Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Garden Woes

Blazing sun lays waste:
Only okra and peppers
lift praising green leaves.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Productivity Without Joy

Yesterday was not a good day.

I have been making a sincere effort to work hard and be more productive.  As one aspect of this, I have been making a list every day before I go home of things to do for the following day.  Every day, at least 10 items on the list.  When I get to work I start on the list; by the end of work, I must either have completed every item on list, made progress on those I cannot complete, or indicate who needs to take the next step.

Arguably my productivity has gone up.  I am becoming more effective at making sure that things get done - not only the things that need to be done now, but the things that are upcoming such that I am not rushing to get a thing done right before I am required to product it.  It is starting to be so effective, in fact, that I am already starting to get to the second tier of items that need my attention.  Compounded over months and years, one can begin to see the power of using a tool such as this to make things happen.

And yet, I went home completely crushed.

Why?  Because accomplishment of tasks is not the same as having meaning.  One can perform all of the tasks that need doing and still be no closer to happiness or purpose than the one who never does one task at all.  Doing work which drops off into the abyss leaves one not with a feeling of accomplishment but rather a feeling of emptiness, that one has done something of negligible value to the actual things in life that matter to one.  One may perhaps earn money for the tasks of the day, but such money scarcely pays for the sense of meaningless that accompanies one as the door clicks shut.

This bothers me.  I cannot turn aside from the need to accomplish things, nor can I turn aside from the need to work - right now, at the position I have.  Both of these are critical to my survival.  At the same time, i do not perceive that I can continue to indefinitely maintain this level of deep commitment to a thing which leaves me feeling so utterly empty inside every day when I leave, even though I have been very productive.during the day.

Or perhaps I am just fooling myself.  It is not that I cannot do it indefinitely - anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it.  It is that I cannot do it indefinitely and pretend that it is anything other than what it seems to be - not a joy, but an interminable chore which, joyful or not, must be done.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To What End?

To What End?

This is the question
that looms in the back of my head
as I try harder and harder
to do more and more;
to be more efficient,
more effective.

To What End?

I try to fill
every moment of my day
with something of value,
something that matters,
yet the days always end
in exhaustion and silence.

To What End?

Why can I not see
beyond my efforts?
How do I spy
the goal I cannot see?
Where is the powerful "THIS!"
that gives meaning to the "WHAT"?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Holding On

Sometimes letting go of something is the hardest thing in the world.

I like to hold on to things.  I am not really sure why.  I am not sure if I equate clinging to something with being deeply committed to the point of not giving up or willing things into existence that are not there or even simply a sense of fear.  But I like to hold on to things - sometimes desperately.

Emotions seem to be the thing I cling to most of all.  I will fiercely grasp anger or disgruntlement in my heart and hold them there as a defense of why I have to feel or act a certain way.  I will think that they have become quiescent in my heart, only to find them roaring back at a time I did not expect.

Sometimes relationships can be the same way.  I think back to the fall of The Firm and how I failed to read the fact that friendship had really become the business. I clung because the friendship was old and cherished but failed to realize that lives had diverged to the point that business was the only thing keeping the friendship together.

Failed projects as well. I am almost quixotic in my quest to try to hold onto projects that have not worked or even simply things that I cannot do.  It is as if admitting that I have failed or even simply that I am no longer interested is akin to admitting that I cannot do something - and I do not like to believe that there are things that I cannot do.

Failure.  I suppose that is the underlying sense of all of my holding on.  I do not like to admit that I have failed, even though such a failure on my part may not be indicated by anything.  Things just do not work out sometimes.  That is just the way of it.

Investment of energy too, I suppose.  I invest energy in our emotions, relationships and activities.  I put time and dreams into them - and when the the thing does not work out, that time and energy and dream become something which may seem to be a failed investment.  It is not always true of course - learning and knowledge are never lost - but the primary point of the investment to feel that emotion or enjoy the relationship or become good at that thing are gone.

