Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Of Despair and Writing

Last night I despaired.

It was the whole day in coming.  It built on a work day where I was reminded how far I have not come in my career, at one point fighting with a binder that I needed to three hole punch papers in.  It was compounded when I got home and had dinner and then ate a little more than I should of.  It was added to by the fact that I have been running low on sleep almost since we returned from vacation.

I simply got to the end of dinner and did not have the energy or will to do anything.  Not the studying I had planned to do or the iaijutsu that I needed to do or the workout I wanted to do.  Nothing.  I just sat there missing energy and waiting.

Waiting for what?  Something other than despair about everything at that moment: feeling bad, feeling tire, no energy, nothing.  So in a fit of frustration, I wrote.

I have not written (as in writing for a book) since April and finishing my last texts.  Why?  I am not sure.  I certainly have something I could write about, but with my typical concern about the perfection of the work (I know it can be good) I have put off doing anything about it because (in my mind) no action is better than bad action.  And nothing else has really gotten my creative juices flowing.

So I wrote. It was not anything spectacular - unsurprisingly it was about a person facing despair (creative, no?).  But in the simple act of writing I found a certain relief to my condition.  The mere act of writing and creating gave me a sense of doing something, of taking action - something beyond the fact of what I was facing as I sat there with no energy.

I am trying to do others things better too - get more rest, eat a little better - but it appears I need to write more.  Writing is one activity that, even if I am reluctant to start it and do it badly, makes me feel better as I am doing it.  The creative process seems to tap something beneath my level of despair or depression or unhappiness or whatever it is I am struggling with at the moment and brings the associated sense of creation to the surface.

Today whispers to me that it has the possibility of being like yesterday - but this evening if I am faced with the situation again, I will fight back.

I will write.

Monday, July 21, 2014


A realization of weakness is never a very comforting thing.
I am weak - weak in ways that are numerous in number and defy description.  For all the ways that I like to believe that I am strong and can deal with or endure life, I am fractured with weakness - fractures that can occasionally threaten to tear apart my otherwise seemingly placid life.

The worst thing about such weaknesses is knowing that they are there, threatening to act when you least expect it (or need it), diverting your attention and sapping your energy.  There are days where I have to walk a very fine line between doing what needs to be done while not walking over the precipice into the yawning abyss.

Like what sort of weaknesses, you ask?

Always the rub, is it not?  People say that they suffer from weaknesses but scarcely willing to actually discuss them lest they reveal themselves in ways that are painful and embarrassing.  I do not know that I am any more willing than any other to reveal all of them - here is one, though:  food.

I like to eat.  I like to eat a lot.  Given the opportunity, I would routinely snack and overeat all day to the point that gluttony became more of a struggle than it already can be.  It is always there - especially when there are those comfort foods around that I love and something has caused the day to go awry: Frustrated?  Eat.  Depressed?  Eat.  Tired?  Eat.  Bored?  Eat.

I know it may not seem like much compared to what others go endure - and it may not be.  But now take that weakness and multiply it by 5 or 10 or more and this too often seems to be my life:  weaknesses, living in the fracture lines of my life, ready to rupture from any number of potential inputs or issues.

How does one solder together such weaknesses?  Is there such a thing as going an hour, a day, even a week without being constantly aware and fighting?  Or is this simply the human condition?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Second Watering

A late night downpour
waters my garden; why did
I not trust the clouds?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cutting with the Kissaki

During the most recent Tokai our soke (the head of our style our school)  noticed how someone was doing their overhead two-handed cut known as a kirioroshi, one of the basic cuts of iaijutsu in which the sword is swung from behind the back over the head to cut down.  "Dame"  said soke.  "Wrong".

He explained that the way we were cutting resulted with us cutting with the longer edge of the blade known as the ha.  What we actually wanted to cut with, he demonstrated, was with the kissaiki, the very tip of the sword.  In order to do this, one has to bring the sword high over head, almost to the point where it is perpendicular with the ground, and then almost cast the blade forward as if fly fishing while changing the tenouchi, the hand grip, to nigiri no kata, the "wringing of hands" as if wringing out a towel, where the hands are so turned to the top of the tsuka (hilt) that the wrists almost sit on top of the sword..  What this combination does is ensure that the tip is accelerating more quickly than the rest of the blade while the grip makes the left arm the force by which the blade is being pushed down, the right hand almost acting more like a guide (when done correctly, this is almost singularly an action of the forearms).  The result is the that the kissaki, the sharpest part of the blade, moves most quickly and is driven down with incredible force for quick and precise cutting.

Practicing this after the fact was difficult, as is any activity in which one has learned and is now having to relearn the activity.  But one could feel the difference almost at once:  the blade almost flies as the top of the arc as it accelerates down and one has to work much more to ensure that the end of the cut is level, instead of the blade angled downward.

