Wednesday, October 31, 2012


There is nothing more infuriating or more debilitating than to be ignored.

One can respond to mockery with mockery.  One can respond to challenges with facts.  One can even respond to direct attacks with defenses.

But to be ignored - to have one's opinion simply set aside - or even worse, to have it set aside for the purposes of justifying someone else - is something I have come to find as destructive as some of more abusive yelling I've heard.

To ignore is to devalue.  It's to treat something or someone as less than value, as less than worth noticing.  At best it is simply to pretend that something is there but not important, at worst it is to pretend that there is simply not something there at all.

To ignore is to destroy.  More often than not, it is acknowledgement that a situation exists but simply moving on from it for reasons other than solving the problem at hand.  The reasons for move on can vary:  person pride, lack of resources, lack of knowledge.  But the end result is that problems ignored do not go away.  Given enough time, they will destroy all that is before them.

To ignore is to debilitate.  It is to take the actions and enthusiasms of another and to grind them into powder, leaving that individual with nothing but the dregs of their opinions and actions in their hands as the one who ignores fills their hands with the bulky objects of their own agendas and thoughts.    It is to seize and destroy the primal urge of individuals to act leaving only its wake the muddled sense that one must wait - in patience and solitude - until told what one can do.  It cheats all of the nobility of acting, replacing it with the sense of being an object to be used.

To ignore is to infuriate.  This is the hidden fruit of ignoring by those that practice it.  The sense that authority can convey - and often it's false - is that acceptance equals agreements.  But to ignore, especially repeatedly, scarcely accomplishes that.  Practiced often enough, it creates a core of fire deep within individuals.  A core that energizes - but not in the way that many anticipate.

Because ultimately, to ignore repeatedly is to invite disaster.  It ensure that problems are not brought to light, that loyalty is not fostered and in the end the thing that the ignorers hope to accomplish will not come to pass.  It's simply moving the issues of the day further down the road to a more inconvenient and critical time.  It's using power and authority to override the opinions and concerns of others not from any sense of knowledge or supporting evidence but because it's inconvenient or challenging or simply not to be dealt with at this point.  More often that not, those that ignore reveal more about themselves and their weaknesses than they do about about the strength of that which they propose instead.

Ignorance may be bliss.  Ignoring is foolish.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nanowrimo 2012

It's that time of year again:

Nanowrimo, for those that don't remember or aren't in the loop, is the annual Writing Exercise organized by the Office of Letter and Lights, a fine non-profit organization designed to get people writing.  It's a challenge in which thousands of people all across the country (and probably beyond as well) spend a month writing a 50,000 word novel.  It sounds like a lot - but it's an average of 1,667 words per day.

Okay, that still sounds like a lot.

This is my second year of participation.

Those who are sensible might ask the question why I'm doing this.  I did it last year of course, but didn't make it to the end.  That's okay - I tried, of course and even if I failed to complete the task I learned a great deal about writing and output  (biggest thing:  have a clear idea what you're writing about).

Part of the reason I'm doing this is that I'm at that point.  Having just put my second book to bed (literally yesterday) it's time to move on to the next thing.  Moss not growing, rolling stone, that sort of thing.

Another part of the reason I am doing this is that I want to try and reduce my cycle time. I went from one year to 4 months in creation.  Can I drop it more?  (Yes, I fully understand that editing is just as big a job as writing.  But it's a different kind of big job.  You're revising, not creating).

The last part of the reason I'm doing it is the same reason I'm doing other things this year:  because I want to push myself.

I've written about it before but it bears repeating:  many of the limitations in my own life are there because I put them there.  To simply surrender, to say "Nope, can't do that" is to let that part of my brain win that seems to revel in the fact of what it can't do.  To do this - to finish - is another step along the path of teaching myself exactly who is in charge and what I am capable of.  We will never find the limits of our lives and capabilities unless we keep pushing right up to the edge of them and discovering what they are - for me, I'm continually finding they are always much greater than what I thought them to be.

So come, Nanowrimo.  Let us test ourselves and see if my will to write is greater than my will to tell myself I can't.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Completed II

Book #2:  Published.

It happened over the weekend with not nearly the amount of sweat - or tears -  at the end as last time.  It took me some few hours to figure out the conversion to Kindle instead of the five days of last time.  I learned another valuable lesson as well:  wait until everything (Amazon, CreateSpace, and Kindle) is available before announcing they're available.

I'm happy about the book. It's not as long as my first one, but then again it's not meant to the same as the first one.  It's meant to answer a simple question - well, a question anyway, not so sure about the simple -  rather than propose a way of doing things. 

The interesting thing to me is how much less time this took than the first go around.  I believe the first manuscript was well over a year in writing and publishing.  This time is was 4 months or less.  The idea was again generated by a blog post - once again pointing out that this entire process of blogging has impacted my life in more ways than just letting me write. This blog has not only provided me with a sort of ongoing journal and way to communicate with my family and friends (especially since the move), it has become a mechanism for learning to regularly write and generating ideas that become other things.

A pleasant surprise was simply the fact that this was a bit easier to write this time. Things flowed faster.  The writing was a little better.  The editing process was especially a better, as I learned from last time where my typical errors occur (quotation mark, thy name is evil).  All in all, a good experience all around.

Like the first book, do I expect to make money on it?  Again, probably not.  I'm covering costs at this point, which is more than I can say for many other hobbies and projects I've undertaken in the past.  I'll make a little bit I'm sure - enough to buy myself one of those signposts of accomplishment I keep reminding others about.

