The Price Of Happiness


I had a good weekend — in response, I lost about five pounds and painted for the first time in 30 years…a block has been lifted…a block I…

from Jimmy Lem on Medium


About Photography Writing

One Step At A Time On The Lonely Path

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One Step At A Time On The Lonely Path (published today on – and to my friends on Facebook)

My open heart…I cannot live with a closed heart. To laugh and to love either alone or beside one another….I don’t want to do anything else…and I cannot do that with a closed heart. To laugh like a child, to feel safe enough to keep it open. That’s what I want.

For how long have I kept my heart closed when I thought it was open? So many female friends that have shared that moment with me when I let it all come spilling out, that uncomfortable place. The affection and attraction not returned. Why was I ever surprised when I always stopped short of risk? Why was I surprised when I engineered relationships that took more than they gave? How long did it take me to realize that I had chosen this path because it was easier?…My emotional stupidity or just my emotional unavailability? It’s easier not to risk, easier to be right about my terrible self, easier to short circuit real happiness for the instant gratification of pretending.

Sometimes, even when it did become intimate — same story with a plot twist. Where did I draw the line? Where did the heart remain closed? How many compromises did I make where I ended up in that other uncomfortable place? Why am I here and how did I get here?

…and career…and creating…all variations on this same theme…

I have moved too fast…I had ignored my intuition far too many times and I have put the blinders on and full speed ahead and locked and loaded on the target — a rigid simulacrum as the goal…I knew that if I did not act fast and act now and cement and then tape together this illusion that it would disintegrate and be shown for what it was.

Now matter how hard I tried — friends or lovers — all I got was an illusion eventually broken…rendered real again and again. How “available” is that? To stand in a box and expect the box not to be a box. To live in a dream and expect not to be woken.

Awakening can be an amazing thing. For years I put it on other people and when I finally looked at myself in a hospital bathroom mirror, I looked around and there was just no one else to blame…then I knew, then I knew. I am the only one moving my feet. While others may have their responsibility, it’s MY responsibility to myself that is the key. I realized that for a while I had stopped walking the lonely path, in spite of everything my gut told me.

I began to move one step at a time…. I stood by my feelings. I stand alone if I need to….fiercely proud of that. I remain true to myself…when I am ready and when available. Not exactly waiting for when the time is right because the right time is always now. My heart just knows when to open. If I give myself silence I can hear it beating, loud and clear.

I can’t say that I always give myself silence. I can’t say that I already haven’t made mistakes. It’s something to learn and earn slowly…walking down the lonely path, we dust ourselves off, laugh — rest, heal and remove yourself from the situation — and keep walking. You keep walking even though you feel numb. Even if you say to yourself that you can’t possibly get out of bed. Inside each of us is a candle that we alone can tend to and that we keep burning. We are responsible for our own happiness and own own sadness and as much as we would like to put blame and heroism onto others, we are still only left with ourselves for both. One step at a time.

What I find is that beyond all this navel-gazing and pondering is a good time, a fun time, actual laughter…not the sort of laughter that avoids the issues and says “lighten up.” I didn’t want to *have to* think of all of this…but you see, you really must do the work sometimes to allow your heart to shine through like the sun. My work continues but I have found something in myself like a hidden animal in a drawing in Highlights magazine — once you see it, you never forget it.

The lonely path is the path to the pleasure of being alone — not to escape but to know that you are doing this alone, that you can do this alone if you have to. Each time you feel lonely, you get the chance to experience the brighter side of being alone and then from there you can experience the rest of the world fully. You have no one to impress but yourself…but also not to use aloneness as another way to hide either. A balance that I am still working on.

For myself and for anyone who has sat in a room with another and either wondered “why am I here?” or “what if?”…to anyone who has ever been lonely or just wanted to be alone….this writing is for you and I.

About Photography Writing

End Of The Summer


End Of The Summer (published today on – and to my friends on Facebook)

September has always been a bit of an evaluation time for me—being my birthday, the new season, the new school year…Today, at the onset of my “stay-cation,” I’m looking back at my failure to realize my plans for this week. Please keep in mind that my goal-making is an incremental thing…I know that the larger goal should be broken up into manageable parts….like a child learning to walk, I grab onto the first piece of mental furniture and then pick another and another…concentric circles of security and tests.  For the purpose of this essay’s brevity and clarity I will just define the one as symbolic of many.

