity: "The hardest part is over." It is a simple line, being only five words, but I think it has enormous meaning behind it when you truly realize such a reality. To me it basically represents an acknowledgment that the toughest times of some pursuit are over, however hard they may have been. The point is that you recognize them, and look ahead to the future that awaits the aftermath—the future that will be better. Because what good are the memories we hold so dear if we don’t use them as guidelines, always striving to do better? I believe that optimism is one of the ultimate virtues we can have, and what better way to put it to use? We need to believe that the future will be better. Even if things are going great right now, that’s all the more hope to hold for tomorrow. Our memories are the basis for this optimism, so that we have something to reflect on and set our standards by. The deepest pits of sorrow you've ever hauled yourself out of hold that much more relevance and insight into how to better shape your future. It's such a beautiful thing to be able to look back on a period of intense struggling and realize that it's over.

In the movie Office Space, the main character reveals that every single day of his life is the worst day he’s ever had. Despite the funny nature of the poor guy’s situation, I think what everyone is meant to do is strive for the exact opposite. In an ideal world every day would be greater than the previous. What if you could wake up each and every morning and truly believe that this day was better than the last? And if you could expand this realization, each new day's progressive happiness compounded upon the previous, so much potential could be realized. And we do have at least some control over that, if we act accordingly. A determined mindset will work wonders. Tomorrow will be better, and the next day even more so. It's a wonderful ideal, at least, and a few setbacks here and there don't need to wreck the overall trend.

Being two steps from salvation had always seemed like such a simple obstacle to overcome, long ago. But I was foolish and naïve and I find it incredible how clear this is to me now. Sometimes a new chapter in life makes you realize that the previous chapter actually had ended long ago. And sometimes you realize that you never actually had something you believed you did until you finally truly do. I just never imagined how difficult this salvation would be to re-achieve, but now that I am staring it in the face it seems like such a fitting irony for it to be with the very person with whom I walked away from it in the first place. But she came back around, and I made my hopeful desires clear, and she so beautifully reciprocated, and so now, at long last, I have the cooperation I’ve been seeking for so long. I have the cooperation of the single other mindset that has been necessary to bridge this particular gap all along. And so these two seemingly trivial steps, this separation from the glory of salvation which has been so emotionally fearful and daunting for so long despite being so physically near to me in the people around me, so seemingly simple in mind but so incredibly difficult in reality, are finally laid bare and ready to be taken.

And so when at long last this endeavor is achieved, and you are finally basking in all of the glory that this success is shining down upon you, you will finally understand that it no longer matters how long you had to suffer, because the two of you hold everything that now matters together in your hands. The world is now yours to conquer—to shape from your collective experiences, joys and mutual interests to your will. Anything that you want to experience together, go and make it so! Make the memories that you want to cherish. Create the situations that you want to enjoy. Share the thoughts that you want to appreciate. Seize the moments that you want to last. The opportunity does not even exist but there in your minds. This is not something that directly results from the physical world around us, but something that we create through abstract connections of the mind, and join together, and nourish through the years with the heartfelt efforts that feed it through eternity until the very last breaths our physical forms are capable of producing are spent at long last. And even then it won’t be enough, it can never be enough, but it will be all that we could have ever reasonably hoped for, and I don’t think there is any deeper beauty in the end than knowing that you crossed over that boundary and achieved the salvations of your once-troubled souls with the same person who is sharing the pain of old age with you still. The best is yet to come.

And so I am, at this moment, as I have been for so long, two measly steps from blissful salvation… but now that I am hand-in-hand with the single other person I want to take these steps with, the single other person I long to appreciate life’s complexities and mysteries and joys and sorrows with, to forever further our understanding and enjoyment of this crazy world with, I am not simply going to take these two steps…

I am going to take three.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 12:06 AM | 0 comments

The Best Is Yet To Come

(September 18, 2011)

You’ve been gone for so long, and I almost lost hope
I’ve been struggling, fighting, slipping down this steep slope
After so long I almost lost all means to cope
We had everything resting right there in our hands
But it slipped through my fingers, like liquid grains of sands
Since then I’ve been so lost, stumbling through dark wastelands

I don’t even remember why we said goodbye
Sometimes the most beautiful fairy tales go awry
I simply can’t count the times I’ve wanted to cry
What we had was so gorgeous, the most beautiful song
And I tried and I tried to remain firm and strong
But what’s left to do when you’re so persistently gone?

You’ve been gone for so long, but I’ve always kept dreaming
In the depths of the night love has never stopped gleaming
But I wake up so lost and alone and I’m screaming
Cause my dreams can’t provide what your presence would bring
All this distance has stretched what’s left to but a string
For so long these dreams were all I had with which to cling

And then you returned, and the storm clouds retreated
And gradually my cold, frozen heart was reheated
In time our weary, worn damaged hearts were re-greeted
After so much time passes it all tends to be blurred
But your newfound presence almost seems a reward
Again forever is ours to claim as more than a word

You’ve been gone for so long, but you’ve come back at last
Now every moment will shine as its memory is passed
This potential regained is so incredibly vast
It’s amazing how two years melt away with such ease
Every moment’s now waiting here for us to seize
The world is once again ours to shape as we please

Standing here with you now the horizon looks so bright
I have never imagined there could be so much light
Not even my wildest dreams compare to this sight
Our love can now once again unfurl and blossom
What the future now holds, I can’t even fathom
We will always remember, the best is yet to come.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 3:14 AM | 0 comments