The next book has to come, of course - now I'm hooked.  Fortunately, November is National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), the national exercise in writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I've got my characters, my title and my plot.  I need only set digital ink to paper.

It's good to celebrate achievements.  But it's just as good to be on to the next one.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hard, Soft, Illusory

"If you want to achieve break through growth, you need to push past the fears that are holding you back." - Rieva Lesonsky

We may not be able to do everything, but we are able to do far more than we believe ourselves capable of.  The key is being willing to push:  to be willing to question our limitations as to whether they are self inflicted or there is a real wall present.

In some cases there is a real wall:  I cannot, for example, fly, no matter how hard I flap my arms.  This is a hard limitation.

In some cases there is a temporary wall:  it is conceivable that I could run a marathon, although I could not do it at the current time (well, at least not without seriously damaging myself).  This is a soft limitation, a limitation which is real but can be overcome.

In some cases there is a perceived wall:  I never competed in Highland Athletics because I believed I could never compete in Highland Athletics.  It turns out that I could (and can) compete in Highland Athletics.  This is a illusory limitation, a limitation which has reality only in our minds.

Part of the difficulty which we so often face is that we mis-categorize our limitations.  Our illusory limitations we too often call hard, our hard limitations we call soft - and our soft limitations go whichever way the wind is blowing in our minds.  This is because we do not question ourselves enough when we meet these limitations.

Do limitations serve a useful purpose?  Of course.  Not only in saving our lives (reference the man with the flailing arms as he plunges off the roof in a vain attempt to fly) but also in guiding what we do.

Sometimes limitations help us to think about what we're doing.  Just because I can do something, is it the best use of my time?  If there are limitations, why are they there?  Is it because they are truly present?  Or because my mind is throwing up barriers because it knows something I don't?

Again we return to the question of thought.  We simply don't think enough - or at least we don't think and question enough about our lives.  Sometimes we convince ourselves we want something we don't really want - and end up investing a great deal of time that could be better spent.  Sometimes we end up wanting something because others want it for us. 

But for most of us - for me anyway - the limitations tend to weigh far more on the side of creating barriers in my mind that simply are not there - or can be overcome with a some effort.  Too often we accept at face value that which, with a little consideration, we would understand to be much less than what we perceived.

Question your limitations. Make them squirm in the chair, explaining to you why they are truly hard and not soft or illusory.  And even then, perhaps cross examine them to see if they are really telling you something else than what they are claiming.

The reality is all of us - every one - is capable of far more than we do.  We need only to continue to expand until we truly reach the limits of the outer hard walls.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Faith in the Future

I took an action yesterday I have not taken in a very long time:  I started planning as if something which I don't know will happen would happen.

This is not like me.  I am typically a semi-active reactionary:  I am somewhat proactive about things that I know are coming up.  I am very seldom active about things for which I have no certainty that they are coming up.

Here is the odd thing:  the experience was not what I imagined it would be.

The picture I had in my mind before all this occurred was myself ploughing time and energy into something that was not going anywhere. I would awake from my dream at some point only to discover that all the energy had been wasted.  Instead, what I found was that I was more energetic than I have been in a great while.  Within a few hours I had created a series of tasks, graded them as to importance, mentally developed a schedule and had begun to move forward on them.  At the end of the day I walked away with a sense of accomplishment and the anticipation of getting more of the items knocked off of the list.

I have been trying to wrap my mind around this ever since.

This doesn't make sense to me.  Yes, the items in question needed to be attended to, but I have been dragging my feet about many of them. Why?  I guess there is a sense that nothing is going to happen one way or the other.  If I'm diligent and quick about them, it is seldom noticed; if I get them done within the allotted time frame, they'll be done as they were expected.

The difference?  Faith.  Faith in the future.

Faith in an outcome which I don't know will happen - but acting as if I believe it will.  Faith that plans and hopes may actually materialize, and that I need to be ready for them when they do.  That when the time comes, I need to be prepared instead of scrambling around.

Beyond this faith, I find a nascent self confidence inside of myself, a confidence that says that a different potential future is possible.  That whatever I bring to every table is more than simply filling up another chair or being another convenient body to assign responsibilities to.  A confidence that what I am and what I can do is sufficient for things to move forward.

I'm almost scared to write about these things, lest in an orgy of self discovery I crush the very things that has suddenly appeared after years of looking for it.  There's a vague sense that such things need to be nurtured rather than run over in haste.

But here, in the most ordinary of seasons and months, I think I have made a connection that has eluded me for years:  one can have confidence in the future and act on it in the absence of assurance if one believes. Rather than creating a frivolous sense of spending time, it can lead to the most productive and guided use of time because suddenly there is something to work towards, rather than the vast steppe of just another day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Perverse Joy of Proving Yourself Wrong

One of the axioms of life is that we generally do not like to proven wrong.

Oh, we may say we do, that we're interested in learning from our experiences or really getting to truth or something else that seems to indicate that it's not such a big deal to us. But in our heart of hearts, we truly hate the feeling of being demonstrated to be wrong.

Especially in front of others.  So many of us (I include myself here) struggle with being wrong in front of someone else.  At best it makes us look...well, wrong.  At worst it makes us look uneducated, uninformed, perhaps even a bit stupid.

Our response?  More often than not, our response is to do everything we can to not be wrong.  We'll fudge facts.  We'll selectively remember conversations.  We'll even claim that we were never present when the discussion occurred - anything, anything at all to get ourselves out from under the weight of being wrong.