Today I am focusing on the goal of getting out of the house, leaving work behind, grabbing a camera and heading out to the east end of Long Island. This was an imagined day-trip that I started to formulate in the spring and have continued to work on…something I was supposed to do for this long Labor Day weekend. Sounds easy? All the same, I must outline the challenges and what is shaping to be the focal points of this essay and apparently my life at this time.

Although I have shed almost 125 pounds since December 2012, I need to lose possibly another 80–100 to be somewhere close to what I remember being a comfortable place. I’m on certain meds which limit my time out. I’m chained inside either at work or on days off for about six hours each day. I’m on other meds too. My legs, my knees and my ankles are not what they used to be and I also have some difficulties in my hands and arms as well. And I need to sleep with a few machines that are not easy to carry around. All of these are weight-related conditions and the working theory is to lose weight and stop needing to take the meds…to pick up the undamaged parts of me and continue on…to feel better…to be free.

My work limits my free time. You’ll need to give me a certain amount of relative latitude here based on your own circumstances and how much I can actually divulge in a public space. For me, it’s become a great deal tighter in the past few months. Indeed, this coming Sunday, I need to be available for a call that could last about four hours. I vacillate between feeling like a victim to a corporate culture that rewards ego, self-promotion, bullying, over-simplification and fear and then feeling like I have made a colossal “at will employment” mistake. I came to realize perhaps that I voluntarily did some of this to myself as I gained the weight to the point where it became a self-perpetuating cycle of hiding ever-deeper and deeper in myself. I’m still not sure which came first – the weight or the hiding. I’m working on that.

I like to create and make things, especially music. My belief system is that my hands in art and music are no more genius than anyone else’s. Art is a natural human quality that can transcend all limitations—sensory or otherwise—if we just have that faith in ourselves and stop trying too much to take the easy way out – gods, myths and heroes. These past two years, I have looked towards re-investing in other creative undertakings—drawing, painting, electronics, writing and photography to name but a few—something, anything that wouldn’t take so long to assemble. I’ve since found that each artistic en-deav-or has it’s own learning curve and could—like work—have no limits. So BINGO—maybe I need to look at my limits? Let’s get back to that concept later.

Many of these artistic pursuits are indoor activities that I have traditionally done indoors and by myself. With music especially I have insisted for years on working almost entirely by myself. All of this in all probability to avoid personal conflict, to simplify, to get things done more efficiently and keep up with my ever-moving mind…but at what cost? Now I’m looking beyond these things and am trying to find my way into art with other people as a social activity.

One such idea is the Facebook photo-oriented group I am currently running. Photography has appealed to be greatly because there’s relatively little to do as far as production. In theory, you just point and shoot and post. So I decided that perhaps I could use my group to organize some social photography outings—“photo trips”.

Unfortunately I ended up hurting my knee more than it already was hurting so I needed to step back from many physical activities. Inevitably, I ran into my limitations as far as meds go – as I have lost weight but still not enough. Then my new limitations at work are in the mix too, so I have not been able to do as much as I have wanted to do with other people and with myself.

Friends try to be friends but do they really understand? … Does my chronic unavailability leave a subconscious negative in their brain? …and to only imagine falling in love….do writings like this check off the “drama” or “maintenance” or “baggage” items on the relationship checklist? …by all appearances perhaps bristling at another invitation or another piece of advice…”difficult” or worst of all…. “Jim doesn’t like me.” Stay with me people, I will get there. I keep saying I can’t do it because I really can’t do it.

So the little “people pleaser” in me is doing the St. Vitus Dance and here I am swinging between “no limits” in my mind and limitations I can no longer ignore in my body and my circumstances. And that’s about as exactly where I am as I can spew out this afternoon.

So I count myself a success for knowing where I stand. My hope is that anyone who is reading this and going through a struggle either great or small—weight, death, work, whatever—can get something out of this. That there is indeed a positive. That things may not be the same anymore but you are still standing somehow and you need to put on your shoes and get moving.