Ghosts Among Us

ghosts

Generally speaking, you could spit in any direction and hit someone who claims to have seen a ghost.  No shortage of those stories but there are some interesting consistencies when it comes to providing evidence.

I’ve listened to dozens of ghost stories told by people who seem to believe them but you know what they never say? They never say, “I saw a ghost and took a photo of it.”

Everyone that claims to have shot a photo of a ghost also claims that it was an accident. They say, “I was just taking a picture of this here empty staircase for no particular reason.” Or, “I shot this portrait of two people in an oddly off centered fashion”. Conveniently, “ghosts” appeared in exactly the right spot after the fact.

My ex-sister-in-law claimed to have photographed the ghost of Jerry Garcia. She proudly showed me a photo of what was obviously lens flare.  She was an experienced photographer and I felt she should’ve known better.  On the other hand, she also claimed that the ghost of Jerry Garcia did everything from giving her directions to the nearest pay phone to helping her move furniture. Sometimes you have to consider the source.

My mom once stayed for a week at the Monroe Institute, a place where people go to practice having out of body experiences and to train in the art of remote viewing. I thought it was fascinating until she told me that, during her visit, participants were told that the spirits living there would appear in photographs in the form of orbs. For a place that fancies themselves to be conducting scientific research, that is some hocus-pocus nonsense.

I don’t mean to pee in anyone’s candy corn but photos with lens flare are not pictures of ghosts and orbs are bullshit.  Sure, orbs will show up in photographs but they too are another form of lens flare.

I was a full time professional photographer for 15 years.  I have been all over the southwest visiting ancient cemeteries, old churches, ghost towns and abandoned motor lodges on the old Route 66.  I have shot tens of thousands of photographs in these places along with countless photographs of weddings and guess how many unexplainable pictures of “ghosts” I have?

That’s right. None.

The one thing that every bogus “ghost photo” of lens flare and orbs have in common is that they were obviously shot by amateur photographers on point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes. For the record, smart phones are also point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes.  The flash being too close to the lens renders all kinds of weird results and, not understanding how cameras work, easily excitable picture snappers immediately assume their cameras are haunted when unexpected things appear in their photos.

Enthusiastic ghost hunters firing their built-in flashes into swarms of nocturnal insects or into the mirror, or towards any kind of shiny object are ready and willing to accept bad photography as evidence of the super natural.  Failing to shade their lens from the sun and being blinded by the light, these are the same people who think they see the face of Jesus in a piece of burnt toast and go around checking their children’s hands and feet for the stigmata.

A few years ago, while on a quest to find an authentic photo of a ghost, I contacted every professional photographer I knew and asked them if they believed they had ever photographed a ghost or had any photos that defied explanation. They all said no.

I bet you think this story is about how I don’t believe in ghosts.

Let’s not jump to conclusions.

Maybe the issue isn’t that ghosts are real but maybe the issue is that they can’t be photographed.  More specifically, something that cannot be seen with the human eye is not going to show up in a photo because, according to the laws of physics, for something to be visible it must reflect light.

Inversely, if vampires were real they would show up in photographs and in mirrors because you can see them.

If you want me to believe otherwise, evidence more compelling that what I’ve mentioned will need to be produced.  The average person has a better chance of photographing a bona fide UFO than taking a picture of a ghost.

Not seeing and still believing.

There are those who claim not to believe in anything that they can’t see with their own eyes.

I call bullshit.  By that rationale, to a blind person, nothing is real.  Additionally, sight is only one of the ways that we experience and interpret reality.  You can’t see the way a pot roast in the crock pot smells but the scent most certainly confirms the existence of the pot roast.

No one has ever shot a photo of gravity, or inertia, but these things are real and for that matter, please show me your photos of music.

Ghosts stories, taken at face value.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2007

Several years ago I wrote a story for this blog called Watching The Flowers Sway.

I was proud of that piece but I never explained where it came from or why I would write such a horrific tale in the first place.

In 2003 one of my past wedding clients was murdered.

I saw her face on the news while drinking my morning coffee and I said, “That’s her!” as if I had already been talking about her though of course I hadn’t been.

