Life is too deep for words… | Year In Review – 2nd Quarter

As 2013 ended and the new year year began, the singular goal I set out for myself was to “LIVE, by embracing ALL that life has to offer.”

Who knew life would hold me accountable to that goal!? Overwhelmed, in response to the amount of curve balls – which I stopped counting –  that life has thrown my way in the past months, is an understatement.

Regardless, all those experiences which have for the most part left me with nothing but disappointments, discouragements, frustrations and even almost despair have made me more desirous of learning what it means to be alive. It, in more ways than I can ever describe in words, fuels the desire to LIVE even more.

Now, I get it…

Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it. – C. S Lewis

…or at least I’m learning to.

Amidst the submersion though, there were few moments I was able to come up for air; moments accompanied by intense joy and relief, moments that provided me with clarity and a renewed determination more than ever before.

These things happened:

Along with two other Nigerians, my TEDx Talk was featured on a blog curated by Tosinger.

With one of my LeaderShape friends, Michelle Alvarez, along with other volunteers I helped to pass out roses to women in Houston to show them how appreciated they are – for her #GiveARose Campaign.

I reunited with my Mom who I hadn’t seen in almost 7 years. The most blissful of all things that’s happened this year!

Just a few days ago, I completed my first year of graduate school as a School Psychology major. #2moreyearstogo

And of course, poetry… (that still makes me really happy – be it writing, listening or reading it!)

Well, until when you hear from me again – which will be soon, I promise! – I’ll be somewhere learning to make sense of this thing called life, continuing to embrace all that it has to offer me; the joy as well as the not-so-joyful.

I shall return here to make an announcement – a very big one, actually! – before the next quarter… let’s just hope everything goes to plan.

I leave you with this from a commencement speech by Jim Carrey, below:

Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you… I [have] learned… that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love…Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door… and… just walk through it.

And if you get the chance, do listen to the whole thing – it really spoke so much life (pun unintended, or maybe is)  into me. It just might for you too.

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…& the tears keep flowing

If Benjamin Zander, the author of “The Art of Possibility” – a book that continues to shape my life as it pertains to visions, dreams, etc. – were to have been given the chance to assess or judge my life this week, his verdict would be that I have not been living in the realm of possibility, but rather scarcity.

This is a attitude to life that tends to lead spirally downward. And that’s exactly how most of this week has been. It’s left me empty, alone, and inadequate to a certain extent. Of course there were moments when I reminded myself (and was reminded by others) that this was no way to live, and got a taste of envisioning myself in a more bountiful state; but those moments were like a grain of sugar in a gallon of sea water. Sooner than later, those moments became overwhelmingly insignificant.

This week, I cried. Yesterday again, I did. Below is a page from what I wrote in my notepad/journal yesterday night.

the tears keep flowing
…the tears keep flowing

This is why I cry.

Sometimes, this dreamer gets lost in pursuing his dreams that he loses himself in the process. He forgets what drove him to chase after those dreams in the first place. He doesn’t remember why he dreamed, nor why he continues to dream.

I write this post to give you a glimpse into nights like yesterday when optimism (living in the realm of possibilities) is not easily accessible to this dreamer. Nights like these are as important as nights I’m inspired to accomplish the things I’ve set my mind to do for me; and ultimately, the world. However, the goal is still in sight. Nights like these, I get derailed and lose sight of my dreams. And so, I cry.

I cry to let my tears – like the rain – wash off the dirt on the windshield of possibility; the vehicle that will transport me to the land of my dreams.

You need not know about this part of my life, but it’s a promise I made in posts such as this one – I Wonder What My Bed Sheets Say – to tell our stories as they are, no edits. This is mine.

It would be a lie for me to only post here about days I am inspired to wake up to work towards achieving my goals when there are nights like yesterday. And nights like yesterday are very much part of the whole story.

And yes, there’ll be nights like these. And yes, it’s OK to feel like you want to give up on your dreams. As long as you don’t!

Addressed, To you:

When was the last time you cried? And what (or who) made you cry? This dreamer would love to hear your own story, do share 🙂

The writer of one of the Psalms rightly note, that “Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning.

And below is one of the songs I started my morning with.

The Makings of Me: On My 22nd Birthday

For starters, I really don’t know where or how to start this (I love ’em, but pardon the pun!)

I am 22.

And for some reason, it’s very significant to me. One would think my 21st year should be…but I was not nearly as excited then as I am today!

I think I know why

Again, just to remind you what this blog is about, it is to document my journey towards the accomplishment of certain dreams I’ve had since I was born, and the deeds I’m doing to make them a reality. So far, so good.

