What Even Is?

As I sit here in the coffee shop, I loathe the man across the room. There he is on his phone talking about “landing a deal”, being all self-absorbed and New York, unaware that his deal doesn’t even matter to the grander scheme of things. He doesn’t even know that the deal is probably what is tearing him away from what life really is! I despise his ignorance… I envy it.

I remember those moments of being lost in my own distractions. I have no doubt they’ll return, though I’m unsure I want them to. Instead, I want the loss of Kofi to have impact and significance, but I know I’m a human being addicted to shielding myself from the suffering that surrounds my existence. I know too the allure of distracting myself with schedules and tasks is one I have yet to conquer.

In the wake of this loss, and after spending over an hour trying to get these words on paper, the sentiments come back to me. What is this battle I fight with myself? How pointless it is to be lost in my head instead of being present in what actually is?

Then again, what even IS?

I thought I knew, or at least I thought I was on the path. But, when faced with such stark reality, we’re also faced with the knowledge we’ve been distracting ourselves from for so long.

That knowledge being the answer to the question which we refuse to acknowledge; for doing so means everything we’ve done in life to “get there” really is just a mechanism for protecting us from anticipated pain, discomfort, and fear.

That answer?

What really is is nothing, everything, and our complete lack of control of either.

What the hell am I talking about?

I’m saying the linear life that we plan and perfect isn’t REAL. It only exists in our heads. What IS is not the plan nor the perfection of living that plan. What IS is what’s happening to you right now. And now. And now.

What happened to you two seconds ago is gone, and what will happen two seconds from now is out of your control. Oh, you think it’s in your control. You think you can plan the next two seconds, then the next, and the next. You think that by doing so you can avoid the pain of the unplanned and the unwanted… but I assure you, you cannot.

You see, just because one of our plans works out, doesn’t mean we are in control of that outcome. Just because many of our schedules and jobs and relationships and plans work out; we are not in control.

Because, at any moment it could all change.

We see examples of this all the time. Some of those examples are tragic, but some of them are quite amazing. Yes, a death can come at anytime, but so too can a new life!

Further, not knowing and not being in control is all OK. In fact, it’s more than OK… it’s actually the only thing that IS.

Not being in control is the reality of living.

Ok so in plain talk, what do I think IS?

I think:

What is is the feeling you get from looking at a beautiful plant.

Plant in a winery tasting room
One of the plants at Core Winery in Lyle, WA

What is is admiring a cute pet.

Taiwanese Mountain Dog sleeping
Fay takes a snooze.

What is is the joy of seeing family come together.

baby shower
My ill attempt at capturing my sister-in-laws baby shower.
family
Rey, Clewi, and Zwayne get together.

What is is the awe of seeing the wonder of human hands.

Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge from a far.

What is is the grief of standing in front of your friend at rest and saying goodbye.

What is is the pain of holding a grieving friend.

What is is the heartache of having to take the next step forward from your grief into the unknown.

All of these things are, and then they aren’t; and none of them are within our control.

I have spent my entire life believing myself in control. I have been trying to run from the suffering of life through distracting myself with accomplishments and schedules, but, in that running, I have missed the joy that comes along with the suffering.

Seeing a life well lived end too soon, I recognize my time is running out for taking in the joy. That is what really scares me.

I also recognize that to let that joy in, to feel the depths of life, I have to let in the pain too.

To let that pain in, I need give up the idea that I’m in control and let life happen; the good and the bad.

Only then will I be free. Only then, will I be living.

Dedication

Kofi
My friend, Kofi Aidoo

The picture you see here is of my long time friend and once business partner, Kofi, who passed away April 10… just two days before I write this.

As I lay awake last night thinking about this young husband and father of 2 who was so unexpectedly ripped away from us far too early, there were many lovely phrases and metaphors I thought to write about him. Sitting here in the light of day though, none appear.

For some reason here in the daylight his passing feels so much more potent. Perhaps with eyes open one is forced to see the gap left at the loss of a dear friend. A friend whom I talked to most every day for 5 years. An individual whom I looked up to in so many ways I can’t even begin to quantify them.

One of my most vibrant memories was when Kofi was a guest on the Adrift on Purpose podcast, a favor he did for me, no doubt. He was always doing favors for everyone he loved. That was his way.

During our interview, one of his mantras that stayed etched in my mind was “I try to meet people where they’re at”. That was Kofi through and through. He was usually the best and smartest person in the room, but he moved through this world with unparalleled humility, kindness, and patience. He never tried to make anyone be anything they weren’t. He took everyone into his web of love no matter who or what they were.