The story on the news said she was missing and presumed dead.  The police found a horrific scene in her classroom at the elementary school where she was an Occupational Therapist.  I remembered watching her walk back to her car after she left my studio for the final time.  Though I was not involved in any way, I felt that I had somehow let her down by not protecting her, I guess everyone probably felt like that.

The police said the janitor did it. The physical evidence against him was overwhelming even without the body which took almost two months to find.

Later that evening her husband was on the news pleading for anyone with information to come forward.  It was heartbreaking.  They had been married less than two years.

And then the news team went to interview the janitor’s family.  The parents weren’t in a talkative mood but they found one of the janitor’s friends who said, “Martin wouldn’t have done something like that, he just bought new rims for his car.”

With a character witness like that and a trunk full of blood and hair, Martin was going to need a really good lawyer.  No Saul Goodman was gonna get him out of this shit. He needed Johnnie Cochran and even then, O.J. seemed less guilty.

With the body being MIA, the story quickly fell out of the news and there was only a brief mention when the case finally went to trial in 2005.  The body had been found by then and it, along with all the other evidence, was enough to get Martin sentenced to life in prison.

Good.

Fucker.

I watched the short bit on the news about the verdict in the trial.  Two things stood out. One was that Martin’s mom was shown crying and saying, “I know my mijo is innocent”. No, he wasn’t. And, two, cameras were rolling on Martin when the jury read the verdict. He sat in his chair, bobbing his head and looking around as if everything were right with the world. He didn’t look the least bit concerned.

Six years later in 2011, I grew curious about the case again.  Very little information was made available at the time and I still had so many questions.

One night I laid in bed looking up anything I could find on her case.  A lot more information had been made available and it was gruesome, all of it, but I read every article I could find.

I was considering writing about it but I didn’t know what to say or where to start.

It was late at night when I finally ran out of articles. I plugged my phone in and turned out the light.

I hadn’t even gotten my pillows situated when the energy in the room changed.

It was dark and there was nothing to see but I swear there was another entity present, I could practically feel it breathing on me.  I knew positively that it was her and the message was unmistakable.  This was a cease and desist order of the highest kind.  In retrospect, I wish I had tried to communicate but to be honest I panicked and turned the lamp on and just sat there like a big scardey-cat for almost an hour before getting brave enough to turn the light back off.

I decided not to write anything about her, ever.

But then I changed my mind.

While laying in bed trying my best to get some sleep I decided that she probably wasn’t trying to scare me.  There’s no reason she should have any animosity towards me. Perhaps I had misunderstood.

I decided to conduct an experiment.

For three days I asked her what she wanted me to say.  On the third day the story poured out.  I moved my fingers on the keyboard but the images weren’t mine, they were hers, and they just kept coming.

I believe I channeled the entire story from her eight years after her death.

There are no photos to back my claim but eyesight is not the only way to experience reality.

You may read that story here if you like.



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Unconfirmed Miracles

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In the end, we believe what we want to believe.

It’s always bothered me when people tell the story of how the lost car keys saved their life.  You know, the one that goes like this: “I spent an extra 15 minutes searching for my keys this morning and I was so mad because I was going to be late for work. But then, while driving, I passed a huge accident. An escape convict in a stolen car ran the light and the other driver was blasted to smithereens.  I am so blessed because God saved me from being in that accident and it was a miracle.”

Is that a fact?  I always want to ask if it’s a fact but it seems rude to question other people’s miracles.

But is it? A miracle, I mean.  That’s the conundrum, we can’t know what would’ve happened if... because it didn’t.

On the flip side of the coin, how do we know miracles don’t happen dozens of times each and every day? Maybe you were day dreaming and missed the exit, maybe someone had to go and get a flat tire right in front of you, maybe you lost your car in the parking lot or maybe nothing out of the ordinary happened at all but someone else lost their keys or missed their exit thus preventing them from T-boning you at an intersection.

We don’t go around saying, “Nothing happened today and it was miracle!” But maybe we should.

Miracle or coincidence?

What if the keys were hanging on the hook in the kitchen and you left right on time? Would you definitely have been in the accident or, might it have still involved the same two cars?  There are no tangible answers but yet we still want to believe and can’t dissuade ourselves from looking for evidence.

