Drive

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It’s 5:00am and the clock interrupts blue skies over a calm shoreline. I would swear there’s sand in my bed, but it really is just in the corners of eyes as I run my left pointer finger down and away. Jumping out of bed with both hands firmly planted, my feet almost face the ceiling and then hit the rug. In full stride, I step towards my closet to put on today’s coat of armor.

I think,’What battle is being fought today?’

Most days include a few, so I need to pack a bag get it loaded onto my silver horse before I forget.

Part hair to the left or right?

Then onto the easiest decision in the morning, breakfast. Same solution each morning, a super parfait made of greek yogurt, blueberries, apricot jelly on a bed of crunchy granola and honey topped with wheat germ and cinnamon. Every day, home & away for over 10 years. No coffee ever. A tall glass of apple cider or juice with as much apple cider vinegar as I can handle that morning. It’s going to be another successful day. There is drive is every fiber of my bones, tendons & muscles. But the direction of that power will be misguided if I don’t make my first creative attempt at a smile.

I look at our cat and wonder, ‘What he would be look like if he was human? What job would he do? What type of cat would he have? Alright, no more playing.’

I look at my online calendar to see conflicts and there are always a dozen or so. Drop, keep, keep, drop, drop, drop! If you want to know who and want you love… try overbooking everyday and going through this exercise in 10 seconds. A priori decisions tell plenty about you. Then I breath. I assume I was before that, but now I really breath. After going thru a few deep, full lung-busting inhales/exhales, appropriate game face goes on.

“Hello, Jake! What do you want to eat?”, I shout down into his room.

After the answer will determine the next 15 minutes and ability to catch the bus on-time. It’s this game face that I enjoy the most. Not hockey, yoga or any of the many hats in the rat race I hold. The elbow grease it takes to be a leader for my family. That is true reward. Cliche? If I really didn’t mean it, but I couldn’t be more sincere. With all the rushes I get each day, nothing stays with me as long as a hug for helping my son get a sandwich or my daughter a new app for her phone.

Oh gosh, I’m going to be late for work, I must stop digressing. I get my family into the car and we just get to bus stop on time. Switch face now to marketing mode. I’ve meet many marketing people in the last 25 years. Some just don’t get it and others get it but don’t care. The select group of less than 1% are leaders and make things happen. I believe this to be true of all things, only about 1% know, everyone else is so distracted or ignorant that the have little wins but are very inconsistent. Even a broken watch is right two a day. Do I care if the rest of the world acts like what I’m saying is wrong, I refer back to my 1% rule. In order to be better, lead better and achieve lofty goals that seem insurmountable, I must not allow what was done before to be an example.

I begin each work day with a new slate. The start is about the research. All the information available won’t mean I thing if I make the wrong connections. If I assume anything is correct, I’m not a leader. I’m a pencil pusher. So after I’ve done all the research I believe I’ll need to start my day, I’ll connect dots. Then connect them another way and then another. The information and multitude of possibilities are not used to solve the problem for create anything. They are my library for the day. All of them are possible. Going into a problem with no end game or expectation is by far the best way to remove emotion from the equation thus limiting distractions.

Some solutions need to be about emotion. In that case I’ll consider the problem using all emotions. “How would it be if I made them cry, laugh, angry, confused… what if that wanted to die or live with greater hope. Can I get them to love or hate?”

This all happens in minutes. Every permutation is considered and those I forgot will be added later. Then I been to focus deeper. Like putting a magnifying glass on sand, then a microscope. The big picture takes all things into account, but it only tells some of the stories. If I’m going to arrive at the best option and there will be thousands, I’ll need to know everything about it. Right done to it’s building blocks.

So after research, connecting dots, and deeper insights… I pause. The pause is to come back to reality, what matters. All the information in the world and details does not solve problems, simple steps solve problems. Sometimes it takes thousands of simple steps, but they are still just one action, followed by another. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so finally I talk to people. See what they think. Leaders can not be shy nor can exist without the next leaders. Those that will carry the torch.

What I love about this process it grows stronger each day with each project. Because I’ve gone through many solutions, the ones I don’t use today… I may use tomorrow. I’m in a sense, solving all types of issues when I try to solve one. I like to think it’s like driving. All the outside information is processed and you react, second after second. Driving eventually becomes second nature and when you add navigation, playing your favorite song and phone calls into your vehicle… it can be quite a busy place, yet you still drive. Looks like it’s time to drive home. “Dammit, traffic.”, I say while thinking now is a great time to get a jump on tomorrow’s problems.

