Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I've Moved!

It is with a sense of sorrow and a proverbial tear in my eye that I publish this last and final post on Blogger.

The time has come for me to consolidate my writing to one blogging platform, and that platform for me is WordPress. So, if you've enjoyed my writing here, I invite you to continue reading the drivel that I put together on my new personal WordPress site (http://gilgonzalez.wordpress.com).

For more information about what I'm up to, please visit my About.Me page.

Thank you all for the support and comments over the years. I look forward to the continued interaction with you all on my new site. See you there!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Offsetting the Gravity of Failure

Failure. The word itself is filled with weight.

I used to live in a world where the gravity of failure could be paralyzing. The idea of not succeeding or not attaining my personal goals was unthinkable to me.

It’s not as if my life was perfect and did not have its share of setbacks. Still, I feel I always lived a blessed life, and, for the most part, I had always been able to achieve that which I set out to do. This is, of course, until life served up a healthy dose of reality that allowed me to open my eyes to the truth. I guess that’s what maturity is: the clarity of vision that’s achieved with the passing of time and the accumulation of experience.

My closed door begins with a love story. It’s the tale of a young lad who falls head over heels for a princess, a princess betrothed to a knight and living comfortably in her castle. The young boy, who himself is committed to someone else, is so blinded by his love and infatuation that he forsakes the bond he once held true in order to pursue the princess, a woman he knows with absolute certainty is his ‘one true love’. The princess returns his affections in kind, and the two of them dream of a happily ever after together.

The story, however, does not conclude with a fairytale ending. Rather, just as the boy is running to the castle gates to claim his princess, she orders the gates be slammed shut. The boy is left to fall into a cavernous mote and anguish as he’s consumed by the metaphorical beast that is failure.

(Aside: Creative liberty and dramatic flair are probably my two favorite things about being a writer.)

So you get the point. I went all in on what I thought was a winning hand, and I ended up losing it all. As I look back on the pivotal moment that changed my life, I still remember the numbness I felt in my body at the realization that what I believed with all my heart to be absolutely true turned out to be false. It was as if a bomb had gone off, and I could hear a ringing in my ears that was literally blinding.

The door to my dream had been slammed shut.

In keeping with the theatrical writing, I would like for you to imagine a movie scene you’ve seen a million times. The hero takes a fall or is ambushed and hit in the back of the head. The screen goes black. Next, you see the hero groggily opening his eyes and trying desperately to find his orientation or figure out where he is. That’s what happened to me.

Following my life changing failure moment, it took me a while to figure out what came next. Yet once I was able to open my eyes to see and understand things from a new perspective, so many things became clear to me.

I’m nearly forty years old and I can say without equivocation I’ve live more in the last six years since that life changing event than I had prior to that point. There is no doubt in my mind that moment of failure was the best thing that ever happened to me. I would, in all likeliness, not be writing at this moment if not for that event that crushed my heart and left me emotionally dead for a period of time.

To put it into better perspective, that moment was not a closed door that lead to an open door. It was a closed door that lead to a million open, wonderful, amazing, unbelievable, and exciting doors, and it’s been an absolute blessing to have been able to walk through them all. Just about everything I have today which I cherish and which makes me complete as a person stems from the people I’ve met as a result of that one door being slammed shut in my face.

The saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.” I admit it’s very hard to see down the road when all you can see is a closed door. But when you find yourself in that situation, remind yourself that failure is not an ending but rather the beginning of something new. Failure is indeed full of gravity that can pull you down, but success is measured in your ability to get right back up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Soapbox Tuesday

Every now and again, I come across articles or blog posts that just set me off. Having been raised Catholic, this one post stirred up those emotions in me that made me literally stop what I was doing and just start writing.