And I’ve never quite been so close. In the last 22 years, I’ve never quite had that feeling of “I got it!”

…until now!

I am so assured, and am continually reassured that “the future [indeed does] belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, and trust me, I am dreaming, and dream…a lot! Lots of events (most significantly my experience at LeaderShape) have happened this past year leading to this one I’m about to start today, that have equipped me with what it takes to make that future I’ve dreamed about happen. Sure, like I said, it’s all ‘one step at a time’ and for this next year which I start today, I just want to keep the ball rolling. I’m not stopping…at least not any time soon.

I am grateful I have people (family, friends, and even strangers) to share all that I am with. I mentioned somewhere on this blog, that my deepest fear – what I fear the most – is that I am actually good at being everything I am.

I enjoy life, and I delight in learning from it, and siphoning from it everything it has to offer.

And a lot of things I do today have been 22 years in the making.

And still, I don’t think I’m there just yet…but there is no doubt that I’m very close. This Close!

With that as a form of preamble, I decided to sum up the whole of what I am (not quite lol) in a 4 minutes video  using the spoken word format of poetry. This is just something else I deeply love. Words….

…words are as living, breathing, able to shape, form…just as life itself is.

Of course, achieving certain dreams is about setting goals. I mentioned on this blog that creating this blog was actually one of my manageable/short term goals, and it definitely feeds into the stretch goals as it pertains to the BIG PICTURE!

And for this year that starts for me today, I decided to set some goals for myself. 22 to be exact!

Just know that if you’re reading this, I have enrolled you into my team (yes, without your consent. You’re welcome!) and you’re responsible as well as accountable to making sure I achieve these goals by this time next year. So check up on me to see how I am doing on them. Thanks.

And to wrap this post up, I thought this song is fitting, to describe my journey over these past years. I stole the title of this post from the song as well, so I might as well post it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again just in case you’re wondering why I always end my posts with Music…

How could I not!?

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what I said before, but oh well!

…This Close (Guest Post by @KarlNova)

Below is a guest post by a friend, Karl Nova. He blogs here at: http://karlnova.blogspot.com/ and from time to time, he brings up interesting topics for discussion on twitter: @KarlNova

The reason he’s posting here is because he’s a fellow dreamer. You can go ahead and ask him what he does…don’t tell him I sent you though!

Like I said (I wish!) posted somewhere on this blog:

“You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us…And the world will be as one” – John Lennon

…And he’s decided to let me post his piece on here as it relates to dreams, and disappointment. If you’ve ever dreamed, and attempted to take the little steps towards that vision, you probably do know what it feels like to be disappointed or discouraged. As you might have noticed by now, music is a significant part of this blog. I’ve posted songs, or lyrics on here…and the title of this piece is part of a line from a song I already posted here as a theme song for one of my core values – service; and I thought it was a befitting title for this piece.

It’s so frustrating when you’re…’this close’ – Alim Kamara

And I’m sure you do agree!

____________ . ___________ . __________________

Karl Nova begins:

Disappointment is a hard thing to deal with.

I hate being let down and I hate letting people down but both have happened quite a lot in my life and even though it sounds pessimistic, I know it will still happen again because you know that’s life innit?

Some who are more eloquent and loquacious than myself will tell you with more grandiose verbosity than I care to muster that “every disappointment is a Divine appointment with destiny” and I do believe that, it’s just that when let downs happen, it takes more than eloquence to numb the pain though it is helpful to be reminded that if we look closer it all could be a blessing in disguise as our wise mothers tell us with comforting tones and encouraging hugs.

The more disappointments happen, the more you try to protect yourself from them happening and what we do is lower our expectations or even walk around expecting let downs to happen even when there is no sign or hint of it. One might even start to reduce their hopes in the name of being “realistic” and one who was once a dreamer about possibilities over time hardens into what they call a “realist” and to be fair one must keep it real and try to be objective but like an old song by Les McCann says “trying to make it real compared to what?”

The thing is we can’t live like that and deep down inside we know this, even the greatest cynic knows this. The late great comedian George Carlin said:

“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist”

…this is very true. If you ever meet a person that comes off as very cynical about everything, just dig deeper and you might probably unearth a story of someone who has been let down a lot in life. Either that or they have been around people who they have seen let down and seeing all that has affected how they see things generally.

Like I said we can’t live without hopes, dreams and aspirations even if sometimes those things seem like the proverbial carrot dangling from the proverbial stick leading us on. Yes indeed some dreams do seem like a mirage in the desert that you never seem to be able to reach but everyone needs something to aim for or you just live aimlessly with no purpose. No one can live for long like that, even if you don’t know what it is, you sense you were born for a reason. You sense that there is something more than the norm that you are seeing around you that you are here for.

