Reimagining The Perfect Life

Taking your favorite aspects of your life and making them better

Photo by Michael Competielle

Just to be perfectly clear I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination about my current life. For all intent and purposes, it’s a perfect life. I have an amazing wife, great kids, wonderful dogs, a brilliant career, inspirational side hustles, and good health.

So why reimagine the perfect life?

What exactly is our actual purpose? To survive? To work, save and die?

Not long ago I reread the obituary of a visionary designer, restaurateur, and community leader. His style and visions have molded the inspiration of how and what I do daily.

Every day I awaken and ensure that I create something. Often my creations are as simple as breakfast or determining details on an architectural project. But often they are larger such as finishing films, inspiring photography or recording unique sounds.

My current carbon footprint is relatively small in comparison to many others yet I’m always thinking of ways to reduce my waste and stop the purchasing of frivolous non-necessities. My impact on the environment and my use of the Earth’s precious resources has moved to the head of the line of self-importance.

Every morning I’m working on Living My Legacy as I have less fear of dying than I do not living.

Michael Competielle

My perfect life consists of detachment as I want to detach myself from material things and nurture my relationships with loved ones and the Earth. I want to travel to the places that create my food to experience the challenges of growing these crops.

Photo by Michael Competielle

I want to pick bananas and avocados and work on a coffee plantation. I want to taste the sweat and feel the pain in my body after a hard day’s work. I want to sit by a warm fire and listen to stories about the lives of the people that really matter, the stewards of the land.

I want to listen to the sounds of animals in their natural habitat and recognize we are in this world together. I want to sleep on a beach and listen to the waves roll in as I watch the sunset.

I want to climb the highest mountains as a sherpa and learn how to breathe with limited oxygen. I want to know that on my descent from the mountain’s summit I’ll respect and cherish every new fresh breath.

I want to rebuild damaged lands and become a steward to our Mother Earth. I want to learn how to recreate biodiversity and sustainability and be a part of the rebirth of our depleted natural resources.

I want to listen to the birdsong and recognize their tunes as I watch our precious bees pollinate our lifeblood… Our food.

I want to taste the earth and hear her song. From the highest mountains to the calmest oceans. I envision myself a shepherd to our planet and become her faithful servant.

I don’t want to care about money, politics or world peace. For in my reimagined world we all nurture and cherish each other and our Mother Earth.

Listening to Life… A Soundwalk

Photo by Michael Competielle


Weekend mornings are a time for extended rest, free from the burdens of weekday life. Our dream sequences allowing us to transcend reality for just a few minutes more. Composed and at ease, we calmly rest.

And then the lawnmowers start, 2 cycle weed-eaters and leaf blowers wreak havoc on my silent lucidity. Environmental noise pollution poisoning my mood and making my heart beat a bit faster.

Certainly, the suburban lawn is one of the least ecologically friendly environments, a biological wasteland. I’ll ask myself how with all good conscience can I partake in helping destroy our environment willingly?

Natures Classroom

Earlier this year my wife and I took a soundwalk through The Watershed Institute, a 1,000-acre watershed reserve. The Watershed staff consists of water and land stewards working to protect our local waters and wildlife habitat.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Armed with my backpack full of field recording gear we headed into the visitors center. Kiosks explained the history of the mission of the Institute. We learned about the impact of water runoff from manicured landscaped yards. The harmful use of herbicides and pesticides and their impact on our waterways. The Watershed recognizes itself as responsible to maintain the ecology of the local landscape and teaches those practices.

As we walked outside feeling informed yet still exploratory, I read on a sign about the Institutes rain gardens that collected the building’s water runoff and how native plants are used in its construction.

Native plants have adapted themselves naturally to survive well in local environments and create a biologically stable habitat for bugs, birds, and bees. Pesticides, herbicides and added fertilizers aren’t required for native plantings to thrive.

The Trail

Putting on my headphones and holding my microphones we began heading down a wooden boardwalk that’s slightly elevated from the boggy land below I could feel the sense of life in the foliage and ground. Frogs, crickets, and bugs were immediately apparent as we headed deeper into the woods.

A smell of rotten eggs wafted towards our noses, evident that this site is biologically diverse.