The igniting blog post can be found here and is copied below. I left a long and verbose comment which I wanted to capture in my own blog given the moderator of the original post can simply delete my comments at their discretion.
In a letter to President Obama this week, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, writing on behalf of the U.S. bishops, said the Obama administration’s fight against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, would “precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.”
From the archbishop’s letter:
I write with a growing sense of urgency about recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage…
The Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by you and your Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. We cannot be silent, however, when federal steps harmful to marriage, the laws defending it, and religious freedom continue apace…
I know that you treasure the importance that you and the First Lady, separately and as a couple, share in the lives of your children. The Mother‟s Day and Father‟s Day proclamations display a welcome conviction on your part that neither a mom nor a dad is expendable. I believe therefore that you would agree that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father.
The institution of marriage is built on this truth, which goes to the core of what the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and the millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue, want for all children and for the common good of society. That is why it is particularly upsetting, Mr. President, when your Administration, through the various court documents, pronouncements and policies identified in the attached analysis, attributes to those who support DOMA a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias. It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing.
We as Bishops of the Catholic Church recognize the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction, and we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person. Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it. While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides. The law should reflect this reality.
My comments were as follows:

It is sad and upsetting that Archbishop Dolan has done such a poor job in presenting his argument for DOMA, and although I disagree with his argument regarding what marriage should be, he really could have done a better job in presenting his case to the Obama administration,

“We cannot be silent, however, when federal steps harmful to marriage, the laws defending it, and religious freedom continue apace…” NOT defining marriage as being a union between a man and a woman does nothing to impede religious freedom. If anything, it serves to strengthen the concept of separation of church and state.

Christianity is the majority religion in the United States, but Christianity should not think itself as the vehicle to define marriage for every person living in this country. In Christianity, marriage is covenant among man, woman, and God. In the eyes of the US government, marriage is simply a contract between two individuals that is sanctioned by the state in which those individuals reside.

“I believe therefore that you would agree that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father.” I think the goal should be for every child to be loved period! A male and female parent figure does not guarantee love. The proponents of DOMA need to stop with the implication that same-sex parents cannot provide adequate love for a child. Bad parents are bad parents, be they straight or gay. The Archbishops point on this matter is grossly flawed and should be summarily dismissed.

“The institution of marriage is built on this truth (that that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father).” This is not a truth but rather a teaching based on Christian dogma. Again, this argument is flawed and the Catholic Church is astoundingly arrogant in its attempt to subtlety impose its belief on all Americans.

“..no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides.” Again, completely subjective and not, in my opinion, remotely correct. Raising a child, be it one parent, two parents, or, as what happens with divorce, four parents, can be the single most important effort that provides for the common good. Children who are loved, nourished, and encouraged tend to become responsible and productive adults. I would argue THAT is much more important to the common good than whether or not a husband and wife love each other.

I do not believe the Catholic Church is seeking to be discriminatory, however they are caught in the grey area between their teachings and the diversity of the American public. They are intolerant to the idea of same-sex marriage, and they are trying to promote this idea to a public that thrives in tolerance. What the Catholic Church needs to do is recuse itself from the discussion of DOMA as it has no place trying to fold its beliefs into the legislation of this country. To do so – to blur the line that defines the separation of church and state – would be the action that would truly precipitate a national conflict.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Do You Mean Pick One?

As we randomly selected our topics for Random Writers, “What’s Your Favorite Website?” is the topic that popped up for week two of our writing project. I immediately feigned excitement and thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to write about?”

As I sit here writing, and grimacing, I still have no *bleeping* clue where to go with this post. I’ve let the question rattle in my brain for several weeks now, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how I plan on answering this question.

I think instead I will borrow some inspiration from my new tribe and just go random. After all, isn’t that what surfing the Net is about for most people?

To me, perusing the pages that make up the interwebs (I can’t believe I just used that word) is a topical activity. No, you don’t rub the www on your skin (unless you’re into that). Rather, what you surf, read, consume, share, bookmark, yell at, smirk over, and yes, blush about, is wholly predicated on the mood you’re in at the time you plop down in front of your browser.

Seriously, how can anyone have a favorite site? Of the gajillions of pages available to us (that’s only 47 for those of you reading this in China), how can anyone pick just one?

You would think as an Hispanic male I would default to the stereotype and select Street Cakes, but buttilliciousness aside, I think it’s crazy to try an narrow down the list of websites I enjoy frequenting to just one.

