The measure of a man’s intelligence is not so much about how he can think, but more by the quality of the decisions he makes along with his actions after he has thought things out and can place his signature on them afterwards with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. – Joe Dico
“Imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same…embrace your own uniqueness… you make life that much more exciting.” – Barbara Streisand
It’s funny boys to think that we each have the benefit of age to deflect a certain amount of responsibility for our actions. You guys will sometimes get the benefit of “being too young to know any better” for things you say or do. I on the other hand am expected “to have known better” but given my age, I may have the advantage of being so old that I’m entitled to suffer some lapses in memory to remember all the time. Throw in a brain injury, a few seizures, and there’s a considerable amount of latitude that I can exercise when my words or actions are seemingly conveyed or expressed without the benefit of a filter. If they come across unkind or insensitive, I apologize because that’s not my intent. If they just seem silly or misguided attempts at humor, I won’t apologize because I’m just doing my thing, living in a seemingly unconventional universe that keeps me directly on course towards my own fulfillment, and usually having a good time doing it!
One thing I do appreciate though is when you guys express your individuality when it truly reflects the natural and organic essence of YOU! It’s understandable, given the amount of time we’ve spent together, that your mannerisms can’t help but illustrate the influence Mom and I have had on you, just like my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, had on me. The same goes for you Cole (my “adopted” son), especially since your Mom has had to pull double-duty without your Dad and if you need present-day illustrations of walking miracles, take a silent moment to evaluate the “world” where you and your brother currently exist in and wonder where you’d be had she not done such an amazing job when doing less would have been understandable given her loss. Oh and have I mentioned before that Dee Dee is one of my heroes and a source of inspiration to the extent that I feel so blessed to see her on such a consistent basis to remind me that people like her exist in MY world!
Now as far as your parents’ lasting impact, there are certain basic commitments to the quintessential values, beliefs, morals, and principles you’ve been taught that we truly hope that you emulate and exercise while disregarding various characteristics that aren’t relevant, useful, or desirable for your own purposes. I mean really, I’m not offended as you increasingly demonstrate a conviction to ideals and standards that are illustrations less of rebellion but more the pursuit of “perfection” that will give you the best likelihood at “perfect” outcomes for you, those around you, and the circumstances and situations you navigate through.
If I leave you with anything (and I think I’ve displayed it consistently), it’s that the happiness and contentment you seek is a product of what you’re willing to obtain on the terms you dictate and should not be dependent on what you are waiting to be given! Yes I’m “nuts” in how I express myself and each emotion that is generated in me but I challenge you to point out who is the master of those expressions and most important, whose complaining and if so, why.
Stubborn? Where would I be if I listened to other’s restrictions rather than discover on my own and work within my own limitations.
Challenging? I hope so because what I demand of myself and you guys is not meant for those who think ordinary and average are acceptable aspirations for the quality of our existence.
Optimistic and positive? Absolutely and if you interpret it otherwise, you’re getting lost in distractions that you are more than capable of managing.
Loving, caring, and kind? Do you even have to ask!
You don’t have to figure out why I am “me” (too complex) or how I personally approach things, only that you are on my mind enough that I want to help make some of those 1,440 minutes of each day easier, a jumble of hours and days ahead of you more approachable, and in the end lead you to understand that all the “crap” I predicted for you coupled with your individual make-up is obtainable with no greater proof than the moment you accomplish it!
So be yourself with confidence because there is no one better at it and do it absent unnecessary vanity, ego, and self-absorption. It is so important that you remember the following because what you’ll uncover is usually something you worried way too much about never happening: “Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work, risking, and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful: yourself.” — Alan Alda
And while you’re on the road to that discovery, keep in mind “it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Monroe. I kind of like leaving people scratching their heads with a smile after most encounters because being who I am doesn’t give them much of an option, you know? As Jason has stated before, “don’t hate me because you ain’t me”, and in my view, you’re on the right path!