The raised boardwalk ended and we found ourselves navigated a muddy terrain as we headed deeper into the watershed. Stopping every few hundred feet to observe the sounds of the remote preserve. It didn’t take a highly trained ear to hear the disturbances from near distance noise pollution.

I could hear the sound of a lawnmower trimming some local fields and a distant sound of small aircraft inflight from a local airstrip. I stopped recording as I was saddened how my excursion which felt remote was not far enough away from manmade noise.

I began to think about the animals when they are awakened from their dreams. Forced into fight or flight in an environment they call their home. None essential human-made noises that could easily be avoided if we respected the Earth and nurtured our environment.

It was on that day I learned about the environmental impacts of humans and the ecological effects of manmade noise. It was on that day I began my quest to become… An Audio Ecologist.

Finding The Courage To Be Yourself

Photo by Michael Competielle

Every morning I awaken with the thoughts of which me do I care to be today. For I have many versions predicated on the day, time of year and where I am within in my world.

I don’t set an alarm to awaken as my body and subconscious mind are on auto pilot guiding me down my daily path. If I’m complacent and at ease I’ll sleep up until that moment I need to arise and start me day. Recharged with an internal flame that revs my engine to a roar.

But then there are those mornings where I’m haunted, my fears and inner fire greying and ashen as I feel almost extinguished. My mind will race as I try to rekindle my spark but the coldness of my thoughts smolder it away.

I jump into survival mode, my thoughts are the kindling to regain my flame. Alone in the dark I seek the answers as I stare into the cold loneliness of my conscious.

I’ll close my eyes tight as I lie like a mummy in a cold stone sarcophagus, sheets over my head to warm my soul. I’ll breathe in my first warm calming breathe and feel the fuel my flame requires for combustion. My outward breathe the soot from the once smoldering flame.

I breathe in deeper like the bellows of a furnace fueling the kindling as I rage against my darkest inner fears. As if there is nothing but my fearful self tending to the fire.

As I take each warm confident breath the embers become flames, the flames an inferno as I fuel my thoughts and overpower my anxieties. I’m ablaze warm and trued. Tempering myself from my days uncertainty. Knowing who I want to be and how I shall present myself is the key.

My meditative practice soothes my back to a calming sleep. I’ll awaken charged and fearless, with only the courage to be me.

Stopping Time by Living in the Moment

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Quest

One summer my wife and I decided to take an extended weekend trip to the Town of Woodstock in Upstate New York. We had only a few sites we felt we needed to see and without real plans, we decided mostly wanted to connect with the stunning mountains while looking to relax and relieve some stress.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Heading upstate we stopped at Storm King for the Buddhist inspired Zhang Huan: Evoking Tradition exhibit of hammered copper sculptures placed throughout the cleared grassy fields which then inspired our weekend of searching for enlightenment.

After arriving at our resort, we headed into Woodstock so become familiar with our new surroundings and plan our next few days excursions. The plan for the following morning was to hike to the top of the Overlook Mountain range.

The Adventure

Waking up early we stopped for breakfast before heading towards the trailhead. We had a hardy breakfast of Catskill Coffee, eggs with toast and tomato. Fueled for the hike we drove the last few miles to the trail base.

As we parked we happened to see the most serene Tibetan Buddhist Temple we had ever seen. With visiting hours starting in the early afternoon we had a goal to reach the mountain summit, meditate and then head back down to visit the monastery.

The trail was relatively clear with a steady incline. We set a good pace and climbed towards the summit. Midway up the mountain range was the abandoned stone skeletal remains of the Overlook Hotel. We explored the ruins, refueled and continued our climb.

The Goal

In the distance, we saw the landmark Catskill fire tower and knew we were close. As we walked into a final clearing we reached the Overlook. A rock outcropping that runs east to west that overlooks the Hudson River Valley below.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The two-hour uphill hike was vigorous yet calming and upon reaching the Overlook and seeing the beauty of the Hudson Valley was worth the effort. We sat on a huge rock outcropping and stared down into the Hudson Valley. Everything looked so small and peaceful as we felt like giants. After a few moments of rest and some photographs we decided it was time to head back down the trail, anxious to make it on time to the Monastery.