If it’s a big sports day, I head over to ESPN.com. If I am in the mood to catch up on world events, BBC.com is my news source of choice. Yes, much of my time is spent hitting Facebook, Google+, and Hootsuite, but that’s kinda’ like breathing for me. And I haven’t even mentioned GMail and Google Calendar. Yes, technically they’re web sites, but to me their life-essential tools that help keep the structure my OCD self so desperately requires.

If I need to escape from the mental rigors of work, I allow myself to get lost on FailBlog, FailBook, and other humor sites that make me feel better about myself as a moderately intelligent human being. Then, of course, there’s YouTube; the great black hole from which productive hours never escape.

They say variety is the spice of life, and the same applies to the Internet. Some days I use it to be productive. Other days I use it to be creative. And sometimes I let myself morph into a brainless zombie and just bounce from site to site to site. There’s a great joy to be found in the activity of just random surfing.

Do I have a favorite site? No. Of course not. It’s impossible. But if I *HAD* to choose one, well …. I guess it would have to be this one.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Power to Enable Dreams

I don’t normally do my blog posts on the fly. I usually have some semblance of a plan, then I open up MS Word and I start typing. This post I am writing directly into the text field of my blog site because that’s how quickly I want to get it published.

We all have our individual definitions of what power is. Some people seek physical power. Others seek political power. Yet, inside us all we possess the power of giving. Be it a smile, be it a gesture, be it a dollar; giving of yourself to or for someone else can be the most powerful thing in the world.

My friends Stacey Monk and Sanjay Patel, founders of Epic Change and two of the most giving and selfless people I know, are requesting the help of the power that lies in you. In summary, we’re looking to provide a special graduation gift to one boy and one girl from the first ever graduation class of Shephard’s Junior Primary School in Tanzania.

Mind you, this is not just any school. Shephard’s started as the dream of Mama Lucy and was built out of the love and generosity of so many people from all over the world. Now we’re asking for you to help enable the dreams of two young students who aspire for so much in life.

Please follow this link to read Stacey’s personal appeal for this effort, and you can make a quick and easy donation using the PayPal widget on her page.  The power to make someone’s dream come true is something you possess, and no amount it too small. Thank you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When Others Don’t Believe In You

In an effort to write with greater frequency, my friends and I came up with the idea of pooling our collective brain power and writing once a week about various and random topics. The idea is that we’d each take a day of the week and publish our unique stab at the issue at hand. Thus, Random Writers was born.

We wrote down a list of things about which we’d like to ponder, discuss, and write. Then we took each item and selected at random, of course, 15 topics to cover each week through the rest of the year.

I was confidently blasé with our first topic: How do you deal with people who don’t believe in you? “That’s easy,” I told myself. “Two words: *bleep* you!” Really, why would I care if someone doesn’t believe in me? As far as I’m concerned, it’s *SHRUG* and move on.

The more I pondered it, however, the more I realized it’s not that easy. To just write off those who don’t believe in me is to grossly simplify the issue, and one of the purposes of the vehicle that is Random Writers is to provide depth and perspective; to flesh out in written word the questions and topics that may weigh us down at times.

I thought and thought and thought, and I kept finding myself striking out in terms of how to best answer the question. I searched through my past for examples of people who didn’t believe in me, and I had a tough time coming up with an instance that was applicable. I thought about how I would respond today if someone didn’t believe in me, and just like that, the answer presented itself. Well, part of the answer at least.

As a result of my internal deliberations, I discovered that how I would respond to such a situation is completely a matter of proximity.

There’s a saying. “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with smart people. If you want to be really successful, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” I’ve tried to apply that in my life. I like to look at my collection of friends – my extended family, if you will – and see there are no idiots in the bunch. Sure, we’ve all had our idiotic moments – I myself am at the forefront of that list – but all in all, those that fill my life with love and support are smart, intelligent, and giving people.

As with most things, there are degrees.