Besides all this, there is the day to day survival that is happening regardless… and you are here, right in the middle of it. Everyday you wake up and life goes on. You are on a journey regardless. As long as you are breathing the journey continues. So my prayer for you and for me as we live is that God will guide us all. I pray that God will heal hearts that have suffered setbacks and that somehow by grace we turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

Yes I know it is not easy, yes I know it is easier said, tweeted, facebooked, instagrammed etc than done but we must do this. This one life we’ve been blessed to live on earth has no sequel here. Yeah YOLO and all that but that is not an excuse to live reckless, it is more of a call to treasure every moment you have. You can’t crawl back into your mama’s womb, you can be reborn into a life that extends into eternity though but hey that is a whole other blog 🙂

* * *

Ayo’s Note:

Granted, there are those who might stumble across this – who don’t believe in a god or don’t find prayer helpful in any way, but I do believe (nice word choice, right?) there are lots of things you’ll find helpful in what has been said so far!

I’ll close with these words that resonated with me:

“Everyone needs something to aim for or you just live aimlessly with no purpose. No one can live for long like that, even if you don’t know what it is, you sense you were born for a reason. You sense that there is something more than the norm that you are seeing around you that you are here for.”

My Deepest Fear…

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

I am sitting here at the library and thinking to myself, I can’t lie to myself anymore. I am absolutely tired of it. I can’t pretend anymore that I don’t see streets paved with Gold (on this earth mind you) on which my feet will soon walk on… I can’t pretend anymore that I am nothing special. I can’t lie to myself anymore that I don’t have something to offer the world…that I am not needed here. That I have nothing to contribute.

And the greatest fear of mine is to live up to this truth of my uniqueness. There is a spark that has been deposited in me by my Maker, a light that is not meant to be hidden under a bushel. My fear is coming to terms with the reality that I have a voice the angels in Heaven envy, the kind of voice that mountains are more than willing to echo. My fear is being able to stand up confidently in front of the thousands of people I see before me, and being able to believe them when they tell me that they are here to hear what I have to say….

And I have to say, at this moment, I have to try and sniffle as hard as I can to prevent this drop of tear developing in the corner of my eyes from falling down…I’ll excuse myself after I finish writing this!

My greatest fear is owning up to the fact that there is absolutely nothing ordinary about me. And I am sitting here at the library, thinking to myself, “why did it take this long?”

Why did it take this long, to realize that “my playing small does not serve the world.“, that “there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around me.

And so, today I let those fears go….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

This is in the spirit of the lessons I’ve learned through my LeaderShape experience, coupled with a lot of self-reflection, especially over the past month. I started keeping a Gratitude Journal at the beginning of this month, and I was stupefied as to how much of life I actually missed before now…the simple little things we count as insignificant! Like the smile of a child, the hellos said by strangers, the fact that someone said “thank you” for something you did for them, laughter, music, poetry, running in the rain, the fact that I had something to bite on, the fact that I was able to run, and catch the bus before it passed by me….

And today, just in the space of 12 hours…I received two news that reminded me that there is something in me that others see, which I’ve refused to see for a long time.

One: One of my poems, which I wrote as a memorial for the victims of the Dana Air Crash that happened on June 3rd in Lagos, (my country) Nigeria, was selected to be included in an Anthology meant to commemorate Dana Airlines Flight 9J-992 from Abuja to Lagos, Sunday June 3, 2012.

Two: The mid-course evaluation of my Philosophy Professor, who at the end of his helpful comments wrote: “Keep up the overall consistently strong work” This is a very challenging class, as a boatload of work has to be done over a period of 5 weeks. Gruesome to say the least! And so far, I’m in the A minus range, and it might stay that way if I, according to my Professor again, continue to “keep up the good work in class!”

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Marianne Williamson

As for me, I am done with being fearful of how awesome I am…

MEPHOBIA: Fear of becoming so awesome that the human race can’t handle it, and everyone dies.

…And I give you permission to go do the same.

Life is too beautiful not to dream. This is the purpose of this blog, to document those dreams, and the deeds that are being done as I journey to achieve them. However, I am interested in not only documenting mine, but others’ as well…which leads us all to the next chapter of this journey.

More about that soon….

In the meantime,

If your heart turns blue, I want you to remember
This song is for you, and you are full of wonder

Possibility; It’s an Art

The dictionary defines Art thus:

the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

It describes Possibility as:

the state or fact of being possible; anything that is possible

Combining both terms, as “The Art of Possibility” what we get is this:

The production, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance of anything that is possible!

