The last twist of the deodorant stick, Plop! Onto the floor

There is a guy who has designed the plastic parts that make up the container and dispenser that holds and applies my sport stick deodorant. WHY didn’t he design some sort of catch or lock, so that the last little bit could be used, instead of just falling out onto the floor every time it is almost all used up? Sure, I have tried to pick it back up, reinsert it into the ovalish tube and swipe again, but it usually doesn’t work.

I have even tried just using the ejected end piece on it’s own. And that is less effective yet! I guess I am frugal, and want to apply every ounce of deodorant that I bought, instead of throwing it away. In these moments, I usually think of some guy like me, who uses 3-D CAD or something to design the packaging materials, and who maybe had an idea for a locking system, but was told by the higher ups, to skip it, let people trash that last 1/16th ounce, and just buy another overpriced deodorant stick…

Do you spend a lot of time ‘thinking’ about the origins and decisions behind these little insignificant pieces of our lives? Remember a few months ago, I wrote a blog about how the spout on my coffee pot was designed so small, that you had to barely tip the thing, to not spill coffee everywhere? This is typical for me, to notice a slight error or problem in the design of something, and wonder how it wasn’t already addressed before I noticed it.

I do this alot. It happens at home, with household products. It happens at work too. I notice flaws in design, and especially in the systems which we use to operate and interact with our physical world. At one point, I thought this blog project may become a string of stories about the little things I notice, and how maybe there is a bigger meaning behind it all. I really like when I pick out some life lesson, from the patience it takes to pour a cup of coffee from my tiny-spout pot…

Today though, the motivation is different. Yes, I notice that I am aggravated by the poorly constructed deodorant container, and probably a bunch of other things too. BUT, I wonder if this little pattern and habit of noticing is helping me or not. In the workplace, many times my insight to a better system, or noticing a speed bump in production is highly valuable. We can increase efficiency, and maybe cut costs, by smoothing out the workflow. Yet, sometimes well enough, is better left alone, and we can just focus on the work itself, instead of changing the way we do it.

Sometimes I can turn off the ‘problem solver’ part of my brain, sometimes I struggle to. See what I’m saying is that using this skill may in fact be creating the problem, so that then I have a solution to work on. My mind may be powerful enough to invent a problem, where none exists, just so that it has a ‘job’ to do, and an answer to craft.

Hmm….

Reminds me of an email I got this week from the wise Mr. Steve Chandler. I wouldn’t say that I ‘worry’ about the deodorant stick, or even the tiny lip of the coffee pot. But let’s do replace ‘worry’ with scrutinize or over-examine.

 ” A foolproof piece of advice for the chronic worrier: and I promise you this will work.  For the next two weeks, take immediate notice of every time you worry.   

      When you catch yourself worrying — take an action.  Any action, but make sure you take one. Do something. Anything. And remember, you must do something every time you worry.  This is a great way to train yourself not to worry. Especially if you hate being in action. 
 

     The truth is not that I worry because I care.  The truth is, I worry because I am in the habit of worrying. If I really cared that much, I would stop worrying and take some action.

      I worry in order to do nothing.  Doing nothing about a problem soon becomes the problem.  I’m not taking any shots at this thing, and, like Wayne Gretsky said, you miss one hundred per cent of the shots you don’t take.”

- Steve Chandler

Wow, Steve has some real gems in there. Short and to the point. I don’t scrutinize my world because I care, and that I want to improve it always. I do that because I’m in the habit of doing in. Sometimes I take action, sometimes it is positive and helpful, sometimes not. Sometimes I just notice the problems and do nothing. That then, becomes the problem, like Steve says. Then the problem grows, the issue becomes embedded. I could scrutinize and over-examine and then worry that the fix will never come. I could become entranced with the idea that I am stuck forever with no solution. I could lose hope. Eventually I may take action, bold action, the ‘wrong’ action, based on an over-inflated mental image of a distorted reality….

Oh, that could maybe happen….

Oh yeah, that HAS Happened!

Just something to notice to myself today. Just an idea I want to bank and refer to from time to time. I may be ‘worrying’ in order to do nothing, and planting myself a fertile garden plot full of future problems, to be dealt with at harvest time.

One of my favorite things that our Pastor Tim Soule says usually at the closing prayer for Bible Study, has to do with thoughts. He usually says something like ‘Lord, take these ideas we’ve discussed, that are of You, and let them take hold and grow within us. And, Lord, for those ideas not of You, let them blow away and be gone.’

Just because a thought crosses the window pane of my mind, doesn’t mean that I must believe it. It is a projection that is apart, adjacent, and although hard to let go of sometimes, will always be replaced with another in some amount of time.

Helpful thoughts Lord, I ask today that I will notice. And I also ask that all others be blown away in the summer breeze. Thank You, Amen.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The way is rocky, the risk is death, all in good fun

On the edge, cold crosswind blasting and we’re barely moving at all. Bouncing up and dropping down, one set of tracks against the steep slope, the other set on the edge of a thousand-foot drop. Last week I got to spend lots and lots of time, doing something I love. Yes, I love to be perched up on some high altitude 4×4 trail, exploring and enjoying the “summit’ing”  experience.

I love that stuff so much, that the transition back to the ‘real world’ this week has been quite tough.

I did learn a lot last week, while on vacation in the Rocky Mountains. I finally got to spend a good amount of time driving the upper pass roads and rocky trails. I again thank my wife for letting me have my fun :)

I keep talking about how much fun it is to be up there. I have told lots of people how I enjoy the thrill of piloting my beater ‘Yota up and over the mountain. I also hear feedback that not everyone thinks this would be a ‘fun’ activity.

Some say it would be scary, or crazy, or risky. Some ask, what would happen if you broke down up there? Others, remind me that you can still see perfectly beautiful views from the bottom, with no need to drive to the top :)

Well those things are true. It is risky. I could break down up there. I also see the beauty in the streamside winding paved roads at the bottom. Much smoother to drive too, than those no-maintenance rock trails above.

We all have different tastes don’t we :)

I do need to notice and share a couple insights though, about my drive on Mosquito Pass, or Richmond Hill Road, or especially Express Creek. These roads are ROUGH, my friends. These aren’t roads in the sense that the ground itself is a smoothed out cleared stretch of land that is covered in pavement, or even little gravely-sized pebbles. Nope.

These roads we played on, are well worn, but all the soil, in between the rocks that ever was there, is now gone. The rocks range in sizes. Sometimes they are gravel yes, but many times bigger too. Baseball Size, grapefruit size, sometimes a basketball or two. Usually you are driving around the bigger stuff, like chest-freezer size or car-size. Anyway, this kind of driving is much different than our normal cruise.

