The weekend!

August 5, 2012


I’ve had a great weekend so far and it’s not over yet.  I was camping with friends on Friday, at a birthday BBQ last night and today i’m off to a cabin on a river.  Great summer weekends often seem like a distant memory in the bleak months of winter, so it’s best to make the most of weather and the time with friends while the opportunity is here.

One thing i’m increasingly aware of as I get older is how important it is to be grateful for the opportunities i’m afforded.  Although it’s easy to focus on the negatives in our lives, it’s important that we don’t lose touch of how truly lucky we are.

Enjoy the long weekend (if you’ve got it!).

 

August 2, 2012

 

One of the hardest challenges of setting personal goals is actually following through.  In my experience, many people set goals for themselves and rarely succeed.  For whatever reasons, we fail and we’re left with the unsettling feeling of failure that damages our self-esteem.

On several occasions I have set goals for myself.  Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail.  While I’m happy with my successes, my failures continue to haunt me.  Why can’t I maintain a healthy lifestyle?  Why can’t I stay organized?  I set goals in these areas and I fall short or, worse, I quit.

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” ~ Bill Cosby

The whole process of striving to achieve and experiencing failure does damage to my sense of integrity.  I can’t feel good about myself knowing deep down that I’ve failed.  Even worse, I can recall the pain of failure or the fear of failure preventing me from striving to achieve goals that would greatly benefit me.  This damaging thought process has preventing me from mastering my strengths and improving my weaknesses.

‘Success leaves clues.” ~ Tony Robbins

As I ponder my past successes and failures, I wonder whether or not there is a pattern involved.  I looked online and discovered a list that made sense to me, “7 Undeniable Reasons Why Some People Fail Where Others Succeed”:

  1. They define success wrong
  2. They define opportunity wrong
  3. They define work wrong
  4. They defeat themselves
  5. They think failure is final
  6. They’re a victim of their circumstances
  7. They take ‘no’ for an answer

If I think critically, I believe what holds me back is my ability to stick with my plan.  I feel that I know what I want and what I need to do to achieve my goals, yet I continue to experience failure.

The whole topic is of great interest to me as I seek to make some lifestyle changes that I feel will benefit me greatly.  It has been well over a week since we returned from our honeymoon and while I was away, I consciously decided that I wanted to make some major changes in my life, particularly to certain aspects of my lifestyle.   It is my belief that my bad habits are causing me personal anguish and preventing me from happiness and fulfillment.  My habits are involving me in a ‘downward spiral’ that is difficult to escape from, but not impossible.

Since we’ve returned, I’ve endeavored to eat healthier, exercise, organize my surroundings, and curb my habit of procrastination.  It has taken great discipline, but even within a week and a half, I’ve already experienced some very positive gains.  I believe that if I continue with this trend, I will notice an even greater impact on all areas of my life.  This type of success feels good, and I want to find a way to continue with this trend, and avoid the pitfalls of failure that I’ve experienced in the past.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Perhaps I should consult the list from above to determine a plan for success. However, I’d like to rewrite the list so that it reflects a more positive language:

  1. Define success
  2. Define opportunity
  3. Define work
  4. Create a vision of ‘my’ success
  5. Realize that failure is not final
  6. Realize that I’m in control of my destiny
  7. Say ‘yes’ to success

This seems more appropriate, geared towards creating success in my life, rather than celebrating reasons why people fail.  Numbers 1-4 ask for me to fully understand the concepts of success, opportunity and work, in an effort to better understand number 4, my ultimate vision for success and happiness.  Numbers 5 and 6 are about realizing that I’m in control of my success and that it’s never to early or late to start over.  Number 7 challenges me to put my plan into action, and continue to push myself towards success, even when times are tough.

My homework for this weekend will be to find some time for myself to work through numbers 1 to 4 and determine a plan for my success.  I look forward to exploring this concept further in a future post.

You are what you eat…

August 1, 2012

Recently, while cleaning my workspace I noticed a picture of myself from 10 summers ago.  The picture was taken without my permission, right after a midnight skinny-dip in a lake with some friends.  Luckily (for all of us), I had the sense to grab some clothes and cover my privates before the flash lit the night.  The picture has endured for years, moving with me from home to home.  It serves two purposes: one, as a reminder of good times with friends; two, as a reminder of what I looked like when I was at my prime physical condition.

