“I often think, ‘I wish I had done that,’ only to find out later that I already have.” (A drinking reference 🙂 – Richard Harris (Irish actor).
My mom did more for her kids than she probably realized. I guess that’s what happens when you start drinking at noon – you tend to forget things, hahaha…just kidding…but not really…
That’s cool. I don’t think she was looking for any lifetime achievement award. She was just doing what she was born to do, and ultimately, what I think made her the happiest and most fulfilled – to be Mom, or “Mama Miyaki”, to her extended family.
Ol’ Pat definitely did more for us than we gave her credit for — at least my dumb ass anyways — I shouldn’t speak for my siblings. I might take a beating.
That’s life though I guess. It’s way too easy to get wrapped up in the daily grit and grind of it, and forget to focus on, or appreciate, the bigger shit.
I think that’s simply because the human psyche is pre-programmed to prioritize survival above all else. Fuck philosophical thinking when it comes to evolution baby = survival of the fittest, grittiest, and wittiest, not the most introspective, self-aware, and emotionally sensitive.
So even when death gives us the ultimate reminder by hanging around our home, or taking a few of our own, thus making us meditate upon how it might play out for us when our own expiration date comes, we may get some very brief moments of enlightenment or clarity (on a side note, yes, I have been reading a lot of samurai books lately).
But I don’t think any of us can fully comprehend what the fact that death is the end for all of us really means, let alone adjust our daily actions accordingly. Working against our natural evolutionary instincts can certainly drive a mind mad (Why do you think sexually repressed people cause such a high percentage of the world’s problems)?
So that’s why most of the time we just go back to living our life like we are going to live forever. We lose ourselves in the hustle. We forget to prioritize. We forget to focus on what matters most. We forget to give thanks. We forget to settle our debts.
And of course when I say “we”, I mean me, and am projecting my faults upon all of you to feel better about myself.
Regardless, today I am taking a different path. I must put everything else on pause, keep my promise, finish with this post, and pay full tribute to the legendary lady that I am lucky enough to have called “Ma”.
But if he determines simply to live for today and take no thought for the morrow, so that when he stands before his lord to receive his commands he thinks of it as his last appearance and when he looks on the faces of his relatives he feels that he will never see them again, then will his duty and regard for both of them be completely sincere…All misfortune springs from not remembering to keep death always in your thoughts. — Code of the Samurai
A samurai in service must be one who lives for today but cares nothing for tomorrow. With that attitude, if he does what he must do day by day, with tireless devotion and thoroughness, so that nothing at all is left undone, he has not reason to feel any disgrace or regret. But trouble arises when people rely on the future and become lazy and indolent and let things slide, putting off urgent affairs after a lot of discussion — not to mention less-important ones — in belief that they can just as well be done tomorrow. They push a job off onto one comrade and blame another for that, trying to get someone to do it for them. If there is no one to assist, they leave it undone so that before long a lot of unfinished jobs have accumulated. This is a mistake that comes from relying on the future, a practice of which one must be wary. — Code of the Samurai
Skipping Ahead to the 6th & 7th Strategies
In finishing up this post for Ol’Pat, I realized I was writing Part II mostly for my own catharsis — plus belated goodbye and personal thank you — more so than anything really meant for public consumption. As such, the majority of Part II must stay in the personal archives where it belongs.
So be it baby. Of all the shit I’ve put out in the last 7 years or so in terms of articles, books, posts, and products, its really only a fraction of what I’ve actually written. So it’s only fitting that I’m wrapping up my writing career, at least for now, in the same style – “hacking away the unessential so that The Truth may be revealed” (Bruce Lee).
But what I would like to do is wrap this shindig up with some quotes and notes on two things. Originally, these were the 6th and 7th Lessons.
6. Grinding Away to Find Your Way
Hope you’re cool with that. If not, as my mom would say, “Fuck off”! Again, just kidding…but not really…
Lesson #6 — Grind Away & Find a Way
There is no external help. The problem lies in asking somebody else to solve your own problem instead of asking yourself. – Bruce Lee
Courage is gritting one’s teeth; it is simply doing that and pushing ahead, paying no attention to the circumstances. — Hagakure.
Only those who have made some mistakes can also accomplish great works. IF you have great principles, your small faults can easily be justified. – Bushido.
I wanted this post to be more like a real documentary than a contrived Hollywood story with a perfect script. I didn’t want to paint a false picture just to project some kind of saintly or superhero image of Ol’ Pat after she passed. Because baby, she was as real and authentic of a character as it gets, complete with her faults, struggles, and imperfections.
And that’s exactly why I think I learned so many valuable lessons.
Besides, I’ve never really liked the black and white stories with purely good heroes and purely evil villains. I much prefer the stories with conflicted heroes and villains with redeeming qualities forged from tragic stories, because that’s more like real life (excluding a few exceptions who really do occupy the extremes).
Most of us are just a messed up mix of good and bad, saint and scumbag. We’re shades of grey – maybe not 50, but at least a few. And on a side note, if you think you are a saint, The Little Shiitake can teach you a thing or two.
