The Saint of Augustine

The Saint of Augustine

I don’t care if people like me or if people think I’m wise

Writing is the only place that I can go without disguise

The ink that my quill writes with are the tears that pour down from my eyes

I pulled it’s feather from my wing because the other’s feather lies

Searching for a solace that’s serene is something that I seek

And I will fly and paint the sky until I find the things I speak

Unknown doorways open up revealing all that is unique

I soar through all the stars at night in wonder and such grand mystique

Home is here inside this world of words and all the things between

I once was lost but now am found by things I never thought I’d mean

Pen and pad are wed tonight under the Saint of Augustine

Kings are rarely righteous rulers when they’re left without a Queen

My Calling

I look up to the sky and ask “please tell me, where’s my Father at?”

The only thing he gave me was His judgment and a baseball bat

Looking back, it hurts so much that all I do is shake my head

Take a sip to numb the pain and write things in an empty bed

An illusion wrapped in chaos, this life I’ll never understand

In youth my lens was crystal clear, yet nothings gone as I had planned

I cannot help but ask myself, since all He gives are question marks

Why my mind was once so bright, but now has faded into dark

And though inside I’m stricken by confusion, malice, fear and spite

Such burdens sparked the things I love and what I think about at night

Passion, purpose, paths ahead, for so long were a mystery

An emptiness that I’ve since filled, a truth engulfed in irony

That which now I know so well was always there for me to find

This pen and pad have saved my life, opened eyes which once were blind

And now as I return my gaze to He who only ran and hid

I realize writings raised me more than my own absent Father did

I’ve gripped the future, finally; its fate is under my control

I’ve peered so deep into its eyes, I own its very heart and soul

Its twisted, yes, that in the end it’s loss that’s what has given me

The answer that I needed most: My Calling is my destiny

The Answer: 1

I fear I’ll never know why they did the things that they did. Yet, counter-intuitively, this is the very question that lies at the bottom of every single shred of truth I find in my quest to understand these things called humans.

Why?

Why did they do what they did? This rudimentary, fundamental question has haunted me since the first day I began studying these creatures. From the very first memory I transposed…that hazy, clouded image of a mother taking the bottle away from its child’s insatiable lips, I’ve always wondered – why? Why did she do that?

It is this that sparked my quest into the deepest levels of their consciousness. A quest motivated by nothing other than lingering curiosity. I have decided that I must understand the workings behind the human psyche. I must understand the reason behind their actions. Why did the mother protect her children from the dangers of the world? Why did the General fight to the death to protect his men? Why did the shaman perform such dances to predict a year’s harvest? What forces were behind these behaviors? What motivations caused them to transpire?

It is this question that I have to answer.

I must understand…why.

Titans of Industry

I hope the salary pleases

I hope the suit’s a good fit

I hope that big house makes you smile

‘Cause you sure made a racket of this

Developing poison to make us feel good

Exploiting weakness whatever the cost

Researching drugs that just take the edge off

Hooking them in and then leaving them lost?

Go on, count your money

Get on that corporate flight

How the hell can you live like that?

How do you even sleep at night?

This is no joke, suit

This question is real

My own Mom smoked her whole life

From I guess all the stress Dad would deal

I watched and observed through my whole life

How it hooked her and gripped her all day

The smoke would stain my clothes, and

There was always a relapse at bay

Is that what you dreamt of when little?

To be a big leader of biz?

To make all this money supplying

These things that make orphans of kids?

Sure, we all make our choices

That, I’ll willingly concede

But look at that reflection in the bathroom

Is that what you wanted to see?

Think about it. No, really

Actually think

Take another look in that mirror

And then look down to the sink

Raise that gaze up again

Are your eyes all teary and pink?

If they aren’t, then I’m sorry

No reprieve, Elizabeth

These people are empty, a coffin

For all they’re creating is death.

Good & Evil: Chapter 26

Geez.

All these changes of perspectives keep confusing me. One second I pick up an entry from our girl, the next I’m reading something scribbled by our man. And then there’s a random Overseer entry sprinkled in every now and then. It’s hard to keep up, dammit!