And so rather than admit failure, rather face the fact that dreams are all too often just that and that the energy and time did not pay off as I hoped, I cling.  I hold on.  I think that somehow by force of will I can make things different than they are.  And the fact that such a change happens perhaps once in a thousand times does nothing to disturb my willingness to try.

Because in my mind the thought of releasing my hands and simply moving on too often has the scent of someone who has come accept things as they are instead of how they might be.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Difficulty of Being Honest with One's Self

Being honest with one's self is one of the most difficult things one can do with one's self.

In general, honesty often seems hard.  That thought takes me a little by surprise because it would not seem to be so.  I would like to think that honesty is the easier thing to do than prevaricate or fill the space with words while we really say nothing at all. Perhaps in my mind I have this image of honesty as a thing which it is not:  a blade which easily slices through the cobwebs and old trappings of our life and makes a path.

Honesty can indeed be a blade.  But the fact of blades is that the cut everything in their paths without a regard for what it is.  And that is where honesty with the self becomes difficult.  Because I am often very reluctant to turn that blade loose on my own soul lest I see things that I do not wish to see.

If I were honest with myself - genuinely honest with myself - I fear what I would find there.  I have suspicions of these things lying beneath the surface, waiting to make there way from hidden feeling to action.  I know that there are words there waiting to be said that would be destructive beyond belief, actions waiting to be released which could hurt others in my life - not the physical actions but the far more frightening actions of bad decisions, which leave psychic scars which never truly go away. I would find myself face to face with the illusions I carefully maintain and the dreams I carefully nurture in the face of a reality which says that neither are true and cannot really exists.

Would there be good to come out of a true session of self-honesty?  I believe that there would be.  But it is difficult to grasp what that would be.  Perhaps this arises from a sense that self honesty never results in greater clarity of mind or purpose but only in the revelation of that which I have buried and preserved inside.

Is it because I ultimately perceive myself to have failed in some great task, the one thing which I seem to keep pursuing as a goal even as I do not fully know what it is or what I should be doing?  Perhaps.  Failure often makes it difficult to be honest, except in a way which always seems to tear one down in the process.

As I write this there is a sense of walking on ice that is millimeters thick, threatening to crack lest I put too much weight on it.  I have come to recognize this feeling:  it is the feeling of being very close to something which is going to make me very uncomfortable to deal with and I am assiduously lest I suddenly find myself face to face with a truth.

It is beneath my consciousness, roiling beneath the ice.  The question is, am I willing to break the ice and look in?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Inner Walls

Inner Walls separate us.
I am surprised at my ability to build them - but I find them carefully constructed within myself.  Walls that have been constructed around almost every portion of my life.  They have not grown up naturally.  Neither were they (ultimately) put in place by anyone else other than myself.

Why do I build them?

Up to recently I would have responded that the reason I build them is to protect myself from other people, to defend against the vagaries of the moods of others (to be generous and a friend is to learn what to overlook and what to pay attention to) or the very really hurt that others sometimes can cause.  And maybe that is true in some senses and possibly for others.  But I do not think that is the real reason.

It it to protect others from myself?   Walls can not only keep things out, they can keep things in. But again, except for perhaps things I can keep of, there is not a conscious effort to protect others from me.  And so again I do not think this is the real reason.

I think I build them to protect myself from myself.

Why do I need to protect myself from myself?  It is not to protect me from myself per se that I do it - rather that I seek to protect myself from revealing something to others what will return the results that I do not want.

We have all been in the situation that someone exposed more than they intended to in an unguarded or truly honest moment - and the response was not what they had anticipated at all.  They perhaps thought to make a deeper connection or find a true moment of honesty or even simply be real.  More often than not, the response is hardly that: shuffling of feet, looking away, even a rejection of what was offered.

