Light in the Shade

Damn – I really didn’t see that coming. Life can give you every reason to smile.

If you ever experienced a significant loss, you realize how much we take for granted, and how easy it becomes to drift away. We lose our focus emphasizing negatives in our lives, and fail to realize an awakening that begins.

The big picture shows that our generation pumps the brakes on love and careers. The cause – a multitude of factors, but as the digital age connects the world through smartphones, our souls and inner circles starve in disconnection. We work to make ends meet vulnerable to these distractions. When deciding or validating which side of socially constructed divides we stand, we lie stagnant in our own battles. There’s noise out there and the volume is always up, what kind of influences do you allow in? Observe the consequence, and plug into the thoughts sparked by you.

Time proves that with any major experience lies a lesson; a seed for growth or a hurdle to clear. Our conscience is constantly pulled in different directions. Both personal and financial stresses can boil over into other problems, or worse – health matters. And nobody deserves that pain. Learn to let things go, life can’t be taken too seriously and doesn’t have to be figured out today. There’s something special about a plan or two, reaching goals is a beautiful thing. But without love and good health, you have nothing. Take your time and stand up for yourself, this is my take.

Commit to something, honestly. Try proving the law of attraction with some focus and persistence. People will say what they think you want to hear, so appreciate those who speak truthfully or at least show you with behavior. There are song lyrics and jokes about catching feelings these days, feeding it to the world as a weakness. But strength is in understanding, trust in your intuition, feeling is what grows you. If it still feels wrong – take a chance, open up, or make a change, others will just switch the filter. Drown out the hate, this world doesn’t owe you anything.

No egos necessary, humility is served by the world eventually. Life isn’t always fair, but it’s better when you’re happy with how you have it, and still stride forward every day.

Love is being real, shared unconditionally. Doubts are highlighted in shades of grey. The 50-50 type doesn’t last, and those giving 100% sacrifice the most; hearts turn cold and eyes shy away. The good-ones deserve it all, and we already discussed how tough it is to give, so be grateful for their time. And always save enough for you. Take a look at yourself and watch Love grow everything along the way.

Living free in her light.

Vision’s clear. Words typed in black and white, true colors never fade. With your path or with love, start over if you have to. Find light in the shade.

Chasing

Love. When it flows freely, you know. When it does not, you fear it’s because of you; or worse. You wasted it on them. Some doors never open, and others might never let the light in.

Explanation. Unnecessary, but it shouldn’t hurt to ask. Better yet, it shouldn’t hurt to answer. No hard feelings, people seek understanding to get over a clouded past.

Reality. I hear people speak down on others taking shots, or like this here; sharing words. You can feel them slam a gavel on courage. How did visions move through generations? A gift from above was in your creation, and subsequently anything you create.

Truth. Any form of hatred is just a reflection of somewhere inside yourself, so flip the cam and focus on your plate again.

Free. No filters, the message applies in every way.

Forgiveness is born in acceptance and followed by gratitude. Chase it with Love.

A Kid’s Heart

Why write? If you remember the first time, it was against the wall in the hall. Maybe there was a car mixed with some colorful words. We embraced in the action. Living it up was just a race to the other end. The party was over when all the rules set in.

Sorry if I lost you. A kid wasn’t only playing, what did you just imagine?

How warm is your corner? Who’s in it? A good love, maybe, hopefully a friend. Tell me you don’t get the message. The kid screams in you, wanting you to find that again.

Why create? Not everyone gets it. Pure love with a kid’s heart.

A Peace of Mine

“It’s 5 O’clock somewhere!”

Yeah, enough of that. We get it. You’re stressed and could use a happy hour. But nobody cares anymore, welcome to America! What do you do with your free time?

I start to think about all of things that were chosen for us since day 1. Our background, education, and environment allowed each of us to develop a core set of morals and values shaping our lifestyles today. The fast-paced culture molded us together programming various sets of rules to live by from the start. Forget what you believe is right or wrong, there are always exceptions. Regardless of your personal problems, accept that we’re not all built the same. Discomfort and disagreements are prerequisites of change.

Open up about it. You’re closed off after another drag of a day. Money comes and goes, but I’m not making sense, yet. You get home, walk into the room, throw keys on the table, and jump on the couch or bed; damn, that phone is out quick. The new rule of thumb, relax a little. We work to pay the cost of living, numbing our time, viewing stories and posts on the app you flipped from. I bet the TV is on in the background too. Visual media is designed to attract eyes, retain focus, and keep you coming for more. Programming genius, it only takes a notification to trigger your dopamines. The addictions might already be pulling you back. Break the chain and throw a heart on it later; a talk can go a long way.