Even though it’s not muddy, I use 4 wheel drive. The steepness is easier to climb with two wheels pulling and two wheels pushing. I use low range in the transfer case. This reduces the output speed of the driveshafts and lets the motor torque it’s way up the mountain. It helps going down too. Using the lower gears reduces the wear on everything. The truck is happier, and so is the driver. I try not to use my brakes, so I shift a lot too. Even though it is an automatic transmission, many times I want to use only the lowest gear. Also, I could want to prevent too high a gear from kicking in, so I shift constantly back and forth throuh L, 2 and D.

Advice I got way back in 2012, out in Ouray, on my first ever 4×4 mountain drive, was simple. Go Slow. Slow is the key. Slow feels better on you, and the machine. Slow is the only way, to take a stock suv, up these trails and return in one piece.

I’m not talking about the slow in the driveway on Sunday stuff here. I am talking, barely moving. Sometimes, you want the vehicle to just simply inch forward, and you don’t care how long it takes. You just care that you stay slow, steady, in control. Gravity can be pulling you severely, either forward or backward, or sideways too. You just sometimes want to stay upright, and let the movement happen at the slowest (and safest) possible rate.

Yes, I really enjoy those moments too. Sometimes after climbing a spooky little incline, or skating some off-camber dipty-doo, or dropping ever so slowly down a cliff’s face, I would cackle and rejoice and laugh out loud, a hyena crying into the mountain air. I would amaze myself at the obstacle we just conquered and joy was coursing through my veins!

Funny huh! Funny how back in the ‘real world’ I don’t treat my life in the same way as these mountain roads. Funny how, I detest and scour every time I hit a little bump. Funny how I hate the razors edge, climbing toward an obstacle or dropping down into a valley. I seem to despise every and any pebble in my way.

Nope, in my ‘real life’ I want things to be smooth. I want them paved with glass. I don’t want turns or hills or have to stop. I seem to want a perfectly-paced highway all to myself, wide and clear. I don’t want to stop to refuel, I don’t want to maintenance my ride, and I don’t want anyone or anything in my way…

Ha.

Yeah, we know different don’t we. Traffic is busy, others are all around. In my ‘real life’ I rarely feel that I am on some thrilling adventure. Instead I’m bored with the mundane-ness, yet rarely steer away from my normal route. Road-rage happens all the time in my ‘normal-life’. I loose my temper, in fact, right now I’m boiling-over, and seething.

I see the irony here. On one hand, I want the challenge and thrill of a difficult road to travel. On the other hand, I want it easy, without stress, I don’t enjoy this version of it, I say to myself, I would rather be on some other road.

That is another thing about the real mountains. Up high you can see so far. Up on Mosquito Pass, outside of Leadville, Colorado, I could see many other roads to travel. We spied them from afar and then made our way down and over and up to them. From far away those tracks looked so smooth. The pitch looked gradual and shallow. The rocky obstacles just blended into the trail from far away. A simple and fun dust covered byway to the sky. That is what we see from a distance…

Not true, once you finally made your way there. Just as many bumps, just as steep up, just as slanted down. The roads were pretty much the same all over those mountains. They are ROUGH. That is the advice we always got, when asking about a new trail. “It is ROUGH”, they would say. “Go Slow! You’ll enjoy it if you take is easy. The views are spectacular.”

They weren’t just talking about Hagerman Pass, or trail to our lunch spot above Leadville to the East. Life is rough. My normal everyday travels are rough. There are many obstacles big and small. There are lots of ups, and lots of downs. This moment includes all same characteristics as those bumpy tracks…

Except. Except, I don’t usually slow down, in my real life. I don’t usually drop to the lowest possible gear. I don’t usually inch my way through anything. I go too fast. I am bouncing and crashing and smacking into the debris. I am tense and stressed and worried about never making it to the top. I am looking all around at the other roads, other people’s roads, and thinking they are all so smooth and attractive. Not like mine. Not rutted and rocky, like mine.

I am abusing myself, abusing the vehicle that got me this far. I bang it up and bruise it. Dents are all over, from the reckless ways I drive myself in my ‘normal life.’ I am mashing the gas, and stomping the brakes, all at the same time. I want to get to the end, and I’m terrified of moving foward too. It’s a discombobulation. The transmission grinds, the tires squeal and the motor races. Meanwhile, the mountain abides.

The mountain and it’s road is rocky, yes. But it is not going anywhere. It is stable. It is solid. It provides a foundation to view spectacular grandeur. The weather can be harsh up there. It will turn on a dime. I must be prepared for it, but If I go slow, and don’t panic, it will all be okay. I forget that too often.

Steve Chandler is a world-class life coach and author. I have talked with him many times. Not recently though, it’s been over a year. His words were fresh in my mind, up on those granite ridges last week. ‘Slow Down,’ he would say. If things are not going well, you are going too fast. ‘Slow Down’. I get it now, more than ever.

At the slowest pace, these bumps are little thrills. In the right gear, with the right speed, any of these roads are doable, in even the most modest of 4-wheel drive cars. A jacked-up Jeep is not necessary. The view are stupendous, from 13,000 ft above sea level. Of course, you can only see them, if you are going slow enough, to look up from the road. Otherwise, you just stare at the rocks ahead in fear.

Speed is one of my biggest problems. I want it all now. I don’t want to go slow. I am ‘over’ the bumps of life…

Except, they will keep coming. They will always be there. Even in the flat lands of Kansas, our inner worlds, can be continental ranges of peaks and valleys. Right now, in this very moment, I need to ask myself if I can slow down. I need to define the way I want to travel the road I’m on, or if I want to detour, and find another. I wonder, If I will take the advice that I got from the camphost at the Ouray KOA, or from Steve Chandler, or from the guys at the Aspen forestry office. I wonder if I will even take my own advice, and Slow Down??

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Overdrive Off… At least this week!

Wham! Skidddd…. The heavy metal picnic table went grinding backwards. Moments ago as my wife was gone, I decided to move our truck real close to the table so the unloading-reloading process would easier. I got it there, and a new dent too. Oh well, just below the taillight, and the truck is already beat up. Could have been worse.

This camping, hiking, 4×4 trip to Colorado (that we are on right now) has been full of little moments just like this. My best intentions and pre-planning have produced baby disappointment while the happy accidents and favorable blessings are really what is making all the difference.

Even in the midst of this vacation I want to take the time out here to record some of my experiences and share with you.

As you read last week, I recently bought a beat up old truck to drive out on this trip. Before we left, I had only taken it for a twenty minute test drive. Needless to say, I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t make it across western Kansas. Luckily it did.

Then I was hoping it could handle the mountains okay. Luckily it did. And even yesterday we banged across, tumbled straight down, and crawled straight up, some seriously gnarly backcountry trails. All good right???