Believing that events have meaning seems to be hardwired in our DNA despite the fact that the only supporting evidence lies in outcomes that never transpired. Human minds can find evidence to support absolutely anything at all so long as we want to believe it.

All miracles aside, perhaps the single most important evolutionary development that allowed humans to rise up the food chain was the ability to recognize patterns.  We see imaginary faces in clouds and in trees just as easily as spotting the gaze of a predator from within the tall grass.

Pattern recognition allowed us to navigate by the stars and to know when to plant the crops.  The FBI uses pattern recognition to profile serial killers and boxers use it to land a knock out punch.

Have we become so skilled at pattern recognition that we are now able to observe the wheels in the sky orchestrating the big picture?   Well, maybe, but we do know this: humans can process seven things at once, give or take two depending on I.Q and coffee intake.  Because there are a million or so observable things happening at all times, it hardly makes sense that we should focus our attention on seven of them and then call that reality.

Hey, do me a favor right quick and tell me which side of this mask is concave and in which direction it is turning?

Even knowing beforehand that it is an optical illusion, your brain cannot stop seeing the illusion.  So my question is, what if you didn’t know or even suspect that there was another angle from which to view something? Chances are you would accept it at face value.

In the same way that the A minor is relative to the key of C major – the same pattern from an altered perspective reveals a completely different thing.

The power of perspective and observation will make your beliefs about the world true, but only in your own world.

In November of 2004, shortly after making the final payment, my car was stolen out of my mom’s driveway.  My purse was in it along with my phone, camera gear, a suitcase of clothes plus all of my CD’s and the spare keys to my house including the garage door opener.  We were returning from a road trip and I was dropping her off. Not planning to stay long, I went inside but then ended up staying for dinner.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of returning to the spot where your car was, now gone without a trace.

Needless to say, the empty driveway was more than a little inconvenient. My insurance company flatly did not believe me about the contents of the car and refused to pay for anything except the actual car itself. Naturally I had closed my bank accounts immediately but this did not stop the crooks from writing my canceled checks all over town and it did not stop the collection agencies from pursuing me in an effort to collect funds for all the bounced checks.

The car debacle took months of unpleasantness to rectify.  To make myself feel better, I fired my insurance company.  I don’t want to name names but let’s just pretend they were called Allstate, and I told myself that perhaps I wasn’t as unlucky as it seemed.

Could I have experienced an unconfirmed miracle?  There’s no way to know what would’ve happened if my car hadn’t been stolen so I thought why not assume the best?  Maybe my perspective was all wrong and I thought I was looking at a picture of a horse when it was actually a frog, maybe I can’t tell which side of the mask is concave and which is convex.

Had my car been waiting for me in the driveway, like it had been for the past seven years, I may have driven it under a truck the next morning on my way to work.  I may have been driving too fast, swerved to miss a stray dog and crashed through the guard rail, plummeting to a fiery death.

Or, I could just be the unlucky victim of a very expensive crime.

Blessing or curse?

Unprovable either way so the verdict is out for interpretation.

But does it matter? Our interpretation, I mean.  Does it affect the actual truth?  I believe it does not.  Universal law is what it is and certainly doesn’t care what we think of it.  Gravity doesn’t go away or get stronger based on the strength of our conviction that gravity is real.  The difference being, of course, that gravity is provable.  Gravity can be demonstrated in predictable and consistent ways.

Unconfirmed miracles on the other hand, not so much.

But does that mean they aren’t real?

Last year in March, Xavier and I went to see David Sedaris at the Joseph Myerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

He was wearing the owl tie that I given him the previous year after his performance at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque.  Xavier and I stayed for the book signing after the show so I could remind Mr. Sedaris that I was the one who had given him the tie (and therefore probably his biggest fan).

He remembered me and said it was the only owl gift from the book tour that he hadn’t thrown away.

Xavier and I arrived in Baltimore early so we would have plenty of time to park and to eat before the show.  We found a good parking space on a residential street that was a five minute walk from the theater.  We both made it a point to memorize the exact address so we wouldn’t forget where we left the car.

212 Park Avenue.  Simple enough.

If you’ve ever been to see David Sedaris, you know it’s not unreasonable to stand in line for 2-3 hours to get a book signed after the show.  By the time we left the theater, it was after midnight.