Some don’t want to run in their bare feet on a gravel path towards the places they want to get to because they’re afraid of falling, the discomfort, the cuts, the bruises, etc. For me, that’s not remotely a justifiable reason to not take the steps to get there; I honestly carry those bloodstains and scratches like symbols of honor because it means I didn’t give up even when things weren’t as smooth as I hoped for, and consequently it ended up making me more confident about the next journey ahead.
I guess it’s just not within my soul to sit idly by or secrester myself from the uncertainty of the unfamiliar when there’s something that I feel is worth obtaining if it’s within my reach, even if the effort initially seems demanding or the path too daunting. What I find may not always be exactly what I imagined but, what I discover throughout the journey always rewards me with something that vindicates the percerverance accompanying those decisions. And you?
While striving for the most optimal changes in my life as I get older, it’s valuable to remind myself of simply doing the following each day:
So in the end, I’ll “let the beauty that I love be what I do”, because you know, I’m just never too old to have it so!
(This is one of my first posts and I feel humbled and proud that my boys have honored the wishes set forth below since the day I first shared it with them)
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. ” – Princess Diana
So now I’m going to ask you boys for something which is less a request and more of a challenge and test. In a way it’s something you owe yourselves as part of a discovery of who you are and how others see you and/or may be affected by you. At a minimum after all I’ve written and hopefully assisted you with, this is something that you owe me.
Life has a funny way of working out but many things are not really random. It can be excellent at times and others, well not so much. Our ability to make an average day better from our own efforts is not something we should take for granted when we boil it down to its basics. The best part of our day and overall existence should not be the greatest gifts we receive but the simplest gifts we give and just maybe, create for others.
You boys by virtue of being athletes, relatively easy on the eyes, personable, charming, fairly witty, etc., consequently may fall into the “popular” and “admired” categories, at least in the high and middle school arenas. All of this changes in the college settings where you can get overlooked in a larger population and the grading scale of success is different.
So take this time to use this aspect of your status to reach out to those who would never imagine that you would even acknowledge them. They are no less important than those you regularly interact with and importantly, can add a new dimension to your emerging interpersonal skills by exploring their own unique and distinctive attributes. You just might be surprised that by performing this simple act of altruism, you may expand your understanding of your infinite coexistence with a few of the 7 billion people on this planet.
This is a perfect time to attempt to figuratively “touch someone” in an unexpected and meaningful fashion because of the daily paths you cross in your school communities. When you get older and in your professional world, you will meet a lot of people who you are essentially required to interact with, and consequently it’s financially beneficial to excel in that capacity. But how authentic are those interactions when the objectives are more self-serving than a genuine extension of the best of who you are. It’s no excuse, just the frequent trap that engulfs us. It’s unfortunate to find that we ignore the opportunities, either due to the hectic pace or schedule of our days, to slow down and capitalize on the random lives that we can affect or be affected by.
So my challenge is to make a simple attempt this next week (or longer) to acknowledge the unlikeliest of suspects whether it be another student, teacher, staff member, janitor, acquaintance, etc., who may fall outside your normal social sphere and would least expect it – I’m sure you can think of a few people who fall in that category. Take an extra few seconds to just say “hi” or “how are you” to that person and pay attention to the response, if any, and do it at least one more time in the upcoming days. If done only once, it can be construed as a fluke or aberration. Importantly, initiate the encounter and use the person’s name, look at them, smile, and again at a minimum, wait for some sort of response and then take it however you wish from there. Don’t think about it too much – just try it because there’s no reason not to and you might find a surprising return on the investment.
I’m not asking you to adopt my routine because frankly, you probably think I’m nuts! I have the time, desire, and my own personal objectives which essentially involve gratitude for where I’m at and where I want my soul to remain. Some might think I reach out to so many random individuals outside of my comfort zone for attention but that’s where they’d be mistaken. My intention has never been to draw attention to myself (although that’s often the outcome), but to give my attention to those around me who deserve or maybe could just use it. In the end though, I know that I benefit from it in too many ways to count and describe in detail.