At the time, I was very disciplined with my health.  I was eating smart and working hard at the gym.  It showed.  I looked good and I felt good.  One of the greatest feelings was that people were noticing.  It was nice to hear people say: “have you been working out?” and “you’re looking great!”.  I had no trouble taking my shirt off at the beach because I had a body I could be proud of.  Call me vain, but I enjoyed the feeling of noticing other people noticing me.  I was young and carefree and it felt as if the world was my oyster.

That was then.  It’s hard to imagine my best years are behind me, but it may be a reality.  When I look at the picture now, I can’t help but feel a sense of shame wash over me. We can’t stay young and vibrant forever, but that doesn’t give me permission to let myself go.  10 years later, I feel embarrassed to take off my shirt at the beach, so much so that I avoid going.

Ok, let me be clear.  I’m not morbidly obese or anything.  In the last 10 years I’ve fluctuated between 195-244 pounds, gaining and dropping weight so frequently I’ve earned the nickname Oprah (not really).  The entire time, I’ve remained athletic and continue to participate in recreational sports.  I can climb a mountain, bike 20 to 30km and play hockey, although, not in the same day.  I’m what you call ‘skinny-fat’.  Parts of me are thin and athletic looking, but my spare tire (belly and love handles) makes me look 7 months pregnant.  It looks as if I’m smuggling a volleyball under my shirt.

I joke, but I consider it a serious problem.  It’s not healthy to fluctuate in weight so frequently and it’s disconcerting to feel shameful about your body image.  I can’t buy into the idea that I should be “happy with who I am” when I know deeply that it’s my fault I’m overweight.  I wasn’t born ‘big boned’, I’ve just been too weak to eat healthy.  I choose the comfort foods over the healthy alternatives.  I’ll choose the hamburger with fries over the salad, or the chips and chocolate over the yogurt and fruit.  The consequences are extra pounds and a sense of guilt.

A little over a month ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding in front of 230 friends and family.  Although it was a joyous occasion, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t have the willpower to work hard enough before the wedding to look the way I wanted to.  My wife was exercising 3-4 days a week and eating healthy, but I barely changed my lifestyle.  For months, I tried several times to get into the habit of exercising and eating healthy, only to give up within a week or two.  Even worse, between the wedding and our honeymoon, I put on 12 pounds.  When I returned, I weighed 228 pounds, and was disgusted with myself.

The day we returned I made a decision that I hope will resonate for the rest of my life.  I decided that I needed to make exercise and healthy eating a must, an absolute priority.  Since returning, I’ve been eating healthy and exercising regularly.  I’ve been frequenting the gym or enjoying the summer weather by hiking or biking.  It has been just over a week and the recent surge of healthy eating and physical activity has already helped me lose 6 pounds.

The best feeling is that eating healthy and exercising gives me a sense of integrity. I have had several opportunities to eat unhealthy foods and avoid exercise, but I’ve had the will to choose otherwise.  I feel good about myself knowing that I have the willpower to choose right and it’s only a matter of time before I start to enjoy the results.

I’ve decided to display the photo of me from 10 years ago where I can see it daily.  It will serve as motivation for me, a reminder of what I am capable of.  I realize that I may never look the way I did 10 years ago, but that is not my intention.  Instead, I wish to be reminded of what I felt like at the time, strong, healthy and confident, and that this feeling is completely within my control.

Taking care of business…

July 28, 2012

 

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A few days ago I took on the task of brainstorming the aspects of my life that are keeping me from happiness.  I created a list of grievances, a collection of thoughts that embody what I dislike about myself.  Suddenly, all of my fears and insecurities were staring me in the face.  In the two days since I made the list, I’ve found myself focusing more and more on areas of my life that need improvement.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not living the life I want to live.