Are you doing what you love, or just collecting a paycheck? If you value the time, realize we are paying either way. How are you spending tonight? Better yet, let’s see how long you can pay attention. I don’t write these words so you think I’m “woke”, I’m tired of witnessing good people sleep through a death sentence. Life can be short, pardon the dramatic effects. The crowds fill with stale emotions, while individuals search for love that unconditionally stays. A happiness that starts with you. In a society constantly distracting us from our purpose, and a culture driving a stake through us and our homes, a divided mind and soul search for the real you.

Appreciate the power in a simple message. On it or off the radar, don’t mistake absence as a lack in care or confidence. Even if you think I turned cold, I apologize. It’s about that time, and I was running low.

Excuses for some, but I imagine most of us expect more from certain others. A relationship is valuable, and it deserves attention and effort. It’s time some can’t consistently give, because they never appropriate enough for themselves. Or maybe they just don’t have the heart to only give you half. Gratitude with acceptance is all it is. Cheers to those who are just living. You deserve it all.

Laugh when the good times are rolling. Stop when it hurts too much to push forward. Cry when the pain is too deep. Don’t lie or withhold truth to avoid discomfort. Text it if you have to and by all means, slow down. Breathe, meditate, or pray on it. Get with the real program and show love to yourself and others. Treating honesty, honestly – there’s honor in being the realest version of you. Understand that they won’t all accept it, but you should. Have the will to move on.

It’s ironic; they will pour the love on extra when it’s over. With broken ties, they might even resort to hate or slander your name. Either way, I hope you find the strength that builds in forgiveness; for them, and for you.

If we’re all just walking together in this temporary life, why would we ever let disparaging views, social norms, expectations, or comparison waste what’s true? Another exception that will rule; less becomes more.

With endless information and content at our fingertips, while being “connected” to one-another 24-7, the streaming stimulation creates an unrealistic desire for instant gratification. It seems as though our generations evolve through this digital age with a collective head in the clouds.

As do the skies when they become heavy, we should open up and allow our world to grow. Take some time to water the soul. If you’ve been struggling with what holds you down or brings you pain, let the light in and let it go. Pure love is contagious. Find yours.

A peace of mind – Love, thank you.

Lights on

15 years my junior, he only had half my time. Too young, a child should never have to go. I can’t fathom the fear he had, pain he felt, and the pain his family is going through.

Misidentified, any kid was the wrong kid, more right should have been done for him. Because of videos, we actually see and feel as if it was our own. Cruel world, Junior gave his all to survive. I think this one makes us feel more. Tears of our city fall for a son of peace, an NYPD explorer.

Candles and condolences are still being shared all across that sidewalk. If only we all walked side by side. We can only hope for the storms to pass, but it’s hard losing without another look in the eye.

Man, kind, is lost. But this is New York City.

Broken people do horrible things, maybe their environments need to be treated for growth. We can’t chalk this one up to gang violence and keep letting these news stories rinse and repeat. Just like all of the shootings, how can we stop it and build our society around safe, collaborative communities.

Today, we hear it’s better to care less, when clearly, people aren’t careful. Why did those suspects behave so natural in the attacks? What brought their lives to the point that gangs became their chosen path? No doubt, justice will be served in due process and prison. They’ll get what they deserve, but that won’t bring a kid back home. This victim or the next.

Pardon me, a part of me is losing my faith. How can we cut the root from it all?

We saw people react in the moment, hard to find a lending hand. Some phones came out, but more videos were made than calls. Even the corner store closed when Junior returned a second time for help. Adrenaline rushes, so I guess we can’t rush to judge actions in another’s shoes. I can suspect regret is heavy on a few hearts from that night. The news coverage and support will dissipate over time, but for those shouldering the load, it’s a constant battle to keep that lost love alive.

“United States of America!” The weight we used to carry, but now we wait until a loss. With so many people in pain, heartbroken, or stretched so thin from work, we need to gather the strength to speak up. Blue collar, white collar, and those on the thin blue line. Looking passed the divisive issues between us, we need unity to protect our peace. A battle against unnecessary hate for humanity, we find that love is lost in some souls.

The community lights candles for that deeper shared love to remain strong. No matter the harsh realities of our times, I hope you keep that light on and stand tall.

Like he did.

Please hold on when you have it, and find that peace before you lose it. How much time we have is not our choosing.

I’m just thinking. I’m just writing. Pouring one out for a son fallen. Hoping. Praying…

Justice for Junior.

Justice for all.

Horrible, I didn’t watch those iphone videos and surveillance of that brutal attack until a friend showed me a few nights ago. The anger keeps setting off in me. The senseless violence, stabbings, shootings, and hate. Seriously, where does it all stem from? I’m not saying these things never happened, I just don’t think it was ever this vicious. But what can we do?

I have my ideas, but it seems like there’s a battle on every surface. Unfortunately, it seems a heartless few fall through the cracks.

I still can’t understand how those gang-members could sink to such unthinkable lows. We know karma always kicks back. Some blame it on the environment and like their victim was in the moment, I’m sure at some point they were left neglected and alone. Sadly, some communities are dealt similar cards. I can’t pinpoint solutions to all that feels wrong.