All of our lives offer so many unnoticed and undiscovered things which really take little awareness to uncover. Sometimes we get so locked inside our routines to appreciate what’s in front of us because we think external demands and distractions insist upon it. Let’s be clear – they shouldn’t, they’re really not as significant as you think, and you can control your approach to them, all for the better!
So please be thoughtful in everything you do, and let that also include those who just happen to be part of your surroundings because the opportunities are abundant and shouldn’t be ignored.
And you want to know why it should come easy? Because it’s the way you were raised, it’s who you are, and it honors your parents and those who influenced you to be that way!
“You were given a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?.”
Whether it be to God, family, friends, a loved one, or even random stranger who was kind to you, don’t miss the opportunity to express a level of gratitude. If to God, don’t forget to thank Him for the challenges and obstacles you’ll face because by exhausting your efforts to overcome them, you find and define yourself and ultimately begin to understand His intensions and why He has faith in you and each other.
Also in those numerous seconds, mix in a few hugs, smiles to others, laughs, “I love you’s”, silly moments, tears if your heart is moved that much, and reflections of the day. It took me a long time to realize this so I pass it on to you my Child. Trust me, it’s so worth it!
7/14/14 (originally posted 1/15)
“One word or a pleasing smile is often enough to raise up a saddened and wounded soul.” – Therese of Lisieux
I don’t really think that God has created us with the unrealistic expectation that we would create a cure for cancer or solve world hunger. It would be unbelievable if we could but it is no less remarkable than recognizing that someone may benefit from a simple kind gesture. It is difficult to justify ignoring such an opportunity when that person is close to you.
It does not matter what kind of response in return you receive because that person may be so immersed in their inner turmoil to respond as we would expect. They just need to realize that they are not alone, forgotten, or ignored, because in time they will realize it.
It would be a betrayal of the gifts and blessings of the good fortune given by our Creator and family to step over a chance to simply share a smile because so many in our vicinity need one. Maybe you have momentarily been there and it’s reasonable to predict you might encounter similar situations. Make sure you offer what you would gratefully appreciate and need during those times. We do not live in a vacuum nor are we alone and it takes so little to contribute to life’s basic simple elegance.
(Marine Sergeant Joe Dicochea, Korean War veteran, and my dad – Original Posted Memorial Day, 2015)
“Just give me tomorrow.” – unidentified Korean War Marine soldier
Jason, I think you’ll like this given your admiration of the Marine Corp.
I was watching a Military Channel documentary “Against the Odds” about a company of Marines who fought in one of more iconic battles in the history of the Corp at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War or “police action” as it was officially referred to. I guess this was to avoid the stigma of the conflict that ended just years before called “WWII”. I’m not sure that the soldiers in the field during the later action felt any different than the ones who were part of the earlier one. However if that description made it more palatable to the politicians and public at the time, so be it but again, I’m sure the consequences and emotions associated with the battles faced by both “boots on the ground” were vastly similar regardless of it’s presentation to the masses.
Now back to the “Frozen Chosin” and the company that eventually was known as “Bloody George” because of it’s casualty rate. Their role became famous within the grander story that makes every Marine proud to be part of that tradition. Just a quick breakdown of the story, the George Company of the 1st Division after landing on Inchon (another iconic battle) and fighting in Seoul drew, more by circumstances than choice, the responsibility of having to hold their ground serving as “Spartans” to fend off what seemed to be the inevitable annihilation of the entire division by an unexpected attack by a Chinese forces. The Chinese army vastly outnumbered them while the division battled unforgiving terrain and the most severe elements of the winter that struck during this engagement.