Midnight in Baltimore is unsettling.  Dark, cold, raining, and a bad reputation for crime in the streets.

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On the upside, at least we knew that the car was nearby.  Xavier put the address in his phone and we began walking, and walking, and walking.  We walked much further than we knew we should have and were passing things that did not look familiar but the map said we were going the right way.

Sensing that something was amiss, we cleared the route and re-entered the address.  This time the map showed us a different route and, though irritated, we felt relieved to have finally found the right way.

Did I mention that it was raining and that I was wearing high heels?

Once again we set out towards the car.  Walking quickly and confidently so as to not look like what we were – small town folk wandering lost in the streets of Baltimore at 1:00am, or in other words, likely to get mugged – we said that the map was stupid and clearly to blame for this predicament.

Lost in unfamiliar territory,  I was getting blisters on my feet and trying to stay cool like Fonzie.  This was no time to come unhinged.

We followed the map and we walked some more. A lot more.

At this point, most couples would’ve started bickering over who was at fault. We did not, and thus passed some kind of ill-timed cosmic compatibility test. Nothing brings out the true colors like being cold, tired, and scared.  For a moment I thought of the movie Open Water and hoped we would not suffer the same fate.

The map said we were headed right to the car but it was becoming obvious that we were nowhere near the car and probably even further away than before re-entering the address.

You know that feeling when you wake up in a hotel room and, just for a split second, don’t know where you are? Disconcertion and panic until the rest of your brain fires up and delivers the pertinent info?  Yeah, it was like that, minus the resolution.

Had we wandered into an alternate dimension? Seriously, what the hell was happening?

We walked around downtown Baltimore for an hour and half in the middle of night, following our map on one wild goose chase after another.

Eventually, when we ready to give up and find benches to sleep on, Xavier noticed that there were not one, and not two, but actually three streets with the name Park Avenue in the vicinity of Joseph Myerhoff Symphony Hall.

Hilarious.

At 1:45 in the morning, we finally found our way to the right 212 Park Avenue and to our car that was waiting for us.

We drove home without incident.

Was the universe fucking with us or keeping us away from the car for a specific reason?  Could this be yet another Unconfirmed Miracle?

Think what you will but I’ll tell you this.  Not one person threatened or even approached us while we wandered.  Neither of our phone batteries died.  Xavier did not lose the keys.  The car started right up and we did not get in an accident on the way home.  If the universe were fucking with us, wouldn’t something have actually happened? Wouldn’t we have gotten mugged or wrecked the car on the highway?

What did happen is that we were delayed by an hour and a half by a very bizarre map anomaly.

While we were shivering in the rain thinking what a bullshit scenario we had found ourselves in, maybe we were seeing the optical illusion and the truth is that we were being guided away from something sinister – a Bogey Man in the night who would’ve found us had things gone as planned.

There’s no way to know but, in the end, it’s what I choose to believe.

 


Poison Apples

 

“Democracy doesn’t work in a large and diverse country when all we do is demonize each other.”  

– Barack Obama

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By the way, you can tell if someone is a demon because they smell like sulfur… or so I’ve heard.

Would you rather watch in horror as the oncoming train rounds the bend or just play Candy Crush on your phone until the sudden stop?  And the bigger question, does it really affect the outcome one way or the other?

This dilemma, of whether or not the knowledge is worth the burden, has become the American condition.

I know I should probably be following the election more closely. I should tune in everyday to get my fair share of abuse but spending any measurable amount of time in the electoral theater of the absurd is just too much, even for me.

I try to imagine what Hunter Thomson’s new book would be called and, to wit, he killed himself some time ago. You know, before things got really weird.

The dangers of daily mindset training, when the monologue runs amok through fun house mirrors, is that a mind unhinged on fear and loathing will believe absolutely anything so long as it pushes the sore tooth.

“It used to take one, now it takes four. You don’t get me high anymore.”        

 -Phantogram

Having developed a tolerance to psychotropic nonsense at levels previously believed to be fatal, it takes more and more to get us high nowadays.  And make no mistake, we’re utterly intoxicated but the thrills grow harder to come by.