More depth to more ideas, maybe I should take some action. Here’s a few thoughts on the surface of what I believe can breed a little more peace in our world.

Can we implement extensive after school or community programs to fuse more of our youth with structure, inspiration, and leaders? Why not make careers that are vital to our society more rewarding and lucrative? Increase training, development, and salaries for our police to protect us in our schools and streets. Let’s pay our teachers, counselors, and social workers what they deserve as they work tirelessly with kids to preserve the future. Further, teen mental-health issues are on the rise. Can schools be more involved with kid’s lives at home since trends show parents became less involved at the middle and high school level?

Maybe the value of life should be given constant attention at both home and school. Remember the D.A.R.E. program that they pushed and still push in class? “Dare to resist drugs and violence?” Ironic, those things have always been easy to find on our TV, and now social media. Directly into our homes, and it’s a shame they say that’s where the heart is. Maybe for some, it drifts away.

Protect it. Keep the light on love.

For Junior, a strong moment of silence.

Community Reacts – NYDailyNews

Silence Speaks

Turn up the volume, and press play.

“Say hello to my little friend!”

Did you ever watch “Scarface”? Classic lines – all a man has in this world is his balls and his word. Forget breaking them; these days, they get left on “read”!

Still empty promises, you will be reading this again. One big misunderstanding, millennials swipe left on love.

An addiction – this is actually dope, I mean deep. We use humor, sarcasm, cold fronts, cockiness, or other dummy means as a barrier to our deeper layers. No hard feelings. Actually, no feelings at all. We build a wall with intentions of making others pay for it; it’s the American way!

My apologies, moving on – focus! Some people feel like they have the whole world on their shoulders. I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is another quick trip into the deep end. If you take anything from this at all – don’t think too much, dive in.

I finished writing Lost ones found, then came a vision of her eyes. She can heal the world when she smiles.

A piece of my peace – Love.


Look, it’s exhausting isn’t it? We’re tired of people telling us how to tie and walk in our shoes. How to live and how to love – they don’t know our truth. They’re in our TV, our phones, at work, family, friends, and our homes. They don’t know what weighs on our conscience, or what fuels the fire that burns inside. The heart wants what it wants. We were always taught to follow it, but learn through failure, loss, or heartbreak that our path depends on how we handle our thoughts with those pains.

Then one day she hit me, Love. We were in over our heads, gasping for air. I slipped a couple times around her, but not like this. “Breathe in the blessings, breathe out the doubt”, she whispered.

On the coldest night, the scars she fed turned to strengths, and this love she spilled allowed an embrace of pain. I could be on top of the world, or going through hell, she shows that heaven on earth could be a smile away. I smile because I will, always.

We try to build the good life, and I’m trying to build all around and after mine. Over-saturation of people and content; minds get mixed up, and noise causes confusion, but the soul will always highlight the play of the heart. You were born to feel that way, so fly with me again. Do you know what love is?

First, sit down; be humble. Humility lies in her understanding.

An unconditional, self and reciprocated appreciation and acceptance, and yet they label her crazy. Accepting what is, working towards what’s best, and trusting she’s returned in your name. Communication is the bridge to her trust, and not every ramp on or off is built the same. Love could never be lost. You either run out of time, or you never walked together. Keep asking, are we on the same page?

Loaded words, “I’m different” tatted on every forehead. I feel the world numb those nerves. She’s loyal to verbs, seek attention to action. Every ego takes an L up front. Cut any losses and build blocks with her all the way up. If it comes tumbling down, we find her light in whatever is left to stay. We always forgive when love is real. Her promise remains, it will be okay.

Easily consumed, her kindness removes all doubt. Feeling her energy, we admire the careful empathy. She’s infinitely selfless and collects every piece of you that drifted away.

I don’t desire a day unless her smile begins it – a peace of my mind. Once again – with a silent mind, the soul accentuates the fate of the heart.

The pure bliss in your presence. A sixth sense, a missing link to the divine. They all fly down with your heavenly laugh and smile; a heart skips over a glance in your eyes.

If you’re broken down about the past, or lost in the now, it all starts within. Let her light up the sky like his only Sun. I caught a glimpse of a soul eclipse, sharing our worlds like they were always one.

It’s a blessing to feel; acceptance of what is, a Love true. Creating a world of happiness starts in you.

In her silence.


Damn, that was serious. You’re okay!

Blind writing, I wonder if I was painting pictures, making music, or maybe moving a soul or two. Where’s the love?

Too busy, it becomes easy to judge or doubt. We doubt ourselves, each other, entire groups of people and it eventually turns to hate. It’s like her love, it just breeds more. We build tough exteriors confusing it for strength, but the truth is we’re actually soft now, shying away from what might spark some more profound life experiences.

