How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I spent a good portion of last night, mooring with the tide, tied to emotions, most of which surely weren’t mine to suffer, though, like a good little buoy I did all I could to stay afloat.

But what causes a man to harbor such feelings of faithless dread.

Sympathy? Empathy? Selfless, selfishness?

Isn’t it funny how even when no one asks us to suffer, we often choose to suffer.

Could it stem from guilt? Plausible, though I think not. Depression? No, because I could still move. Trauma? Not in this case, as it had nothing to personally do with me.

Perhaps than maybe deeper, beyond the physical self, far from age or reason, like roots grown deep within the soil, always there yet invisible to the naked eye.

So then what?

Let’s take the current state of society in which the mind is placed.

We are and always have been reactionary beings, jumping to conclusions without fully taking the time and energy to understand or explore where these irrational compulsions come from.

So the year is 2020 and we are still at one another’s throats.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a phone call whether or not I am willing to vote. Not a day goes by that I don’t see one side of the argument ready and willing to cut the other’s throat. Not a day goes by where I don’t get the impression that peace is just dependent on war, like an inside joke I just don’t get the humor.

So it’s within this grey area that I swim where both sides of the equation continue to expel these deep seeded emotions from within.

Had it not been for the open minded, tirelessly educated guidance and good nature of a mother, I may have gone another way years ago, though still I stay afloat while the undertow continues its torment.

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I know who I am. And I know my intentions are good. Sometimes our actions speak louder than words but for most of us, words just don’t seem to be heard.

But that’s no reason to destroy what you can’t control.

So for those who cannot express or explain this current state of extremes we face both alone and together, I suggest this: be a beacon of hope.

Because what we know today, with or without our help, will surely change tomorrow.

So even in my darkest hours, I know, hope will never falter, light will find a way, and tides will turn, if not now, then surely another day.

Alone and writing.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty

If what you see in the mirror is ugly, then consider this: chances are you’re comparing your own unique beauty to what, for your entire life, you’ve been programmed to believe is beautiful.

And what is beauty anyways?

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And isn’t that true? Yes or no, in more instances than not beauty is subjective. In fact, I’d go even further to say that beauty manifests itself in infinite ways other than what the eye can see.

As a photographer with a fond admiration for women and men alike I can honestly say that I have taken countless photographs and manipulated them to appeal to the mass collective of what is to be considered quote on quote “beautiful.”

Hypocrite. No, I think not. I never claimed they were beautiful but simply did my job in a way that my superior agreed was aesthetically pleasing.

A wrinkle here, a crows foot there, deleted.

Nobody has ever died from a portrayal of beauty, right?

Wrong. Though I’m not an extremist so there are many factors to consider, all of which yes, I agree, may seem like a bit of a cop out or excuse not to hold oneself accountable for taking what is and transforming it into something less natural.

But this isn’t about my career choice or eye in which I behold.

This is about you and that “ugly” reflection in the mirror.

You are not ugly, you simply aren’t. You are you, and you are beautiful.

Those who claim to seek perfection, well, they’re only trying to fill a void. And it’s a bottomless pit because like beauty, perfection is ultimately subjective.

While I sit here and delve deeper into thought, I watch a mother and daughter walk by my window. The mother is flapping her arms as graceful as she can. The child looks to her mother and understands she is trying her best.

In the end all that we can do is try our best to love ourselves enough to fully accept the unique beauty of another.

Any other judgement is of which we have been programmed to believe.

It’s taken a very long while to believe in myself and I willingly admit that each day is a slow progression to further acceptance of my own unique beauty.

If someone tells you you’re not beautiful, that’s their loss.

And I hope the next mirror that you face looks back in your direction as the child looks with grace and marvels at the perfection of her mother’s love.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty, September 8, 2020

A mother cries out for her loss

It’s a shouting match, Liberty song

It all depends whose side you’re on

An 80’s flick, a telethon

The donors can’t afford

A peaceful march is a riot for

The higher ups keeping score

A father dies, a baby’s born

To a family torn apart

A mother cries out for her loss.

A brother vows vengeance.

Humanity what have we done?

Another brothers grave is dug.

It’s a quick escape, getting drunk

Do what you can, never enough

It’s a 90’s jam, a slogan sung

To another civil war

It’s a house of cards, a hand of fate

A demonstration turns to hate

It’s a feeling I just cannot shake

It takes all I’ve got to watch

Wake me up when it’s all over.

