Monday, October 31, 2011

Alrighty Then!

Well, this is it!

I ship out for Boot Camp tomorrow - Tuesday, Nov 1.

I was originally planning on developing content to be auto-posted in my absence, but in the time I would've taken to do that, well, instead of writing about life and people I love I was spending time living life and being with the people I love.

That being said, I have a hunch that I'll have plenty of material to work with on the other side of the next nine weeks.

Thanks for reading - we'll resume in a short two month span!


Friday, October 28, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again, But You Can Go Home

Do you remember being a kid?  No worries, no responsibilities, no obligations; not like we have now as adults.  There was school, there was Little League, there were social issues (who would be “it” first in a game of tag), but it never occurred to me that one day I’d be responsible for keeping a roof over my head.  I never once imagined I’d have a car payment.

When I think of the phrase, “You can’t go home again,” that’s what I mean.  You – well, I – we – can never go backwards.  It’s impossible.  The closest thing to that is memory loss; we can’t age our bodies and minds in reverse; time is marching on.  We can’t go back to the time of innocence, fun and frivolity.  Once innocence is lost, it’s gone forever; we’ve learned something new and every lesson learned is indelibly imprinted within our minds, branded onto our souls.

Now, some people forget, or they don’t learn from life’s happenings.  Those who don’t learn, those who forget, are doomed to repeat history.  Sometimes the “not learning” is deliberate, sometimes it’s not, but regardless, history is cyclical as events occur outside of, though perpetually intersecting with, our individual lives.  All we can do is learn the best we can from life’s happenings and progress rather than merely spinning our wheels.

Plus, I daresay, few, if any of us, knew how well we had it off as children.  Granted, I’m speaking to folks who did not grow up in abusive or highly dysfunctional homes, but until we did become responsible for ourselves we didn’t know what we were missing.  Sometimes we want to go back to that, but that is fruitless, a chasing of the wind.

However, though we can’t go backwards, we can always go home.

What is “home”?  Home is where we can let down our guard; where, though, we may have responsibilities in our lives, we don’t have to worry about them, merely tend to them when necessary.  Home is where we are free to be not only honest, but transparent with no fear of mistrust or betrayal.

If we believe in God, if we love God the Father, believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made on the cross, and then His resurrection, home is wherever God is – and He is omnipresent. 

He looks after all our needs.

He desires for us to be honest and transparent with Him; He encourages us to do that, He enables us to do that.  It’s so hard to admit, just to ourselves, that we’re not perfect, that we screw up sometimes in abhorrent ways (more than any of us would care to admit).  All God asks of us – of anyone who would approach Him – is that we be honest with ourselves about all that and then be honest with Him.  And then everything is okay again.  I mean, we need to learn from it and grow, but there’s no condemnation anymore.  We are free to be ourselves, starting off where we are right this instant, and continue to be ourselves, growing as the biological and spiritual organisms we are, all the way to the end.  For me, that means being just Cliff – that’s all I’ve got to be.

And that is so refreshing.

Other systems of faith demand best behavior, strict adherence to a moral code and depending on how well you do in the here and now, you just might have a shot at an okay hereafter.

God says, “Nah, just come as you are.  Tell me your troubles, vocalize your pain, show me your deepest wounds and I’ll heal you then I’ll show you how to really live life, free of fear.  Free of pain?  Oh, no, my child; there will always be plenty of pain to go around, but trust me on this: it’s necessary and it’ll help you grow.  There’s a world of hurt inside your heart and a world of hurt inside Mine – that’s where you live – in My heart, because I love you so much.  My world of hurt comes from having to require my Son to walk His Road of Pain so that you and I could get together.  I did it because it was necessary and I knew He could take it.  He was scared at one point, but He did it anyway because He trusted me and now look where He is.  So, come on; follow me down the Road I have laid out for you.  It’s not going to be easy but it’ll be worth it; just wait ‘til you see the party I have planned at the end of all this!  Just keep your eyes on me and everything will be all right.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again - Part 4

Parts 1 through 3 I wrote at one of my favorite places in Raleigh, NC – it’s the Global Village Organic Coffeehouse.  It’s located at 2428 Hillsborough St, across from NC State’s campus.  For about two years and some change that was a home away from home for me.  I was also an employee there for an all too brief duration and it’s probably my favorite place of work.  Caribou Coffee would be second in that pecking order, and my manager there is fantastic, but nothing really compares to the warmth and sense of belonging of Global Village.

