Work kind of got away from me this week, meaning that my entire weekend was spent trying to get caught up again. Because of that, I didn't even attempt checking my e-mail until very late Sunday and into Monday morning... eventually finding a total 62 non-spam e-mails in my "In-Box." Half of these were belated birthday greetings, and a significant number of those were from people I don't even know. That's kind of nice isn't it?
One of the e-mails that caught my attention was from "a long-time reader, first-time writer" who had more than the usual number of questions regarding previous blog entries. Most of the time when I get questions from people I don't know, I am happy to reply so long as the answers are not overly-personal or involving my friends, family, and other people in my life who have a right to their privacy. But this e-mail was a bit different. This e-mail was not asking questions just to be snooping into my life or looking for entertainment... this was a plea for help.
For people who know me only from my writings here at Blogography, my life might appear to be a series of funny anecdotes, odd incidents, curious travels, and care-free fun involving a motorcycle. A passage from my BlogFAQ is in order...
"Probably the most important thing I should tell you... really the only thing you need to know... is that this blog is not my life. It is just a reflection of a very small part of it. My real life is what is happening in-between the entries you'll find here. So, while you might come to know an aspect of me, this blog cannot really give you the whole picture of who I am. Let's face it, I am just not that talented of a writer."
So if you ever think that my life is devoid of sadness, insecurity, desperation, loneliness, depression, or any of the other horrors associated with life in general, I urge you to read the above paragraph again. Nothing could be further from the truth, I just choose not to write about my personal problems here for the entire world to ponder over.
That's why, when I get an e-mail from somebody who is hurting and confused, writing to me because they think my life seems so much better than theirs, and I might be able to help them because I seem to have all the answers to life when I write in this blog... well, it makes me feel like a complete fraud. My life is just as messed up as everybody else's (if not more so). What makes it bearable is that I spend a lot of time trying to see the beauty and wonder that is so often hidden in this world. To be more specific, what makes it all worthwhile is the "Bears of Berlin."
Perhaps I should explain...
The year 2001 was a very difficult one. My best friend had died early in the year, and another friend had committed suicide just two months later. A relationship with a girl I really liked fell apart. A project I was passionate about never got off the ground. I was burned out from endless hours of work. Nothing in my life was coming together and everything was out of focus... then the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened, and even the future seemed dark and uncertain. It wasn't the worst time in my life, but it was darn close. By the end of the year, I just didn't feel anything... it was as if my body and soul had given up. That's why, when December rolled around, I decided to take a run through Europe to visit some Hard Rock Cafes I hadn't seen before, and just get away from my horrible life for a while.
Within minutes of landing in Amsterdam, I thought for certain I had made a terrible mistake. When I boarded the train to Germany, I was certain of it. Wandering Europe alone was not going to make me feel better, it was only going to make things worse. I arrived in Berlin more depressed than ever. But as I was walking from the train station to my hotel, I saw this...
A pink bear wearing lipstick?! Just a small part of a public arts project, and one of several decorated bear statues scattered throughout the city. But it ended up being more than just a statue to me. It was a reminder. It was a reminder that no matter how bad things are... no matter how much crap has been tossed your way and no matter how terrible you feel... there are always going to be crazy, beautiful moments in your life if you care to discover them. And that's all it took. For some reason a statue of a bear in the middle of Berlin was enough to snap me out of a year of depression, loss, angst, doubt and fear. Life, as they say, does go on.
Which leads me to the only piece of advice I have for when life is less than perfect: take a moment to stop and look around. That one thing that can give you a foothold to climb out of the hole you're in is within your grasp (though it probably won't be a pink bear wearing lipstick). Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Sometimes you have to fight for it. Sometimes you will forget about it. And sometimes you will doubt it even exists... but rest assured that your "Bears of Berlin" are out there just waiting for you to find them.
Take care, and never stop looking.