He was love.

I could never live up to his example, but of course he never expected that. As I watched him construct his best life, my awe of his character grew exponentially. His life was about finding his purpose and he dedicated himself to this quest with such quiet, unabashed self determination that you hardly knew how hard he was fighting to make his life his.

His wife and his children were his life’s prize. Family was more important than anything to him, but throughout his life he didn’t lose himself to the otherness surrounding him. He used that otherness to enhance himself. It was a beautiful process to be present for.

And, present he was… at least in my life. In truth, I have no idea why someone so great stayed in my life, as I only saw myself as lesser than and flawed. But, Kofi? Kofi saw a brilliant light in me which I know I need shine in his memory.

I count myself as one of the luckiest people in the world to have been able to spend so much time to learn from and love this great man and friend. I can’t yet picture my life without him, for it seems one full of darkness and desolation.

When I think of saying these last sentiments to him, all I can picture is his smile warming my face and him saying something to the effect of, “You’re too hard on life, Hubert. It’s not that serious, after-all. Just go after your passions with all your might and have fun in the process. Live hard, love hard, and meet people where they’re at.”

I hear you, Kof, I do.

And, I love you… always.

One Crazy Week

Last week was a hell of a week. There’s no other way to say it. It was one of those weeks filled with a lot of bad, but also a whole lot of good. It was a week which I’m grateful for, despite its challenges. In fact, I’m grateful for it because of its challenges. Finally, it was a week where I was able to clearly see why I was sent back to NYC for a spell, and this fact renewed my faith in the universe having my back.

The week started off normal enough. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon when the action began. I was working away and getting a ton of great work done when I opened up my laptop to a black screen. It was a problem I had seen many times before, and I solved it by closing said screen and opening it again. Success!

I began typing something which I’m sure was incredibly profound, and that’s when my screen decided to go black. Poof! There were no other warnings, nor were there signals of dismay. Just me and my black laptop screen.

I was unable to get the screen working again, and this led me to call tech support. Tech support quickly realized they were unable to help me, but since I was here in good ole New York I was able to get an appointment at the Apple Store an hour later.

The genius at the Genius Bar, Mike, was very helpful. His mantra was, “I want customers to pay the least amount possible.” This mantra led to us trying a whole bunch of options, and then to me leaving the computer at the 5th Avenue store for a couple days. After the 48 hours were up, I was happy to report I left the Apple Store not only with a working laptop, but with zero effect on my wallet. Thanks, Genius Mike!

The next day, Thursday, I received a call from my mother telling me her mother, my grandmother, had passed away. It was somewhat unexpected. She had fallen a week earlier and, being a woman of 92, was unable to recover from her injuries. It was sad news. The funeral services would be the next Monday, and as chance would have it, there was a train that could take me from where I was staying in New Jersey to the town where the services were being held. Score a second sorta win for the universe!

Saturday came, and as I sat with my thoughts and emotions enjoying a calmer weekend, I received a text from a dear family member who lives in Massachusetts. He, his wife and their children were going to be in New Jersey later that day. We were able to meet up and spend several loving, fun, and uplifting hours together which helped to renew my spirit. Here’s a picture of the event:

two children and a woman.
My niece Rey, my nephew Zwayne, and I enjoy family time.

The weekend past and Monday appeared. That morning I boarded the train upstate and a few hours later made my way to my parents’ car. On the ride to the funeral home I sat in our shared energy. I listened to them argue about the things people who have been married 46 years argue about, and all the while considered … well let’s just say I considered a lot.

What stands out now, is the sound of the church bells. I can still hear them, actually. I can still feel the finality of their song. On the flip side I can also still feel the love that stood side by side with the grief. Yes, for once I was able to make the room to feel them both. I can also still feel my realization of their shared space, along with my realization of the spaces I’ve refused to share. But, all of this for another piece.

After the services and a reception with the family, I boarded the train back to New Jersey. I took the next few hours to reflect on all that happened in the past 8 days. I had lows of varying degrees, but each was followed by a high (i.e. a fixed for free computer, time to grieve and love with my family) which would not have been possible without my being here in New York. I reflected on how the universe whispered to me to go to New York while I was housesitting in Charlotte, and I saw how if I hadn’t listened to it things could have been much harder.

I saw how extensive my family and support system is. From precious time with friends made family, to new insights about how my family loves, my cup was quite full.

Finally, I saw how through the light comes darkness, and how through the darkness the light becomes that much brighter.

I saw a lot. I experience a lot. It was a lot.

I mean, I DID tell you it was a hell of a week, didn’t I?