 

Our lives are complex and convoluted, and looking inwardly and examining ourselves critically can have its negative consequences.  It is distressing to identify the objects of our dissatisfaction, many of which are hidden deep beneath the surface.  Looking critically at my own life has been eye opening.  In many ways, I feel as though I’ve taken my car to the shop for the first time and realized that my oil needs changing, my brakes are shot and my engine is rusted.  Ok, I’m being a little dramatic.  Nevertheless, the whole process is overwhelming and can understandingly leave an individual feeling worse than when they started.

* * *

 

The situation reminds me of a story I once heard about a major corporation that was in shambles.  They were in such a state of dis-array, the CEO proposed to the board of directors that the they hire a consultant to analyze the company from top to bottom.  The consultant was expensive and the board of directors was skeptical, but the CEO insisted that a thorough analysis of the company, from the low-level employees to those at top of the corporate ladder, was necessary if the company was to survive.  The company was hemorrhaging money, so the board willingly agreed.

 

The consultant was a particular man and spent several weeks investigating every facet of the company.  He was careful to spend time in each department (accounting, marketing, research and development, etc.), in an effort to fully understand how the company operated.  He interviewed employees and read costumer satisfaction reports.  He spent time in the factory, the mailroom and the employee lounge.  He felt that truly understanding the company was more important than merely looking at numbers.

 

With him through the entire process was the CEO, who was debriefed daily by the consultant.  When the analysis was complete, the board was eager to hear the results.  The CEO delivered the material in the form of a presentation.  Graphs and charts were shown, illustrating financial loss that was far worse than they imagined.  There were major inefficiencies in almost every department and employee satisfaction was at an all-time low.  The company was indeed in shambles.  Yet, at the end of the presentation, after hours of articulating the company’s problems, the CEO boldly stated: “business is better than ever”.

 

The board of directors nearly hit the ceiling, shocked and offended by such a statement.

 

“How can business be better than ever?

“Did you hear what you just said?”

“I thought you said that things were worse than we imagined”

 

The CEO calmly reiterated that indeed, “business was better than ever”.  The board was astonished, but curious.  The CEO continued:
“You see, before we hired our consultant we were not fully aware of our current situation.  We were aware we had problems, but not to this extent.  Now we know our problems and in greater detail. We may not know the solutions to our problems, but we know enough to proceed from a better place.”

 

Most of the board nodded in agreement, but there were still skeptics.  The CEO carried on:

 

“Perhaps by looking more carefully into some of our company’s problems, it may seem as if things may get worse before they get better.  That is only illusionary.  Now that we’ve taken the time to understand our problems at a more in-depth level, we are better equipped to solve them.  Because we are more aware, we will move forward and better manage our resources, reduce redundancy and waste, and increase our market share.  Therefore, business is better than ever.”

 

The CEO is wise.  He saw great importance in the process of thoroughly examining the current state of his company, despite the cost.  In addition, he deemed it important to analyze the entire company, not limiting his view to the numbers.  Most importantly, instead of focusing negatively on the report, he chose to respond with positivity and proactivity.  He did not dwell on the analysis.  Instead, he recognized that his company is in a position to move forwards in a better direction.  Profits may be down, and morale may be low, but at least they knew what they had to work on, even issues they were previously unaware of.  Therefore, business is better than ever.

 

I can learn immensely from this story.  Even though it hurts to critically look at my life, I know, in the long-term, I will be better as a result.  By continuing to analyze my life, I’m confident I’ll be in a better position to understand it more thoroughly.  This information will be invaluable, and serve me greatly as I search for fulfillment and happiness.  It will help face my fears and insecurities with more strength and courage.

 

This wisdom empowers me and I’m overcome with the urge to tackle some of the more pressing issues in my life, from my physical body to the dirty dishes.  Even as I type, I feel a surge of positive energy flowing through me.  It’s time to start my day, and take care of business!  Maybe I should start by getting my car looked at?  Hmm..

 

 

Win the Day

July 25, 2012

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In Ancient Greece there lived a stout, bearded, portly, loincloth clad philosopher by the name of Socrates who boldly claimed, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.  The phrase has endured for thousands of years, spurring debate in countless first year philosophy classes around the world.  It also feels like the most fitting starting point in my journey to discover (or rediscover) wisdom, my happiness and a sense of integrity.