What is it that makes a place home?

As I type this, I am now back in Columbus, Ohio (heh, at a Starbucks of all places).  I moved here just over a year ago, away from home.  Yet, my first night back, as I was riding in the car down 270, I didn’t really feel like I had left home.  Clearly, I wasn’t in the Triangle area anymore, but there was no sense of displacement; I did not find myself in unfamiliar surroundings.  Had I been driving, I would have been able to navigate the highways with the greatest of ease.

But it’s not just the familiarity of the area that has me nice and loose – it’s the people.

Over the last six months I’ve been building and establishing a life.  I began to embrace my role as a customer service rep at my job.  I developed a working friendship with my Navy recruiter as I began that process (and that’s a story and a half).  In April, I was introduced to a group of folks out of which I have a new friend base.  At my member church, I’ve deepened key relationships there.

Backing up a little bit, when I drove down from Ohio to North Carolina, I stopped in Asheville to have some pizza, beer and ping-pong action for a couple hours, reconnecting with an old high school friend.  I had never been to Asheville before.  Driving around, trying to find a parking place in the downtown area, I could have easily been overwhelmed and freaked out – and I have in lesser situations.  But I didn’t let it worry me – I was going to see my bud in a few minutes!  A bud I hadn’t seen in over ten years!

When we finally connected, it wasn’t as if the intervening years hadn’t happened, but still I knew, here was my friend; a part of my history as I am a part of his.  Some things about both of us have changed, but at our cores we’re the same and that shone through, allowing us to catch up and then talk about the future.  It was like being at home again.

Back in the Triangle, a lot of stuff has changed.  New businesses, roads, all kinds of things have sprouted up.  A lot has remained the same, but, for instance, the church I grew up in has switched locations.  Yet, attending the service there both Sundays, I never felt out of place; I saw a lot of unfamiliar faces, but there is a core of people present who I’ve known most of, if not all of, my life.  In the greater Triangle area there are even more friends I’ve gotten to know in recent years and I was able to visit with some of them.  In an area that has seen so much change and growth, I still felt as though I was at home again.

Back in Ohio, among friends I’ve gotten to know over the last few months, I feel like I am home again.

I can fit all of my possessions into my 2008 Saturn Astra.  My “permanent” address is that of an apartment.  Currently I have access only to a suitcase and laptop bag’s worth of my stuff and no access to my car.  Yet, I am perfectly at ease.

What is it that makes a place home?  The people, yes, but there’s something even deeper we’ll get to tomorrow…

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Recap of Sorts

So it's just occurred to me via FB and Twitter comments that some folks are jumping in here mid-stream.  Then, looking back at the most recent posts I've realized I haven't even mentioned my involvement with the United States Navy - that's one of the biggest things to hit this blog!

I reckon a recap is in order:

- blog relaunched
- tried some new things
- announced enlistment with the Navy
- went on hiatus
- returned from hiatus

And that brings us up to date!  It's kind of like jumping in during the fourth season of a TV show with an overarching plot.  There's a more holistic experience if you go back to the beginning.

And this concludes your recap of sorts.


And who would have suspected microwaves, of all things, possessing such arcane secrets??

You Can't Go Home Again - Part 3

For Part 1 then Part 2, click the respective links.

So, going back to North Carolina was a lot different than leaving it.

When I moved to Ohio it was with a great sense of anticipation that I was finally “arriving” somewhere and I don’t just mean in the sense of “getting to a physical destination.”  I thought to myself, “Finally, I’m in a relationship with the girl of my dreams – life can now begin!”  What I was really doing was running from what I perceived to be a failed attempt at life as an English teacher, as a son, as a brother, an uncle, as a responsible, functional human being.  When I thought life was finally about to begin, clearly I was wrong. 

Life had been tooling along all the while; my perspective simply needed some adjusting.

Once I got over the shock of Reality’s right hook, I started hanging out with people again.  Now, I’ve always been more of a one-on-one person rather than engaging in groups, but there was a definite need for group socialization that had been lacking the previous months.