Well almost all good, almost all bad…

See, as we slowed down and entered our campground on the first day of this trip, I heard a reoccurring squeak. I jumped out and went to the driver’s side rear wheel. Sure enough, all the lug nuts were finger loose. Did I mention that this campground sits near the bottom side of the high altitude switchbacks of Independence Pass, that we had just drove over? This was after our trip through Leadville, and the I-70 mountain runs before that.

These are deadly places to lose a wheel.

Not by my power or prowess did we escape serious trouble. Some Angel held that thing on.

After I checked things out and we headed out for more fun, I just kept thinking about how lucky we got. Amazing.

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Yesterday’s adventures included driving to the top of Aspen mountain, we took a guided hike tour with other folks, all of whom rode the gondola up there. We were told at the forestry station that Richmond Hill Road was impassable due to large snow drifts in the shady spots. We wanted a nice mountain top lunch spot so we figured we would drive till we couldn’t anymore, then stop and eat and turn around.

We did find a great spot for lunch with 360 degree panoramic views. Then we found mud holes where the snow drifts used to be. We found thousands upon thousands of baby boulders to bounce across. We even found some super steep loose rock washes that we had to climb.

One particular spot was a short steep switchback with almost no room to pass next to a big pile of icy snow, it was melting and the ground was slippery wet rocks and mud. On my second straightened-up-start the wheels spun then finally grabbed. I could hardly watch as I was driving the razors edge of a slimy cliff, with a several hundred feet drop off to the side. I really didn’t even think of praying to make it up. Just as we motored beside the snow pile and crested this little obstacle amongst many, I said out loud, “Stay calm, take it easy, don’t panic, don’t do anything stupid right now.”

And that is one of my big takeaways so far on this trip. It could help me in lots of moments of my life, to just remind myself of that…

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Earlier I mentioned an angel. Well, during every one of these exhilaratingly terrifying moments, an angel has been sitting right beside me. My wife has been the number one best part of this trip. Better than the durable Toyota, better than the mountain top views, better than watching the sunrise from my hammock, better than the campfire burger at the end of the day. None of these things would have any of the rich value to me, without her.

It amazes me, that she is willing to let me take her to the top of the Rockies and back. Her trust is all my strength, period. As I am puckered up and wonderin’ if we will get out of these mountain roads in one piece, she is there too. When I ask if she is scared, she says she just closes her eyes. Even these times are important, she lets me work, she is hopeful, she stays calm, so I can too. She is the best partner I could ever have hoped for. She shows me, beyond love.

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I am so good whenever she is with me, and when she is not, well… I run into picnic tables!

This beautiful Colorado day lies ahead of us. I can’t wait any longer to get out there and do it again with Her :) oh, and Roxy too :)

From the Nichols family to you, I hope you have a wonderful week, wherever you are.

With Love

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Disposable (and probably Despicable) Me :)

Midnight in my hammock. On the front porch, the air is thick and still warm from the day. I settle in, for a few minutes of deeprelax time and think of the vacation week ahead. Lots of preparation has gone into our annual summer roadtrip. This year we head to Colorado again. I’ve bought new camping gear. Some reservations have been made. I watch Youtube videos showing 4×4 trails that we could possibly take in the ‘new’ (1997, beat-up, 200,000 mile) Toyota 4Runner, I bought last Sunday.

Details run through my mind, like the tiny chipmunks skittering across those mountain roads. How do I want to setup camp? What will the trees be like? Beetlekilled dead? Or hopefully alive? If I use my tie-down straps to hang this same hammock, at a campground in Colorado, will the pine trees get my straps all sappy?? Should I buy new ones just for that purpose, or use some I already have and know they could be sticky and gross afterward? What is so important about the condition of my tie down straps? Why do I care if they get ruined or not?

Would it be bad to consider them a disposable item? I could use them for the trip, and if they are gross, just toss them when I get home????

This is the minutae that distracts me from real progress. Like actually deciding where my lovely wife and furry kid, Roxy, will stay next Tuesday and Wednesday night. I don’t know yet, we have the whole State of Colorado to choose from, so I put off such big decisions.

Anyway, I realize that I rarely use my tie down straps. Not like when I was younger and went quad riding all the time. I could sacrifice a couple of them to the Colorado Pines. It would be totally worth it. I guess.

I am hesitant to feel wasteful. I am insecure about the ideas of tossing money away. I hold tight to an idea that everything is supposed to be permanent and pretty. All things are to remain in best possible condition, for as long as possible, while in my care. I will try to avoid ruining ‘things’ I’ve bought, and only buy good stuff when I do…

Oops…

Actually, when I think about it, everything I know as tangible physical ‘stuff’ is disposable. At my Mother’s house last week, they had a scare. A smell of smoke was coming from the ductwork and strong in an upstairs bathroom. They called the fire dept. Mom was in shock and scared. Luckily, it turned out to be nothing. A burned up motor that may have caused the smell, and had everyone very worried.

My mother and step-dad Joe, have spent twenty-several years working on this home. They have constantly been improving it, from the fine beginnings that Joe himself constructed. Recently, they’ve installed a new kitchen, updated carpets, light fixtures, paint and appliances… So fragile. A Matchbook. All could be gone in a flash. That is the scare that Mom had last week. I felt for her. So much energy, and effort, money too, in their beautiful and sturdy home…

My recent vehicle purchase: A solidly built 4×4 of reliable mechanical heritage, once was a slick new machine. It probably shined bright on some showroom floor. Leather perfect, gold trim gleaming. Now it is dented. It has scratches. The frame is spotted rusty. It had at least one bad day, where an angry person hit it, over and over again… No, not me, but somebody did. I bought it in a flash, without checking over it properly. I am not as wise without my wife around. I need her to slow down my impulsiveness sometimes. Anyway, it used to be pretty, and now it’s not. Much cheaper though, a deal. Hopefully a Colorado Mountain Machine, dirty enough, and tough too, to tackle the trails.

Disposable, all of it.

From my ten dollar tie downs, to the house I’m hammocking in front of, to the busted laptop I’m typing on… it all will be gone someday. The mountains we see next week, will seem more permanent, forever there. Immovable. Static. The peaks of their beaks spiking toward the sky indefinitely…

But they won’t last forever either.

I heard that the spring floods last year, have altered things at Rocky Mountain Naitional Park. A picnic area at the Alluvial Fan, has been cluttered with boulders… Somebody said, ‘it all got messed up’… funny. The Alluvial Fan is already a clutter of boulders, they fell and tumbled when a high mountain dam broke. Now things look different, more different maybe than man will be able to ‘fix.’

