You don’t get many chances to pay back what’s been done for you. Take them. – Woody Hayes
(A Favorite I Wrote In 2015 To Jason As He Turns A Year Older Today – It Seems The Message Has More Meaning Each Year He Grows)
“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” – Dalai Lama
Jason because I’m your Dad, I’m going to leave this for you to think about because it took me a lot longer to put into consistent practice. The easiest decisions we make for ourselves are either the most obvious or convenient. Oftentimes the hardest decisions are the ones that are best for ourselves because of not only what we gain from them, but the things and people that we give up or are left by the rode side on the way to the destination we want to move towards. We are strengthened if we exercise kindness for ourselves and find the inner peace that are the most important and basic components that will get us towards where we hope to end up. I think the answer doesn’t really change to the questions that continue to confront us in either our minds or God’s eyes and His role I believe is solely to give us additional clarity and strength to make those difficult decisions. Also the results don’t change other than to grow more problematic when we end up delaying them for the sake of ease, convenience, or avoidance of the inevitable confrontation. You are the only one who can provide the greatest gifts to and for YOU as you get older because the situations and circumstances are fading from my and Mom’s control but never our support.
Read this again: “In reflecting on the times of my life, it occurs to me that the difficult, arduous experiences always pass, or at least wane to a tolerable level. On the other hand, thankfully, the positive, uplifting aspects of my life’s journey seem to hold strong and steady throughout, as long as I appreciate and nurture them.” What we think we lose while we are young coupled with the importance we apply to them will fade in time sooner when you’re younger, and the other things that fill those gaps will make us question why we didn’t act sooner!
I’m no genius but I can tell you that there has not been one thing I’ve lost in the past, including my parents, where that void wasn’t eventually filled somehow and somewhere to give me something that would allow me to continue to see a future full of optimism. I’m not just talking about the addition of you and Christian in my life, but all things including what I surprisingly discovered along the way while recovering from an injury where I didn’t expect to learn so much from. It’s funny how things just worked out that way from the most unorthodox circumstances and with it, the peace I was seeking slowly settled within my soul where it could be best served.
“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” – Abraham Lincoln
On this day 506 years ago, Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were revealed by the Pope.
Now I don’t expect something even close to that magnificent masterpiece of human creation by the legendary artist but I hope it inspires you to do something of simple greatness of your own design today. I mean if he could paint and bring something so beautiful into existence while in the most uncomfortable positions for @ 5 years, it would seem it should be simple for you to add something positive in not only your, but other’s own lives.
If you can’t think of something new to achieve, just do something extraordinary with one thing that you do on a daily basis. In many ways, there’s a simple magnificence to doing purposeful things which you can be proud of but as usual, that’s just me thinking again for you guys but why not give it a try!😘
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe
I’m not a big fan of cliches. They are used too frequently without thought and just products of repetitive statements we use during complex situations that certainly require something of more value and sentiment to the recipient.
I was thinking of one in particular. “I’m here for you” or “I’m there for you”. I get the basic gist of it – a simple offering of support and maybe a little more but what should it mean? I guess I could devote a great deal of analysis to these statements but my evaluation is centered around what I’ve meant when saying it in the past compared to now, and what it’s meant when offered in my direction.
Thinking of when I used to say it, I pretty much meant it literally. I’d be “here” for someone but they’d have to generally come to where I was if they needed something important. I was “there” for someone but not really. I was usually at a safe distance so that I would be unable or unwilling to get “there”. Not always and maybe not intentionally but in thinking back, too frequently.
In addition, I find little comfort when someone says “I’m there for you” when going through tough times. I really don’t need a congregation of people at where I’m at since I already know how I got “there” and don’t like where “there” is at. I may not expect the answers but it won’t help me to have company “there”. What is needed is a temporary escape from “there” and maybe another mind and set of eyes to show me a possible way to get out of “there” because a cascade of thoughts and emotions sometimes complicates the recognition of the simplest and most logical solutions.