Breathe. I should’ve known that this wouldn’t be easy. That I’d be spending all sorts of time trying to catalogue my thoughts and organize these events. Because it’s not easy, you see. No, not easy at all. As a matter of fact it’s taken quite some time in the warehouse of my fragmented mind to put together these entries in such a timely fashion. And I’m not even kidding. Can you imagine how difficult it would be if you stumbled upon a chest full of single journal pages, no order whatsoever and then to read them, file them by writer and then put them in chronological order?! It’s hard!

Breathe. Phew. But alas…this is the mind of a story teller, you see. It is the mining of thoughts from the deepest chasms of twisted and tormented minds. The perpetual search for the innermost truths, and the endeavor to expose them in the brightest, most radiant light imaginable.

That is the story of Mikal and Estella.

Because at the end of the day, who are we? Or better yet, what are we? Complex, certainly. We are our thoughts. That is our genuine self. And ironically, the only person who ever knows one’s thoughts…is one’s very own self. Sounds lonely, don’t you think? You will be the only individual who ever truly, viscerally knows you.

And for these two, their thoughts drift to each other even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

That is what it means to be truly, in love.

Poetry 

So I’ve decided to dip into poetry, since it’s such an appropriate outlet for expression. Not to mention some of the greatest writers ever were poets (hashtagrolemodels).

Reflections

It’s not a dying art

Unless we let it be

Why forget the ways of old

Of paint and poetry

Our friends can give us comfort

When we need it so

But any bad experience

Is a perfect time to grow

Forget the things behind us

Move forward every day

No sense in looking backward

If you want a new today

Our lives are but a coaster

Rolling in the wind

Always chasing happiness

With hopes it won’t rescind

So if you’re feeling lonely

Or simply feeling down

Know that someone’s out there

For whom you’ll wear a crown

Cortney Edmondson: Full Interview

The following is the full response I received from Cortney Edmondson, the September 2016 featured Millennial for my monthly column at the local newspaper, The Wilson Post. Due to being constricted to a word limit, I use my blog as an outlet to post the full transcripts of my interviews. These transcripts contain a treasure trove of valuable content for anyone interested in learning more about the individuals I write about, as their experiences and insight provide an outstanding resource for those wanting an inside look into their success.

Cortney’s website can be found here.

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Bio

Raised in Mt. Juliet, TN, this Nashville Native has a heart for helping others.  In April 2015, Cortney launched #365DaysofCortney on Instagram, a #positivevibesonly campaign.  For 365 days, she posted only positive and inspirational posts in order to be a steady light of positivity for everyone who follows her.  In the fall of 2015, she left her career as a CPA at a major accounting firm to pursue her dream of public speaking.  Cortney is passionate about story telling because sharing her story has liberated her from her past of shame and inspired thousands of others to do the same.  
 
 On April 30, 2016, she launched edmonco.co, her blog and public speaking business.  On the same day, her birthday, she launched Thursday Thrive, a platform for other people to share their stories of overcoming adversity.   ThursdayThrive.com is a web video series that features a new person’s story bi-weekly on Thursdays.  Each individual’s story and topic is different but identifies the blessings, lessons and transformations that only adversity can provide.  Her mission is to share stories of hope and to connect communities of people who are facing similar life challenges. 
Transcript

MS: Tell me a little about your background and what inspired your passion to help others.

CE: I have experienced shame since the age of four, when my mother went to prison for assisting in a series of bank robberies.  No one ever told me to keep that fact a secret, it was just something I learned along the way.  I feared what others would think of me if they knew.  Would my friend’s parents allow them to be friends with me if they knew my mother was a criminal? Would people treat me differently if they found out? Would the fact that my parent was a criminal hinder me from pursuing my dreams? Questions like this kept me from letting people get too close to me.  I was hiding things from my friends at a very young age and suffered repercussions as a result.

The fact is that shame grows the longer you keep things a secret, and I was its slave.  When I finally decided to share a glimpse of my story with a group of people, I quickly discovered that sharing my secrets was liberating.  More importantly, I finally realized that the pain from my past did not have to be in vain because I could help people by sharing my story with others.  People began to share with me that my story had made a difference in their life so I started brainstorming how I could share it on a larger scale.

MS: What exactly is the mission of ThursdayThrive? From what I’ve seen, it seems to encourage others to open up about the skeletons we all seem to be hiding. I sort of get a “be yourself” vibe from watching some of your videos, which I love because I can relate.