During the two months of coming to grips with the situation I had been in I learned that I’ve already arrived.  In conjunction with that, a lesson I learned while in counseling is that I’m already enough as I am; there’s no need to live up to anyone’s expectations (unless of course a specific kind of relationship demands that (which, I suppose, could apply to any relationship to a point), such as a teacher-student relationship, or recruit-Recruit Division Commander relationship).  It’s all about one being comfortable in one’s own skin.

Every attempt at something new – new relationships, new career paths – they were always me running from my “failed attempts” and overall discontent with myself, with who I was.  But in reading Jon Acuff’s book, Quitter, coupled with the aforementioned lessons in the previous paragraph, instead of looking for something new, I looked back into my past to see what I had done that had made me feel alive or purposeful.  That was the beginning of a time of re-discovery.  “What makes Cliff, Cliff?” I asked myself.  And so likes and loves and dislikes I had sacrificed on the altar of people-pleasing were resurrected and my sense of self began to re-form. 

During the period of re-socialization I had the opportunity to live these lessons out.  For one thing, I had neither the energy nor desire to put up any kind of front.  I was discreet, of course, not airing out my dirty laundry for all to see, but I wasn’t trying to please anyone.  I was out to prove I had nothing to prove; I was able to just be myself, to be comfortable in my skin and it turns out life goes much better when engaging it as such.  When you present yourself as the real you to people, that’s who people get to know.  When you present yourself as someone else, you’re known by no one(1).  …and that just flat out sucks; it’s a miserable existence – it is not living, it’s a mode of survival.

Through that I’ve made some good friends and actually have some firm, albeit young, roots in an area I never anticipated having them – and that because the possibility simply never occurred to me.

So, going home to North Carolina has been a much different experience than moving to Ohio.  I’m not running from anything.  For once in my life, I can truly say that I’m running to something.  Sure, some people get left behind – either permanently because they can’t handle supporting me in my vision or only temporarily because I need to go places that they can’t, but I will see them again.  Either way, there is some pain in that.

That and doing something radically different than anything I’ve ever done before, if for no other reason than it simply being something purely of my own volition.  The initial suggestion came through others, and others have supported and encouraged me and held me accountable, but I’m doing it all because I want to.  It’s not out of desperation, it’s not a last choice – it’s because the opportunity is freakin’ awesome.

Tomorrow: how the return to Ohio has been weird because it there's no real weirdness about it...

1 - I'm sure I read a brilliant post on this on Acuff's blog, but for the life of me I can't find it now...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again - Part 2

So, though I now feel as though there's more than one place I belong, that is not to say, the two places are  identical – heheh, not by any means.  Though people are still people – If you prick me, do I not bleed Buckeye Scarlet/Wolfpack Red? – there is a slight, though fundamental, difference in the overall attitude.

Columbus, to me, feels as an older, bigger city.  The Triangle is a younger, though rapidly-growing area.  It’s only a matter of time before the Triangle area wakes up one day and isn’t as spry as it used to be and Columbus will get its second wind.  But what I’ve noticed is that there just seems to be an air of fatigue hanging over Columbus.  It’s not overwhelming, it’s not stifling, but it’s there – the pressures of being a major metropolitan area, I suppose.

But that’s something I actually like; or perhaps “appreciate” is a better term.  For once in my life, looking back at least, I feel like I’ve lived in an area that’s reflected my own soul: fatigued after a lifetime of working towards something; simply trying to be who I’m meant to be: a functional human being with the purpose of being the best me I can be.  Isn’t that the point of every city, to be the best city it can be?

Goodness knows Columbus has done that and, from my understanding, in recent years has had its share of hard knocks.  Yet, it trudges on, sometimes cheerfully so because of its inhabitants who refuse to throw in the towel.  Reasonable negative comments can be made about the area, but what’s the point?  The same can be done about the Triangle area, about any area.  We’re in a fallen world, there’s something “wrong” with everything of that kind of world.  However, there’s already enough negativity out there to sustain an army of Negative Knights for nigh a nillennium and yet a glaring deficit of positive energy.  Everyone’s got something to complain about because not everyone is going to be happy at the same time.  Shucks, some poor souls can never be happy because they believe happiness is simply some fantasy to be chased only by fools and dreamers who will accomplish nothing of practical value.