I know, this sounds like a bad comedy bit but here’s the point. Now when I say “I’m here for you”, it means that when called upon, I will be “there with you.” I understand that trying to provide a quick solution to a complex dilemma generally leads down a more complex path or at times, proving to be more destructive. I do know that taking someone from where they may be (figuratively and/or literally), slowing things down, maybe mixing a genuine hug and reason to smile, and letting them be heard so that they can hear themselves on the outside of their mind provides a good starting point to get out of “there”. This then challenges the best parts of myself by seeing what that person (not me) is capable of doing and offering small guidance about what might be done to slowly take their initial steps somewhere else. Importantly they will know that if needed, I will support and help them up (not carry) when they stumble and fall. More importantly I will reinforce them on the best direction because it’s their obligation to “make it happen” for themselves.
This is a lot of words but a simple point I hope you recognize. By who you are, you have the best potential to be difference makers. By virtue of how you were raised and the nature of your character, personality, compassion, morality, and fundamental beliefs, you can provide so much of the best part of who you are to others. I’m not just talking about the obvious targets like girlfriends or family but also friends and acquaintances who are reluctant to demonstrate the hidden cracks on their hearts and souls.
How often do we ask “what’s wrong” and get a response like “I’m fine” or “okay” (save that discussion for another day) and settle for it when we know things are absolutely the opposite. I won’t ask “what you are waiting for” but more “why are you waiting”? You are no longer the “innocents” of my generation but increasingly responsible and accountable for your generation. If you want a perfect world, time to start perfecting the world around you and see if it can be expanded a bit at a time through your own acts of kindness based on your own goodness.
I’ll end with the words of a U2 song. “A broken (or injured) heart is an open heart” so if you recognize it, maybe that’s the time you could really be “there” to help it heal – this is separate and apart from romantic relationships but on a more profound scale. Simple gestures might just lead to small miracles. Either way, I’ve been “here for you”, will be “there with you”, and help you get away from “there”, and always will! It’s not hard to find me, you know?
So think about what you say to someone and the actual real meaning behind it and then, give more meaning afterwards to what you just said because one day you may be the one person they need to rely on! It may be a heavier burden than anticipated but sometimes, affirmations that evidence your character may also call upon untempered accountability so that the perfect world you’re looking for might reveal itself beyond your horizons.
(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
(In looking back, I saw that I wrote and posted these thoughts again on New Years Day last year. Although not everything turned out perfectly which of course is to be expected, there were more than enough blessings throughout the year to believe that the following mindset and approach still applies as the remainder of 2018 awaits to reveal itself.)
“The quality of our lives can simply be broken down and measured through the following: the initial choices we make from what we know, the circumstances which arise that impact those choices, and the choices we make in response thereafter to what we learn from both!” – Joe Dicochea
As we exit the previous year and enter the new one, we should remember not to dwell too much on the past because I’m not sure what good it will do. I encourage all of us to take the good memories from 2017 and cherish them for as long as we can recall them. As far as any mistakes, we should make whatever retribution necessary, learn from them, act accordingly, and just move on. We need to avoid beating ourselves up over them and anyone who wants us to continue to do so is doing it more for their benefit, not ours! I cannot engage in that latter practice because Lord knows, it’s hard enough focusing on my own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth, welfare, happiness, and harmony.
I hear a lot of people say that 2018 is either going to be a “good year” or “better year”, probably since it’s like the beginning of the MLB Season where all teams start with a clean slate with the unrestricted hope of the possibility of a championship season. As for me, I love optimism since as Winston Churchill once said, “I’m an optimist because it doesn’t make sense to be anything else!” However I have figured out that truly great things rarely happen by accident or mere chance. “Good” things happen to good people because they generally do good or correct things, or they have “good” people surrounding them for support and protection when needed.
I suggest we all take a moment today to at least take an overall look back on this year and then imagine where we see ourselves. If we want a better year, I suppose it’s logical to simply start by continuing to do what works but maybe doing it better. For those things that didn’t or haven’t worked, it makes sense to just simply change or approach them differently if we haven’t already learned to do so. Resolve to be consistent as the year progresses and just look back at the end of each month and see how 2018 is unfolding. I’m guessing that if we do so, we’ll get the year we’re looking for and probably a little (or a lot) more!
Along with your other New Year’s resolutions, please incorporate the following into them. “Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”
I’m optimistic that we’ll all have a Happy New Year because it doesn’t make sense to envision anything else, you know?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I’ve also learned from experience that it’s not about who strikes first or last; it’s about understanding the distress and anguish that could have been prevented had I never stuck at all and if so required, how it could have been better delivered if tempered by an appreciation of my own intrinsic and fundamental humanity. – 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!
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!