CE:  The mission behind Thursday Thrive is to share stories of hope and to connect communities of people who are facing similar life challenges. The fact is we all feel so isolated and alone when we face adversity.  In reality, there is always someone who has been in a similar situation and just hearing their perspective from the other side of the challenge gives us the hope we need to conquer it ourselves.  We are all yearning for a community that is accepting of who we really are, one that encourages us to overcome.  That is what Thursday Thrive is all about.

The main focus was to reach people who needed encouragement.  However, the people we have featured have also experienced love and support from their communities as a by product of having the courage to be vulnerable and share what they have been through.  It is a win-win for everyone involved!

MS: Is there a particular case you’ve seen or story you’ve heard that might have impacted you more than others? Hopefully something with a happy ending!

CE: The beautiful thing about these stories is that they all have a happy ending!  For instance, in every interview, I ask the interviewee what they would change about their story if given the opportunity.  “Nothing” is the only response I have ever heard!  I think that is amazing considering some of the grief and heartbreak these people have faced. It tells me that no matter how traumatic the event, the blessings and transformation that takes place as a result is worth the pain.

With that being said, each story has impacted me in one way or another.  Dee Matherly’s story was a game changing story for me though. We have very similar backgrounds and she too kept family secrets for over a decade.

When she finally decided to share, she had a lot of anxiety about exposing her deepest and darkest secrets. It was an honor to be a part of her sharing her story for the first time and to encourage and help her break free from her past.  After we featured her story, she received an outpouring of support from her community.  The feature prompted the perfect opportunity for her and her mom to discuss “the elephant in the room” for the first time in over a decade.  Now Dee is an advocate for domestic violence and will be sharing her story publicly more frequently going forward. Thursday Thrive was a stepping stone for her to pursue a dream.  It is so inspiring to be a part of such a transformation.

MS: What do you see for ThursdayThrive moving forward? Are there plans to grow the site, speaking tours, etc.?

CE: As a public speaker, I am passionate about storytelling.  I know that people love stories, that’s why we have television, movie theaters and books. Everyone has a story, so luckily there is an endless supply of stories to share.  I hope to one day be able to capture incredible stories throughout the world, instead of just locally.  I took the first step towards this and recorded a story from a San Diego, CA resident just a few days ago!

Also, my vision from the beginning has been to create online community/support groups for different types of adversity.  For instance, if people stumble on my site and they are a victim of domestic violence, I want to point them to a Thursday Thrive online community group of other people who are domestic violence survivors.  Likewise, If they are a childhood trauma survivor, I want to connect them to a Thursday Thrive group of other childhood trauma survivors.  I know community is so important during hard times.  I hope to extend this platform to make community support more easily available for people.

 

Julian Hayes: Full Interview

The following is the full response I received from Julian Hayes, the October 2016 featured Millennial for my monthly column at the local newspaper, The Wilson Post. Due to being constricted to a word limit, I use my blog as an outlet to post the full transcripts of my interviews. These transcripts contain a treasure trove of valuable content for anyone interested in learning more about the individuals I write about, as their experiences and insight provide an outstanding resource for those wanting an inside look into their success.

The archived published article on Julian can be found here.

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Hey Julian!

Thanks for letting me write a feature on you. It looks like you’ve
done a lot of really awesome stuff!

If you’ve read the last two columns, I think you get the gist of what
kind of content I’ll need for the article. I know you’ve done a lot
with fitness and helping people transform themselves personally, so
anything you can elaborate on to describe how you’ve helped people
would be great. Maybe individual stories of people you’ve helped or
anything in particular that might stick out where you’ve had an impact
on someone’s life.

Also, if there’s anything outside of fitness that you do like
volunteer stuff or anything, fee free to let me know. The article will
essentially feature how you’re making a positive difference in
peoples’ lives, so anything you can think of is welcomed.

Thanks again! I’m looking forward to featuring you in November 🙂

– Matt

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Matt,

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a nerd. I’ve been a nerd long before the Marvel blockbusters made them cool. With that said, my interest in fitness started due to superheroes and to hopefully impress the girls on my college campus.

Doing what I’m currently doing is the last thing I expected.  In fact, I gave up on thinking I was creative in grade school after realizing my work in art class wasn’t as good as everyone else’s—so I just stuck with athletics even though deep down, I’ve always had a creative itch. I’ve always secretly preferred an art crawl over a football tailgating event.