My dented new car, and the gear I pack in it, are all with me for just a brief moment in time. A week together in Colorado, then the tent is back in it’s bag, until someday when it’s trash, then beyond that, at some point, it will return to nothing again…

Me too. My ‘things’ of my life will too. My fingernails, my hair I buzz, maybe my appendix will go. Eventually though, it all will. These hands I type with. The eyes I read with, the feet I walked on all day, will be gone. Nothing of me, will escape the reality of impermanence…

It is unpleasant to think about losing the whole of the only world I really know. It is spooks me to go mentally to places without myself. I relate to the world through the lens of ‘me’ and without that, I struggle to comprehend. Suuuuure, there are other beings and other truths, besides just me. But I am disposable. I am not permament. I am not everything there is…

It’s not all bad, to realize my disposability. I see an opportunity to release. I see a crack in the doorway to a new reality. If permanence isn’t possible, why do I try so hard to attain it? Here in this place, where I stress over the purchase of a beat-up truck, and wonder about ‘ruining’ a pair of cheap tie down straps, I may be missing the big picture all together.

There are things of this world, yes. There is stuff in our lives. We can be stewards, we can be disciplined to caretake and to clean. But since nothing is lasting forever anyway, can I really decide to get out there and just USE the tools at hand. Can I decide to try to find ways to exercise and to operate the stuff of the world around. Can I gather experiences and develop myself, through using life, instead of being careful not to mess it up?

Since my worldly life isn’t permanent anyway, can I begin the adventure of disposing of it, in a more active way? I can’t stuff myself into a savings account. I can’t reserve a bit of me, for the future. I can, let loose on this page, right now. I can express what is here and now, for you, for someone, for the vast of consciousness to absorb in tiny ways or big. I can become the moment wherever I am, and get dirtier, dented’er, and more burned up, as I continue forward on my path.

I can’t save myself. I can’t guarantee jack squat. A nice vacation with my life-partner-wife next week, will be exactly what I let it be. Exultation of the grandiosity of creation, or a worry-fest of messing up… Same goes for my life.

I will probably do some of both. I am rarely as committed in person, as I am on this page. I will ride the middle, be mediocrity incarnate, I will do the same things others have already done, and be proud of my baby accomplishments. I’ll be frugal and prudent and not take things to extremes. I’ll probably begin to re-believe in the permanence of me, and my piddly possessions. I’ll preserve and protect, instead of playing all out. Fear again, may steer my wheels…

Here’s to the disposable life. May we see it for what it is. May we use it, to enhance the experience of others. May we mess up here, falling and bruising ourselves, learning to walk the greater walk.

There is a chance at forever. There is an infinite glistening sparkle that we’re invited to inhabit. I don’t know the nature of how it works. I cannot begin to fathom. Jesus is asking us to join Him. These flea-sized worries of life, could be lost in the universe of joy. I wonder if we will wish we’d played a little harder, broken a few more boundaries, and expanded the scope of our plastic suburban worlds, if we could look back from that vantage point.

The mountains are calling me, they want me to join them praising our Creator, from their fragile tippy tippy tops. I can’t wait. The urgency is delicious. Lindsay, my bride. I LOVE You :)

Let’s Go!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Tater Chips for Breakfast

Potato Chips are for breakfast today, at 10:00am. They are kettle cooked, and barbeque flavor. Not sure if they make a bacon version, but if they did, I would eat that for breakfast instead.

My wife left town this morning on a week long adventure with a fellow teacher friend and her Dad. They are heading to the east coast, all the way to D.C. I was glad to hug her at 6:00 this morning, but sad she is leaving for so long. I know she will have fun, and it will go by quickly for both of us, but since she’s not here to share a scramble of eggs and squash and sprinkled cheese, I’ll just have chips instead.

Anyway, after being up early and checking on the garden, I decided to come back in the house for little more shut-eye. I was playing with a new military version sleeping bag, that I got from Steve at Take It Outside. Instead of this 3-piece sleeping system being laid in the dust or mud or sand of some war-torn country, I rolled it out on my couch.

Quickly I was deep, deep asleep.

I remember some of the dreaming, but mostly the very end. I could hear something strange in my home. It was coming from the kitchen area, maybe it was a person. I was trying to wake up and get off the couch. I knew I had been sleeping there. My body was completely heavy and loose. I could feel a slight electrical tickle all over, but I couldn’t move my muscles. My arms were limp, my legs were too. My neck was just a connector piece, nothing that could lift my head. Even my eyelids refused to open…

Crap! I think someone is in here. I think someone has done something to me. I can’t move. I can’t do anything. Maybe I’m dead! Ahhh! I tried to tell myself to wake up, It just wasn’t happening. I was ‘seeing’ only the twinkling blackness where you know there is light out there, but it’s blocked. I could feel the whooshing of the ceiling fan. I knew it was a morning sun in the room. I just couldn’t move.

One more time, AAAAHHHH! Extra effort, everything I had, is all it took, to pop open my eyes, and look around the room. It was almost an exhausting experience just to wake myself up from this super super deep sleep. Wow. Looking around, reorienting myself, there was no one in the room. Everything is fine. I am okay. I was just dreaming. I’d better get up and start my blog, and grab something to eat… hmm… those BBQ chips look good :)

Several times in the last few weeks. I have had awake experiences that mirror this dream. I have found myself over and over lately, stuck in a moment, feeling as if someone has done something to me. Feeling as if I cannot move, I am limp and lifeless, the seconds are eternities and my anxiety level pumps all the way to the top. In a flash I have gone from normal to freak-out-angry-crazy mode. Seriously y’all… it ain’t pretty!

Just like in the dream, I panic. I feel that everything I am trying is failing. I feel somehow that I am dying into the stillness and stuckness of the instant. I feel the light fading away and darkness rolling in. It is a spastic explosion, when trying to break free from it. This has happened at work, (both works) and at home. I lose my ever-lovin’ mind sometimes…

Yet, it is a dream. Yet, the freedom of waking up shows me the truth. Yet, the scary-ness of the crunched-down vise-grip moment, wasn’t caused by someone on the outside, doing something to me. It was caused by the thought that they did. The thought, that I believed, super strongly, that they did something to me. I was deep, deep asleep at that moment, even as I walked and talked in the consciousness of the real world, not dreamin’.

See, I am asleep, when I am stuck, believing those kinda thoughts. I am asleep and not seeing reality, when I am feeling that someone did this to me. I am lost and un’conscious’ blaming someone else for the position I am in. I am lucky to wake up, after these blowups. I am lucky to snap back, and notice that overall, everything is okay. I am just fine, the other person is just fine, but that panic moment was ugly all around. It was exhausting and crippling and damaging too. It was all a mistake, and afterward I can see that.