S’later

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God

There is a god. There are a few gods, no countless gods. We each have and are a unique God. And then we share our beliefs and find common ground. Where our gods are similar. We ask “What is God to me, to us.” But when we also ask,”What is God to others, chaos.” It is these confrontations that non believers are quick to point out. I want to do the opposite. I want to take you into the mind of an one atheist and into the family dynamics.

I’m an atheist. I’m one atheist. Not baptized, never part of a Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, Born Again, The Way,  Muslim, Buddist or Jewish group. I can say my “God” is me and when I found myself, my parents and brother became gods. Then after learning to love more, my wife and kids. All of them Atheists except for my son Jakob.

Jakob Briggs is Catholic. He is the reason you all are my Gods. Friends and Foes. I learn from your words, your actions. But I don’t blindly follow. I may be inspired by some and taught by others. Your missteps are lessons on how not to live. Why be the test subject for personal pain, when their are countless case studies to draw from and learn. Jakob taught me that “faith” is a personal thing not to be taken lightly. Sometimes it is all that keeps you standing. And though I believe, or should I say know that hope is not a strategy (Thank you Peter Weedfald), it is a pillar some follow to keep moving forward.

I have no hope. I know of it.  I do not hold it dear as a leg on my table. But, Jakob explained to me that many do. And then I noticed it more in my wife. I also saw that Jakob is bringing faith back into my wife’s heart and soul. He is a glowing reflection of what is good is about in some religions. I know that as he grows, he might develop distractions that cloud his child-like vision of an almighty that loves us. Most do lose that. It seems to come after we stop believing in Santa. But maybe he won’t loss it.

My son is the God of unconditional love. If my son were to maintain the ethics he currently has, I’d worship him. He is the closet thing to unconditional love I’ve ever witnessed. His innocence and direct delivery of what life is about is inspiring. His ability to sense risk, identify evils and avoid them is incredible for a young child. We are so different. I run towards risk, try to experience everything and put all my cards on the table. I’m public and he is very private. A trait my wife shares with him. He just may be the good (God) in both of us.

My daughter, Sasha is the god of nature. She is also “bite from the apple, what can happen.” She is an atheist. Never baptised, she knows nearly nothing about God. She hates God. Mocks God. I have done wrong with her and will spend the rest of my days attempting to correct that in her. I find it to be upsetting that she crossed that line. It is not evil because she too is innocent in knowledge and her emotional maturity is legendary. She is well beyond her years and just keeps getting more strong in her convictions and personality. She has already gone through countless emotional torment that rivals anything I experienced in my 47 years. People are dying all around her, hurting and hurting others. Without hope like Jakob, she finds an inner strength and self awareness to stand, get knocked down and stand again. She reminds me of what I had to endure, but her lifetime has seen so much worse. So why do I say she is a witness to all this pain and evil while Jakob is hardly effected? Don’t they live together? Share the same family experiences? Yes and no.

Life is relative. Time is relative. Perspective is relative. Each of use have a vantage point we stand or, for most, sit or lie down. Jakob does not process the earthy meaning of negative experiences deeply, it’s impact emotionally. A bad day for him is physical pain, not emotional pain. His faith pillar gives him a place to stand all the time. Sasha absorbs emotional pain, runs to it. She’ll delights in taking a few hours to watch a horror film and consider the what if’s. Jakob finds moments in the Lego Movie to be terrifying. Sasha sleeps in her own cave surrounded by Walking Dead posters and even an autographed crossbow from a character that is far from “pretty”. Her bed is covered with images of darkness while Jakob sleeps with a bright blue and fluffy blanket. They both lost people they loved, saw them experience pain. They both know I will one day leave them. Each handle these type of thoughts in their own way, both ways work. You can imagine the verbal battles between each of their vantage points. I try to let them know, at the core of their beliefs/knowledge… they actually agree.

That common ground is where I raise my family. Where we share is where we live. Where we diverge are points for conversation and further personal development. My family would be easier to manage if we all shared all thoughts, all beliefs… But easier is not fair. Easier for me might mean changing coping mechanisms in the ones I hold dearest. I could destroy their pillars that make them stand. I’m maybe a standing person, might even say a person that is alway in motion, always on my feet. Sitting and especially lying down are beyond my understanding. I’m learning about them. I understand movement and the rewards. I understand action taken by leaders, but fail to see how sitting ideally by can be good. But I’m learning I’ve been very wrong.

