Monday, April 30, 2012


Why is it that we so often look back fondly on events that, while happening, were incredibly painful? I recently went on a backpacking trip with my very good friend Christopher. We mistakenly trekked a two-day hike in about seven hours, camped in a completely sketchy campground, all while toting 45 pound backpacks. We finished our trip tired, sore, mildly dehydrated, and completely worn out. During the many strenuous miles, we complained hard and thoroughly about how tired we were; how hungry we were; how much we wanted to find the lake and make camp; how much we missed our moms (sadly that is not a joke); how scared we were of coyotes; etc. Yet, even with so much pain inflicted, we're already fondly telling and retelling stories from our trip. We're planning our next trips as well, and still completely enthralled with backpacking. How did our mindset change from incredible discomfort to blissful reminiscing?

I think some of the joy comes from learning. Hindsight always brings such a sense of clarity that the moment itself never can. Looking back at our trip, there were a lot of learning moments. We discovered that waiting until dusk to make camp is not a good idea at all, packing way too many things that we really didn't need just served to weigh our bags down (there's a whole blog hiding in that point.) And perhaps most importantly, sleeping on a hill in a child-sized tent is something that I will absolutely never do again. (Actually I'm not sure why that happened at all...) Christopher and I came to grips with the fact that we are definitely NOT Bear Grylls, as much as we so dearly want to be. These lessons may not have been fun in the moment. In fact they were absolutely not fun. We woke up so incredibly sore and tired on our first morning that I honestly wasn't sure if I would ever walk correctly again, but now I can appreciate the small things that we learned. They will make us smarter and stronger backpackers on our future trips. Both of us are completely glad we went, and I wouldn't trade that trip for anything.

Another beautiful aspect of hindsight is the gift of separation; the ability to disassemble the experience and compartmentalize events into categories. I can look back at the fun times we had as a whole without having the physical burdens of hiking to accompany those joys. We can talk about finding and subsequently drinking out of a waterfall (okay it was more accurately a water trickle), the incredibly beautiful overlook we spent the afternoon at, talking for hours and hours about girls and music and life. Separating the pleasant from the unpleasant in the actual moment is difficult to say the least, but from hindsight's perspective, it can achieve deep clarity. The memories that we made will last forever, and the stories that we can tell are priceless. We enjoyed two beautiful days in God's nature, and they could never be replaced. The ability to hone in on those aspects of our trip is something so special about hindsight.

Here's the pivot point: how does hindsight help us in life? I was once of the persuasion that hindsight was merely for overly-optimistic people trying to ease the pain of their mistakes. You cannot change the past, and I saw no point in dwelling on things that I was not proud of. Looking back, that was an ignorant way of thinking. History, without examination and correction, is destined to repeat itself. If a race car driver is circumnavigating a track and goes through the first turn too fast, would he foolishly take the same turn at the same speed on his second lap? Of course not. Unless he was a terrible driver. Why then would we not examine the past and look for clues as to how to better prepare ourselves for the future in our own lives? Could we look at a mistake we've made, pinpoint the place where we deviated off-course, and prevent it from happening in the future? Absolutely. There is not doubt in my mind.It is obviously easier said than done; as are most things. Something that I tell people when they ask for advice on the guitar or with writing is this: make new mistakes. It sounds like a negative piece of advice at first, but it makes sense if you think about it. In making new mistakes, we learn new ways of combating the struggles that come our way; learn to be stronger in areas that we repeatedly fail in. Notice that the advice is not make new mistakes while still making old ones. The idea is to constantly grow and learn. It gives  me the mental image of laying a rail road track. You turn behind you, lay a cross tie and a portion of track, turn back around and move forward then repeat.

Life is a constantly-moving journey, and our pace must be slow when we're learning new things. Looking back on situations is necessary to see how far we've come. And just like Christopher and I looked back on our painful trip, we can also isolate the joyous moments and be glad that we experienced them. Hindsight can be a painful tool, but it it opens up a whole new world of learning if you control it well. Don't be afraid to look back and gain vital information for moving forward. It doesn't make you weak, it means that you're smart enough to use everything you can to succeed and thrive in the future.

Thank you all so much for taking a little time to read. You can follow me on Twitter at @matthewhillec, and my friend Christopher at @RobertMorley6. He is hilarious, poignant, and takes incredible pictures.

(By the way, this is where Christopher and I backpacked. It was beautiful.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Focus on What's Close

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." -Soren Kierkegaard

I was recently eating dinner with my family at a reasonably nice restaurant. For some reason, I was pretty tired and not feeling incredibly well, so I took off my glasses and put my head on the table. Embarrassingly, it was right when the very attractive waitress walked up. Quickly I raised my head and looked into her stunning eyes (this is completely tangent to the point of today's post by the way) and ordered my meal. An interesting thought struck me as I was surveying the restaurant with my semi-blind eyes. I could hear many conversations happening, and it was evident that there was a packed restaurant environment thriving all around me, but I couldn't see it clearly at all. My eyes are bad enough that everything was a blur. All I could see was my family.