I’m talking about love in all forms. In a partner, pursuit of a dream, yourself, work, friends, family, or even in humble exchanges with strangers. It’s a feeling of healing, and nevermind us or those around us, what if those in power gave it more? It just might heal the world. Hate and greed are out here putting in overtime though.

It just seems that we’re pre-conditioned to keep going and keep producing to a point we are spread so thin that we make internal sacrifices. We regress to caring less about connecting at more visceral levels with ourselves or others. Hearts on instagram posts are as far as it goes nowadays. Viral, it spreads quick, and real life takes a hit. We can actually see the compounding external consequences around us in society.

Where’s the love? Broken homes, families shattered in shootings at schools, depression rates among youth higher than ever, and why, for the love of God, are skin color, gender, or sexuality still a divide in such a “progressive” culture? True equality still not attained, maybe they want it that way. “Whatever, we have freedom and a great quality of life in comparison to those in poverty or the third world.” She doesn’t like comparing pains, but it’s true. Change for the better is always necessary though. Nevermind the presidential sitcom, have you watched the #fakenews lately or some regular primetime television? The stabbings, shootings, one tragic story after the other, normalizing violence while desensitizing us all. None of that was allowed on TV a few generations back. Normal for this one, real lives become an exception to the rule of phones. A broken system lined with socially constructed anaesthetics slowly taking true feeling and connection out of humanity. How many times have you agreed to keep in touch with someone, and since then, you’ve been out of it? That’s who we are now, careless and out of touch.

Word.

No easy solutions, but scars are scars. Hide them, cover them up, or embrace them as realities. That’s what they are. As one person in one family of one people, healing starts with acceptance. Love in our hearts and at home. One love runs deep.

It’s why I said “dive in”. If your hurting, working, or turning up, pour some love on it with your time. Make a splash in this world, and sit back and watch the waves when you can. Even if they move just one. Thankful for it all.

Born to Fly

Lucky me, last born in a family of 6. I was 3 weeks late too, why rush? Albanians are rarely on time. I had countless people to take after growing up. I wanted to adopt as many qualities that I viewed as strengths, so I’d be ready for the punches when they fly in. I realized at an early age I wasn’t exactly built like the crowd, so I felt the need to be prepared. No better or worse, I just had a unique background; 100% Albanian, and therefore, wired differently.

Being the youngest and often mocked by elders, I thought I was supposed to speak the language to be a “True Albanian”, and I actually never spoke it well. Resenting the repetitive jabs, I found solace in the free lifestyle, without judgement in “American ways”. Outsider looking in, I realized how blinded I was. I overlooked how deeply rooted the Albanian culture was with me.

Our ancestors endured the struggle, and our parents and grandparents were dropped in this melting pot of New York with no choice, but to start from scratch, and continue our traditions and creed. Family over everything, back then it was the only way. It had to be tough on those who first landed. It wasn’t until high school, that I realized how much our background was a driving force in my character. We couldn’t ask for a more distinct, developmental experience as the true, first generation. We know it’s okay to get knocked down, but like those before us we get up, go to work, and hold the blessings tighter along the way. I’ll meet your face with a smile every day. With all of their sacrifices, they gave us this good life.

It was not uncommon to meet someone in my late-teenage years, divulge the fact I was Albanian, and hear a stigmatized response come my way.

“My boyfriend got beat up by Albanians,” a random girl would say.

Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, what did he say to them?

It would be something along those lines, but I despised the negative-tone reaction towards me based on actions of others, and the sweeping generalizations about our people.

I later realized the perceptions of our culture never told the whole story.  Never mind them, I don’t think we fully understand the effects of how recently the roots were pulled from the tree. Of course it wasn’t going to be smooth integrating here socially. You have seen the news, and the pictures they painted of us all over TV.  It wasn’t always pretty, nor untrue, but today we see new faces, and they’re painting stories of hope!

Raising positive contributors throughout society, credit goes to the progressive 80’s, 90’s, and turn-of-the-century immigrant parents for raising quality, respectful Albanian-Americans. Maybe the first generations here felt the struggle more deeply, a proud representation of persistence over adversity, and a loud voice creating and molding our assimilating culture today.

We see it on the big screen now, so many in the Albanian community with success across industries. Creative talent in music, art, and movies. Successful business owners, executives, managers, doctors, lawyers, and now even political representation in New York.  They say we like to brag, but our flag should shine bright when the lights are on.  Put yourself out there and inspire who’s next. Culture focused on family, we’re essentially one of the youngest groups here. Why not?

The majority of “us” touched down on American soil within the last 50 years. The American Dream! That’s what our families immigrated here for right? Lord, it seems that’s what people think, but it had little to do with it. It’s what they flocked here to escape from that fuels the burning fire in our collective motive and attitude. Religious and financial freedom was not gifted to us throughout history in the motherland, and living in poverty was hard enough.  Here we are now, lucky to have the opportunity to build our foundation on grounds that let us walk, speak, play, and pray freely.