Anyways, the truth is that my mom was far from perfect. She struggled through a lot in her life – addiction, depression, and honestly, probably undiagnosed (or ignored) mental illness. Although I joke a lot, that’s not something I’m joking about.
First, I thought it might dishonor her if I even mentioned any of that. But the more I thought about it, the more I think it made what she did for us even more amazing. She could pull it all together when she needed to, and when it mattered most, despite her various struggles.
So why am I mentioning it? It’s not to bring any negative attention or shame upon her, especially given now that she can’t defend herself with a few flying cigarettes and F-bombs. Its just that maybe her story of overcoming these things can help motivate a few of you out there who are facing your own struggles and hurdles in life. You can find a way to persevere through despite your imperfections.
Even if it just helps maybe one person it will have been worth it. And I guarantee you Ol’Pat would agree with that. As selfish as she was, she could be equally selfless when someone close to her was struggling.
Anyways, one of my mom’s main goals in life was to have all of her sons go to, and graduate from college. She didn’t, so she wanted something more for her kids. She grinded away, and found a Way to help make that happen. Man, I think about some of the sacrifices she made, and am forever grateful.
She was up at like 4am every day, and worked three different jobs most of the time. She worked for a book publisher, cleaned houses, and did pretty much shitty manual labor on a bird farm. Yet she still found the time, attention, and energy to keep her pack of Hooligans focused, disciplined, and dedicated. Amazing indeed.
Just writing that, it makes me wish I had spent some of our afternoons together later in life buying her a few more drinks for what she had done for us instead of trying to get her to stop drinking.
Her grinder’s style taught me that no matter what your faults, in the end, you just gotta find a way to make it through, and do what you need to do. Otherwise, you can sit and complain about how unfair life is, which of course, gets you nowhere. And gets you nothing that you want.
As I look back at how she did it, I think I’ve learned that achieving your goals in life really comes down to two simple (not necessarily easy) things.
1. Figure Out What You Are Fighting For.
No matter what it is, there is nothing that cannot be done. If one manifests the determination, he can move heaven and earth as he pleases. — Hagakure.
The attitude “That you can win if you want to badly enough” means that the will to win is constant and no amount of punishment, no amount of effort, or no condition is too “tough” to take in order to win. Such an attitude can be developed only if winning is closely tied to the practitioner’s ideals and dreams. ~ Bruce Lee
My mom fought for us (her kids). That’s it, plain and simple. And that singular focus helped her find a way to persevere through everything – both her internal struggles and the external circumstances.
What’s fueling your fight?
Life can be tough. It can be full of obstacles, struggles, and setbacks. Sometimes, it can land a haymaker right on your chin. If you don’t know what you are truly fighting for, you might not be able to stand up again. And yes, going through the motions is just like going down for the count.
Superficial clichés won’t cut it. True personal motivation is the key to digging down deep, getting back in the game, giving your all, and fighting until the end. It will keep pushing you forward through the ups and downs. It will help you embrace your challenges with courage, instead of complaining about them like a coward.
As we’ve crossed over into Y2K plus change, I think we’ve all freakin’ lost something man. We’ve lost a little bit of patience and perseverance. We’ve become a bunch of entitled whiners. We want everything for nothing and we expected it yesterday. That’s the curse of The Entitled Generation I guess.
We’ve lost that ability to strive, to sacrifice, to set goals, to do everything possible to achieve them, and to never waver in their pursuit. We waste our time, money, energy, and hope on quick fixes and band-aids vs. real strategies and long-term solutions.
Sorry, my friend. The infomercial mentality and scams don’t cut it when you’re fighting for what matters most. You can’t follow frauds and expect to find your way. You can’t rely on magic tricks. You must use grit. And when life knocks you down, you must pick yourself up, get back on your feet, and swing back.
Here’s the tough love truth — most of us just give up too easily in life. We hit a roadblock and we stop instead of finding a way to work around it, climb over it, or kick it the fuck down. We give ourselves an infinite number of excuses instead of having the courage to break on through to the other side.
And when shit doesn’t work out, in A.D.D-style, we move on to whatever is next vs. what it is that we truly want.
Figuring out what you are fighting for stops all of that bullshit in its tracks.
There will be no more starting over or settling. There will be no more New Year’s resolutions, only daily ones. And sticking to them will not be an option. It will be a necessity. You will not find excuses. You’ll find ways. You’ll stop looking for short cuts and quick fixes, because you’ll know that a worthwhile mission lasts a lifetime.
Once you find out what you are fighting for, how do you ultimately win? The only Way I’ve seen in my circle, and can even comprehend, is with Kaizen.
This world is very practical. You do more work, you get rewarded more; you do less work, you lose your rewards. There is only something for something, never something for nothing. — Bruce Lee.
Even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a long roundabout way. One’s heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and larger there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong. –Hagakure
If a retainer will just think about what he is to do for the day at hand, he will be able to do anything. If it is a single day’s work, one should be able to put up with it. Tomorrow, too, is but a single day. — Hagakure.
Kaizen translates to “constant and continual improvement.” However, it’s really more than just a word. Kaizen is a life philosophy — the idea being to somehow improve just a little bit every day. How are you better today than you were yesterday?
