I Can

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”  Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

I felt a wave  of gratitude and stopped what I was doing.  I took out my phone and wrote what I was thinking, why I felt this way, what I was grateful for. A grounding practice I am working on to maintain presence. To escape the shadow of the past and future and be present. It is hard to be haunted by thoughts when you are expressing gratitude. Impossible really.

There was a theme that was running through what I was grateful for. Two simple words that brought me much joy.

I can.

One syllable, simple yet elegant words.  The power that they contain is tremendous.

I can means choice. I can is in of itself a positive affirmation. Empowerment.

Take away a mans freedom and you take away so much of his choice. His ability to say, “I can…”. You do not realize how important this is until it is gone.

I’ve done so much I’ve enjoyed since my release. The living of life in as wide a fashion as possible. Some experiences minor, things in the past I took for granted. Experiences seen through a different lens. One of gratitude, a sense of what makes life life. Presence in the moment. The knowledge of what a miracle each moment is.

Having lunch with a friend, because I can. Going to a museum, because I can. Hitting golf balls at Chelsea Piers, because I can.  Writing because I can.

So what will I do tomorrow and the day after, not sure. And it doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is I can.

I can has two different connotations. One in which I literally can. A physical connotation of doing something. The other is more spiritual. More emotional and with that a broad, hard to pinpoint definition. But both have another piece of the equation. Something that truly bring the magic out. Not only, I can, but I will, and I did.

Action. Doing.

This journey has no end, no destination. My life will evolve. What was is done. Written in the pages of the universe, existing only within my mind. What is to come is unknown and often time frightening. Fear for the sake of fear.  Thankfully within that fear lies excitement.  Experiences and people will come and go, life will change.

But I hope this mentality to be wowed by two simple words never escapes me.

Fill the Glass from Within

I wore my friends Panerai the other day. A ten thousand dollar watch similar to what I used to own. I saw it on his wrist, my eyes instantly drawn to it. A bird to a shiny object.  I put it on and instantly felt good. It felt right. I felt complete, as though something was missing and this watch was the final piece of the puzzle.

Funny, I didn’t feel incomplete before that moment. But apparently I was and this watch was the missing piece to my feeling whole. I wore it and it felt good. A giant watch that dwarfs my small wrist, but it melted into my being as if it had always been there. It felt natural and right.  I felt protected behind this watch, I had a shield from having to be the real me. It didn’t matter that it was not mine, it just felt right.  Here I was, a now complete human. With an identity and a new found confidence.

And then, as I was admiring it on my wrist, lost in its “what it is” did I realize what I was doing. What this was. This watch was an empty calorie substitute for all that I have been working on. It was the physical embodiment of external happiness. It became glaringly obvious to me as it sat on my wrist, not a part of my body, but truly something existing outside my body.  Not a part of who I am, but how quickly I made it part of me.

It couldn’t have been a better example of an external circumstance impacting my internal being.

My egoic mind desperately seeks an identity and this watch, as the ones I owned in the past, the cars I drove and the restaurants I frequented, easily and happily provided.

So easy, throw something on and feel complete. Why do all the work internally when something like a watch can fill the void and provide what it is that a part of me seeks? I would like to say I took the watch off in disgust and vowed to work on my internal happiness, a lesson learned. I didn’t. I liked wearing it.

But what I did do, was understand the difference between external and internal happiness. This could not have been a better example. I am not going to beat myself up for enjoying having this watch on my wrist.

Maybe one day I will once again own one. But I will not until I fill the void that is within me by doing the work that is required.  I would like to think the difference of owning one in the future will only come when I feel whole from the inside, when I can truly say I am at peace and accept myself as I am.

Going out and making enough to pay for one of these is easy as compared to the work to find my real sense of self and building internal happiness. Filling the glass from the inside. That takes time.

It’s easy to understand why I fell into the materialistic world to create who I was. How long does it take to put on a watch? Two seconds? Two seconds to feeling complete. Hiding behind a thing, rather than opening up what is inside and being vulnerable. Being real.

How long does it take to fill oneself from the inside, to forgive oneself, to love oneself, to know that I am enough as is? I don’t think there is a time that could be applied to that.  It is not measured by, ironically, the ticking of seconds on a watch. And maybe that is where it is easy to stop. With nothing tangible to grab onto its easy to quit.

But that is when the real work begins. That is where the fruits of labor come into being. This is where the magic happens. Understanding, wrapping my thoughts around something not tangible as a means of happiness. Taking the time, and being present enough to know, the very act of writing this gives me pleasure and fills more of me than the watch did.

Instant gratification is easy. Empty calories, no substance, leaving me hungry for more the second the novelty wears off and the next rung on the ladder becomes the goal. Living in the gap of not appreciating what I have and wanting what I don’t. Being in two different places, and as such, being torn in two. That is where suffering lives. The gap between the present and the future.

Its a process. I hope I remember I am more than what I wear on my wrist or what I drive.  I hope I remember to choose the hard path instead of the easy one.

It will be worth it.





When in prison I dreamed of freedom. Freedom as I defined it then.  As I imagine so many of us would. Freedom of choice.  The ability to go where I want and do what I want. The freedom to take a walk and get lost. The freedom to drive with no particular place to go.  The freedom to eat at any time I choose. Not 6,11 and 4. Everyday. Freedom from time.

I have this freedom and experience it everyday. I am so grateful for it. I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have had and will continue to have. I am grateful to live in a world that begs to be explored.

It is within this regained freedom I have grown to understand there is an even greater freedom.

A freedom that I had never lost, but that I never fully realized I had.

The freedom from the demons that haunt me. The freedom to choose how I react.  The freedom to create.  The freedom to think. The freedom to love and forgive.  The freedom to let go.  Freedom from the past and regret. Two sides of the same coin.  Freedom from the future and the anxiety that is inextricably a part of what will happen next. The freedom from fear.The freedom to think beyond how I normally think. The freedom to write, paint, create and think in multiple dimensions.

Nobody can take that away from me. And nobody can give it to me either.

Freedom as I defined it in prison was reliant on time. The passing of seconds, minutes, hours and days. Freedom as I knew it could not be rushed. It could be deceived by following a routine, mini accomplishments throughout the day to signify the passing of time. But the seconds still ticked at the same pace. I was a captive of time.

Freedom as I see it now is reliant on me and directly proportional to the amount of work I put into it.  A journey into myself, one that must be honest and authentic. And with no expectation of a particular outcome.

I hold the key to this freedom.

I made the mistake of looking for the key in the pages I’ve read.  The subjects I study. Looking for that one word or practice that will let me cross over.  I seek the silver bullet that will take care of it all. The magic pill.

It does not work this way. The key is not found within the pages of books. It is not something to look for. It is something that is forged. Deep within.It is forged as the aggregate of every moment that has brought me to the most important moment. This moment. And then the next, and then the next.  It is hard work. And it is part of the journey.

This is for me to work on. However small the steps. Day after day.

Now that I am out of prison I am truly working on being free.