With a natural curiosity for other cultures, I enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life, and finding in them a similar piece to me. Everyone has a mountain they’re climbing, I guess, maybe something to hurdle together.  Between the feasts of our saints and plethora of Albanian functions, add in sports and hanging out with the school friends, we could feel the polarizing lifestyle influences in the span of a day or a week. We learn to connect with the energies that level with us. Keep the door open, coming in or going; there’s a lot on our plates, and we’re just trying to eat. Raised to master hospitality, we welcome people with respect, until lost, and wear our heart on our sleeve.

They love us for it. We speak our minds, and if you don’t like it, it actually is your problem. But I think the truth goes missing today. Filled with false connections, it no longer flows fluidly, and so, purity fades.  The less we open up each other’s inner dealings, the less we are obligated to day-to-day. Natural reaction of nature. We take the easy way out, because the reality is, society is pulling at our time, and we just always had it easy.

Not so much, right? I am talking about some of the Albanian females. We know even the simple things growing up weren’t given freely, and maybe it’s still no walk in the park. More comments I have heard from people I have met;

“She was Albanian, not allowed out of the house.”

“They have crazy brothers or cousins.”

“I had to drop her off down the street.”

Personally, I haven’t heard any of this recently, all of this was years back. But hold that thought.

I always noticed there would be reasons for peoples actions, deliberately or in-deliberately. People are products of their surroundings. Empathizing with the mentality of the old-school traditional male, head of families. The ideas that were ingrained into their lives were passed on through generations, and became the rules and standards they instilled at home.  They were just thinking, naturally, “We’re the best, why fix it?”

Being the latest to the party, I grew up in a more neutralized environment.  I witnessed the adoption and transformation towards certain Americanized concepts firsthand.  It took a while, but it’s something we should all be grateful for, no matter how steep of a change parents make. Some have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and gratitude is an endless repayment. From these slow reconstructions at home, we see that growth doesn’t spring from comfort, but it falls on us with any change.

As new seasons came along, some more of the old school traditions grew on me. For instance, 600 heads at a wedding, 150 deep at Shpresa’s Sweet 16, 100 at the baptism, and 50 for a gender reveal.  It might be “too much” and just know, we will still be there, celebrating along your side with an envelope in our pocket, and a beer in our hand!

We come together like no other in our greatest moments, and in loving support during our darkest.  Try to make the most out of every single day. We can’t let this lose it’s authenticity, do we have the time? The price of ambition in America.

Even while fully empathizing with the traditional Albanian thought-process, I still don’t understand the principles that propelled it to the extremes.  Some denied a daughter equal love at home, and some lacked discipline in the y-chromosome. It drove a silent wedge between our generations, and to an extent, Albanian males and females today. Another sweeping generalization.

“The fight for freedom at home.”

Isn’t that what forced our populations to immigrate throughout history?

Ironically, with traditions and practices that emphasize marriage and motherhood, to pass down family values and cultural pride as a symbol of strength, girls were neglected equal treatment. Thankfully, strides have been made today, but people are still making family trees with hopes of preserving our lineage, a lineage carried by women. Yet, some dismiss the births of females as an afterthought, only celebrating males who carry a name.  Today, you might hear them claim that we are responsible for a fading breed.

“Strong kid, Kelmend genes!” You might hear an older, proud Albanian praise a teenager descending from 1 of the 6 original family villages of the Northern Albanian Kelmendi region. Given warrior DNA, and absolute freedom essentially, discipline occurred for few at home, some on the streets, and most not until provided by themselves. We all felt like men among boys, some treated like royalty before we ever earned a dollar or respect. Tell me you don’t remember laughing in the face of discipline. But true character was found when nobody was watching and work had to be done. We all want to prove we can excel in anything we do.

We all shared this battle. Balancing the extremes of the Albanian and American cultures we may have been speared between. Shaped by the air we breath around us; it’s never too late to exhale and let any of it go, empathize, and speak positively in embrace of our own. With the strength of our fathers, we take after our Mother, just go home and love our families. This world could use some healing, can you spare any change?

Our culture isn’t going anywhere. Proud to be. We know women are the soul of most homes, and divine links to our unborn, our future, and our continued culture, and family legacy. Men will continue to also provide, protect, honor respect, and together alongside, set the bar for our youth so we’ll always be proud to represent.

The Albanian heritage and extraordinary traditions will always be strong, and revitalized with open minds and full hearts.  We just have to put our heads together. Like the youngest brother in the family, loving and learning from those who came before him, striving for a dream; how will we write Albanians into the history of The United States of America?