Afterward, I can see that no one did anything to me. I did it to myself. I chose to believe a untrue thought. I chose to focus on one angle of the story. I chose to only see one brief and scary snapshot throughout the movie of life. Like pausing a scene on tv. The actor’s face is weird and contorted, they look mad, or violent, and when you un-pause, it is all laughter.

Because Lindsay left this morning for a week, and I have no one to share a good breakfast with, I am eating barbecue potato chips… boo, hoo, pooooor me… WRONG!

I am eating barbecue kettle cooked chips this morning, because I want to. Because I chose to. That is all. They are delicious :) And yes, I do, already, choose to miss my wife :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Boxes of spiders and love and trash too

Sometimes, I just don’t know what I want to say… Actually that is a lie.

When I use the ‘don’t know,’ excuse, I am really just choosing not to decide. I may be straddling and momentarily caught between ideas or commitments, but mostly, I am unwilling to go ahead and make a choice.

Yesterday I had lots of little moments caught in-between decisions. I had a couple options in front of me, and I somehow found the strength to just pick one way or the other.

I was doing the mundane task of cleaning out my garage. It is an ordinary thing that a lot of people do, I get that. I know there are some storage places, that we all have, that we let accumulate and pile up with stuff. Mine is no exception.

I used to use my garage for partying and playing and hosting and good times. A lot of the ‘stuff’ in there remains just as we used it, years ago, in the partying dayz. Yesterday, I had a lot of little moments, looking at a dust covered object, and making a choice to trash it, save it, or sell it. I made progress and some trash, and lots to save and a little to sell.

Steve Chandler is a guy, who I remember saying, “How you do some things, is how you do everything.” Well if that is true, then my garage can tell me a lot about how I am living my life as a whole. I have a detached space, where old memories are held on to. I have left many of them alone in a corner for years and years. I have held onto things that are of no use to me anymore. I have saved items that did one day come in handy. I have tools, that are rarely pulled out. I have spiders, and spiders, and spiders among it all.

I used to use my garage, and my life for inviting people and having fun, I didn’t have much, but I wanted to share it all. I wanted people to join me at any given moment. I wanted to always keep the party going. I really never wanted that to end.

Now it is different. The party-garage has only hosted one party in the several years, a three person bible study, one night a couple winters ago. I don’t do much in there anymore, but store some junk, and we park a car inside. In a way, so many parts of me are just existing there, where they always have, but getting dustier and older by the day.

Until yesterday. I swept. I loaded up trash cans and big boxes. I climbed the ladder and brought some things down. I climbed again, and put more things back up. I “didn’t know” where to start, but somewhere I just began to move stuff, making a bigger mess than it was, then slowly finding new places. I took the time to re-imagine how I wanted my space to look, I let go of old items, that don’t serve me.

All week long I have been heartbroken and saddened about a tragic event that happened for the family of one of the members of our church. Hailey and John and their family lost two precious children in a car accident on Monday. Wow. I cannot imagine what they are going through. I feel for them. I know God has a plan, but really that would be too hard to see, for me, for them, for anyone looking at their world right now. My heart and my prayers go out to all of you.

In our own family, 31 years ago, we lost someone important. My Dad passed away unexpectedly, tragically. I know that from my point of view, at four years old, there were things I never understood about that event. There were ideas or questions or hurts or angers or longings or tears that became parts and pieces on the shelves of my life. Just like my dusty detached garage, I had spaces where the few memories and all the pain just piled up and collected dust. I probably was a hoarder, remembering every sentence ever uttered about him. Collecting every detail of emotion about moments without him. This place is no party garage at all.

I hope I am the only one like this. I hope not everyone who goes through tragedy in life, and almost everyone does, does it like me. I have not taken the time and energy to decide and choose and clean out my garage, often enough. I don’t ever want to just junk all the memories and the love and appreciation for what was. I know though, that I let it pile up too high. I let the good stuff, get jumbled together with the bad. I had such a mess that it seems to be too big of a chore, to ever get around to working on it.

Somehow, over the years it has gotten better. I have matured and life has expanded beyond just the one tragedy that I used to define myself by. Thank God. There is a whole world outside my little dusty and spider infested garage. There is an expanse of possibility, that I can explore. My garage is a protected space, the stuff there isn’t going anywhere. I can lock it up and go to work. I can shut the door and go about my life. I don’t have to live only inside there. In a healthy way, I can revisit and take a day off, to work on it, from time to time. I need to remember to make it a habit, to work on the upkeep, but it does not define the whole of me.

I found lots of smiles, as I cleaned things up yesterday. I found the evidence of fun times. I remembered how much energy and thought, and enthusiasm I have, when I put myself wholly into an endeavor. Even like throwing a party in a dinky dusty garage. Nobody wanted to make it more fun and more special to everyone, than I did.

I am glad to have a place in my life, to go and smile and remember that too…

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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Tempest Blooms and Dried-Up Nothins

“Did you plant any cantaloupe this year?” asked Roy, who had stopped by to chat while I was in the garden. “Yeah, I did, but they aren’t doing very well. Out of 10 seeds, only one came up.” I responded. He went on to tell me that he had the exact same issue in his backyard garden, and he decided to go buy some plants from the greenhouse instead. “Hate to do it.” He said, “But the seeds just weren’t coming up.”

Coincidence? Bad Luck? Did we both plant our seeds too deep, or too shallow? Did we both buy the same brand, that were too old, or diseased maybe? HeckifIknow! It’s just a simple little thing that gardners deal with from time to time…

Or is it?

Hearing that someone else had the exact same result, on the exact same plant reminded me of some stories I’ve heard about before. In my recollection, there are plants who seem to be on the same timeclock, all around the world, and will bloom all at once, even after a looong period of years. They all seem to know what time it is. I could Google up some examples for you, but you can do that yourself too.

Has anyone else out there had trouble with their cantaloupe seeds this year? Either way, I am reminded of more examples of how things seem to be naturally ‘inter-connected’.

Yesterday afternoon, while at work, I lost my temper and had an angry-ish discussion about a very small issue. Yes, I had complaints, I have held back from saying things before. I am probably too passive aggressive, as an overall habit that needs work. I was fired up, and letting it be known, but why that moment? Why that little issue? Why that day and time? These things happen quite a bit, and I usually don’t react that way, but yesterday I did. I chose to blow my top.

Later in the day, I noticed a post online by a facebook page called Purpose Fairy:

Fact: Mercury will be retrograde from June 7th 2014 – July 1st 2014.

As you know, there are certain cycles where the energy feels
confusing and ungrounded. During those times it’s not uncommon to react emotionally and dramatically affecting both your physical and emotional body.