But I have discovered that there is one person to whom I happy to be wrong:  myself.

It seems a bit odd, doesn't it?  The idea that being proven wrong is generally something we don't like to inflict on others but I am happy to inflict on myself is something which (it seems to the analytical part of me) to be a bit counter intuitive.  Where does this come from? 

From the nature of being wrong.

With others, I can be wrong in facts or opinions or recollections and generally when I am proven to wrong, it is the sense of promoting someone else's view at the expense of my own.  Although we try not to do it, we've all been a bit guilty at times of doing a little "victory dance" when we make our point in a way that gives us a one-up on someone else.

But when I"m dealing with myself, I prove myself wrong by demonstrating I can do something I didn't think I could.

I'm finding this true more and more in my life.  I used to believe I could never publish a book.  It took me over a year to write and publish the first one.  The next one took significantly less time - 4 months.

Or running.  Never thought I could run a distance.  I did my "long" run today: 4 miles, average time of  8:23 a mile.  Better than when I ran in the 5th grade 35 years ago.

Or Highland Games.  Or Iaido. Or making cheese.  Or for that matter, keeping a blog.

What I'm finding is that many of the things I thought I couldn't do are simply things that my mind has told me that I can't do. 

And so, I find a greater and greater - yet perverse - joy in being proven wrong.  By, of all people, myself.  Instead of being the typical cover-up and justification of not being embarrassed, I am finding myself to be willing - even eager - to be found in the wrong.

Be different.  Prove yourself wrong. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Bhan Shith

A Bhan Shith is gone.

She turned in her notice suddenly - a medical condition which perhaps was expected but never mentioned by her.  It's a shock - both from the suddenness of the event and the departure.

Suddenness of the event?  We are a people who are accustomed to having the time and luxury to say goodbye to those moving on.  We like to have the time to discuss, to chat, to exchange goodbyes and memories.  Her departure reminds me, at least, that we can never presume upon those who we care about being there to say words to in our own time - sometimes, life intervenes so quickly our words are robbed from us, trapped in our minds unsaid.

Her departure leaves a hole.  She was one of those coworkers of whom you could easily hope of all the people you might wish to move on, she would not be one.  She was always happy, always smiling - as An Ghearmailtnach said, "She was always someone who would come into a room, say things that would make you laugh and the then leave with a smile on her face and laughter on yours."  She had the gift of making burdens easier to bear, not more difficult.

Her work?  Wonderful.  She was invested in what she did and was one of those to whom it could be applied "Thinking out of the box".  She innovated instead of accepting the norm - but again, always with a smile and joy as she related why such and such a thing should make statistical sense.

Her presence will be sorely missed.

Even in leaving, she was self effacing in her manner:  no fanfare, no excessive pity over her condition - in fact, leaving on a positive note of hope for a cure - just the simple professionalism of someone who knew the scope of what she faces and was preparing to face it with dignity and hope.

I walked by her cube afterwards to see what, if anything, needed to be replaced or moved.  All I felt was a vast hole which used to be filled by someone of joy.

Even though our paths tended to cross not so often as I would have liked, I still find the world a smaller place today as I walk out the door.  Not just because a bright light of joy will not be present  - instead, the greater reminder burns into my brain:

Our time is limited.  That which we assume will be present forever may not be there tomorrow. 

What are leaving unsaid or undone?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Discipline of Repetition

I am not a man given to repetition.

It's a weakness I've always had, this inability to stick to a task time and time again.  My mind tends to work like that of a butterfly, stopping at the flowers of knowledge here and there, flitting back and forth to whatever it finds interesting at the moment.  In a sense I'm the ultimate intellectual jackdaw, my mind always moving to the newest shiny object that it sees.

The difficulty I have found with this approach is that while it allows one to be somewhat knowledgeable about a great many things, it scarcely lends itself to a deeper knowledge or greater ability to do anything.  The missing component - the one I too often dread - is repetition.  Most of us know it instead as that word dressed in overalls, practice.

Practice can be the bane of those who love the novel, the new, because practice dwells on that which has already been learned.  It's repeating the lesson of today - or even yesterday.  To the mind that seeks stimulation and novelty, repeating that which has been done is at best boring and at worst...well, quite boring.  The perception of learning seems buried beneath the dull drone of doing what has been done.

But over the past year, I've come to see the purpose - if not the joy - in repetition, in practice. 

It's not specifically that one develops greater skills in the doing, although that is an outcome.  What has surprised me most is that as I keep at something - running, writing, iaido - I find that there are interesting mental changes that are occurring in my head far beyond just the task at hand.

By doing, by repeating, by practicing, I am gaining a power over myself.  I am gaining the power to demonstrate that my mind controls my body, that I have the ability to force myself to do something I would rather - given my intellectual bent - avoid doing at all. 

It started with this blog in 2008.  Once I committed to it after 3 years of having it, I started to make myself write every day.  I'm quite sure all of those writing were the caliber I'd like, but I kept to it.  Suddenly, that discipline allowed me to begin to write other things as well.  The idea of writing every day was not longer a frightening or burdensome concept - in fact, it reached the point that a day not writing is a odd one.

That extended to iaido- and here, the martial arts are a fine example.  90% of them is the practice you perform away from the dojo:  we go to the dojo to learn, but it's away from the dojo that we practice and perfect.  One never learns new techniques outside of the teacher; one simply practices what one has learned.