And so people (really me) learn to build walls around themselves.  They know the limits of these walls:  their height, their breadth, their construction, their appearance.  They know what they can and cannot safely do from these walls and how far to open the gates to allow access by others or to go out through them.  But even those gates are very carefully guarded lest in a moment of abandon what is behind the wall rushes out into the action at hand - with unexpected or unwanted results and reactions.

And the walls go higher and higher - in ourselves and thus between ourselves and others - until we find ourselves shouting across canyons of walls, the distances and the echoes obscuring the original message of what we wanted to say.  There is a danger of course, the danger that our walls will become so high and thick that we will never be able to tear them down and let what is out in.  It is a risk - but always measured against the risk of the reaction we did not want.

But Inner Walls ultimately trap us - they do not set us free but rather isolate us from all around us. And so we must learn to love the openness of relationship, even when it is painful and we are misunderstood and rejected and reacted to poorly, than we do the cool smooth protection of our walls.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Small Degree of Hesitation

One of the items I am trying to become better at is the observation of people - not just for the practice of learning to observe but for the practice of trying to learn.  I have learned one of the most challenging items of observation is one's own children, because knowing both their history and their environment it is very easy to track the root of many of their behaviors and actions (too often that root runs directly back to me, their parent).

The incident in question occurred last Saturday at Nighean Dhonn's soccer game.  She plays defense almost exclusively, her job being to cut off the offensive players moving down the field with the ball and either force them to make an early choice or drive the ball back. As I watched this particular day I noticed something which I assume was always there before but just became apparent:  as a player advanced down the field she looked at the player, stood for a moment as if making up her mind, then drew herself up and advanced to where the player was.

Once I suddenly realized this was occurring, I started watching for it - and the behavior repeated itself a number of times.  A few times she would just go - and the play would be more likely to be stopped.

I pondered and wrestled with this following the game.  Look, Make Up the Mind, Go.  Look, Make Up the Mind, Go.  There was something here, something that really applied to me in far greater detail than it did to her.

What I came to realize is that the "Make Up the Mind" step was really a hesitation, a hesitation in which she was making the decision "Should I go?  What should I do?" - then, deciding what needed to be done (run to cut off the play), she went.  The problem, of course, is that the offensive player had no such hesitation and so advanced a great deal farther than she should have if the hesitation had not occurred.

I also realize that I have precisely the same issue.

We train in Iaijutsu in order to gain muscle memory, to remove that moment of hesitation and thinking "What should I do?" and replace it with instant action.  Attacks are varied and repeated in the theory that no matter what attack comes, there is an automatic reaction.  I should not think if an overhand cut (a kirioroshi) comes in; I should just react in one of three ways to block, move, or counter attack.  But this same logic of physical actions are not often applied to other parts of our life.

When I hesitate - when I try to make my mind whether or not do something - I miss a valuable opportunity to instantly act. When I fail to instantly act, I lose something - time, position, initiative - that passes to the situation or the other party, something that inevitably would be of use to me.

Is this the same as acting without thinking?  That is not the intent.  In the example given, my daughter knew what she should do.  It was not the course of action she was determining or even the rightness of it - the knowledge of the game of soccer she was playing and the nature of her position - it was "Should I do it?"

And so with me.  Too often I know what I should do, the rightness of what I should do, perhaps even the positive outcomes of what I should do - yet I hesitate, holding back for fear or concern or even second guessing what I am doing.  And in those moments, I lose something - not just the time or position or initiative mentioned above but something greater:  the ability to build the confidence in myself of ability to action and ability to succeed.

In Iaijutsu the symbolic meaning of drawing the sword quickly (which is the true spirit of the art) is once you have made a decision, to act immediately without hesitation.  Deciding is the time ponder, to think, to take the time to weigh the options.  But once the deciding is over - the decision to participate, the decision to engage, the decision to move forward - hesitation provides nothing but the ability to lose, never the ability to win.

I want my daughter to learn that in any sport - and indeed in life - instant action when you know what to do is more effective than reconsidering the action before doing it.  More importantly, I need to teach myself the same lesson.