 

The famous quote was delivered while he was on trial, accused of ‘corrupting the Athenian youth’.  He was found guilty and, rather than admit his philosophies were detrimental to society and be granted leniency, he took his own life.  Philosophers and historians believe that the trial was unjust and that Socrate’s was more an enemy of the rich and powerful than a corrupter.

 

He was an expert orator and untouchable in debates, a favorite activity in the bustling Athenian marketplace he considered his home.  Crowds would gather to see Socrates in action, for entertainment and education.  Socrates believed himself to be a ‘gadfly’, stinging people out complacency and forcing them to think about the ‘greater’ questions of life.  Socrates believed that it was our human obligation to think critically about life, our only gateway to happiness.

 

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” ~ Robert Buckingham Fuller

 

As mentioned in my last post, my homework was to examine what it is that is keeping me from happiness. I previously identified that happiness requires personal integrity and self-satisfaction, and without both I’ll never truly experience fulfillment.  I decided that the best way to tackle this task is to create a personal inventory, a list of gripes I have with myself in order to better understand my current situation.  If you want to know what’s in your bag, flip it over and empty it out.

 

The exercise seemed simple to me: make a list of what I don’t like about myself.  I took out an old-fashioned piece of lined paper and a pen and plunked it down on the dining room table, determined to log all of the gripes I have with myself.  Hmm… on second thought, the whole thing seemed a bit masochistic.  To soften the blow, instead of titling the list “things I hate about myself”, I drew a ‘frownie face’.  And, with that careful euphemism, I was off to the races.

 

“There are only two types of problems, the ones we solve and the ones we create.” ~ Mike Murdock

 

At first, the whole process was depressing.  As each item flowed from my brain to the paper it became increasingly clear to me that I was action-packed with problems.  My list was long and extensive, and as I looked it over, I was able to edit it, crossing off items I deemed trivial and combining others that seemed related.  I thoughtfully stared at my refined list and I felt suddenly overstruck by emotion.  The list represented everything about myself that I hated.  Every doubt and insecurity was right there in front of me.

 

I can’t be naïve and believe that this was the first time I’ve ever thought of these issues.  Inherently, all of us are self-aware of our insecurities and the bulk of what keeps us from a sense of integrity.  Truthfully, most of what was on my list was entirely within my control.  I try to remind myself that there is no sense in focusing on issues that are beyond my grasp of influence.  Therefore, my emotion was impelled from the realization that, despite the fact that I have practically always known deeply what troubles me about myself, I’ve chosen to continually live this way.  It truly is masochistic.

 

Why do I keep leaving things to the last minute?

Why do I overeat?

Why am I so disorganized?

Why do I neglect my personal health?

Why am I always so stressed?

Why do I lose my temper?

What is it about Pringles, ‘when you pop, you can’t stop’?

 

I’ve known these things since my adolescent years and it was overwhelming to think about how and why I continue to torture myself.  I know that I’m happier when I’m organized.  I know that I feel a sense of integrity when I can control my food cravings.  I can control my temper, can’t I?  The old axiom goes, “Those who know better, do better”, and yet, something was keeping me from ‘doing better’: me.

 

Afterwards, I looked online to see how my dissatisfaction measured with others.  I found a list of “The 10 Things Unhappy People Have in Common”:

 

  1. They hate their job
  2. They’re constantly worrying about money
  3. They don’t have any active hobbies
  4. They have wandering minds
  5. They commute a long distance
  6. They think ‘stuff’ will make them happy
  7. They’re lonely
  8. They don’t like their town
  9. They don’t have pets

10. They don’t like themselves

 

Generally, I could relate to some of the items on the list, yet others seemed of greater importance to me at earlier stages of my life.  Naturally, my greatest concern is with #10.  Integrity.

 

The whole activity had me in a bit of a sour mood.  I moved on from the list and turned my attention to researching the subject further online.  I am a junky for self-help blogs and slowly I found my mood changing.  As I read, it donned on me that I was not alone.  Most of the blogs I frequent are people introspectively analyzing their lives, yearning to change themselves for the better.  Even some of the more objective sites I follow, online magazines and news and philosophical and psychological academic journals, appeal to our human need for growth.  It felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone, that others are aware of their problems and searching within for answers.  Most of us know we have an itch, but can’t seem to figure out how to scratch it.