It made me think of life in general as I was practicing last night.

So often we attempt to muscle our way through our problems and difficulties by brute force or by energy that we expend or even by the power of the tools that we use.  The reality is that this will not always get us the best results. It is often the precise application of that thing which most needs doing - the kissaki of our task, if you will - back up by the right application of effort - the power of the left hand - that will provide results in a way which, after we get used to it, will most likely stun us in how power, effective, and quick it is.

Force or length of sword alone does not determine the outcome.  It is the correct application of them that will bring victory.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Post-Vacation Drain

So it only took about one day of routine to destroy my energy level.

This is not unexpected.  I gave up the concept many years ago that returning from vacation means anything at all changes while you are on vacation.  Workplaces seldom become better by your absence. Always a little disappointing I suppose, because one would like to believe that this time it will be different - but not unexpected.

I noticed the waning over the course of the day.  When I got in I was energized, focused, moving forward on projects. By the end of the day I was drifting, slowing down, seemingly lost in my ability to focus on what I had to do.  Coming back and realizing that without your presence initiatives continue to be not acted on will do that for you.

The saddest part of this whole experience is the fact that all the dreams and plans you built a head of steam for while on vacation disappear.  The good ideas you had, the "I am going to change things now and this is how I am going to do it"  seem to float away like a tattered flag in the wind, leaving you only with the shreds of what you had dreamed to accomplish.

I do not suppose this is the goal of any vacation, in reality.  A vacation does not solve your career or work problems, it merely gives you a break from them.  But perhaps it can provide one more piece of functionality:  to give one the wisdom and incentive to simply ask the question "If nothing changes, how long until I am willing to admit this fact and take real action to move on?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rain and Porch

It is raining.

I am writing to you from my porch this morning where, enshrouded in darkness, it is raining.  Not the heavy downpours that we seem prone to during this time of year but rather the gentle sort of rain that I would recognize from Old Home during the Fall or Spring.

It is another one of those circumstances that becomes a bit of a shocker:  yesterday we were at the very high 90's and brutally hot.  Even last night when I walked Syrah the Mighty at 9:30 there was still not a cloud in the sky. Now,  blessed rain.

There is a cool breeze that is wafting its way across the porch as I write as well.  It is devoid of any hint of humidity which the day might later bring but is now just lazily and happily moving across the porch and my computer, a gentle greeting from the cloud cover above.

And we are in such desperate need for rain - any rain - right now.  Not that we have been so bad as years past, but we are already on severe water restrictions (not that such influences me at this point.  Other than my garden and select plants, I am operating under belief that if it cannot survive the climate here I am not going to make special efforts.  My money and my efforts are better spent on other things). I took a chance last night and did not water the garden in hopes that it would rain - even when the sky said otherwise to me.

The rain seems to be getting harder.  The ground now bears the true appearance of a rainstorm, not just the half-wet appearance of a storm which was all promise and no action.

As I sit here, it strikes me as terribly odd that dreadful things can happen - are happening - half a world away and yet I am sitting here on my porch enjoying a quiet rainstorm as if nothing else in the world was going on.  Surreal, almost.

Now the rain seems to be cutting back some, leaving only the draining sound of the water as it runs down the gutters and into the drainpipes as the major sound.  The cool wind is still making its way across the porch, perhaps a last gift as it moves off to some other porch and summer returns.

Would that all my mornings started this peacefully and full of life-nourishing grace.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Tokai has been this weekend.  As usual, I have enjoyed it even as I am reminded once again of how little I actually know about Iaijutsu. This year's take away for me?  Seriousness.

I realized is practicing and my attendant continued issues of not performing correctly that I am not serious about iaijutsu the way I should be.  I get to a certain level in this (or really in anything) and then I get bored with it.  I am not on the path of continued improvement and truly knowing that which I participate in.  I allow myself to be satisfied at a certain level and consider that to be having "achieved" something.

As I reflected on this Saturday night I realized that this is not only true of iaijutsu but of my life in general.  I want to do things but I never pursue them to the level that I should but only to the level that I am interested in or does not bore me.  The result?  I know a lot about a great deal but am an expert at or achieve very little.

What does this mean?  I need a renewed commitment.  A commitment to actually completing that which I start, a commitment to accomplishing fully that which I set out to do.  A commitment to be serious about that which I undertake, to accept and realize that any decision to start to something is a decision to follow it through to true completion or mastery.

I took the time to list out the things that I feel are important to myself and my life.  10 things.  I am going to use as the basis of my commitment and seriousness.  If it is on the list, it needs to become an item which I intend to either complete or master.  And for those which I complete, I will place another item on the list.

Life is to short to not be serious about that which we do and seek to do it to the best of our abilities.