That’s no longer good enough.

It’s getting harder to be sober.

With history books full of blood.

What have we done?

I am not quite sure exactly what

Some parent’s expect of their children

In terms of success and failure

Because of course each individual is unique

In their own belief system developed through life

Though I do know exactly what

Some middle aged men and women

Expect of their parent’s, which is

Love and Understanding that

Love and Understanding means more to them

Than any award or prize, delusions of wealth

And superfluous measures of success

Handed down from Great-Grandfather to Grandfather

Then Father to Son who’s soul purpose it often seems

Is to belittle the latter, like some draconian wheel

Turning itself in circles, only to cause

An endless cycle of fear and inferiority

Leading nowhere fast, leading nowhere good

On an endless road of resentment and ill worth.

And we don’t ask for this. We are born to this.

We are flesh and bone

Fueled by the imperfections of our father’s

Father’s, father’s son

Who one day will understand he did nothing wrong

Oh Mother, dear mother

What have we done?

Seated in the summer sun

Seated in the summer sun

drenched in heat

reading a novel, alone

how sweet.

With memories of you

drenched in heat,

feet stretched out

along the beach.

Where in the summer sun

you’d sit and read

a novel too, my mother

sweet.

While you’d watch us kids

the swimming sea,

and how you read

effortlessly,

I never wondered then

like I do now,

how a quiet lesson

could teach me how.

I turn each page

my mind at rest,

my mother’s sun

warm on my chest.

Call me crystal and I’ll make this clear

Call me crystal and I’ll make this clear

The world’s your oyster, won’t you be a dear?

Remember us, when you’re famous

Such a dangerous manifestation

Bite the bullet trigger happy kid

They said break a leg behind closed eyelids

Opportunity, don’t blow it

You’re a shooting star, now show it

Call me Ishmael cause I am drowning quick

Wailing never got you through the thick

What more could we ask for?

Through closed doors

Another kid’s born in the grave

By the third day he’ll be saved

Another wick is burnt too late

Just one more spirit and you’ll feel great

Wipe the Chalice, next in line to drink

Every word has meaning, child

who’s never’d time to blink

May Morning

Sprinklers water garden lawn

Sirens in the distance

Seagulls spreading wing lift off

Mosquitos hungry witness

Eyelids close they’re curtain thin

My mother’s sleeping now

Sunshine pours and sea grass bends

Gently towards the light

Everyday is Halloween

All this life it seems I’ve been running away

Thought I could turn it off

Pour me a cheap escape

Fine tune this sort of self therapy

It never goes away for long

An undying mother’s love

Nursed me warm when I was not

At 13 I learned a lot

To have and to have not

Yet still I’m dreaming of

His wake —

I tried to look into the psychic’s eye

Try to figure out what’s going on inside

He sold me fame and fortune, it’ll be alright

Still I wound up bound and down

Screaming never made a sound

I feel freedom in the clouds

A kiss really meant help me out

Some fell in love and some fell down

But I’m not looking for that now

Another needle in the crowd

Another burden, a life

released —

I had a girl you see, she was better than not

She gave me all she could in a parking lot

I forced myself to try but it was never enough

Yellow light flickered around

We were kids no one talked about

An endless stream of aimless doubt

Like a weight dragging me down

When all I wanted was an out

She burned quickly then burnt out

But she was pretty

I was lucky, she was free —

Daylight savings time in another month

I’ve been killing time since I was young

Never quite so sure who I was or what

he meant by get away from me

Or rather feeling the relief

His coarse beard upon my cheek

In the mirror what I see

Sometimes it isn’t me

I try my hardest to believe

A half hearted destiny

There’s a reason or a message

To be —

I turn myself around, spin it upside down

Try to feel awake the best I know how

Still that echo rings in one ear then out

This haunting jealousy

For everyone who isn’t me

For everyone I long to see

I keep them safe within a dream

Scrubbing never kept them clean

My hands is what I mean

Everyday is Halloween

Except I can’t wear my mask

and see —

So I’mma take a walk, drown myself in thought

kick rocks until I figure out the plot

I’ve held this silver plate as long as I can take

It never helped me in the end

I’d have to die to make amends

Till then I’ll cheers to friends

A forced smile helps you fit in

Sometimes it’s better to pretend

We don’t break until we bend

His choice is my defense

For choosing, to live

The end.