We began our descent with a bit more speed as gravity and familiarity were on our side the effort required was minimal. We talked about our love for nature, and our feeling of accomplishment and we reached the bottom of the trail.

The Reward

Photo by Michael Competielle

As we headed over to the sacred Tibetan Monastery we were immediately silenced by the prayer flags dancing in the slow mountain breeze. We passed the King of Mantras Auspicious Gateway and headed up a path towards the buildings as we saw Monks walking away from the Monastery heading to go have their afternoon lunch. It was perfect timing as the grounds were then open to visitors such as ourselves.

Our tour guide was a Woodstock resident for many years, an artist songwriter that volunteered as often as she could. Here volunteering offered her to not only help in the gift shop or provide tours but it also allowed her the ability to sneak into the temple for meditative mantras.

New Learnings

Our guide explained to us the history of Tibetan Buddhism and the basic teaching. She then began to explain how the Holiness 16th Karmapa had found and blessed the sacred land here in Woodstock for the building of the first Karma Kagyu monastery in the United States.

We learned of the years it took to build the Monastery and grounds, of famous visitors and about The Dalai Lama’s teaching in the Monastery.

Photo by Michael Competielle

I was glazed over at the wealth of information our guide had bestowed on us that day however one I’ll never forget was to live in the moment. As we entered the Main Shrine-room we had to remove our shoes and take a seat on a prayer cushion left behind by the monks who had just left the shrine. She guided us on how to assume a lotus position and some basic principles of meditation and prayer.

We were taught about Sutras and Mantras and quests for enlightenment. Various practices and rituals Monks and partitioners would partake of during retreat and teachings.

She continued the tour showing us the Courtyard, Meditation Platforms, Shrine rooms and we exited into the gift shop. Feeling mentally cleansed and emotionally connected I purchased my first set of Tibetan Mala Prayer Beads.


As we said our goodbyes and left a small donation to our guide and the Monastery we left the grounds purified and enriched. Our visit was a springboard of research and selfhelp as I work daily to stay in the moment cherishing each experience. My attention to detail and recognition of my local surroundings has increased exponentially and my love for the earth and her creatures lives on.

For I am a Lotus

Photo by Michael Competielle

Warm mountainous air slowly fills my lungs, my heart beating slowly, my mind focused on my breathe. Slowly fragments of troubles evade me as I’m floating away. For I am a lotus, my petals to either side, my stamen erect, relaxed. 

Below me, the earthen rock formation is my foundation as I’m firmly planted at the summit of the mountain with breathe taking views…I breathe in slowly, my focus, my breath. 

Hawks circle me with curiosity. Am I their prey? I breathe in meditative prayer. For I am the master of my vessel, lovingly embracing my place in this world. My terrestrial being seeking enlightenment, a transcendence higher, higher. For I am a Lotus.

The deeper I breathe the higher I rise, feeling the quiet breeze cool me. Nutrients from the soil give me strength, the suns bright light fuels my soul. Enriched by my environment and the purity of the air.

Swaying slightly as I embrace the breeze, freeing to not feel rigid as I go with the flow. Sounds disappear along with the pressure I’d been feeing in my stem. Floating away as my deep concentrated breathe sending electrical impulses to my extremities.

I breathe in, I am one with my meditative spirit as I am a Lotus.

Your Writing Sucks

Why I Send Myself Hatemail

Photo by Michael Competielle

I’m not a writer but more of a storyteller. My style is based on my actual feeling and emotions and on my interpretation of the truth. For the most part, I’m writing how I speak and more realistically it’s how I think. I use the words love and hate often interchangeably based on my current mood and situation. The reality of the matter is I’m creative and therefore I take risks.

Creative People Traits

  1. easily bored
  2. risk takers
  3. color outside the lines
  4. think with their hearts
  5. make lots of mistakes
  6. hate the rules
  7. work independently
  8. change their mind alot
  9. have a reputation for being eccentric
  10. dream BIG

stolen from somewhere.

You never really know what version of me you’re going to get. My current thoughts and mood are plagued by my current emotions. I put passion into most everything I do and I’ll visualize myself doing things prior to making an attempt. If I can’t see myself doing something, generally I know I won’t partake.