I ignored my creative itch for over a decade until I found myself in New York in the middle of taking first year medical school classes. Through chance encounters and meeting people from all over the world, that was my call to action that maybe I wasn’t doing the right thing.

With this in mind, I woke up in the middle of the night during my summer break and decided not to go back to school, but instead to start my own company.

Merging writing with speaking and coaching allowed me to still have the potential to tremendously affect people’s lives in a positive manner just as I could if I have chosen to continue along the path of becoming a doctor.

Honestly, my mission was really small at the beginning—I planned to just train at a gym and write on occasion for business purposes. The mission became bigger once I started working with more clients. hearing their stories, watching them grow and having random conversations with people who in return encourage me to think bigger.

Health and fitness are the most powerful and essential of assets required for us to live a fulfilling life and reach our potentials. Our health is the head of the octopus and the tentacles are the other facets of our life. Without the head operating accordingly, those tentacles aren’t going to operate as they should.

Achieving a fitness goal creates ripples within your life, increases your confidence, and allows you to share your unique superpower with the world.

With this new perspective, I rebooted my company into The Art of Fitness and Life and wanted to provide people a roadmap to succeeding not only in fitness, but in their specific personal and professional lives as well.

Our toughest challenges isn’t finishing another set of squats, it’s learning how to incorporate these healthy habits that we want to do and know we should be doing into our specific lifestyles without throwing everything else out of order.

I want people to improve their health, but not at the expense of becoming a servant to fitness—this is a mistake I made in college and my early twenties.

Leveling up your fitness leads to new discoveries and capabilities about yourself. While I certainly have helped a decent amount of people, they have equally played a huge role in helping me become the person I am today.

I wish I had the space to highlight all of them, but I’m going to stick to two of my favorite stories.

One of my clients was Cortney, many know her as the fearless leader of Thursday Thrive. Through a very detailed and long email, Cortney reached out to me.

The Cortney who reached out to me was a highly successful accountant, but equally unhealthy even if the outside didn’t show it. As with many people, we over-emphasize our physical fitness and place our professions above our health leading to a neglect in our mental and emotional fitness. She was over-worked, stressed, had a very unhealthy relationship with food, and was excessively exercising.

With that said, I only allowed her to weight train a couple times a week and eliminated almost all her cardio. I made her stop counting calories, avoid the scale, prioritize sleeping, not skip social outings with her girlfriends because she was scared of ruining her progress, and most importantly—start the process of falling back in love with herself.

Cortney was so unbalanced that it took a couple of months for significant progress to happen because she was so sleep deprived and stressed.

The story ended well though. This was a huge breakthrough for me personally that helped me think bigger about my abilities.

Little did I know during this process, she was confiding in a good friend of hers and a group about the influence I was having on her beyond the nutritional and workout arena. Most importantly, as she stated in a email she sent me, “I helped with her obsessive dieting and with her mental struggles with food”. My favorite line she wrote was “I’ve really fallen in love with myself and have a newfound confidence. I feel I’m coming onto something great and she was now reaching out to other girls to help them with their various struggles.”

And the rest is history. She took control of her health and that served as her launching pad to greatness in other areas of her life. Cortney is a picture perfect example of why mental and emotional fitness is critical.

Another client to briefly mention was Princess Belinda as I call her. The first sentence she said to me was “you’re the last hope—if this doesn’t work, I’m going to give up on this fitness thing.No pressure.” It was so bad with her that she wouldn’t look in the mirror nor take initial measurements. By all accounts to the outside world, she’s confident, successful and rather funny. She’s a highly-accomplished songwriter and singer with a light-hearted personality I’m jealous of.

Belinda’s case was intriguing because she has a disability with her foot and has a hectic traveling schedule, so she could’ve easily used that as an excuse. However, she didn’t and in doing so provided a model for others like her to follow. No one is excluded from achieving greatness with their health. It may look different, but everyone is capable of taking control of their health.

Another pivotal moment for me was when she wrote “I was walking in front of a store window yesterday and I saw a reflection in the window and in my peripheral. I thought, ‘if I could just look like her, I would be so happy.’ After a few steps, I glanced over…and it was me. So there I stood at the mall weepy. You changed my entire perception of my abilities.”