My sister in-law, Diana, is working with a friend on a project that discusses what we feel it means to be Albanian, and how cultural integration effected us growing up. What it means to me can be drawn across every culture. Unity, respect, integrity, toughness, while embracing individuality, and an infinite amount of joy and love with family and friends; all while we climb this American mountain, riddled with greed. Yet, endlessly grateful, this is where we have been handed a dream, along with the freedom to follow it all the way home.

In my visit to Montenegro and Albania last year, the major takeaway I felt was for the local youth, and the scarcity in opportunity that lies ahead for them. Never mind dreaming, they don’t have options there, and it’s something to think about reflecting on what we have here. We all have a certain amount of obligation to carry the traditions and values that fulfill us and our families.  Our grandparents, parents, and ancestors risked their lives and livelihood coming here with just the clothes on their back. The least we can do is go forward, maybe not carry their burden, but embrace our relatively simple struggles and continue to strive for all that we wish for. We should be proud of where we came, who we are, and where we’re going. This is our chance to harmonize the best of both worlds.

AlbanianAmericanArt

Thank you for reading. Diana inspired this topic and has been a big supporter of my writing.  You should check out the foundation of a project her and Alfie Ljuljduraj are working on in the link above. Maybe at their conclusion, and with a collaboration of collective experiences, we can draw out growth and identify commonalities in the traditions we plan to carry with us in tomorrow’s Albanian-American culture.

*For all intents and purposes, I wrote this towards any immigrant, descendant of one, or anyone that ever felt caught between the two crowds or family. I also took into account a dwindling attention span in 2018.  I did not elaborate on the Albanian culture’s effect on multi-cultural relationships, the acceptance of minorities, as well as those in the LGBT community. We have moved in a welcome direction along with society. I think happiness should always be celebrated, and as long as you are happy, those who are truly yours should remain, accept you and those you choose, and let you be. Free!

Lost ones found

That moment you realize death only changes one thing. It signifies the end of a soul’s presence in it’s physical being. That soul’s love and energy continue on in a different form, in and around us all, always. We choose to believe it in order to feel it, it’s called Faith.

For those not so in tune with their spirituality, you might think that idea is farfetched, and death signifies the absolute end. Physics’ 3 Laws of Energy; Conservation of Energy states that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed, rather, it transforms from one form to another.”

Okay, but energy is referred to in those laws scientifically, as in ATP, hydropower, solar, or fuel. I get it, the spiritual energy discussion can never be proven, but unless your religious or personal belief system is fundamentally different, disbelieving is essentially a pessimistic approach. We all have energy, and it needs to go somewhere. Not believing in a higher afterlife existence in a world where there was a 1 in a quintillion chance of your own Earthly existence sounds like negligence.

Why do we dream or feel a lost one’s presence at times? Why have I heard countless people say it “felt like they were still with us”? Their souls, their love and energy have to keep going. As soon as we allow ourselves to welcome this idea and their energy, we can start to heal from the pain of our physical loss, and we can continue to share the love we always have, just in a different way. I’m telling you, there are higher beings at play.

IN GOD WE TRUST

Don’t we?

I was roughly 18 years old when I was first finding a true sense of my spiritual awareness. We had recently lost my grandfather and we decided to also visit the gravesite of my brother at a cemetery in the Bronx. Little known, he was the second-born, but passed away in his infancy. I didn’t recall visiting in my teens so it was a big moment for me as the youngest. I have always been tight with my siblings, and was curious about the role he plays in my life, and in our lives. I thought of times I slipped away from danger or an accident with ease. Is he out there? Does he watch us at all? Could he be my guardian angel?

I’m thinking this as we were all driving back to Pelham Parkway. You may have heard of it. My extended family was all gathering at my grandparents’ apartment. We park the car and I step out of the rear-left door, and on the floor I find a little black ball. Let me remind you, I was a young adult trying to wrap my head around these family losses, and essentially in the dark when it came to faith. I step out of the car and by my foot, I find a black toy ball with on one side, two big eyes painted on, wide open. It was either a coincidence or a sign, brother above was watching me all the way. Let me hold that thought, never could be too sure.

I am sure he’s smiling now as I write this, right there watching down with my Dad, proud for sure. I’m on the couch across the living room from my Mother and she’s sleeping, TV on, “Modern Family”. Go figure.

Flashback again, this time a few years ago, 26 years old.

Now I was about to be the man of the house, there was only a day or two left with my Dad still physically here. Writing was on the wall, yet I wasn’t ready to deal with fate. I needed to quit thinking of ways to miraculously save him, and start on acceptance. Seriously, my Dad was soon to have his last rites read and there I was, delusional, driving all the way to Port Chester, New York trying to find this magic cancer-curing fruit juice from South America. I kid you not, I think it was called “guanabana”; Taste great actually, but it served no purpose. I guess when it comes to these kinds of things it always feels a little too late, we try anything to compensate.