Daily I try new things and need to find inspiration to get myself on board with my new experiences. I’ll try new things having visualized the outcome and honestly, it often doesn’t work. Many people wouldn’t notice or even care however my minds eye knows when I’ve gone astray.

Plenty of my creative endeavors have been pure trash, thrown by the wayside and discarded. My embarrassment and self-judgment often pollute my flow and produce feelings of anger and sadness.

The rules I follow are my heart and my gut instinct, the only emotions I know I can truly trust. Sounds can be lies, tastes can be poisoned and sights can be a mirage and only your inner voice will guide you to the truth.

I have a pure distaste for rules and restrictions. Asking my confidant, my minds eye if we can break them my inner voice always says absolutely.

Ironically for someone who doesn’t generally follow the rules, I have a lot of personal rules and you know what… I break those too.

The rule of thirds.

Ok, so I’m a Libra, which means I’m a scale and all about balance. Call it the rule of thirds such as hot, warm, cold or red, purple, blue. My favorite color is purple, I like my drinks warm or room temperature or evenly balanced. This is a basic guideline I generally don’t break and helps in my decision-making process.

I’m a Vegan based on three distinct different reasons, empathy to animals, environmental concerns and lastly diet. Politically I lean towards being a Progressive or Independent since I don’t fully align to the Left or the Right.

I like my day broken up into one-third work, one-third play and one-third rest. As much of my work is play and my play often work, my rest can get clouded with the other two thirds. Not a horrible situation to be in except when I’m questioning my abilities rest can become work.

Functioning as a sine wave I have my ups and downs. Deadlines and complexities are equalized by positive yardage and motion. As I envision the finish line and keep my mind’s eye on the prize I’ll internally battle the emotions and push myself towards completion. Sometimes the completion of a project, design or article yields a joyous feeling however just as frequently I land into a world of self-doubt and anticlimactic disgust.

Kind words and acceptance from others does not always work to convince the only actual quality I can trust which is my gut instincts.

As I may be self-deprecating and question my abilities and recognize my shortcoming what I don’t lack is confidence. Instinctually and with utmost confidence I can make decisions and continue to trudge forward. I can take criticism at face value and analyze the data to determine if I’m off the rails and need adjustment.

Photo by Buddha Joe

Honestly, I’m Living the Dream as I daily have the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone to try new experiences and my new mistakes. Somewhere between my two happy places which are the mountains and the beach is the equalized me. Writing, photographing, recording and creating. I’m my own harshest critic who aggressively doubting my abilities and qualifications. But the power of being creative I can recognize my shortcomings and push myself through my self-doubt and make myself proud.

Why I Always Publish My Drafts

Photo by Michael Competielle

As of late we are all writers in some capacity. Tweeting, Facebook posts, blog posts, text messages are all forms of creative writing and free expression. Often these are purely emotional outbursts of self expression based on how we feel at that exacting moment. It’s doubtful we should determine a persons moral fabric solely on a crappy Twitter post and probably excuse a statement we can’t align with.

Creative writing for an outlet such as Medium has allowed my posts to become expanded quite a bit further into short articles. Generally I’m basing my writing solely on my actual unabridged real life situations to emphasize my philosophy and creative process.

Currently I’m writing at an accelerated pace of an article per day with original photography. Sort of aggressive and masochist as I’m also working full time while still running my production company. It’s doubtful I’ll be able to continue this pace and still be able to write about interesting topics unless I make the effort to increase building additional unique experiences. My main goal is to challenge my own thoughts and beliefs.

Daily I’m expanding my world connections and finding my space within it. I never really have a completed concept or thought and so therefore I’m always evolving. Today’s dumb idea often yields tomorrow’s brilliance as I fine tune and dig closer.

My conscious thoughts intertwine with my subconscious to help define where I’m going and how I’ll get there.

. “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”. Steve Jobs

My creative articles are snippets of content that will expand my style, vocabulary and help to find my voice. Currently my achievable goal is to complete 100 articles, with original photography. I’m well on my way and have already exceeded one third of the projects quota.

Looking back at the past 34 days of articles, there is some great content in my feed. My best work? Probably not but I’m finding my lane and I’m feeling I’ve had moments of inspiration and epiphany.