Since all this frazzled energy is a major cause of disturbances in your mind, body, and soul here are the 5 ways to keep your emotional and physical body balanced during this time. ‪#‎MercuryRetrograde‬}

Now, I could probably find something like this out there every day, if I wanted to. I could read horoscopes, like mine (Aries), and probably read the other ones too, and find something that connects with me and my current life experiences. I could explain away any coincidences as mere chance, and just a bunch of woo-woo, new-age crapola.

BUT, it does seem to be, that there are built-in cycles and rhythms and an orchestral flow throughout all of creation. Weather, plants, animals, land, sea and sky, down to the tiniest form of the atom, all have cyclical and repetitive motion embedded. Last week I talked about a force so powerful, that it creates the tiniest growths nonstop throughout our lives, even like the nail on the end of our fingers.

There just has to be something behind all this motion. The energy is never stagnant, and stale, it just seems to always be in motion. I am amazed at the tiniest miracles. Like putting a seed into the ground, and noticing that it comes alive with growth. It just does. I have the seed, in a paper packet, it does nothing. I put it in the soil, it does everything it needs to do, with just the tiniest help from me. Amazing.

Sure, maybe I saw this post about Mercury Retrograde (which I know nothing about) and I wanted to blame my embarrassing blow-up on that. I could be a victim to the heavenly bodies, and not have to take responsibility for my own actions. I might be doing some of that. I am intrigued however at the possibility, that there is an answer to bigger questions. I am excited sometimes to think the random puzzle pieces of life, will eventually combine to form a picture I could understand, even from afar. I love the idea, that God’s brilliant design, is so rich and gorgeously interwoven.

One of the most exciting things that interests me about the living word of the Bible, is that the sentences seem so fresh and relevant and insightful. Some parts are thousands of years old, yet wet with new ink, as they are being read.

Something bigger is at work, something hidden just beyond the veil. My favorite band has an album called “One foot in the ether,” and I think that is where the magic is. Sometimes we get glimpses of it. Sometimes the fog burns away. Sometimes we notice out of the corner of our eye, that there a masterful simplicity and beauty to the ‘why’s’.

Just another thought, for you this week. A thought, that I want to capture for myself. As I get lost and feel spinning and drifting, bouncing against emotions and banging into the consequences of my actions, I wonder if the washing machine cycle will slow down sometimes. During the onslaught inside my mind, I want to remember this stillness and this knowing, that there is something more and bigger, and better, than my thousands of tiny negative ideas. There is the ever-present, the almighty, the one creator, abiding as always in True Love and Love only, Forever.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

A Welcome Amputation

Why don’t I fear cutting my finger nails? Or how about my weird shaped toenails that my loving wife was grossed out by last weekend (apparently seeing them for the first time :) ). Why do I not put off and avoid the act of slicing off part of my own body? I do it about every week or so, no problem.

Hmm… slicing off part of my body. Yes, that is true. I have a hardened plate of keratin protein that grows from the end of my finger, and I use a sharp metal blade to cut and remove.

As a kid I remember being squirmy and squeamish about having my fingernails and especially toe nails cut. Mom did it, until sometime in grade school I think. I was reluctant because I was worried it would hurt. I remember pressure from my toes being squeezed and every once in a while a little clip of the skin, probably because I was moving around too much.

Nowadays though, I rarely mess up, and cut my skin, while trying to trim my nails. Overall though, it is a regular and mundane thing that I do, I expect most other people out there do too, on a regular basis.

Think for a second though, about the nail itself. We are really only removing the very end of it. We cut off the part that used to be very sensitive and attached to the finger, but now has grown out beyond a useful or socially acceptable length. Of course, this size differs from men to women. This same part that we remove though, used to be quite responsive to touch, and would have caused lots of pain to cut, back when it was in the middle of it’s growth cycle.

Fingernails are a fascinating thing. Just like a lot of parts of our body. I am not trying to talk about current cultural differences, or possible prehistoric uses of fingernails as tools. A speech I heard from Wayne Dyer, first connected my mind, from God and divine creation, to our fingernails…

 I think there is a force in the universe that directs everything, and there are no accidents, anywhere. This divine force is what is growing our hair, growing our fingernails, beating our heart, digesting our food, and all of the other incredible mysteries that we look at and take for granted. My showing up on this planet and living for the first 10 years or so of my life in a series of foster homes and orphanages was all perfect. That is how I’ve always looked at it.” – Wayne Dyer

How do they grow? What is the energy behind the mechanism that makes our fingernails longer, only slightly longer, each and every minute, of each and every day, our entire lives?

Simple, and absolutely amazing to me.

Among the millions of other jobs that God has done, forces set in motion, everybody’s fingernails just grow. Crazy.

So why is it, that there are other parts of my life, that are dead, and still attached, that I refuse to cut loose? What am I carrying around, that used to be quite sensitive and part of my very being, that have now grown away from me, beyond usefulness, yet I refuse to remove?

Past regrets of words I’ve said? Past relationships gone wrong? Past activities and mistakes and missteps and anger? Past addictions and embarrassments and failures too? If all these things were illustrated in a sketch, as part of my growing process, just like a fingernail was, when I was a kid, would I like the picture I see?

Remember the Guiness Book of World Records? Remember reading that at the school library, because it was a book, that you could spend time with in class, and not actually have to read? I loved those things. I bought them from the book cart every year. In the Guiness Book of World Records, there would be pictures of the longest fingernails in the world. Suuuuuper long ones. Big, loopy, droopy, coils of old rotten disgusting fingernails.

Crazy thing, is that if you could photograph all my old regrets and past unpretty history, that I carry around every day, it would be a gigantic tangles mess of curly yellowed and bumpy finernail coils!!! GROSSSSS!!!

So as I trimmed my nails this morning. I cut away something un-useful from my body. I cut away something that had no feeling left. I cut away something I didn’t need anymore. It is a simple but important part of our lives as human beings, not going for a Guiness Book of World Records, umm, record.

Lord, help me to see my past and all my mistakes and missed opportunities as part of my grown process. Help me to see that at one time they were important, but now they are not. Help me to want to let go of this tangled mental mess. I want to know that it is okay to cut them off. It won’t hurt. I will feel better when it’s done. Even a little bit at a time, until they are back down and manageable. Help me see that I will move easier, be free-er and more loose and lively in my life, ready to move forward, without these cumbersome coils… In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray :) – Amen!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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Motivational Supernova

Just like this empty screen before me today, I gotta set up PROBLEMS in my life, to fix. Without a problem, I like to just sit and drift and daze and listen to Dobie Gray all day long, instead of doing anything else…

Problems are so delicious, so tasty, they invigorate me, they awaken hidden talents. I jump to assist when there is a problem. When things are ‘fine’… it’s harder for me to move my butt. So truly, I live at a low level of motivation and gumption and drive… I don’t really wake up at the crack of dawn, ready to tackle the day. I don’t fill every moment with productive activity, or planned restfulness that rejuvenates in a classically well prepared way.