The first election in which I was old enough to vote was Dub-ya VS. Al Gore.  No one is actually going to vote for this clown, I thought to myself while watching George W. on TV for the first time.

I was mistaken but good ole W seems like Norman Rockwell compared to the angry orange man whose supporters have put forth the proposition that the 19th Amendment should be repealed. In case you missed that day in history class, the 19th Amendment is the one that gives women the right to vote. Apparently Trump’s army of Trumplets feel their right by might, pussy grabbing, “let’s build a wall” and “show me the birth certificate” candidate would have a better chance of winning if all those pesky women voters would just pipe down and get back to the business folding laundry and mixing cocktails.

But hold on a minute, raise your hand if you remember that Trump briefly threw his hat in the race when Obama was up for reelection in 2012.  Does anyone remember why he quit?   According to The Washington Post, he dropped out of the race in favor of keeping his show, The Celebrity Apprentice, on the air.  Personally, I think that after weighing the cost of the campaign vs. his chance of dying a slow and humiliating death while debating Obama, he decided to wait and run against someone whom he thought would be easier to beat – like a woman. Naturally, he presumed himself to have a better chance of winning if he ran against a woman but that is, of course, just my opinion.

I have voted in every election since 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but did not get elected and have been asking the same question every time:  Is this the best we’ve got?  

The republicans evidently lack even a single qualified person in their ranks who is willing to step up.  By qualified, I mean capable of doing more than make bumper sticker insults, not confusing religion for science, and perhaps being able to name all 50 states would be good too.

Sarah Palin’s idiocy single handedly killed John McCain’s campaign in 2008 but, even in the midst of that debacle, McCain called out a woman and set her straight when she shouted out that Obama was a terrorist at one of his rallies.

Two days ago, Trump approved conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, concluded that Hillary Clinton was a bona fide, according to Hoyle, demon.  But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.

Wow. And for this he gets a fat thumbs-up from Trump.

How broken does your mind have to be to watch that video and think it sounds reasonable?

As it turns out, it really does matter what you put in your brain hole.

I would watch the debates but there’s just no point except to get all riled up.  I’ve made my mind up awhile ago and let’s be clear, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman and I wouldn’t vote for her just because she’s a Democrat. Absolutely not, in fact I wish the Republicans could send out a qualified candidate so that there would be an actual choice to make. But this is not a choice. Neither was the last election, or the one before that, or the one before that. Sufficed to say, it’s been awhile.

Each passing election pushes the envelope between extreme politics and certifiable insanity. Worst of all, the pandering to the lowest common denominator has now made it cool to have the title Fucktard appear after one’s name where the letters MD or Ph.D may have once been coveted.  Before too long they’ll be pouring Gatorade on plants…

And here we are, either turning off the TV, unfriending people on Facebook and closing the blinds to the outside world or standing around the Tree Of Questionable Knowledge gorging our sticky faces on poison apples and waiting for the rapture.

Staying informed, what a bitch.

 

A Time To Create

 

“We’ll not be given time to create, we be asked to create in real time.”

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Two years ago, I fled to the Sky Island Mountains to seek shelter from the turmoil and recharge my soul under the blazing sky.

In retrospect, that is why all of us were there. Why so many would travel from so far to meet on the mountain in the name of finding the flow.

Some said it was a cult, and they were probably right, but we went anyway.

Nothing was good on the day I left and I drove for a very long time.

What happened next changed everything in an instant. The lights came on and it was time to start over.

Xavier was standing on the porch at the end of the road to Oracle.

Accusations were made and some said it was contrived.

It was not.

With more unlikely details than I could possibly arrange, somethings fall outside my scope of practice and this was one of them.

But even if it was, contrived that is, I say “what of it?” and advise the inquisition to walk away peacefully while they still can.

Two years ago in a flurry of fear and hurt and desperation, I went to a retreat to study Tai Chi and drink wine with my friends.

Instead, I met a boy and we played push hands and fell in love on the couch.

We’re married now but getting married was easy. Easy compared to the force of nature it took to bring us together and break us free.

The wedding was nice but this was the day of creation.

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The Car

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An old man sat in his car.

His feet hurt and there was no one around.