It’s not just a Japanese Thing. For a long time, I thought I had learned this strategy from just my Pops. But now I realize I learned it equally from my Mom too.
Samurai Shit, Irish Grit, etc., every culture probably has their own interpretation of it, and it goes a little something like this — do some work for the day, make a little progress, get some shit done, have a little fun, and then be done with it. That’s a good day for anyone regardless of his or her situation.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, those are all battles for another day. Right now its today that counts, and everyone is mentally, physically, and spiritually strong enough to do whatever he or she sets out to do for just one day.
So get out there, focus on the immediate task at hand, take it down, and then worry about tackling the next one. It’s like The 300 Spartan warriors funneling their enemies into the gates of the mountains, where their infinite numbers became meaningless. Wave after wave, the Spartan warriors smashed their opponents.
You can become scatterbrained, stressed, and utterly useless when you worry about everything you need to do to reach your goals. But the odds even out when you focus on THE most important challenge that is right in front of you. That’s how you can make your stand.
Lesson #7 — Strive to Self Actualize
You have that personal obligation to yourself to make yourself the best product possible according to your own terms. Not the biggest or the most successful, but the best quality – with that achieved, comes everything else. – Bruce Lee.
The ultimate destination of Bruce’s journey was peace of mind – the true meaning of life. I feel confident that because Bruce chose the path of self-knowledge over accumulation of facts, and the path of self-expression over image enhancement, that he did reach his destiny with a peaceful mind. – Linda Lee on Bruce Lee in “Artist of Life”.
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization. This term, first coined by Kurt Goldstein, is being used in this paper in a much more specific and limited fashion. It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or inventions. It is not necessarily a creative urge although in people who have any capacities for creation it will take this form. – Abraham Maslow
As Abraham Maslow noted, the basic needs of humans must be met (e.g. food, shelter, warmth, security, sense of belongingness) before a person can achieve self-actualization – the need to be good, to be fully alive and to find meaning in life. Research shows that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match…
(some of) Maslow’s self-actualizing characteristics:
- Comfortable acceptance of self, others, nature. Self-actualizers accept their own human nature with all its flaws. The shortcomings of others and the contradictions of the human condition are accepted with humor and tolerance.
- Reliant on own experiences and judgement. Independent, not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views.
- Spontaneous and natural. True to oneself, rather than being how others want.
- Continued freshness of appreciation. The self-actualizer seems to constantly renew appreciation of life’s basic goods. A sunset or a flower will be experienced as intensely time after time as it was at first. There is an “innocence of vision”, like that of an artist or child.
- Comfort with solitude. Despite their satisfying relationships with others, self-actualizing persons value solitude and are comfortable being alone.
- Non-hostile sense of humor. This refers to the ability to laugh at oneself.
- Few friends. Few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships.
- Task centering. Most of Maslow’s subjects had a mission to fulfill in life or some task or problem ‘beyond’ themselves (instead of outside of themselves) to pursue. – Wikepedia.
It has been said that to find passion, purpose, and your own personal path to self-actualization, you should think about what you want the highlight reel of your life to look like at your funeral.
I think my mom would have liked her “Mom” highlights (alongside my brother Mike playing Amazing Grace on the trumpet — which she requested and he performed perfectly). And she can certainly rest in peace knowing that she fulfilled her mission, duties, and wishes.
Although I do have to admit, the mistakes, outtakes, and Jackie Chan-style gag reel at the end would have been pretty damn good too. I still shake my head and laugh at some of that shit.
As for me? I’m trying to follow Ol Pat’s example and find my own path to self-actualization.
As for you? I hope these two posts gave you a few things to think about, and ultimately, help you do the same.
Some Final Toasts For Ol’ Pat’s Post
1. There are several good reasons for drinking
and one has just entered my head.
If a man can’t drink when he’s living,
then how the heck can he drink
when he’s dead.
2. Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold beer and another one!
3. May you…
Work like you don’t need the money,
love like you’ve never been hurt,
dance like no-one is watching,
screw like it’s being filmed,
and drink like a true Irishman. – Irish Toasts
Sorry, I could go on forever. When my mom was passing away in home hospice care, my brother Mike and I read her a bunch of shit from her book of Irish Limericks on a daily basis. It was debatable whether she had any cognitive function after her stroke. But I like to think she did.
Fuck, reality is what we make of it in that kind of situation anyways right? And in my heart, we sent her out how she wanted to go out.
Regardless, Ol’ Pat was an Irish saint and an Irish Hooligan all wrapped up into one — an unpredictable enigma indeed.
The final line in her will to her kids was this, “Love each other, as I have loved all of you.”
And all she wanted was one thing on her tombstone – “Mom” written under her full Irish Catholic Name.
And that’s what she was to me – “Mom”, an awesome one, perfect for this crazy bastard. I love her. I miss her more than I thought I would. And at least now I have fulfilled my promise to her.
So Ol’ Pat, This Post’s For You. I don’t believe in the next life. But if I was wrong and you were right, I’ll see you on the other side.