Anyway, it was time to let go, mentally prepare, and let him drift away into the next life if you will. So one mourning morning I head out to my car for a coffee run. I parked at a CVS in Mt. Kisco overnight across the street from the hospital. I open the driver-side door on my Acura and there they were planted on the side mirror. “Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear” from the other side. Stunned, 2 eyes, again. Similar to eyes you’d find on a stuffed animal, these eyes were affixed to my side mirror, large and perfectly centered. In my darkest times on this Earth, another sign of eyes came back to stare right into my soul. Guardian angels are watching all the time, this time I’m sure. The message; this pain is here, yes, but it’s all meant to be. Trust God.

I pray for strength in those who don’t get that extra gift we were blessed with. Extra time with a lost loved one. We were given two extra weeks with my Dad to wish our farewells. In that time I received the most powerful love in family and sympathy, signs that faith prevails, and signs that it is all written. It’s written right here.

Remove ourselves from the equation, our personal desires to see, touch, or hear them one last time, and just feel the love. It is all we need. It stands the test of time and transforms through death. Be sure to carry it with you, in your heart, and through after your last breath. We’re all walking together, yesterday, now, and forever.

Only the good go young. Every time it has happened it has pushed me closer to becoming more of myself, closer to my dreams.  Every time it has happened it has pushed me closer to the people I belong with. Every time it has happened it has made me appreciate life so much more. A smile, a laugh, a child, a cry; Life is so damn full, unfortunately maybe sometimes He has to take one to remind us of it. Remind us to love and appreciate, it’s what brings out our truth.

If I’m talking to you, it’s meant to be. I could see your eyes now, that love is true. Lost and found, Faith.

Spare some change

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“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.“ – Mother Teresa

The other day I went to the supermarket and bought a few things. A long loaf of sliced wonderbread, 2 packages of Boar’s Head ham, quality american cheese, and some prosciutto. Top of the line, smoked, beautiful prosciutto. I can hear some of you vegans sighing now.  Oh, I picked up a bunch of waterbottles and some ziplock bags too.

I packed 10 ham and cheese sandwiches, plus water bottles into large ziplock meal bags. I knew I would be in the Bronx and Queens that weekend, so I just veered slightly off schedule to give them out to homeless people I came across in the subways. I would avoid the beggars and give to those I saw living reclusively, minding their own business. I hear beggars clean up these days, near 6 figures, untaxed – not bad for hanging out on the E train with a can out all day.

Anyway, I didn’t even think I’d write about this, nevermind sound like a show-off. It’s just a few sandwiches and something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Kind of like hanging with that old friend again, “I never got around to it.”

For real, I wrote this because when I personally handed over those meals to people cotted up in dirty, concrete, NYC, underground crevices, something changed in me. I handed the bags over and I looked into each person’s eyes, and they looked in mine. Because I prepared a bagged meal for them, they were being cared for. It was me slapping the sandwiches together, the moment they were not forgotten. It was that greater hunger I didn’t think about. They would look at me slightly jolted and I could feel the genuine gratitude; It was absolutely incredible.

Except this first guy I came across. Let’s call him Lance, big boy laid out asleep already at the first stop, corner seat of the subway car. He could have pulled an overtime shift of day-drinking, or maybe they just don’t bother him much on the 4 line. Dressed in dirty army fatigues, a big coat, and some shades, I didn’t get the feeling this was a lifestyle he was used to. My stop was coming up, so I tried to leave a bag for him, but he flinched and started mumbling slurs. “You want a sandwich or no?”, “No!” Attempting to get up off there too, he stumbled over himself getting a little louder “Money!”. “No, sorry, good luck!” Lance tripped on the gap behind me as I looked back, change falling out of his coat pockets and what looked like a tube cap of a syringe. This was my one concern, people who lost all control of themselves. Substance abuse is ugly, and that clearly became his only hunger.

Dude, I asked every single receptive homeless person if they wanted 2 mealbags. None of them would take the second free meal. Free for the poor, yet no takers. Explain to me how every time we hear the word “Free”, we jump, and even round up some friends and family to get in on the deal. Unbelievable.

There was one man though, had to be in his mid-40’s. Corner of Queens Blvd. and Broadway. Right by the Chase, we’ll call him that; he seemed upbeat and completely content. He refused a handout completely because he had colon cancer, said he couldn’t eat meat. I asked if he wanted water or anything else. “I’m good, thank you!” he replied cheerfully as he pulled his blanket up, over his feet, and up tight to stay warm. “Okay, take care man, god bless!”

I walked away confused about Chase’s situation. It’s nighttime, literally chilling on the corner, presumably has cancer, smile on his face, positive energy, and just trying to get covered and warm. He had me thinking about my late Father who lost his battle with cancer. He always used to ask us to cover him with a blanket, but most importantly his feet. “Strict orders”, he’d say jokingly. Man, it’s so easy to forget those little things, and hard not to smile remembering them. Chase, on the corner had nothing, and in that moment gave me everything.