And now my running.  Am I perfect?  Not at all.  But more and more I find my mind making my body carry on with the actions of getting ready to run - and once that was accomplished, getting ready to run farther and farther.

The thing that surprises me is the applicability of the lesson.  I had not thought making myself write every day would lead to making me a better swordsman and runner.

But it appears that this is the true gift of the discipline of repetition, the gift my teachers have tried to teach me over the years:  it is only in the throes of repetition that we master not only the skills we are practicing, but the skill of mastering ourselves.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Moments of blinding clarity find us at the strangest times.

They find us as we sit in a meeting.  They find us at the nameless hours when the dog wants to go out for the third time that night.  They find us as we shower and commute and occasionally, very occasionally, when we actually spend time thinking.

But are we ready for those moments of clarity?  Have we trained ourselves to think wisely and well about them?  Or are we so used to being unclear about things that when clarity appears we shrug it off with a sense of shock?

Do we even value moments of clarity?  Are we ready for the bursting of bubbles, the piercing and deflation of our fantasies, the ripping away of masks and scenes?  Clarity is seldom as pleasant as we believe it would be.

Why?  Because clarity can show us things as they really are and as they really progress.  Clarity reveals the flaws we unconsciously hide, the personality quirks we've learned to accept as normal, the situations that are much different than the glasses we wear on every day.  Clarity gives the view of the life we are actually in, not the life we think we're in.

Does that make clarity unvaluable?  I am tempted to answer no, but my fingers hesitated in the response.

Clarity unasked or unlooked for provokes one of two reactions:  there is the seemingly less common reaction of "Oh, so that's how it is" followed by a vague sense of relief.  Then there's the more common reaction: the realization of how things sit and the almost immediate rarrival of grief or anger or resentment or just plain depression - all stemming from the fact that the clarity brings with it the very real understanding of what is.

Is clarity necessary?  Well, to be better, of course.  Without it we will tend to drift through our lives either spending our time doing things that are really leading nowhere or operating on a series of assumptions that simply are not true.  To see clearly is to be able to chart a course free of the illusions and hauntings that many guide their lives by.

But we have accept that clarity, seek it out, be ready to grab it at any moment which it arrives. 

And not just when we're thinking actively about it.  Even when we're just standing in the shower.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Raising the Dead

Is it useful - or possible - to raise the dead?

Not in the necromatic sense, of course (To paraphrase the genie from Aladdin, "It's disgusting and I don't like to do it!").  Not really useful to talk to them, even if were possible and weren't forbidden.  At best the dead could only tell us of what has been, not what will be.  That is the arena of the living.

No, I mean raise the dead in terms of things that we put behind us.

Not everything in the past is bad, of course.  We tend to put such things into two categories, either that of the nostalgia ("Boy, wasn't that fun") or things we have moved beyond ("I used to be a 25th level paladin with a +12 vorpal blade, but that was back when I was playing").  The past for most of the time is the past, things pleasantly hidden away from our current daily life.

But not all in the past - not all that has either died or been put to death by us - is a bad thing.  In fact, sometimes the very thing we need lies beneath the rubble of our former lives.

A simple example, one the mighty An T-sagart og used one morning in church:  as he was doing communion, he gave out water floaties to the children that weren't taken communion.  The point he made was that we have become so accustomed to communion, so accustomed to the physical presence of bread and wine that we don't look forward to it with anticipation as our encounter with the Risen Lord.  Look at the children, he pointed out:  watch them.  And it was true.  They were almost barreling over the adults in the line to get at what was at the end.  They had anticipation mixed with joy - something that we with adults have buried beneath years of simply living.

Well of course, you say.  We should take communion more seriously.  Still doesn't address the other parts of our lives, you know.  We're adults.  We do adult things, important things, not like we used to do.  Once I thought like a child, but now I gave up childish ways.  It's in Paul, you know.  Very religious fellow.

But is that true?  For most of us, the reality is that our work and lives will scarcely outlast our participation in them -they will certainly not ourlast most of our lives.  Those personality traits we abandon to become "successful", those relationships that we put behind us, even in some cases the things we used to do that we enjoyed but abandoned - yes, they will probably not outlive our lives either, but is that any more reason to have abandoned all of them?

When I was young I believed in chivalry, in honor and the Knights of the Round Table, in good and truth and justice.  Slowly over time, these got ground away into the dust of daily living and trying to get along.  But just because they were buried doesn't mean they weren't (or aren't) worthy.

Is there pain involved?  Probably.  Moving rubble is never easy, and breathing the dust of ages past will aggravate your allergies.  You'll find all kinds of artifacts there as well, some you intended to find and some whose memories will bring you to tears.

We spend so much of our time trying to get away from our dead.  Maybe it's time to reconsider having tea with some of them.  We're no worse for having tried, and perhaps we may even be fortunate enough to discover that old acquaintances renewed can bring as much joy now as they did then.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Have you ever suddenly felt alone,
Been overwhelmed by sadness,
Lost in the middle of activity?

Have you ever felt the cold fingers of isolation
rip down over the plains of the soul like a cold front,
your spirits dropping as fast as the temperature?

How can this be, in the midst of interconnectedness:
more able to see and hear people than ever
yet equally more cut off?

When even your imaginings rail against you,
when even you have seemed to abandoned yourself,
when the hollow drum of the rain is that of your soul...