With my first book of 100 Haiku with original photos scheduled to be published in December, I’m excited to see the outcome and hope I’ve made enough writing fans to sell a few copies. Get rich scheme? Hardly. Actually it’s all a springboard for my 2020 projects.

I’m planning to start my second book on the Philosophy of visualizing, designing and building of projects and products. The narrative is based on my 25 plus years of hard core experience. Hardly a step by step guide on how I work and manage purely because I operate on emotion and gut instinct backed be years of actual scenarios.

These articles though self standing actually formulate the various chapters in my future text. Have I a plan to look back at these writing and borrow from them? I’m doubting it. Will I memorize specific topics or well written passages. I’m hoping so. Moral to this writing exercise is similar to publishing daily journaling entries. Exploring my concepts and solidifying them into text. I’m hoping it’s meeting my present criteria and personal challenges.

With simple goals of writing honestly, not modifying my titles, photos or content to pass thru Google or Mediums algorithms I’m publishing daily with the utmost confidence. The writing a culmination of my present mood I often feel it translates well into text.

Very little of what I do is polished nor perfect. I spend little to no time lamenting over underperforming articles based on false metrics. The greatest mark of accomplishment is relishing in the moment I’ve hit publish. My words and thoughts out there in the world and to be able to breathe and bask in the glory of moving one step closer to achieving my goals.

I’ve no real interests to go back and rewrite my drafts as you would never go back and edit your journal entry. The writing is snapshots of where I am, where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Dragging my typewriter and research material with me everywhere I go… my phone and my mind.

Michael Competielle

Step Off the Path and Find Your Way

Photo by Michael Competielle

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin

Today I had a interesting conversation with a friend who’s writer family member stated “If you aren’t weird no one will remember you.”

Honestly a great observation, possibly the statement could be expanded to odd, unique, creative amongst others however I’m feeling the point is you need to step off the path and find your way.

Daily I’ll awaken from my lucid dreams having resolved issues or found clarity in a design. My mind struggling to rest as I’m compartmentalizing projects and problems into little buckets that help me to think them through. Often working backwards from my anticipated outcome to each individual step and I’ll clearly see the starting point.

I’ve reprogrammed my brain and conscious thoughts to logically follow potential pathways like following traces on a circuit board. More often than not this generally brings me uniquely to a similar solution that isn’t unique to me.

Photos by Michael Competielle

It’s often then in that moment when I’m feeling my solution or concept isn’t original or unique enough I’ll decide to find my own way.

By stepping of the beaten path.

Now I must warn you that you’ll need to be very careful. I’ve stepped off the beaten path and found myself in rabbit-holes like in Alice and Wonderland. My mind will expand and possibilities become endless however I can get lost. That’s why I’ll try to follow some basic rules by keeping my meandering in perspective.

Guitarist Adrian Belew formerly of King Crimson has worked with Trent Reznor on three Nine Inch Nails albums. Working with Trent who is in industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails is an experimental artists dream as Trent records in non conventional techniques.

Well, I’ve done three records with Trent now, and all three have been alike: I walk in the door, get my equipment working properly, and he starts playing me pieces of music. He’ll say, “If you find something you want to play, stop us and we’ll record you.” [laughs] It’s usually easy for me to find something to play in his material. It really fits my styles — my sounds and the things I like to do — very well. When you play with Trent Reznor, you don’t want to pull out your normal things; you go do the most extreme things that you can. It’s a lot of fun, because it puts me on the spot to do what I really love to do, which is be creative with the guitar. The sky’s the limit. Nobody is saying “No! No! No!” Everyone is saying, “Yes!”

I really enjoy working with Trent, because it gives me that type of freedom. In a way, it’s the same kind of freedom that I had working with David Bowie. He was also very encouraging, asking me to do more wild things. The same was true with the Talking Heads. Trent Reznor is, to me, a major inspiration in the world of production. I really like the way that his records sound. I’m always keeping my eyes open on the process, so I can maybe learn something. Adrian Belew

With a floor full of guitar effects pedals that generally function in an unwritten sequence, Trent and crew would reverse directions of effects and their linear sequence in an attempt to find something new.

My latest creative endeavors have been working on some unique recording and sound writing projects with Cities and Memories by reimagining sounds into new creative assemblies. It’s as wild experience that forces me to think outside the box and experiment. My creativity has expanded exponentially as my work product increases.