Back to the topic, I was giving out sandwiches, and one older man refused my offer for a second meal 3 times. I’m pretty sure his name was Jerry. He was appreciative, took the first meal and politely refused #2. These people simply did not want to take 2 sandwiches because they knew there was a struggling, homeless, hungry human at the next stop or block starving for a meal. Damn! And does anyone ever consider or wonder, “How much do the poor give?”

Well, in this case, priceless memories, or refusal of a free sandwich and water so the next man can eat. They also fumbled away, lost touch, or downright struggled their entire lives, for us to see what they live like, and what we should avoid becoming in life. They show us why we must love, and show it, work hard, and strive to be well-off, so none of our family or friends would be in that situation. They give us a living example of why we should stay off the hard drugs too, or atleast try not to try them.

What do the poor give? What about us, what do we give? You know what bothers me the most?

When I bought the ham and cheese at the H-Mart, I also bought the prosciutto. I bought it for me because well, I wanted the good stuff.  They get the ham, I get prosciutto.  Like I’m any better, honestly! What a fraud I am.  I only gave away 8 of the 10 ” sandwiches, told myself I couldn’t find anymore homeless people and got on with my “real plans”. Then there I was, inhaling a ham and cheese driving home. Loser move, I even left the one last bag an extra day in the car and the sandwich went bad. Good job bro.

At that point I realized, I realized what I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to have nothing. Something most of our parents grew up with, nothing, nothing but each other. They would do anything to ensure we never knew what it was like, and surrounded us with love in the process.

If I had a dollar for every time I opened the fridge as a kid complaining “There’s nothing to eat!”, I could have put Lance, Chase, and Jerry up in The Plaza for a week.  I probably should have given that extra meal to Jerry even though he repeatedly said no. It was in better hands with him. He wouldn’t have let it go to waste; maybe he’s a better man than me.

“How much do the Poor give?”

I’m sorry, not enough, but I hope this leads to more.

Lost in Time

The epidemic is ravaging through the lost millennial generation. Symptomatic, “lost in time”; Carefully careless in relationship and goal standards, dreams work more than we do.

The breakout likely leaked in an AOL chat room in say, 1996. Masses of people streaming directly into your bedroom PC. Contact with the world, without contact; to be you or not to be? No remorse, tech-boomed more distractions and recourse disguised as convenience and “connection” ever since.

Don’t bite the Apple, Eve. Your iPhone is force-feeding you. Over-saturation of content, info, and interaction; it’s easy to depreciate the content in you.

The epidemic doesn’t have a name, but I call it “half-ass shit”. Internally degenerative, externally negative, filling you with emptiness. You get what you give, and I’ve seen, given, and received a ton of half-ass shit.

You’re probably reading this while being sidetracked from another task; just scrolling through, maybe a project, or maybe silent in a room with someone close. Can you afford to get a little closer and connect?

I bet you put a lot of energy into that last relationship too. Feeling cold, you decide it’s best to care less. Reciprocation is what it is, so next time, less you give. Downward spiral, they return the half-ass shit they receive. No refund, open the app, in comes options, and with honest conversation closed, out goes another half-ass relationship. Degenerative catastrophe, cardiac atrophy, resulting in that half-ass heart. Incapable of love from the start.

At work you do what’s asked; sometimes more, sometimes less, and wonder where’s the growth, promo, or your next steps? Maybe you hustle, but how much downtime is wasted in your phone or wasteful conversation? The game, traffic, the weather, or your professional circle gets too personal; you know better. Success has to be prepared for, so if we don’t focus on what’s within, and on our plate, don’t we just delay our purposed path and our fate?

More half-ass shit. We feel we should have been born to a past generation, longing to belong. We think we deserve more, and that more deserve less. Incomplete work and relations, yet money, people, and our have-nots cause most of the stress. We turn cold, half-assing passion. Check the snap, DM, and texts. Hang on to words, and not feelings and action. Let’s make it stop, take a shot.

First and foremost, break free of the chains on your phone. It’s an accessory, not a lifeline. Gather around, toss the vices devices in a box in the corner; let the room get a little warmer.

Pause and assess how much of you you’re giving to goals, to family, friends, hobbies, and your anti-social media. “Not enough time in a day.” Half-ass response, be truthful to yourself and others. Cut out the clouds of doubt and get out of any traps of “unknown”. Pay attention to who gives you their time, and everyone and everything that returns yours with understanding, plus peace of mind. Be real, and if it’s not returned, walk away. It’s not you, it’s them. Give it all again.

Since the last time you gave me yours or even this moment now, know I’m grateful for your time. You find it all in the realization that, everything will be lost, in time. For those we go on without, let the love grow strong within.

Let’s cure the half-ass shit by being the most complete, unapologetic, authentic version of ourselves, with love, all ways.
All of you, all of me.