Only then you know the sense
of being truly alone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Heroes Without Capes

Building from yesterday, are parents considered heroes?
Parents hold an unusual location in 21st Century American society.  On the one hand they continue to be the primary caregivers for their children; on the other hand they sometimes spend the least amount of time with their children every day.

Least amount of time?  Total up the time a child is in school, with an activity - let alone friends - and suddenly the relationship with their parents comes to resemble the relationships that many adults such as myself know all too well, the relationship of work.  You know it, or have in the past:  where you spend more time with work associates than those of your family, constructed relationships instead of created ones.

True, this is the way of society in these days.  At the same time, the role of parent gets pushed out.  They become less and less role models and guides and more and more providers - providers of housing, of food and clothing, of transportation to other places.  In one sense parenting is reduced to a series of service industries.

Here's the rub:  service providers are scarcely seen by anyone as heroes.

Who become their heroes?  Those who do what they want to do, those who espouse important beliefs, those who entertain, occasionally even those that do.  Funny thing about that though - many many heroes in 21st Century America are heroes based on what they do in a controlled set of circumstances, not in the grind of daily living.

Think a minute:  pick a hero of your child.  If that person did you what you did - woke them up, got food in them, dropped them of at school, picked them up from school and ferried them to practice, brought them home, fed them, reminded them of their homework and put them to bed - would that person also be a hero?

Of course not.  Heroes call us out to be braver than we are, to be better than we are, to do more than we are.  Heroes are not the common stuff of living.

Do we have a skewed view of heroes?  Of course we do.  We value that which is fleeting and worthless and devalue that which is important.  I'm not arguing the point - but in order to change it, we need to accept that we are starting at point A and move forward.

Do we as parents, friends, relations - do we seek to build up the role parents in the lives of children we know?  Do we point out to them not only the stuff that makes a hero, but that the very people that sacrifice so much for them are just as much heroes as anyone else they can admire? 

Should we encourage our children to have heroes?  Of course we should.  There are many great hearted and noble people throughout history that we can learn from, we can emulate.  But in our haste to emulate them, we need to remind our children that more than likely, some of the greatest heroes they will ever meet are living in their house with them right now, silently working away for their benefit.

Not every hero wears a cape and a mask.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Void of Parents

I was struck by a thought this week as I was driving Nighean Dhonn back from her soccer game on Saturday, as I watched the parents ebb and flow at the changing of the game.  The thought that struck me was "What do the children think of the parents?"

A bit of an odd thought, I know.  But as I began to dwell on it more, I realized what I was actually looking at was the interaction of the children and the coaches and reflecting back earlier in the day to when Na Clann were watching some reruns.

TV for young people is generally not kind to parents.  Too often most are portrayed in either one of three lights:  Overbearing, Incompetent, or out of touch.  Admittedly my pool of resources is somewhat aged - reruns from 3-5 years ago - but I believe the theory remains true.  Even if adults are portrayed as competent it is very seldom the actual parents themselves.  It's the other adults or near adults in their lives - older siblings, teachers - who very often function as the holders of wisdom and advice and the model to which the younger turn.

I'll be fair - I haven't completely fleshed out my thinking on the issue.  But as I've continued to roll it around in my mind, what I have come to wonder is why the concept of parents as competent people - even as personal heroes - is not more embraced - nay, perhaps even discouraged.

It's too diffuse a thought perhaps, and I don't know that I'm suggesting at all that there is some kind of huge secret plot.  It's just that the portrayal of parents, and the subsequent view of them in the child's life, almost seems to be more discouraging than encouraging of them as role models.

Is there conflict at times?  Of course.  Children are different from parents - but that is no different than any other relationship we have in our professional or personal lives.  In fact, part of what we have to learn is simply the ability to get along with and respect - or at least play nicely with - most everyone we meet.  Just because there's conflict doesn't mean that people aren't competent.

But why don't we (again, generally speaking as a society) encourage children to see their parents more as role models, as people as worthy as any of their other heroes to be emulated?  Why do we choose to present them as less than other adults?

Are there parents unworthy of emulation?  Sure.  There are parents that have done terrible things to their children and made shipwrecks of their lives.  But the same could be said of virtually any other class of hero that we foist on our children.  Is that in the case of other heroes their clay feet are hidden from us while our parents clay feet are always visible?  Possibly - but what a potential teaching experience  about outer and inner lives, about truly being what you seem to be (B. Franklin) rather than appearing to be one thing and actually being something else.

As I've said, I don't believe my thought patterns are fully congealed around this and it deserves some more consideration.  But I'm still left with the same thought:  why do we so often portray and represent parents as least reliable, least emulatable  of all adults?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Point of Change

How does one begin the process of change?

A fair enough question from someone who feels that his life has become a rut without hope of modification.  All processes begin with an act - the "start" of the flow chart, the "on" button the brings the computer to life, the "In" of the first line of a book.  For every fire that burned, there was spark that set it.

I ask from the position of feeling that I simply have no power to change anything, that I am enmeshed in a series of webs which prevent me from making any action at all - to the point that even my thoughts seem to be pulled back as if with a rubber band if they make the least attempt to escape.  It's not even big change - even the small ones at this point seem beyond the reach of my imagination, let alone my actualization.  I feel trapped in a life which I seem to live, but over which I have no control - like being on a plane with autopilot, knowing the destination has been set by someone else and not knowing where you are headed. 

Or even, worse, knowing where you are headed and dreading every minute of it.

But I need to find a point of initiation - a point to start.   Something that I can say "Yesterday I did this.  Today, I did this."

And it  has to be small as well - something that I can point to and say "look, I made a change" and actually make the change, rather than a large scale change which I have no power or ability to even begin at this moment.  One will empower me to move further, the other will simply depress my hopes even more.

And change in a direction.  Not just change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of getting something accomplished.  Change for the purpose of accomplishing more.

I need to find the point of change because my life has become defined by others.  Not just by my responsibilities that I have chosen, but by others who have helped me build the webs in which I find myself enmeshed.  I need to discover a way to cut away these webs, to get back on a now-overgrown road mapped out years ago that led somewhere different than where I have ended.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Self Belief versus Pride?

Self Belief versus Pride:  How do you tell the difference?

I ask the question because I find myself in a slump.  Simply put, I have no sense that anything I do in virtually any aspect of my life - professional, personal, physical, relational - will have the slightest bit of impact in actually changing something.

Some - including some authors who I enjoy and respect - would say that this is due to a failure of self belief in my life, that by lacking any belief that I can do something or change something I doom myself to the unchanged life.  Simply change my beliefs and change my life.

Am I wrong in thinking this is too simplistic of a solution?

I don't say simple advisedly - I have come to appreciate the value of the simple versus the complex.  What I do question is the concept of self-belief being catalyst alone of change.

Which gets me to my second issue:  that of self belief versus pride.  What is the dividing line?  I have seen those without any self-belief but a towering pride in what they have accomplished.  I have seen those with self belief that were clearly bereft of anything to get them to their destination (too often, I feel myself in this camp).  I have seen those with self belief and pride that have achieved their goals, only to be reveled as individuals of cramped souls and small minds.

Maybe the problem is within myself.  Self belief has never really been a burden I have had to bear.  Even when I am skilled at what I do, I hardly feel that I can do it to any great extent.  And those times I have had the self belief, it was revealed that the belief was mostly in my mind; there is nothing more embarrassing to others than someone towering in their belief in their abilities even as the evidence belies them.

Perhaps the difference is pride that I am better than others and self-belief is the belief that I can.  Pride is outward based on others, self-belief is an inward based on others.

Is there another option? Pride can drive someone to do something and self-belief can drive someone to do something - but what if either of those is missing?  Is there another factor that can start the process to get one over the edge and back on track?

Because missing pride or self-belief as motivators, all that remains is the dull gray black of twilight which never seems to make it to dawn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weather Mirage

A hazy moisture,
called forth out of air, not clouds:
The humid un-rain.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Breaking Points

What is one's breaking point?  How do you find it?

The fact that it's only Tuesday and I'm asking this question is probably not a good sign.

There are different kinds of breaking points I suppose:  physical, mental, even spiritual.  Vocational?  Possibly.  Personal?  I'm not sure - are the points merely an extension of our personal lives or are personal breaking points an entirely different matter?

No matter, I suppose - the fact is that they exist.  And I'm finding myself up against them now.

The worst part (for me) is that I simply have no sense of how to deal with them, what action to take to address them.  If this was a physical point - say, a run I could not complete - the answer would be fairly clear:  Stop.  Walk.  Train to run farther - or ask the question about why I'm doing it in the first place and reconsider.

The problem is that most other points are not physical manifestations that I can manipulate.

The sense of powerlessness in facing these can be overwhelming.  I simply feel that there is nothing that I can do.  There is no action I can take - at least nothing that comes to mind - that can move me beyond it or make it stop.

I keep thinking that if only I had some breathing room, a chance to stop and consider, that I might find a way out of things.  The fact is that life may have allowed that at one point (possibly - I'm not sure that was ever true) it certainly does not now.  Life has become a series of events and actions to which I always seem to be running slightly behind or late.

Of course, one has to belief that one can change things, that the point of breaking can be moved through by action.  This is again something which I seem to be lacking in.  I simply have no belief or evidence that my decisions or actions make a positive impact (although interestingly enough they always seem successful in making a negative impact).  I feel very far from being an actor and very much being acted upon by all sorts of influences and forces (including people) around me.

How do I change this?  This is the problem that vexes me.  If one is pushed to the point of feeling broken, surely there is a way to move through it?    James says that we should count it all joy when we meet with various trials, "for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And lest steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing"  (James 1:3-4).  Paul says in Romans 8:28 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" - but even Paul admitted that "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

I certainly make no comparison to any of my issues compared to that of the apostle Paul (although I suppose it's comforting to know he had his days as well).  What I am trying to find is that thing, that action, that point at which I swing things to my favor, at least feel I have some measure of ability to influence or change or control, rather than waiting the loud "crack" the presages the breaking of mind and spirit.

Monday, October 08, 2012

When Progress Will Not Come

There are days that I feel like I've made absolutely no progress in my life whatsoever.

This probably speaks more to the pockets of jealousy and anger that still seem to be buried deep within my soul, waiting for the opportunity to claw their way out and make themselves known than to any conscious mindset of not progressing.  But it's there, lingering between the layers of fragile laughter and a placid face.

No progress?  It just feels like my life has stalled, caught in a limbo I had never really envisioned.  It would be easy to point the finger at myself and say "My bad decisions" but I don't think that in this case it would apply - certainly decisions play a part in anything, but there are circumstances beyond the control of what imagine or can even picture.

What does this no progress feel like?  The only sensation I can give is that it is a gradual thing, measured not only in my own sense but in comparison to those around me.  It's as if one is watching a coastline sink beneath waves:  you can't observe it instantly, but over time you can definitively see the progress.

The struggle is two fold:  on the one, simply not to despair.  It's one thing to feel that with effort and hard work a situation can be rectified; it's another to feel that no matter what you do, it will simply have no impact.  Effort becomes merely something that is thrown into the maw of the maelstrom:  gone in a trace, it neither abates the fury of the storm nor offers one a better way through it.

The other struggle rises from those pockets of jealousy and anger that dwell deep within one's soul, ready to leap out at the slightest excuse - in this case, the success of others.  Given free reign, reveling in the successes of others can quickly turn into a less wholesome thing. "Why am I not there?" and "Have I not also paid my dues?" and thoughts even less salutary are quick to enter the mind and dominate the thinking, if allowed.

I try to cling to God, but all that comes to my mind is both how much and often I've messed things up as well as the fact that if things are not improving now, how is it possible that they ever could?  If I'm doing what I can with what I have and that is apparently not good enough, what hope is there that that effort will magically transform itself into progress in the future?  It there such a thing in having faith that all things work to good through God when you haven't a prayer that any of that will ever come to pass.

I am left with these thoughts even as the time comes to prepare to face the reality of the my life, another day attempting to arrest what I perceive to be the slow slide even as I try to find the hope that somewhere in the day lies the promise of something better, a moving forward in some fashion.

But if dreams be the motivator of the soul and those dreams pass like moonlight through our hands, what is left to inspire?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Another Visit With Anger

Anger strolled into my office this week.

"You look well" he said pleasantly enough as he pulled up a chair in front of my desk.  I was clearly in the midst of entering something in the computer and had papers scattered all over my desk, but that didn't seem to halt him in the least. "Been busy?"

I sighed.  Me just typing away was apparently not going to get the message across that I had other work to do.  I stopped working in the computer and turned to face  him.  "Busy enough"  I said.  "What brings you out today?"

He leaned back in the chair, his legs slowly pushing against the desk until he was balance at a 45 degree angle.  "Oh nothing, nothing" he replied with that smug smile of someone who knows he's lying.  "I was just out and about and heard you'd had some incidents this week, so I thought I might just drop by to see what's up."

I continued to stare at him, hoping to deny him the victory of being right.  "Well, maybe a little bit, but nothing worth talking about.  Annoyances, more likely."

He laughed.  "Annoyances?  You know I can hear you when you think your alone, you know.  I know what comes out of your mouth in half silences when no-one is around."

I winced at that.  That much was true - talking under my breath to myself, especially when confronted with situations I could not immediately respond to, had become a bad habit of mine.

"And the thoughts"  he continued on.  "Oh, the thoughts.  It's a shame they haven't developed the technology to view them yet, isn't it?  Oh, what fun that would be."

I flat out hung my head at this point.  No point in denying what was the undeniable truth.

"But it's okay" his voice oiled silkily over my distress. "It's fine.  We all get angry.  You just need to let go.  Be free.  Let your assertiveness burst forth.  Demonstrate you're not a force to be trifled with.

I sat there as the words sank down through the cracks of my armor.  Tempting, to be sure.  Even I was too aware to deny that rage felt immediately good.  It felt as if one was doing something rather than sitting impotently awaiting the next blow.  It seemed, as Anger said, as being assertive.  That sort of assertiveness worked for others - why couldn't it work for me?

I sighed and shook my head, then looked at him with a faded smile.  "I can't, you know". 

He just sat there, smiling.

I found the courage of my voice again.  "I can't.  I can't deny that it feels good, that it feels like I'm solving something  - but I solve nothing in the process. Just create bad feelings.  And my witness?  'The anger of men does not work the holiness of God' you know.  That matters more."

I sighed again and turned back to the computer with a purposefulness that I didn't feel in my heart.  "Thanks for stopping by" I said.  "Don't let me keep you from your walk".

Anger sat for a minute, apparently realized I was trying to work, and then slowly lowered himself to the floor and stood up. He looked around the office once or twice, then smiled. "Good enough"  he said.  "I'm sure I'll be back.  I like this office.  Good to know I'll be spending more time here."

And off he sauntered into the building, leaving me to peck at the computer board dissolutely with a fragile sense of not caring that was only eyelash thick.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


It is a sign of one's dislike for something that when you are relieved of the responsibility of that thing, the entire day leading up to it is lightened.

This experience (it happened to me yesterday) should tell me something about the state of my life as it is.  Nothing - Not one thing - should have the ability to make much of a difference in my attitude.  If it does, I should seriously be rethinking my life.

Seriously rethink my life?  Sounds sort of extreme just because an afternoon went differently, doesn't it? 

Yes.  Because if any one thing is exercising that kind of power in a way that is not bad, it would be called fanaticism.  We've seen it before, of course - that hobby that a friend takes up that comes to take up all of their time and life until they're saying, doing and living nothing that is not connected with it.  It may be harmless, it may even be beneficial - but that activity comes to exercise incredible power in their lives.  When something goes wrong with it, the rest of their life is ruined.

Most would say a hobby that dominates everything is not healthy.  The same principle is true of most everything else.

But if that's the case, how does one go about the reconsideration of one's life?  After all, most of us live in our lives.  They're not a third party that we can observe objectively and comment on?  Nor are they a case study for a class - a decision good or bad can have ramifications through the rest of our lives.

Maybe the simplest place to start in this case is simply to look at the parts of one's life and identify (be honest, you already know) what the items are that exercise the most influence and power in it.  Look at each one and ask the question "If I wasn't doing this/going there/spending time with this person, what would my life be like?"

I'm aware that just identifying such a thing does not change it, and that in many cases the ability to change on short notice is impossible.  But even the act of simply identifying such things is the first step towards at least admitting that it does exercise a great deal of impact. 

And we cannot change that which we fail to acknowledge as being an issue.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Hear Without Listening

Do you listen when I speak?
Or do you hear without listening?

When you come to me with a question
do you actually seek my opinion, my thoughts?
Or is this a pre-determined conversation in your imagination,
a dialogue in which the script has already played out in your mind
except for the physical execution?

To not ask is better:
At least in not asking
I have no illusion you have heard or wish to hear,
no sense that you sought me out because I had experience,
or expertise,
or even mattered.

Instead, you sail away under the power of your own assumptions,
pleased that you have sought out the opinions of others -
perhaps even hearing in your mind the conversation that you dreamed of
rather that the conversation that actually occurred.

Do you listen when I speak?
Or do you hear without listening?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


How does one seek closure in things that scantly offer it?

It often seems that my life is a series of open ended events, sentences that paused mid-word and never completed themselves.  I guess in some sense this is my own fault - I tend to move between ideas and interests like a hummingbird moves from flower to flower - but not everything is under my own control.

I remember - oh, it's been 30 years or more - when I heard the idea of closure, that to fully move through an event one had to have closure.  Closure, interestingly enough, is never really defined except for significant events - death, for example, seems to have a series of well defined steps.  For everything else, there seems to be less definition.  Closure becomes that thing which we should have but seldom seem to.

Is it a flaw in my own character?  I am an intellectual pack rat, always seeking to cling to things and interests, perhaps far longer than I should.  I tend to add things to my list but seldom if ever let anything "go" - it's more as if things go into abeyance for a period (perhaps forever).  To let go of something, for me, is akin to that thing dying - or at least my sense of it dying.

But do such things even offer closure?

That's the second part of the question, the unanswered chorus to the verse.  Perhaps it's not that I cannot find closure as much as many things simply do not offer a formal closure.  They simply are.  They're often morally neutral and truth be told, are merely things, not relationships.  It's not as if an interest in something necessitates a lifelong relationship with it and a grieving process when it is gone.

Perhaps (once again) I am overemphasizing a thing which in fact should be a simple aspect of my life.  Things come, things go.  Even people come and go (even though with social networking many of them seem to come back as well).  Certainly I've never grieved over the loss of a job: it was something that I did for a time, that I then came to decide I was done with and moved on.  Sure, one may miss the people and the inside jokes and even the coffee but there's no sense of emptiness - there's really no need for one.  It's simply a job, something I do.

One has to empty the bucket, of course:  at some point there are things that we cling to that simply no longer fit our life or are times.  And certainly there are things we still need to cling to after years, things that root and ground us (and are occasionally useful) in the the midst of lives which too often take us places we never expected to go.

But events are events and interests are interests.  Perhaps the simple acknowledgement of what they are, that we enjoyed them but that it's time to move on, is closure enough.

Monday, October 01, 2012

What Do I Really Do?

The reality is that for the foreseeable future, I will be in my current line of work and quite possibly in my current employ.

This reality comes from the beginnings of recognizing that there are priorities in my life and that these priorities are not all equivalent.  There is in fact a hierarchical structure that exists for them, and by choosing one I am selecting the fact that others are of a lesser importance.

But if that is the fact (and it is), how do I rekindle my enthusiasm for what I do now?

By realizing what it actually is I do.

My work (probably any work) too often ends up becoming a bubble-like existence:  we only see as far as our noses in what we do.  Too often our work becomes a series of tasks that we must complete in order to go home for the day, a list that leads to corporate goals that we may or may not have a great deal of control over.

The tasks will never completely go away, the corporate goals will never be completely within our ability to totally influence.  What does remain within our power - 100% so - is the ability to remotivate ourselves in our positions.

What is it that we do?  Perhaps not what we actually do daily, but what the end result of our activity is.  We all in theory work at something that is ultimately adding value to something larger, an output which is the some total of our varied efforts.  The problem is that we don't very often see the end result of all our effort as it may be light years away from the portion that we contribute.

But we need to remind ourselves constantly of what our efforts do contribute to the whole, what we are doing - and why it matters.

In my own case, I am ultimately working on tests which are used for diseases.  I don't often see that, buried in my piles of paperwork and constant demand for signatures and making decisions.  Often I never see the end result of the processes that I am involved in reviewing and approving.

But the things that I review and sign off on eventually go onto places where they are used to help in determining various diseases.  Individuals - people with children, children, adults, those in the prime of life, those near the end - are affected by the information provided by what passes over my desk.

I impact people's lives.

I hesitate as I type this, because this thought is simply a bit overwhelming.  I virtually never think about this aspect or even see it as I am pressed down over my desk, trying desperately to meet the daily output and tasks.  To expand my view, to see everything I do as ending up assisting medical personnel with an individual's life, is a bit astounding.

But that is the reality of what I do, the reality of what I do as much as the paperwork and tasks and endless mind-numbing tasks that constitute my daily existence.

I wonder how my work life would be improved by committing this thought to daily remembrance.  Not that the work would change of course, just my feelings about what I was doing.  If I really understood what I was contributing to, would it make me work better?  Would I take more pride, more care in what I do?

What would all our work lives, our products be like if we all did the same?