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Anthony Rain Starez
: Musician Writer Paraplegic

Standing Before You
A collection of short stories and songs by Anthony Rain Starez 

When someone falls down it's only expected that they pick themselves up and brush themselves off and continue on. But sometimes that fall can cause a person to see things in life from different eyes, coloring everything or every situation. And let's face it, life is all in how we look at it, so in some cases lives are changed after falling - some for the good, some for the bad. Sometimes just getting back up from a hard fall is very difficult, even painful, or simply impossible. Throughout our lives we fall in one way or another, and it's those that fight to stand up again that reap the rewards and gifts that only falling down can give. You see, falling down is the great teacher. The equalizer, if I may. It can happen to anyone no matter how much success, or for that matter, failure, we achieve during our years. And one thing is certain in this life, we will all fall one day, and return to nature. It's truly the circle of life itself. So, what completely matters is how we treat our existence between the beginning and the end.

Victims of the assault of life can be found in every heart. Everyone can be a victim in this life, even if it's that the person has never fallen down. In fact, that may be an even worst fate than to have fallen many times because without being tested we rarely ever find out what we're made out of. Who we are. Never really learning how precious our gifts are. To never gain the trait of appreciation is maybe the greatest disability of all. It sounds so simplistic, but being a victim is a state of mind, and I think we either accept the label or totally refuse it.

From the time I was a child there seemed to be a perpetual falling down, and there was always a fall waiting around the corner that forced me to have to rethink everything. What I didn't realize at the time was that most of those falls were connected to my parents' own falling, and as a child I was directly affected. But how can we really blame others for their own falling? Most people's falls are connected to others' misguidance in one way or another, therefore, forgiveness and moving on with your own path is the only answer that makes any sense.

Warriors of life never look back! Everyone must live the lives they were handed, and work with the tools they were given in hopes of finding that inner-peace that signifies the all-important stand everyone needs to make in life. And make no mistake about it, we all want to stand in life. Some do it the wrong way, some run away from standing, some quietly stand while no one notices. But we all want to stand for something.

There have definitely been some spills that I never thought I'd be able to climb back to my feet from. And until my early 20s I'm not sure I ever really stood up completely. In an ironic twist of fate, the most damaging fall I ever took turned out to be the most important one towards teaching me the love of standing, or maybe it's the gifts received in the fight to stand again. I'm not really sure, but I know before a car accident that left me paralyzed and in a wheelchair at the age of 21 I never knew anything about standing up. And what standing was all about. And that there are so many different ways to stand. And the sweet success of climbing back to your feet. So many lessons to be had along that journey of standing again, and along the highway there lies the many things I've lost. In all our lives losing and winning are as connected as our heart is to our mind.

No, I never stood up physically again since that accident. That part is over until medical science finds a way to repair a damaged spinal cord, which hopefully will happen one day. The fact remains, I've never even moved my fingers with any muscular control since that night I drove into a tree. However, it was the beginning of a new life, and the end to an old one. It took a few years but eventually I picked myself up and brush myself off. Granted, it was hard to leave my first life behind; the sensation of grass beneath my feet as I'd run to catch a frisbee, or playing piano delicately letting my fingers be an extension of my mind, or diving into cool water on a hot Summer day, just to name a few wonderful things I remember vividly. I assure you it still hurts inside to have lost those abilities and many more, but looking back after 20 years the new life that was handed to me has been more rewarding, and given me opportunities to stand in ways I doubt I would have ever found in my old life.

I believe we all have great opportunities to learn from each other in this life. It's one of the reasons I'm so drawn to the arts. Movies, books, stories, music, paintings, photographs teach us about others' feelings. And it's an ironic cycle, but the more we study others, the more we look inward to find our own stories, to discover our own feelings, character, values, morals, strengths and of course our weaknesses that mixed all together make us all very individual, yet part of the one big race. The human race.

I like to think we are all artists, and our lives are the canvass. We are the masters of this painting called life, and we decide on what colors we want to use. The beauty of this painting can come in many different shades of colors and patterns, and the most wonderful thing about this painting is that it's never finished until we stop breathing. Don't get me wrong, I know more than most people about circumstances that color your painting whether you like it or not. A child born into this World with the wrong colored skin to a poor family in a third-world country definitely starts out with a different set of colors to paint with than a Caucasian child in America in an upper-class neighborhood. However, finding other paints to paint with is not impossible, and sometimes we must look beyond our own environment to find the colors we want to paint our life with, and refuse to buy into the stereotypes set up by our particular society. This magnificent World has so many colors to embrace, and manipulate, or at least appreciate, but it takes vision to look past your yard, your neighborhood, your family, your ethnic background, your traditions, your culture, your church. And I guess most of us are guilty in some ways of not having that vision to look beyond the apparent, and not so apparent, borders that separate human from human.

To see the whole picture we must first look beyond the frame

We all live with frames around us. The first thing we see when we look at others is their framework. It's only human nature, which in my own opinion has a great many flaws, but that's where we can be honest with ourselves and move further towards painting the picture we want. Admit it, we are all flawed to the point of disrepair. But also realize the importance of studying ourselves, and therefore others by looking past the frames, and understand as best we can that we are all different paintings...uh, that may need a little touching up, yet paintings nonetheless.

In this book Standing Before You, I have written short stories, prose and fables of my life and dreams in an effort to teach, touch and hopefully entertain you. It's merely one of my ways of reaching out across all the lines that hold us back to express, and expose, my deepest self. Some of my stories are fiction with truths sprinkled throughout. Others are nonfiction accounts of times in my life, or a story based on an historical event. And some are just silly songs I wrote for fun.

As I am Standing Before You through my writings I only ask that you open your heart to feel each story that runs like a powerful river through my soul, and has somehow become a child to me. Writing has become another way for me to stand on my own and celebrate my own individualism. Some of my stories are very personal, and have never been talked about to anyone, while others are lighter fantastic thoughts that require a little of the dreamer inside you to grab your wings and fly with me in my dreamer-muse. But even the fiction is drenched in truth, as I leave parts of me in every story.

I sincerely hope that my stories will touch you, reach you and become your own in some way. The ultimate redeeming value of my writing is to make you feel more vividly what it is I call the human experience. To enlighten your spirit. It is also my hope that you are inspired to stand in your own life, paint your own painting - be the artist.

Anthony Rain Starez: Musician Writer Paraplegic