And all this brings me to a recent change in me. I’ve found stillness in a relatively new practice for me. Yoga was brought to me by my wife, Kelly. My wife is a god, one of stillness. She found it through a friend and created dozens of new friends by just being. It is through yoga that I’ve learned that there are selfish actions we take in life that are damaging others ability to stand. But these actions also can effect how we sit. How we find stillness and accept the world into our mind and body. I lived knowing that sitting was not standing. It was not leadership. I know far different now. Sitting is healing. To sit is to feel and work through the pain and enjoy the pleasure. So learning how to sit correctly or ever so important to me know. I was able to jump right into the standing poses, the strength, the balance, the flexibility. I can handle the pain. But sitting poses hurt me more. I’m learning to feel right. There is a conflict of “gods” during my stillness. I need to find focus and control my thoughts better. I know I’ll get there.

Once I truly learn to sit, learning to find stillness on my back will be next for I know there comes a time that I’ll need that for the “rest of eternity”.

Pain

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In 1991, my father was visiting his dad daily. Stopping by to say hello, dropping off something he needed to help do work around the house or just driving by to make sure the house was secure.

Grandpa was getting bored it seemed. New Jersey had lost it’s appeal and all he would do now is watch cowboy & indian movies and sit in the backyard. You see my grandpa, Cleo Briggs grew up in a small Maine log cabin at the foot of Mt. Katahdin near Moosehead Lake. His dad, James worked at the Paper Mill as a lumber jack. The town was Millinocket. As you could imagine, they could hunt. Guns, knives, a hook and even their bare heads would be used to catch their meals. I heard stories of hiding in the forest brush and grabbing a passing deer. Imagine your son coming home tonight with such a tale of his day covered in deer blood and a big smile? He lost 2 fingers when his older sister, Mabel was chopping wood for a fire. He was only a baby. The surgery scars I recall, looked like sausages tied at the end. Yet he always had a smile, more than any man I ever meet. It was a smile of fake teeth and one blind eye, but I forever remember it’s unique features.

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Cleo Briggs – far left

 

Both Cleo and my father, Wayne were marksman. They could fire a gun with perfect precision. I only got to witness it in the woods shooting cans or in grandpa’s backyard, where he would pick-off a squirrel that was digging up his grass. I’d also get to see it over the years down shore. Many large stuffed animals would come home after my dad shot out the entire star out of a piece of paper only 10 feet away. A sucker’s bet turned into a kid’s windfall. But it was one particular gun I remember most, the one my grandfather would get from a friend.

It was a sunny day and my dad made his daily visit after work. As he approached grandpa’s home in Clifton, the door was open. Grandpa would do that sometimes for grandma, Ann . so she didn’t have to look for her keys. She came home after  getting her hair done or shopping usually moments around the time my father would visit. One this day, grandma was not home yet. So dad yelled into the house for his dad and waited for the regular reply, “Briggs!” He heard nothing. As he walked thru the kitchen of this small 1 bedroom apartment, it was dead. No sound to be heard. Then as he looked upon the floor in the TV room, there was Cleo lying with a pillow he had used to find some comfort. Upon a closer look, the full story quickly  became apparent. Cleo, his father had inflicted a gunshot to his temple. The entire left side of his forehead was swollen from the bullet that become lodged in the skull. Yet with this, he survived that first attempt. So my dad in disbelief spoke to him to get answers. He mumbled, “It was over, no more.” Then he shot another round into his belly thru a small pillow so to muffle the sound. My father asked why once more. “I need to go, not me anymore.” Quickly Wayne called 911 and described the horror. Within 30 minutes, a helicopter landed in a small field near the home. During those minutes, much was revealed including that there was a note on the table. He claimed, thou,gh we never confirmed this, that his doctor said he had cancer. He also said his goodbyes to his wife, his son and my brother and me.

I meet my dad at the trauma hospital in Newark, NJ to help. It was dad that needed help from me. As soon as I arrived he asked,”Do we let him die?” The doctor wanted to do surgery to remove the bullets, but needed consent from Wayne. He could not say yes. Cleo told him not to save him. So he asked me to decide. The doctor said the attempt would most likely kill him but it was his job to convince me to allow the procedure to be done. I said, “If it will most likely give him peace  quicker, do it!” I saw Cleo lying there moments later to what would become my final goodbye. What I remember thinking is this would be the last time the 3 Briggs generations would be together alive.

My father immediately noticed that my decision was quick and firm. He hugged me and said, “Thanks, Briggs.” Grandfather died of a heart attack during surgery an hour later, but he really died when we decided to carry out his wish. Grandma would never forgive him. Forgive him for wanting to leave her. We tried to lighten the burden, but she could not.

My father would come to me with other emotional decisions that needed to be tilted, but none as big as that. I will never shy away from the fire and remind him all the time.

Next month we retire together. You can only imagine the bond we share and I will not attempt to describe it. Where I fall short, he fills in and vice versa.

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We laugh all time. But know under that lies memories that we both never will speak about again. This serves as the final resting place of that day.