There are casual acquaintances. You know, the ones you wave hello to from across the room and sometimes have a tough time remembering their names. There are also friends you know and have hung out with, but you see them few and far between, and the friendship is mostly confined to exchanging comments on Facebook or Twitter. Then there are good friends you invite to special occasions like weddings or holiday parties. And then I have my core, inner-circle friends. These are the people I’d call first if there were an emergency or crisis in my life.

The closer someone is to that inner-circle, the more I value their thoughts, feedback, and, most importantly, their opinion of me. This is what I mean by proximity. I couldn’t care less if an acquaintance of mine didn’t believe in me, but I would be quite devastated if one my core friends didn’t believe in my ability to accomplish something I set out to do. Same thing if they completely dismissed an idea or dream of mine. Because I hold in such high regard those that make up my core circle of friends, their doubt in me would in turn lead me to doubt myself.

The other part of my answer came to me in a dream, and I truly believe it was God helping me find what I needed in order to write this post. In my dream, I was living alone in an apartment and all my neighbors hated me. They wanted me to move out and they would remind of this on a daily basis by leaving boxes and other moving materials at my doorstep. I remember feeling angry and thinking how wrong they were. I remember promising myself in my dream that I would not move. Whatever it took and no matter how hard they made it, I was staying.

What that translates to for me is resolve. I am sure I will encounter many naysayers in my life as I pursue projects or ideas or help others in their own endeavors. I’ve learned the answer is not to simply dismiss them with a “*bleep* you”, but rather to look them in the eye and say, “Just watch.”

Be resolved in your pursuits and let determination be your fuel.  Couple that with keeping an open ear to the counsel of those you trust and respect, and success is sure to follow.

Please be sure to check out Jeff Smith‘s take on this question as he covers this topic in his blog on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Evolving Perspective

So it feels like months have passed since I last blogged from my hotel room in Kingston, New York. It’s been a whirlwind three weeks since I came back from work stoppage duty in upstate New York, and I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

I surprised my daughter by picking her up at school (I had not told her I was coming back), then Lee and I took the next day off work and spent some serious time catching up (yes, that IS what the kids are calling it these days), and then it was back to the ‘real world’ and easing back into my daily work routine.

There’s been soccer practices and helping the kids with their homework. There’s been catching up on all work projects that were on hold because of the work stoppage. There have been get-togethers at our friends’ house for football, BBQ, and beer. Football season is once again upon us, and it feels so good to have that diversion back in my life every weekend.

It’s all starting to feel normal again.

But this past weekend has challenged my perception and understanding of what normal is. This past weekend reminded me of the burning ideas and passions inside of me, and that greatness is oftentimes not found in normalcy.

I had the extraordinary privilege of taking part in a three day brainstorming session for Epic Change. It was an experience that left me inspired to say the least, and got the creative juices flowing in terms of what we can do to affect positive change in the world. Yes, the world. Not just my neighborhood, not just my city, not just my state; but rather this nice little place we call planet Earth.

Although both big ideas and even bigger challenges came out of our summit meeting, so did the reminder that through love just about anything is possible. That got me thinking of what it is that truly geeks me out (or more eloquently stated, gets me off). The reality is the answer to that question is not found in the 8 – 5 mundane world of my current professional career. So much so that I had a conversation with my boss today about how I don’t see myself in my current role long term. As much as I would like to stay with my current employer, for both financial and logistical reasons, I can hear the grumblings inside my head telling me it’s time for a change.

Of course, these grumblings don’t pay the rent, don’t provide the health insurance, and don’t grant me the flexibility to work from home. Making a change, as enticing an idea as that is right now, can also be overwhelming given the state of our current economy, not to mention my current debt to income situation.

So I am resolved to make the best of the situation and try to change the world – or at the least play my small part in doing so – one action at a time. Through service to others, through the donation of my writing talents, through the giving of my time and resources; it all begins with love and the burning desire to make better that which is in front of us.

Over the course of the next several months, you may see a varying array of blog posts from me on this site. It’s all part of a journey I have decided to take with my friends as we set out to generate love and make a difference in the lives of others. I invite you to come along for the ride. Be careful, however. It’s my understanding inspiration can be quite contagious.