He used to be my downstairs neighbor but he had shady roommates and things had clearly taken a turn for the worse.

The car has been in the parking lot of the grocery store for two weeks. It doesn’t run and he doesn’t run either. The bus stop for the shelter is too far and besides, he’s barefoot and doesn’t want to go anyway.

He was my downstairs neighbor and that was unfortunate for him because I live on the 4th floor and he can barely walk, or wear shoes, or stand up straighter than 45 degrees.

Lord knows why his kin put him in a 3rd floor apartment, maybe they hoped that once he was up there he wouldn’t be able to get back down.  I just hoped he didn’t set the building on fire because, for all of his shortcomings and ineptitudes, he was a master of chain smoking. Sitting on his balcony all god damed day, smoking one cigarette after another and blowing the smoke right in to my living room though notable, was not his most endearing quality.

Honestly, I had no warm fuzzies for the guy or his meth mouthed daughter and her crack head boyfriend. Xavier complained to the front office and called the police for various disturbances more times than I can count.

One time, at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning, all the 4th floor neighbors were awakened by the jangle of what sounded like my grandmother’s telephone and a wild pounding at the door. It turned out to be the fire alarm and the old man wielding a mag light.

Psychotic breaks are more entertaining when they happen after the sun comes up so, as you can imagine, the neighbors did not see the humor in a wild eyed lunatic tripping the fire alarm after sprinting up the stairs to escape the men with guns and knives that were not in his apartment trying to kill him.

Xavier called the police, again.

Then one day the old man and his entourage left. They left but their stuff didn’t and the maintenance crew had the best day ever gleefully tossing all their furniture off the 3rd floor balcony. It was glorious, I sat outside and watched.

From time to time the police would come looking for them. The car would reappear in different parts of the apartment complex. I don’t know where they went but they didn’t live downstairs anymore so I mostly forgot about them.

Two weeks ago Xavier and I found the car at the grocery store. It lay dead in the far corner of the parking lot, trash bags closed in the doors to keep the rain out and a note taped to the window.

I think now that I am idiot for not taking a picture of the note because it summed up the prevailing lack of forethought that is the defining characteristic of this whole situation.

The note was from the old man to meth mouth and crack head saying where he was staying and at what number he could be reached.  I don’t know how the recipients were supposed to know to find the car in the grocery store parking lot and, if he had access to a phone, why he didn’t just call them in the first place.  It occurs to me now that they are or were likely in jail and therefore not available to chat but if that is the case then what was the point of the note?

Xavier and I went to the store yesterday to pick up some sushi for lunch. The car was still there, sans the trash bags and the note, but this time the old man was sitting in it.

Apparently homeless and no doubt barefoot, he and his car were in a sad state of decline. Xavier called the police to speak with adult protective services. They came out but there wasn’t much they could do. The old man was having a moment of clarity and wanted to stay in the car and it was evidentially his prerogative to do so.

He told the officer that he was broke until his disability check came so maybe when the postman delivers it to the car he can go to a hotel.



What’s Your Elephant?

I could keep waiting for people to change or I could change and the latter necessarily meant it was time to boss-up with no remorse for the blood in the water.

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It’s been said that to carve an elephant from a block of wood, all one needs to do is cut away everything that does not resemble an elephant.

It would not do to lament the corners of the block or the shavings of wood that are cut away. They are not elephant shaped, so why would you want them?

To hold on to things that do not serve begs the same question: why would you even want them?

I took some time off from writing this blog but now, on a rainy day in Easterville, I have something to say.

It was time to clean house because the elephant had become unrecognizable.

Asking people for things they don’t have with the persistence of a dog scratching fleas is, well, exhausting to say the least.

The definition of insanity after all is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I could keep on keeping’ on, waiting for people to change while time keeps on slipping’, or I could change and the latter necessarily meant it was time to boss-up with no remorse for the blood in the water.

You know what I’m talking about.

If your elephant is integrity, why do you rationalize?

If your elephant is honesty, why are you willing to live a lie?

If your elephant is better relationships, why do you pursue people who are less than worthy of your attention?

If your elephant is enlightenment, why do you stay asleep?

The alarm is going off, it’s time to wake up.