In some ways I’m consistent and in others I’m finding new experiences such as never driving the same way twice or refusing to make predetermined plans. Not following rules is exciting and creates new pathways and connections.

By stepping off the normal path I’m finding creative ways to express myself. Objects and places have morphed into inspiration that guides me into experimental experiences. My path no longer known I find comfort and solace in discovery.

Writing Your Memoirs and Documenting Your Past

Reading someone’s memoirs changes your perspective of the writer and inspiration for the reader.

Photo by Michael Competielle

A few years ago I received an email for one of my best friends and mentor. Written in the body of the text was an explanation of how my friend 33 years my senior was entrusting me with his memoirs or at least the start of them.

Living an exciting life that he had created, my friend is quite the renaissance man. From a War Veteran to a banker, entrepreneur, Potter, filmmaker, botanist he is what we would call eccentric. With a remarkable passion to experience and explore, he dives headfirst into the turbulent waters of challenge. Armed with little more than an open curious mind and the tenacity to embrace the unknown.

As I began to read the letters of my friend whom I’ve spoken to almost daily for 10 years, I found a different person than I felt I had known. The same person but a different version of who he portrayed daily.

Armed with little more than a computer, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and a vibrant life of experiences my friend began to write. His style is not dissimilar to his storytelling with incredible detail and topics you’d often struggle to believe. Not because he stretches the truth but because he’s an opportunist that always finds himself in amazing situations.

However, some of what I found out was about a dark side. Not that he is evil or misguided. Actually how he came from a difficult beginning. With parents that struggled to parent, he and his brother and sister found themselves bounced around amongst relatives that opened their doors to help raise the family.

Money was tight making a normal childhood in a traditional household tough, combined with bad parenting.

The stories of his summers with Grandparents in the Poconos or hanging out at Monmouth beach are vibrant and entertaining. Always making new friends and often doing without things other kids had, his amazing character placed him into situations where people would show their love for him.

Christmas around his house was rough with little work his odd job lawn mowing father could round up to make Christmas magical as other kids enjoy. But my friend had generous and kind friends that invited him to their home to open their presents with them and play with everything they received. And always under the tree would be one present, the most special one of them all. The gift they had all chosen for my friend. He never felt more love and a sense of belonging than one those Christmas Days where he was accepted as one of the family.

Always struggling to fit in he played basketful for the High School team. Making what he believes a horrible game losing error, he rode home on the school bus mortified. The next day he dropped out of school and signed up for the Army.

After basic training and struggling to find an identity, he was pleased to be stationed in Alaska, which at the time wasn’t even a State.

With little more than some Superior Officers who liked my friend, he embraced his surroundings and was finding himself.

Upon returning to New York after his Army career, he applied for a job at Citibank. Dressed sharply as a soldier would, he walked into the employment office with his resume. The employment officer recognized that my friend not only didn’t have a college degree but he also hadn’t finished high school.

Photo by Michael Competielle

He was sent around the block to the employment office for tellers. The room was filled with a lot of sloppily dressed people hardly interested in obtaining employment. A hiring agent walked into the room and scanned the room and noticed my friend, well-groomed and professional looking. He was hired on the spot because he looked like he wanted to be there.

That evening he headed home on the train and cried, saddened by again his rejection and knowing he needed more from his life. He got off the train and headed to the Community College and enrolled.

Working full time, raising a family while going to school, my friend pushed himself to succeed. Immersed fully into every course and absorbing knowledge like a sponge. He was single handily reversing his course.

Then the oldest son became sickly. Life became more challenging and difficult than ever before. Working full time, college in the evenings full time and nights studying by his son’s hospital bed my friend saw no other choice but to continue.