I hired a housecleaner to come to our little place this week. Our counter tops were too covered in junk mail and randomly left objects for her to really do any good work. She would have had to just make a huge basket-full of crap, for me to sort later, so she could do her work.

Anyway, I stayed up quite late the other night, right before she was scheduled to come, in order that the place was orderly enough, to be professionally ‘cleaned’. Yeah, so what. I had to hire a housecleaner, to get me off my butt and actually do some routine picking up. I could beat myself up about not having a normal habit of daily doing 15 minutes of cleaning. I could also waste mentally energy worrying that I could do this myself and save us the money. I could even look at the fact that my wife will be off of her official work soon, and we could do this together.

Anyway, LOTS of reasons for me to wish I was just ‘naturally’ better at being disciplined and organized and have my life together, you know, now that I am an adult an all that…

Riiiiiiight….

35 years old, and I still don’t like doing chores, and housework. Never really have, maybe never will.

BUT! There is a solution. I hire someone to come here, to work on this problem, and that in turn ignites another part of my mentality. I see how far I have let things go, and I choose to get myself to work, in order that they don’t see how messy I normally live. Just like back in my partying days, when hosting parties, I would clean the place up before people got here.

I have an idea that ‘good people’ don’t live in messy houses. Ha! I don’t know where it came from. I have fond memories of my favorite people, like my wonderful grandparents, they have a house that is very clean, everything in it’s place. They have nice decorations and furniture items that are appropriately placed with just the right book or lamp or even a Welcome sign, that I made in preschool sitting on top.

I don’t have that kinda house. Not even close. I have random furniture, the walls are only partially decorated. A couple of them have holes in the sheetrock. One of them, I punched in with my own fist a long time ago, and never fixed… Good people like my grandparents, don’t have walls with holes punched in them… So I must not be a good person… like them… right…

You know, I don’t know where all the self-judgement comes from. I do know that I choose to pay attention to it, a lot of the time. It is probably a habit that I created long ago, and like a lot of habits, I have ironically found it comfortable to fall into, more often than not.

I heard recently about mental momentum. I think it was Ester Hicks/Abraham, talking about it. I notice it now, I can feel that mental momentum building up, sometimes as soon as I wake up. Maybe her message is supposed to help me be aware and realize that I can release that momentum at any time. All habits are either constantly re-created, or possibly re-directed into new ones, so I’m told.

Setting up ‘problems’ that grab my attention is a pretty high-level activity, that I could use more often. I could hire a housecleaner to come, or invite friends to come over more often, if I really wanted to see my home become more regularly in order. I could notice, that just for me and my wife, we are really okay with not having every item in it’s perfect place all the time. We can be comfortable with things a little crazy around here.

The moments where I decide to judge myself on our personal habits, and call them bad, or call myself a bad person, are the only times that pain shows up. Lots of moments happen with the exact same circumstances, or messes around me, and I can be quite happy.

Apart from any situation, apart from any person or particular object or pile of junk, is our well-being. It really exists on a different plane that I usually believe it does. I take an apple, and I take an orange, I mentally create a fruit called applorange that connects the two. I do it all the time.

I unite two things are truly separate and different from one another. I decide that my well being, my state of contentedness, my mental stability, my anger or happiness are welded directly to my circumstances. A bank account balance, my car’s dependability, the cleanliness of my house, or the performance of my team at work, are all factors in the frequency of the spikes in my roller-coaster of daily emotions…

I can keep them connected and keep struggling, or see the disconnect and quit working so hard to tie them together in fraying knots. I can quit deciding daily that ‘because of _________ I am happy, or because of ___________ I am unhappy.”

It could be that simple.

Maybe someday I will experience the truth. I will just be glad that my system is working for me, just as it always has, just as it always will. I will trust myself, I will trust in the God that cradles our universe. I will someday back away from the cliff’s edge. I will see that inviting a housecleaner, and motivating myself to get my place spruced up, is a perfectly acceptable system. It just is.

I can go through the benefits of sharing the money, to someone who is working hard for it. I could talk about how we are busy people, and it is just so nice to start our summer with a home-sweet-home freshness. I could go through more reasons and circumstances that I can sew and thread together again, to explain how this system is generating happiness.

Again I am stuck in old ways.

I can just decide to rejoice and be glad in today. Just because joy exists already. I am recognizing it for what it is. I am inviting it into my being today.

In the last week, I have been thinking so much of family. Last week on Friday, was my beloved cousin’s birthday. Miss You Meg. Wednesday this week, marked 31 years since the day my Dad drowned. Those are days that rocked the foundation of my experience. They are days that remind me of people I miss sooooo much. Days to rejoice, too.

Just for the reasons I said before. These wonderful people didn’t create my happiness. They didn’t make me a good person. They didn’t personally construct my moods, good or bad. They were simply divine souls that I partnered with for beautiful tiny moments. They are ‘gone’ now, from our sight and our touch, but not gone in any other way. They live still along side and throughout, just like always. They see the big picture now.

I can keep staring into the junk piles here and worrying about the little things as long as I want to. I can keep using the minutia of my day to dictate my feelings. My Dad, my cousin Megan, those other ones who have expanded, seem to remind me, that it’s all small stuff.

I can sit back at any time. I can stargaze. I can deeply breathe, and thank God. I can hire the house cleaned every day. I can quit my job. I can invent a new sandwich for lunch today. I can do just about anything here in this place, and none of it, really is tied to how I feel. I can see it switch in a flash, I can pop, from one space to the next instantly. I can love anything, anyone, any circumstance, at any time.

I seem to do that most, in the heat of a problem. I seem to like problems very much. I today, can remind myself that I can love them, always. I like to be at work, solving and playing and crying too, in this world. I hope these words, remind you of something truthful today too.

With Love,

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

Kid and Rock – It’s like one of them freak thangs…

Throwback Thursday is a facebook ‘thing’ where people post old photos of themselves or others on thursdays. Here’s one for ya:

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Yeah!

This picture is exactly why I have not participated yet in my own ‘Throwback Thursday’.

There are lots of these kind of images of me around. I guarantee. I have many pasted into old dusty scrapbooks, many more stored on ancient hard drives too. Most of them remind me of another time in my life. A time when this was more normal, than not.

And so, in interest of moving forward with myself and not returning any time soon to this state of being, I stay away from rehashing and retrieving these kind of old pictures, just so that I can join in the ‘Throwback Thursday’ fun…

Some of these pics, I should probably just throw :)

But, as you know, here on this blog, I find it therapeutic to display my junk, my faults and shortcomings. I sometimes see value in expressing the whole story, not just the good parts. This picture right here represents so many things about my life, that back then, when I was a wild 29 year old, were not pretty.