I’ve recently started speaking and will only do more of this. I have Cortney, Belinda, and a couple of others to thank for getting me out into public more. I’m in the process of launching health and wellness consulting for small businesses and companies in addition to one-on-one coaching and writing for my blog and various publications full-time. It’s not all work though, I have fallen in love with various latin dances, in particular salsa dancing.

It’s a busy schedule, but if I demanded my clients to think bigger of themselves and their abilities, then I must practice what I preach.

My initial big vision is to help a million people integrate health and wellness into their desired lifestyle and use fitness as their launching pad to leveling up in life, business, and creating their unique impact in this world.

Fitness can keep us young, music can move our soul, books can feed our brain, and creativity can drive us every day. This is what I deem living the good life and ultimately that’s what I want people to do.

 

The Pursuit of Happiness

The title of this post is one with which we’re all familiar. After all, that’s what life is about, right?

We work, we grind, we sacrifice, and we compromise – all with the intention of reaching a point where we can sit back, relax, and say “it was all worth it.”

But do we ever really obtain that goal? Will any of us ever truly be able to come up for air and be content with the position we’ve reached in life? Personally, I have absolutely no idea. That said, I would argue that there’s a certain intrigue and appreciation to the uncertainty – and it makes the journey that much more exciting.

Having aspirations and things to work toward provides a sense of purpose for what is an otherwise chaotic and seemingly random existence, in my humble opinion. We spend so much time asking ourselves what the meaning of all this could be – what are we supposed to do with these lives of ours? Ultimately, I think the answer to that existential question is simple: achieve happiness. Everything we do in life should essentially contribute to creating a fulfilling, happy existence.

I think we lose sight of this far too often. At least I know I certainly do. We get so caught up in day to day stresses and expectations that we focus more on that than we do our own happiness. When I experience these kinds of things – financial pressure, relationship problems, career deadlines – I try to constantly remind myself of the bigger picture. Is it really worth the anxiety? Are these life obstacles more important than my own happiness? Frankly, no – they aren’t. And when I successfully remind myself of this, my focus returns to its right track and my conscience rests in a calm, relaxing solace.

Sadly, and this is something I mention a lot in my writing, but I never thought of things this way until my mother passed away. Death, as the saying goes, changes you. Losing a cherished friend or relative can impact you in a way that no other experience could. I’ve no doubt that many of you can attest to this – that total shift in priorities, personal values, and beliefs. I wish it hadn’t taken the loss of my mother for me to finally realize this, but I’m grateful she had that impact on me nonetheless. It both saddens and inspires me that even in death, she was my most powerful influence.

I end with this: anytime you find yourself in a rut, having a bad day, or feel like you’re drowning in worldly struggles; try to remind yourself of what’s truly relevant in life. Focus on the things that generate happiness.

A positive mentality can change your world, if only you let it.

Purpose 

In my quest to promote my book, I have to keep something in mind. There was one very specific reason as to why I wrote it.

My original goal was to build my mom a library. After speaking with the city manager of the town which I’m from, I learned that our local library was already dedicated to someone. So he had a different idea. 

That idea was to create a reading sanctuary, where people could temporarily escape the real world and immerse themselves in literature.

There was a reasoning behind this. You see, my mom had two very limiting ailments. COPD, and rhemeutoid arthritis. Both of these things made it very difficult for her to get around. So, appropriately, reading was her avenue of entertainment. 

This is why I enjoy writing so much. Because I know, no matter what situation you’re in, that reading gives you an escape from the reality we experience day to day. And sometimes, we need that. We need an outlet to let our imaginations fly and flitter wherever they want to go.

Reading was my mom’s release. She loved it more than anything. It didn’t hurt, she didn’t have to move around, and it was something she could enjoy and experience without any pain whatsoever. 

That’s my tool, moving forward. Watching how much her world was changed through reading is the exact reason I care so much about writing. The written word really can affect lives. I myself can attest to that, because I witnessed my mother’s reality over the last few years of her life be influenced by simple, written words. 

And that’s why I will continue to promote my book, until I have the means to create this reading sanctuary for her. A small, quiet building with her name on it. That’s what I want to build. Because she deserves it.

I miss you, Mom. More than anything in the world. And I promise I’m going to get this done for you.