Telling the stories and understanding the man his internal narration of his life helps to understand him and appreciate our relationship. He’s honest and forthcoming and I’ll go to him for advice and mentoring often. Armed with his worldly knowledge and experiences and a passion to help others succeed he will tell me if I’ve gone astray.
We’ve visited his boyhood Hoboken home, and shot films in his childhood playground of Washington Square Park. 
He is certainly the single most person that impresses me as much as I impress him. Daily we challenge each other to take steps outside of our comfort zone and embrace the unknown. His mind is still sharp as he tells his stories and experiences.
This weekend he and his sons are heading into New York and have a boys weekend. He plans to show them some apartments he lived in New York so they have the perspective. 
In the coming weeks, he begins his video memoirs where he plans to sit and record his life experiences. As he struggles to write what he thinks he’s using the technology of a voice recorder that he will dictate into and software that will convert those recordings into written text. The challenges of life hardly challenge if you find a way to circumvent them.

Zen and the Art of Lasts

Appreciate life experiences as if it’s your last

Photo by Michael Competielle

Sitting helplessly in a electric chair I watched my fathers motor skills diminish rapidly. A former draftsman, artist and entrepreneur with perfect penmanship, he struggled to hold a pen to write the word hello.

His Multiple System Atrophy was affecting what little was left of his physical being. Trapped inside his sunken body was his mind, still detailed and sharp like a tack.

Months earlier I questioned him on why he was giving up, not writing his memoirs, explaining his life. He had gotten to a point where he had given up the fight.

We had collectively made decisions as a family on his future care and how he wanted to live out what weeks or days he had left. Forced to eating through a feeding tube, stuck in an electric chair, cherrypicked into his bed he refused to live out his days in a hospital. He wanted to stay home surrounded by his belonging.

An avid book reader, he had a massive library of leather bound literature, fine furnishings and artwork, all material possessions he believed completed him. I made my most noble attempt to teach him mindfulness and practice however he only saw the pain of his decline and his last few years he missed the moments.

Recently I was talking to a best friend of mine about the situation. He’s currently going through a similar scenario with his beloved sister. My only advice is to live in the moment and treat every experience as if it were your last.

Stepping out of the plane in a foreign place, embrace the experience. What does the air smell like, Listen to the sounds. Walking along city streets recognize the people, their expressions, the vibe.

Stepping out onto that amazing beach, listen to the surf, smell the salty air and watch that stunning sunset as if you’ll never see another again.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Always one to be in a rush my mother and my wife would yell at me to chew my food, taste it and enjoy it. They are correct, one day you won’t be able to chew or eat certain foods, and you’ll wish that you could eat a steak just one last time. But what if this next time your eating that steak you take your time? You slowly chew and taste the flavors, the texture and add that experience to your memory banks. When you next are asked about your favorite meal, you’ll remember it in vibrant detail which you could describe.

When I travel now I no longer plan specific details, just going with the flow of the journey. Weather doesn’t change my plans as rain, wind or even hurricanes can be a once in a lifetime experience. Instead I embrace the uniqueness of the scenario and program each detail into my memory banks. I’ll use most or all of my senses to log the event.

The last day I saw my father alive, we both knew it. We often struggled in our relationship to express to each other how we felt, however I saw it in his eyes. As I left and headed to the airport I told my wife with absolute certainty that was the last time we would see him alive. Unfortunately I was right.

The irony of this is I’m complacent with how it ended. We were in our own terms, and shared our last moment. Not a day goes by I don’t think of my father, often not in the best regards and often with bitterness.

What if he had listened to me by embracing those last years of his life present and in the moment.

All experiences good or bad are experiences. We choose what details and emotion we extract from a given moment. By focusing on the positive details and embracing those who share them with us, your last’s will be your bests.

I’m writing daily to chronicle my thoughts, perspective and interests. Daily I challenge myself to do more than the day before. I’ll someday leave behind a long legacy of myself, uncertain if it’ll matter to anyone besides myself. One day I’ll return to my projects, writings, photos, films and life to recollect myself.

My mind won’t stay sharp forever and so therefore I’ll need to document my last’s as I feel I’ll have many. Daily I look at the details in everything I see and touch and often wonder why I never noticed them before. The life cycle of a flower, the growth of the baby fawn, the sounds of a summer rain.

My quests for quiet places is for self reflection and immersion, determined to not follow in my fathers footsteps missing out on the last years of his life.

I’m present, in the moment and spontaneous. I don’t generally make plans for the future as future is unknown and not predetermined. I’d rather stay right here, in this moment and hope it never ends. Cataloging every detail as if it’s the last.

Michael Competielle