 

“Problems do not go away, they must be worked through or they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.” ~ M. Scott Peck

 

I looked around my house and noticed some of the very things that have been nagging at me: my workspace was cluttered and needed attention; there were stacks of folded and unfolded laundry on my couch that needed to be put away; and, it was nearly the afternoon and I hadn’t exercised.  These were the causes of my personal discontent.  Inevitably, I’ll end up in a situation where I’ll frantically search my office for a paper I require or face disappointment because the shirt I want to wear isn’t ironed.  Also, I can’t remember how many times I’ve told myself, “I’ll exercise later”.

 

You don’t need to be an Ancient Greek philosopher to figure out what makes you unhappy about yourself; it’s probably staring right at you.  I’ve begrudgingly been told Thomas Jefferson’s truism, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” far to many times to remember.  Instead, I’d always preferred Mark Twain’s “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow”.  Kidding aside, my habit of procrastination has held me from happiness on more occasions that I can remember.  So instead of continuing with this self-fulfilling prophecy, I got to work, and it felt good.  I cleaned, organized and exercised and I remembered how good it felt to be this productive.

 

“Win the day” ~ Oregon State

 

At the end of the day, I felt good about myself because I was productive with my time and energy.  In the moment, I was happy with myself, and when my wife returned from work, she seemed happy with me.  It felt like my own personal victory.  I chose not to focus on all the things I couldn’t accomplish today, or some of the deeper issues I need to focus on.  Instead, I enjoyed my brief success and I was reminded of the University of Oregon’s mantra, “win the day”.

 

Initially, heeding Socrates advice of living the examined life may feel devastating, uncovering skeletons locked away in the closet, right where we left them.  Dissecting ourselves is a daunting chore, and if we stop midstream we’ll be no further than we started.  It’s analogous to going to Ikea and buying a bookshelf, dumping out the contents and stopping there. If we want the bookshelf, we’ve got to build it and that takes hard work.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with instructions.

 

Yesterday was a good day, and getting my thoughts on paper today is satisfying.  For now, it’s time to get up and get on with my day.  I enjoyed the gym so much yesterday I’m going to go back for a repeat performance.  I’m starting to look like Socrates.

Eggs, happiness and integrity

July 23, 2012

 

Home is where one starts from” ~ T.S. Eliot

 
The end of any vacation is often bittersweet.  Our honeymoon in Thailand was amazing, but it’s back to the reality of being at home.  To be honest, as we pulled into the driveway, I felt happy to be home.  That may have been the delirium of 32 hours of travelling speaking on my behalf, because I can tell you, the weather in Thailand was a lot better than it was the day we arrived.  Plus, I actually had to make breakfast yesterday and when I came home from a family gathering, my bed wasn’t made!  It’s unfortunate because I was getting awfully comfortable with having chefs cook our eggs each morning.  Regardless, I’m happy to be home because I’m eager to tackle some of the areas in my life that need immediate attention.

 
Fortunately for me, I still have 45 days of vacation remaining and ample amounts of time to make some necessary lifestyle changes while I’m not dealing with the hustle and bustle of a busy workday.  In my last post I iterated some of my reasons for wanting to make some changes in my life.  Most notably, I mentioned that I want to live an extraordinary life.  I can already hear the cynics…

How does one live an extraordinary life?

Is there a line that divides ordinary from extraordinary?

How do you know the difference?

You have 45 days of vacation left?!!?

We all have the extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released” ~ Jean Houston

I’m really not sure how to truly define what I’m looking for, but I know enough to know that I’m currently not living extraordinary.  Let me elaborate for the sake of clarity. Do not confuse my desire for an extraordinary life with an excessive life.  I’m not seeking fame and fortune, and I don’t associate a good life with such things.  I’m not looking to live an extraordinary life of travel and thrill seeking by jetting around the world on an air balloon or joining the cast of “Deadliest Catch”.