Now ain’t that something? But the question is, what exactly is this art of possibility? I believe from the analysis above, it has to do with the fact that you can produce what is beautiful, because in the strictest sense, anything is possible.

Everything I talk about on this blog will relate back to my experience at LeaderShape, and this for me is definitely one of the highlights of that experience. Without it, this blog would definitely not be in existence. And I’d assume it’s a good thing that it is in existence. You can read the About to get a grasp of what I’m speaking of.

So enough with the preamble….

We were told at the first day of the retreat that LeaderShape’s vision had a lot to do with two major things, namely: leading with “integrity”, and “a healthy disregard for the impossible” – I translated this to mean “endless possibilities”. And to be honest, everything we did had something to do with those two terms. Now, I am a dreamer, so the endless possibility stuff attracted me, though in a very subconscious way. Now, I am also a self-conscious self-doubter, which means that I keep track of my failures, and disregard or fail to acknowledge my successes (most times, I don’t even see them at all). The failures and limitations are more glaring. Now, that chain was what the “healthy disregard for the impossible” was meant to break, and trust me it did break it.

We were told to think of a vision, and imagine that there was nothing stopping us from achieving it. We were told to dream, with no barriers…we were told to not see the sky, let alone see it as a limit. And I took the bait…

I refused to listen to the voices in my head that tried to dissuade me from dreaming. The calculating part of me nudged me to start thinking of my vision in terms of how “practical” or “reasonable” it is, but what I soon found out was that it’s unreasonable to weigh capacities in this realm of “endless possibilities”. Those words didn’t make sense anymore, everything was possible!

Having a vision allows one to be vulnerable. For me, it turned me to a little child…I was able to actually dream. Things I had told myself I wasn’t capable of doing, in an instant resurfaced, and I gained a renewed strength to pursue lost passions.

That my friends is what is called the Art of Possibility.

As with any type of art, there are techniques to be followed. Techniques are guidelines, and not hard and fast rules to be follwed. They only are there to give you a basic framework to work with, and after that, you can decide to in the metaphoric sense “step out of the box”, and break the rules. Many exciting forms of art have been produced by breaking the established rules. So what does this have to do with possibility?, you say.

Well, we’ve established that Possibility is an art, and it definitely comes with its own techniques that are meant to guide towards that realm.

It is in that light that I introduce you to this:

Benjamin Zander was one of the people we learned from and about at the LeaderShape retreat. His passion, and high energy for life is infectious. I, like most other people, thought he was crazy due to his highly optimistic approach to life. Life isn’t always that great, the cynic in all of us screams. However, in the realm of possibility, life can be…and that is what he aims to teach using humor, and other techniques.

So, on to those techniques.

Humor, as mentioned above is one of them. He calls it the Number 6 Rule: “Stop taking yourself damn too seriously”. Relax, enjoy life and when you make mistakes, throw your arms in the air and say “How fascinating”. (He’s crazy, I told you). This brings you out of what he calls the downward spiral, where you are in a rut of hopelessness and despair..no bueno.

“It’s all invented” is also another tool he talks about. This involves realizing that life consists of games that are invented, which can be recreated based on how we choose to tell our individual stories…and rather than playing a game of success/failure, where you are keeping scores, like me of how many times you’ve failed, you can decide to invent and play a new game. He calls that new game, I am a contribution game.

Quieting the voice in your head is a good one too, and it ties in with humor. I’m sure you’re familiar with those nagging voices, “you’re no good”, “stop dreaming, and wake up..smell the thorns on the roses” (yeah, they hardly point you to the beautiful things)…and it goes on. What he tells you to tell those voices is to say, “Thanks for sharing. I value your input, but I’m busy”

Others include, giving an A (which means that you should go ahead and award A grades to yourself and others, without consideration to merit or whether they/you “deserve” it or not), connecting with others in the sense of a community/collaboration, leading from any chair in the room…and the list goes on.

What this means is that you pretty much need to get the book…

I’ll end on this note, with a review of the book that captures the content of my heart , as written by Margaret J. Wheatley, Author of Leadership and the New Science, Coauthor of A Simpler Way, and President, The Berkana Institute.

The Art of Possibility makes a humane and brilliant future possible. I truly want everyone to read this book – it opens us to the treasure of our great human capacity for creativity. These practices are simple yet extraordinarily effective for tapping into the unlimited energy of the human imagination”

Okay, and now to really end for real… I hope it’s not cheesy to say that I came across this song from a commercial by Kraft cheese (get it?), and it represents all that possibility is. Music speaks for me when words can’t, honestly. So, press play, and I’ll see you beyond the skies!