But I’ve enjoyed my time in Columbus.  It’s been a learning and growing experience.  Deep, meaningful growth and education always comes with some measure of pain or struggle – otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it; it wouldn’t be real.  From six months of chasing the wind, two months of coming to grips with that and six months of learning to live again I’ve come out a little wiser for the wear with a renewed, clearer sense of purpose, some good, honest friendships and a particularly special relationship that promises to be more than I hoped for or imagined; that is to say, real.

Fantasy is fun but the book, the film, the song, the encapsulation of the idea always has an ending point.  Reality, life being lived, is forever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again - Part 1

...and...we're back!  It's been a good few weeks.

For the past 10 or so days I've been in North Carolina; tying up loose ends, reconnecting with old friends, re-establishing residency - and it's been quite interesting on a few levels.

The series of posts beginning today are primarily reflective on the whole experience of moving from one place to another and drawing comparisons and contrasts between the two locations.  I hope everyone enjoys it, but particularly Ohioans and North Carolinians.


They say, “You can’t go home again.”  I reckon that’s true to a point.

When I first moved to Columbus I almost immediately began drawing comparisons and contrasts between the ways of life in Ohio and North Carolina.  Everyone around Columbus seemed to be more cynical, morose, in a generally fouler mood than the folks in good ol’ NC.  Traffic seemed to be much more manic, crazy, insane than what it was like in the Raleigh area.  In Columbus, pretty much everyone – and I mean everyone – obsesses over the Buckeyes.  Yet, I moved there for love so I would endure and search for bright points in the environment and locals and see what Southern Cheer I could bring to the wayward Midwest.

Well, all of that got turned on its head when Reality socked me with a left jab and then a mean right hook, crushing the metaphorical bridge of my nose along with the rose-colored glasses I had been unwittingly sporting for quite some time.  It took a month and a half or so to get over that and then my vision started coming into focus.  After reflecting on the experiences I had had after a couple visits back to NC during my time in Ohio I arrived at some interesting conclusions.

It just so happened that people I normally rolled with in NC versus the folks I initially rolled with in Ohio were different kinds of people.  And then I realized, “Oh yeah – I know plenty of cynical, morose and generally foully-mooded people in North Carolina.”  It doesn’t matter where you are, there are always crowds of optimistic people and cynical people – and that’s okay.  But I’m not here to talk about the dynamics which exist in the balance of optimism and cynicism though I think that’s a very interesting topic to explore – so, Back To the Point!  (Heheh, “Points?  Where we’re going we don’t need…points.”)

Another conclusion, or rather, realization I arrived at in my ruminations and observations is that I-40 traffic is awful!!  Traffic in Apex, of all places, is awful!  …during the right time of day, of course; and so it is in Columbus – some times of day traffic is delightful; other times it’s a nightmare.  On the road, people in NC can be just as rude as they are in Ohio; on the road, people in Ohio can be just as polite and accommodating as they are in NC.

In Ohio, everyone’s obsessed with Buckeye football.  In the Triangle area, everyone is obsessed with basketball – be it NC State, ECU, Wake Forest, UNC, Duke, etc.  And therein lies really the only difference: there’s only one team in Ohio, so naturally all the sports nuts gravitate towards that.  There’s some diversification in NC, but essentially it’s the same thing: something I just don’t understand as I don’t go cuckoo for sports like Sonny goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

As all this began dawning on me I started arriving at new conclusions: there are nerds in Ohio, there are nerds in North Carolina.  There are Browncoats in NC and there are Browncoats in Ohio.  What was most comforting, though, is that God is just as much in Ohio as He is in NC.  From that truth has sprung the security and assurance that Ohio is now another place I can call “home.”  Indeed, “Home is where the heart of Carolina is,” but I know there’s more than one place I “belong.”

To be continued…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Regularly scheduled blogging to resume soon.

In the meantime, here's a trip down two memory lanes which converge in a most unlikely, yet plausible manner:


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Something Special

While the blog is "officially" on hiatus, I came across this yesterday that made feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy and glad about my current occupation.  It's originally from which is a website where people who work in the customer service industry post stories (anonymously) of odd and often funny experiences they've had interacting with customers.  I have a few myself I'll be submitting over the next couple of weeks.  Anyway, below is a wonderful story of a customer service rep just being plain amazing - after the jump.