Funny thing though, I am right now living a life, that the guy in this picture would have killed for. I have a loose schedule. I don’t do early mornings. I stay up late all the time. I am at the bar, almost EVERY day. I even am at the bar, for work. I could drink and play Every Day, if I really wanted to. No one is telling me I couldn’t do that right now. In fact, this very morning, while stocking the beer cooler, I dropped a bottle, and the lid got kinked. It started spewing a little pressure. I couldn’t serve it later, so it needed to be drunk. The guy in this picture would have had no problem with sucking it down, at 10:30 a.m. No problemo, whatsoever.

I instead, passed it off to my brother-in-law, and he tasted a bit of it, before throwing it out. Back in the day, I would have called PARTY-FOUL!! ALCOHOL ABUSE!! Drink Up ButterCup!

Hilarious, when I think about it right now :)

This one picture paints such a vivid portrait doesn’t it. Everything is poignant. The cheap beer, the cigarette, the classy strip-club tee shirt. Even the tongue-out, devil-horned, red-eyed pose is furiously fired-up! Demonic even. In a fun way though… right?

I don’t know. Demonic is a pretty harsh word. In this picture, I was probably hanging out at Pomona lake with wonderful people, lifelong friends and family. I was only months away from quitting smoking, and I got that tee shirt on a family trip, to visit my cousin and her kids. Demonic, sounds like hellion, but in a bad way. Demonic, is more scary, than fun. I wasn’t a bad guy, I was having FUN DANGITT!!

Oh, maybe for a moment, I was. Maybe even for that whole weekend. I was drunk that whole weekend. Until Monday night that is. See this picture was most likely taken on a Labor Day weekend. They are long. You don’t have to work on Monday. So you get to party hard on Sunday night, and party less hard on Monday, but still some partying… :)

Monday Nights, were the worst for me back then. Monday nights, were the times, when I would have agreed that this picture looked Demonic, to me. Monday nights, I sat here in this same living room, on the couch, by myself. I had a pile of things to do, and no energy to do them. I was hungover, yes. Or, maybe still drunk. Or maybe just buzzed again, but really the good times were over. My favorite moments in life, Lake Time, were over.

I sat alone, here in my little junky house. I sat here and shivered, or shook, or both. My body was transitioning from a steady stream of intoxicants into it’s more natural state. I would feel queasy and overstimulated. My mental world would spin, but the room was stagnant and stale with smoke, or another glass of red wine, just one more, before bed.

Monday nights were depressing to me back then. I looked forward into my ‘real life’ and saw things that I didn’t want to see. I noticed that I was by myself. Even if I was dating someone, I usually would have acted like such an ass, that I they didn’t want to be with me, or I didn’t want them near me. I was about to return, to a job I didn’t like, the next day. I had said and done and acted in embarrassing ways for the previous several days. Maybe broken the law, disrespected myself and others. I was a mess.

On those Monday nights, when the party was over, I felt like a Demonic Mess…

The picture here seems to prove it too…

So throwback that photo, throw it back to a place, that I can say was a landmark on my personal journey. It was a stopping point, where I was stuck for many years. Luckily however, I didn’t stay there forever. Luckily for me, I was able to somehow find something more intriguing, more exciting and more interesting to me, than to repeat that moment, over and over and over agian, another time, again, like I had so many times before.

Never will I really understand how that process worked. Even for me. Yet I will say, that instead of it being totally about the quitting of something, like alcohol, it was more about moving into something better. It was about seeing myself in a new fresh place of existing. It was about grabbing a rag, and wiping clean the lens through which I was currently looking at life. New colors appeared. New images, that I hadn’t noticed before. I could see further down the road. I could make out whole areas of life, that I had not ever explored, yet existed right under my nose.

That grimy old rag, was the living pages of God’s word. The book, that isn’t a book at all. It’s like something out of a science fiction movie. It is actually a device, used by God, to drop a nuclear bomb on me. It wiped away all traces of what I knew. I was lost again. I was lonely again. I was scared again. I didn’t like, what had happened, once that rag, had cleaned my lenses. I was mad too. Mad at what I could see now…

I could write paragraphs, and pages, and chapters and books, about all the little moments, that have happened between the snap of that photograph and this very second right now. It has been one crazy, crazy ass ride.

Another throwback Thursday picture, from the same place, at the same lake, on the same weekend, Labor Day, four years later, looks like this:

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I like this one better. It was more fun. It was more meaningful and important and life-giving to me, rather than life-taking. I was sober that day. I am sober today. Crazy, crazy life, my friends. What is more wild than that. What is more crazy and insane than the transition from this one picture to the next. Actually living both of those moments, I can tell you, it wasn’t me. Not my intention, not my gumption or boldness or especially not my strength.

I asked Jesus Christ into my life, probably on one of those lonely, hungover Monday nights, probably one time out of many times, and many times to yet come. In that first picture, I can see a demon. He was one heckuva fun one. I will admit that. More fun than I am today. More laughing and more jovial, more friendly and more sociable. I needed things from others back then. I needed the approval of others. I needed to feel loved and to feel lifted up, by the camaraderie of the group. I didn’t have a feeling of self worth without them.

In this second picture, I see angels. I see them lifting me to another level. I see them supporting me, I see a beautiful one, that gave her living life to me, as I gave her mine. I see one who walked with me in my relationship with Christ. I see angels of family there to support me. I see an angel, who stood in second place, for me, who loved my Dad deeply. I see an empty space, packed full of real angels… I didn’t want any of that specialness to be bathed in alcohol that day.

Okay, so maybe not all Throwback Thursdays are bad. I have had good moments in my past, and not good moments too. I’m reminded of an interview I saw with comedian Steve Harvey, on a religious talk show program. I can’t quote him exactly, but he was talking about his un-pretty past. He said something like,  “I know who I used to be, I know who I am now, the thing I finally am starting to understand is that, I gotta learn to be cool with both them cats.’ Yeah, I do too.

It’s hard for me. I straddle and dance between the allure of that old fun life, and the deep rooted and planted feel of this new one. It’s not always easy to remember in the moment, when sometimes I want to take a sip of that accidentally opened beer, or newly invented cocktail that I helped design for our bar. It is hard in those moments to decide how I want to live today.

If however, I just look at these two pictures. From one of my favorite places on earth, with my favorite people on earth. It is all clear again.

God Bless You. I pray that you too invite Jesus Christ into your heart. It will forever and ever be the hardest, and easiest, challenge and thrill of your life, and beyond. See you in heaven my friends :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols