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The Grey Matters – Progress

| Posted by Harlan

The Grey Matters was the landing spot for the creative and contemplative works that bounce around the confines of my head, as well as the inspirations that put them there. With the re-release of Viva, we decided to merge the blogs. Click here for more behind the meaning behind TGM.

It seems my posts get a jolt of momentum around the New Year. It’s fairly easy to figure out why, as this time of year offers up the challenge for everyone to assess what they’ve accomplished (or not) in the last 12 months, and to further dream to be reset, to relaunch the efforts to be the best person they possibly can be. There are plenty of studies and writings and conjecture on the merits of New Years resolutions, and I as well have my thoughts on them. I’m not particularly interested in joining that conversation at this moment. Instead I’d prefer to give an update to one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written, and an encouragement to you (whoever you are) to continue battling and persevering through.

To recap, last year (2012) was not a fun one for me. To make an extremely long story more brief, I made choices that put a strain on me, my relationships with my wife, family, and friends. I was foolish, and my diversions cost me much more than I could have imagined, and put me on a path I didn’t expect, nor desire to be on. And even then, the fallout from my decisions was especially harsh.

When you become honest about your faults and fears, you sometimes unknowingly invite the demons of fear in others. Your inadequacies become less humble, less meek, and more threatening to those you love.

While it’s taken me a long time to understand and to forgive those who abandoned me in my darkest hour (I’m still working on it), it’s been one of the most holy journeys I’ve ever been on.

As an aside, I feel it important to interrupt the brainstorm that is likely bouncing around your head. The desire to know what happened, what I did/didn’t do, what I used/didn’t use, how I lied, etc., is strong. I understand that. Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter what happened. I got caught up in something and once I realized it, it was very difficult to come back. Life is complicated, it’s messy and all we have is the hope that grace is bigger than our failures and the ideas of who we should be.

But that was 2012. It’s been a year since that part of me died and a new me began.

To be honest, I’ve found it extremely difficult to come up with the words to describe the past year. I feel like I’m supposed to have some epiphany, some denouement and resolution with which to spur on the world to not get caught up in what I did, don’t go down that road, learn from me. The hard part is that I might just not be there yet – I still struggle with the abandonment, I feel the subtle perforation of my heart. Sometimes my obsessive introspection is maddening. There’s but a delicate margin between the person I feel I should be, the person I actually am, and what I believe it will take to align the two. I’m not the person I want to be, not yet or maybe ever.

But I’m also not the person I was.

I wrote a note in a journal one night while I was in college. I didn’t know then how intensely personal it would be for me until much later, when I would pen it as a song in my first album, and take it as a personal slogan.

I hope that you’ll see me somewhere in between who I was and who I could be.

This time of year arrives with mixed emotions. There are ways that we’ve progressed, become better versions of ourselves, and the fresh turn of the calendar is just the motivation we need to achieve even greater things. But we’ve also missed the mark. The things that plagued us and kept us from our goals are with us still, nagging and hanging relentlessly on. There’s the pessimism that this year will be similar in our failures to find the point where our reality aligns with our ambition. And still, there’s the hope, genuine hope, that this year can be better than the last.

It’s all about progress then, no? I spoke with someone recently that encouraged me to come up with a single word to symbolize the upcoming year. As an example, he mentioned the founder of the Salvation Army, William Boothe. In the early 1900s, Mr. Boothe wanted to send a note of encouragement to his officers around the world. When presented with the challenge of sending a one-word telegram, he arrived at the simple, but profound message, “others”. His vision and ambition packaged in one simple word. To be others centered. Awesome.

My single-word vision might not be as profound, but it’s important to me. See, I’m good at setting goals. I’m skilled at brainstorming and visioneering. (That’s probably not a word, so consider me equally talented at using made-up words.) What I’m not good at, if I’m painfully honest, is accomplishing those goals. I get things done, I work hard, I’m busy, etc. But when it comes to the cards I keep close to the chest, the ambitions I am passionate about, I often fall painfully short.

So my word for the year? You guessed it. Progress. I want to contrast this only slightly from the “take it one day at a time” mentality – not that there’s anything wrong with that. More, I want this to be something where I can look back on my goals and legitimately be able to say there’s progress there. I’ve made strides toward arriving at my ambition. It’s much easier for me to envision a build toward those pursuits – some of them are lofty – rather than having them all completed at once. Maybe you’re like me in that way. I can only get there by taking that first step.

Again, I have no epiphanies or grand solutions to reaching our goals and ambitions. I only have progress. A step forward. This year is that great first step.

Husband. Father. Amateur Entrepreneur at @paradigmdfw, @orsorealty, & @grymttrs. Collector of hobbies.

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