I was riveted in fascination by the story and interviews with the surviving members of that company. Since my father (your grandfather) was a Marine veteran of Korea who continually referred to ideals of his beloved Corp as I grew up, I look upon just about every Marine combat veteran with an abundance of respect and personal pride by just having that connection with my father as well as other family members who wore that uniform. J I know you carry that pride and still hold my father’s Marine emblem in your hand during each pre-game prayers and rituals. Interestingly, I was informed after my father’s death by a Marine Corp vet who knew my Dad that he was involved in that epic battle while he was still still only a teenager. I’ve never bothered to verify its accuracy nor do I question its veracity since it wouldn’t affect the “hero” I’ve always viewed him as during my whole life. Moreover given his character, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t share that information because as I’ve learned, it was an awful engagement to be a part of and it was a memory reserved for a different audience than someone who could never understand the basic and personal ferocity of war.
So back to the point (thank goodness). George Company, who continuously battled for months of fighting culminating in surviving and escaping from a relentless onslaught of attacks by the Chinese (who outnumbered them 10-1) and the environment at Chosin, were nearing the end of their organized march to the deliverance of their home base from this personal “hell”. At this juncture, a correspondent approached one of the beleaguered company and asked what probably sounded like a ridiculous question at the time considering all the Marine had been through. However his response gave a profound meaning to not just his or his comrade’s existence but served as a reminder to mine.
Paraphrasing the question to that soldier, he was asked “if I were God and I could give you anything for Christmas, what would you want?” A picture was taken of his face with the vacant stare often seen on those in combat, fatigued and almost indifferent to the death he’d witnessed, answering with this simple response: “just “give me tomorrow!”
It would take way too long to share my own history to fully capture how important those words came across to me when I first heard them and all the times I’ve repeated them in my head since then. I think of all those times when I probably exaggerated the despair over the pseudo and “faux” ordeals that I unnecessarily burdened myself with at the expense of valuable time lost and the damage it caused. As I sit where I’m at now in my life, I can only say that I’m so ashamed of myself and I apologize to my Creator for all those days I despised and destroyed, along with all those “tomorrows” whose future occurrence I dreaded – how’s that for honesty?
I understand now, and thankfully not too late given my close calls with mortality, that each day was my own personal gift with resources to invest as I saw fit and that the “tomorrows” were only a privilege with no assurance that they would ever begin. I was such an f’ing fool and I also apologize to those who continually attempted to point out the overwhelmingly numerical reasons why my life was better than the few I chose to focus on and torture myself with – again, how’s that for honesty?
So my point, especially to you Son. Never under-appreciate the simple, basic elegance of the days afforded to us since they pass out of our vision too quickly and thinking what’s ahead of us to replace it just may never be there. It shouldn’t take that particular Marine or some old guy who fell on his head leading to a massive brain bleed, with the odds numerically against them more than most others for getting another “tomorrow”, lead you to understand what is right here in front of us is the only time that we are guaranteed to make the best difference for ourselves and everything around us.
J remember what I told you: until the last sun sets on the days we are given, every tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of our lives with the odds dramatically in our favor based on what we do, how we live, and the hope we carry towards the next day and it matters not how it ultimately turns out.
So I dedicate this message to my father, the Marines, and all military veterans given that this is Memorial Day and it’s important to me that I do something even if it’s sharing this particular story and associated message. Referring to the Marine Corp credo of “semper fidelis”, I think it’s pertinent to the ideal of being “always faithful” to acting for the betterment of ourselves and those especially close to us.
In my case in thinking about the story above, if we try to practice with that faith and tragically are not “given tomorrow”, at least what is left behind for others is a memory and it should reflect the following: We did the best we could, despite any adversity we had to endure, and capitalized on every internal and external resource available to us to make a joyful difference in the only life that we’ve been given, regardless of whether our own expectations of perfection are met.
I’ll end with this quote because I’ve been waiting so long for the right opportunity and I think it relays such a strong message regardless of the particular religious beliefs that are individually adhered to.
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” – Marcus Aurelius