Instead, I’m interested in living the life I was destined to live.  I want to be the best darn Mr. Socrates I can be, and I don’t want to settle for mediocrity if I can.  I want to be as proud of my accomplishments as I am with the manner in which I accomplish them.  I want live a long life that I can be proud of and I want to leave a legacy behind for my children.  I want to be happy.

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” ~ Aristotle

For centuries, many great minds have devoted their lives the pursuit of happiness, often desperately searching for the secret recipe.  Many philosophers have tried, but none have nailed it down to a science.  If we all knew the secret, they’d be selling it at Walmart.

“Excuse me, where can I find happiness?”

“Down isle 5, next to the scented candles”

I must proceed with caution here because it’s easy to look at my life and think I’m being a tad overzealous.  Much of life is a matter of perspective, and I know that one man’s problem is another man’s prize.  I have many of the ingredients of a great life.  I’m not starving on the streets and I’m not dying of an illness.  I have the love of friends and family and a living room full of wedding gifts we haven’t found a place for.  I am fully aware that I can easily count my blessings.

However, happiness isn’t necessary a matter of what you have, it’s how you feel.  Wait.  Let me clarify.  My philosophical research on the subject, from Plato to Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, in addition to my experience at the “School of Hard Knocks” has led me to the realization that happiness shouldn’t be confused with pleasure.  Happiness isn’t necessarily defined by the feeling you get when you sip a Starbucks latte or a laugh during a rerun of your favorite Simpson’s episode, although they both may help.  Happiness and pleasure should not be confused, because the latte will go cold and the rerun is usually followed by the 6 o’clock news.  Pleasure is fleeting and happiness is here to stay.

The subject is immense and can feel overdrawn and convoluted.  Nevertheless, It’s a subject of great interest to me and I look forward to delving deeper in subsequent posts.

Inevitably, I believe that before we can even enter the debate about what happiness is, it’s important to realize that whatever it ‘is’, it’s unattainable unless an individual believes himself or herself to be happy.  In other words, unless I truly believe that I’m happy, on a steady and consistent basis, I will never be happy.

To be happy with who you are is a concept closely tied to the idea of ‘personal integrity’.
Integrity:

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
  2. The consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles expectations and outcomes.
  3. The state of being whole and undivided.

Integrity is what we say, what we do, and what we say we do.” ~ Don Galer

I value this word greatly, so greatly that it’s the reason I know that I haven’t truly found happiness, yet.  I believe myself to be an honest and moral individual, relatively speaking of course.  Mr. Socrates is no Mother Theresa, but I try.  However, where I’m lacking is in the relationship between my actions and my values and expected outcomes.  If you have an expectation of the life you wish to lead and you’re not delivering, you’re not going to feel good about yourself.  How can you feel good about the person you are if you aren’t the person you claim to be.  Or worse, you aren’t the person you deserve to be.

As I returned from my trip it was evident to me, perhaps by the 10 pounds I gained while on my honeymoon or returning to a disorganized workspace in my office that I’m not satisfied with certain aspects of my life.  I can’t feel integrity knowing that procrastination has cluttered my life and that stubbornness has led to relationships with unresolved differences.  Despite all the things I’m grateful for, I can’t be happy if I’m not happy with myself.

If anything, returning from a vacation is like returning back to being you, back to routine.  Except, this time it feels different… I feel different.  I feel an overwhelming need to make some changes, to be a Mr. Socrates that I can be happy with.  I want to live extraordinarily and it’s clear that my current mission is to find a sense personal integrity.  My search for wisdom is a search for happiness, a search for integrity.  Truth be told, I already feel a little better getting these thoughts out of my head and onto the screen.

For now, it’s time for me to get on with my day and find the time to sit quietly with myself and think about the aspects of my life that need the most attention.  But first things first, I’ve got to go make my own eggs.

At a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet, a blog is born.

July 22, 2012

At this moment I’m sitting on an airplane on a flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, the official start of my odyssey back to North America: home.  Next to me, and drifting in and out of sleep, is my beautiful newlywed wife.  We’re on our way back from our honeymoon, an amazing two-week adventure in Thailand mere weeks after over 230 of our friends and family witnessed us take the plunge into matrimony.  Our journey in Thailand has come to an end as we are 10 hours into a voyage home which we estimate will take us over 32 hours to complete.  Despite the daunting task that lay ahead, our ‘oh so worth it’ honeymoon was filled with a lifetime of memories that make any arduous trip home worthwhile.