The thought that came to me as I was sitting there was this: sometimes life is exactly like that restaurant. Often I've noticed that in my life that it is difficult to focus on things in the distance. It is almost as if our minds cannot make out the shapes of the events coming. What is to come seems to captivate our minds, even when we have no inkling as to what it might be, or how the future will unfold. I wonder if this parallel between the restaurant and life can be taken a step further. What if the things that are close to us in life can be seen very clearly, even when the future is unclear? In the midst of stressful life situations, can we choose to focus on what is near to us? Maybe college seems like a daunting obstacle in your path. You don't know if you want to go, where you want to go, where the money will come from, etc. Or perhaps you've been laid off from you job, and the foreseeable future seems to be filled with financial struggles, stress, troubles of all kind. In times like these what can we focus on that is close to us?

Maybe it is the things and people that we love that we should be focusing on when life throws us a curve ball. How many marriages have ended as a result of a husband getting too concerned with work? How many times have you seen two outfielders charge towards the same fly ball only to collide because they weren't paying attention to what was close to them? You cannot drive a car by only looking far off in the distance; you have to closely monitor the stretch of road in front of you. This certainly does not mean that we should ignore those things in the distance. Not at all. Life centers around achieving goals. How much greater would those goals and accomplishments be, though, if we were more aware of our immediate surroundings? I am going to immediately regret this, but I think a quote from Star Wars could help here. Anyone remember what Qui Gon Jinn told Obi Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace when Kenobi was focused on the future? Of course you don't. He said, "Keep your feelings here and now." (I indeed do regret that decision.) They were in a fictional story, but the principle remains the same.

Is there a healthy balance of focusing on things that are close and things that are further away? Probably. Will any of us find that balance and stick with it? Doubtful. Life is a constant game of balance; a matter of trial and error, and no man or woman is immune to failure. So don't try to be. Just never let you eyes stray too far away from you immediate life for too long. You never know what might change while your eyes wander. (Sappy ending sentiment....check.)

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter here if you'd like.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Today I am grateful to be alive. I realize that sustenance is a gift; a precious gift at that, and not all are so fortunate to have it. Not all souls are so lucky as to type words into a computer, at their job, in a safe city, in a free country. War of the flesh and mind run rampant, and yet I escape. Not all escape. Not all survive. I manage to survive, and for that I thank God above. I am thankful for food and for a home. Friends and family. A car and money. Gifts and talents. For love and life, but I subsequently hurt for those who know nothing of these things; know very little of ease in life. I respect those who fight harder than I do, and they do it out of necessity  to  live.

Today I am humbled by the overbearing, gravity-laden notion that my life is simple and easy. I complain about so many things, yet there are others who lead such toilsome lives; such burdensome existences. I am so often unhappy while many others rejoice in having a fraction of what I take for granted. I am wrong. I am selfishly consumed with myself. I have typed the letter "I" in reference to myself 15 times thus far. Out of 221 total words, "I" is 7 percent of my word choice. There is no excuse.

Today there are no more rose-tinted glasses. No more seeing through a lens. No more running away. No more lies or pretending. No more looking past what is so evidently in front of my eyes. The world is scarred and broken; bleeding, hurt, and in need of a doctor; a healing hand; a savoir. He is Elohim, Shekhinah, God in Heaven. And He is here.

Today I am truly grateful to be alive.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Giver

First, let me apologize for neglecting this for so long. It's been over a month since I posted. I've been pretty busy, but that is no excuse. That being said, this is just a little something that I've been working on lately; a piece to get us back into the rhythm of things. I hope you enjoy it.

Capture my soul
Piece by piece
Ribbon by ribbon
Tie them to your rope
Until I'm all strung out
And I can see myself like never before
From my back I can see you as you soar
High above you're a kite
While I'm barely six inches of the ground

Let me go if this is all love means to you
Let me die in peace rather than live in pieces
Stop carving beautiful words into glass houses
With dull knives that everyone is tired of

You've got me for now
Alone in this cell
But I've got a plan
I've got two hands
You never listen
Which gives me an edge
I'll slip away at night
You'll be so busy at the stern
Surveying all that your hands have collected
To notice your vessel weighs one man less
It's dangerous
But it's is necessary to keep living
So I'll slip over the edge and hold my breath
That the sea welcome me

I'll let myself go
Become a stow away on a ship where I belong
And come to find that the sharp edges I once glimpsed from a distance
Were fingertips reaching for the ceiling
Forgiveness is like air here
It flows like birds and parachutes
Calms me down and brings me to my roots
When I look these people I've stopped seeing myself
And my mistakes like trophies across a shelf
There's a soul here for every two eyes I can find
And piece of a whole for every peace of mind

(Thank you all for reading. You social networkers can follow me on Twitter here: @matthewhillec.)