We ate amazing food, rode an elephant, whitewater rafted, fed monkeys and trekked through the jungle.  We scurried around from destination to destination taking in as much culture and history as we could and yet still found the time to work on our tan and decompress with poolside drinks and massages on the beach.   Oh, of course, we participated in some honeymoon activities that are best not shared on the blogsphere.  It was an amazing setting for a honeymoon, and a great backdrop for the start of our first official chapter in our lives together as man and wife.

“Everywhere you go, there you are” -anonymous

As glamorous as it all sounds, in between all of the Facebook worthy photos at cheesy tourist destinations and beaches that are only travelled to by boat, there is an aspect of any wandering that all adventurers share: travel time.  Every amazing photo of a Big Buddah or palm trees illuminated by a red sunset was accompanied by a travel log of hours spent in the back of taxicabs, busses and vans.  Every traveller knows you have to pay the price.

A byproduct of far to many hours spent in planes, trains and automobiles is the downtime it afforded us to sit back and take in our surroundings.  Quietly I observed and juxtaposed the insane bustle of rush-hour traffic in Bangkok to the tranquil jungle highways of the North and the scenic blue/green waters of the South and everything in between.  The quiet time afforded me the opportunity to do what I seldom have time to do at home: relax, observe and reflect.  It’s amazing where the mind can go, sound-tracked by an iPod playlist and moving pictures that rival any episode of Breaking Bad (kickass show by the way!).

As we travelled between Bhuddist temples and mountaintop viewpoints, I was logging mileage in my mind, searching the nooks and crannies of my soul for some answers.  The last few years of my life have been a whirlwind of experiences both challenging and uplifting.  I’ve seen my 30th birthday, various professional successes and adversities, the purchase of a house, sports injuries, weight loss and weight gain, and of course, the wedding.  The aftermath of these turbulent years have landed me where I am today, and shaped me into the person I am becoming.

“Know thyself”

As legend has it, etched in stone on the infamous Temple of Delphi in Ancient Greece was the maxim ‘know thyself’, a blessing and a warning to all travellers searching for wisdom from Greece’s resident Oracle.  To know thyself is to look inwardly and ask yourself life’s most pertinent questions in an effort to make sense of the life you lead.  My search within accentuated emotions, both blissful and painful.   While many shy away from self-reflection, I welcome it warmly. My thoughts kept reaching in the same directions:

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What have I done with my life?

Am I happy?

Am I successful?

Am I doing things right?

Am I leading an extraordinary life or have I settled for mediocrity?

I’ve posed these questions several times throughout my life, but with recent events and the natural maturation process of ‘growing up’, I’ve found myself fixated on the questions I feel that I don’t necessarily have the answers to. I’d like to think that I know who I am, what I stand for and what I’ve done with my life, but could I be wrong?  Am I happy?  How do I measure my own success? Am I doing things right?  Thinking inwardly can be both depressing and uplifting.  The mind is a playground and a prison cell and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hours of relative silence, whether laying blissfully on a beach or sitting reflectively in an airplane, like a form of meditation, has a way of bringing out the answers from within. Each answer only serves to create more questions.  Like travelling, it’s the journey and not the destination that is most revealing.  I feel that self-reflection, to ‘know thyself’, is the only true avenue to inner peace.  I may not be there yet, but if I’m looking inwardly, I’m confident I’m on my way.

As we dart through the air on our way home it feels as if my life is at a crossroads.  Although my journey to Thailand is at an end, my journey through life is well underway.  I am happy for the time and the opportunity to think inwardly, and I’m hoping that this blog will serve as a way to continue with this process and connect me to others who may impart me with their life experience and wisdom.  I believe the answers are all around us, hidden in the beauty of nature, in the scriptures of both ancient and modern philosophy, or sleeping next to you on an airplane.  Wisdom is everywhere, and I’m hoping that in time my search will reveal it to me.