Monday, December 31, 2012

That Was The Year That Was

I write late this morning thanks to a vacation, looking out the window at a sea of gray clouds and the damp of rain.  It's a very fitting end to the year - very fitting because we find ourselves desperately in need of rain.

A very fitting end of the year as well because it represents the forces that have played out of the course of the year, a combination of the drought of some things and the refreshing rain of others.

It has been an interesting year, with many things that I had not anticipated happening.  I had not anticipated writing and publishing one book, let alone two.  I had not anticipated actually finishing Nanowrimo with a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I had anticipated competing in one Highland Games; I got two.  I had anticipated writing in another blog; I had not anticipated finding a theme in that blog that would sustain multiple posts.

But there were other things as well.  I had not anticipated the fact that Na Clann would all do so well in sports, or that Nighean Gheal would have such a lead role in the school musical.  I had not anticipated my cheeses would do so well - or that my garden would do so poorly.  There was much to be grateful for.

It was also somewhat disappointing in all that did not happen.  A career change that didn't happen though I tried.  A number of personal goals which I thought would be achievable which were not.  The purchase of a new house which was delayed by the sale of the house in Old Home.

But in a sense that's all irrelevant at the moment:  it is 31 December 2012 and the year has about 14 hours to run.  Nothing new is going to happen today that did not happen up to this point, but neither is anything likely to fall apart that has not already done so.

All in all, a satisfactory year.

One of the great benefits of the end of the year is the following year, of course: the fact that 365 days of golden opportunity await us upon rising tomorrow, filled with the promise of reaching for even higher achievements, better developments and greater joys.

This year is now past,  Enjoy what one can, let the rest go.

The New Year is coming.  It will be a good one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Firm Revisited

Yesterday as I was driving about doing errands I heard part of The Dave Ramsey program in which a wife was discussing her husband and a friend’s desire to go into business together.  Dave’s attempt was to encourage her that while the two of them might help one another, the idea that both of them should ignore the advice of others and continue on represented more of an act of selfishness or neediness on their part than a real business opportunity.

Suddenly I was swept away back to a day in February a long time ago when I made the decision to stop what I was doing and go to The Firm.  All of a sudden, as if the final pieces of a lock were sliding into place, I realized the last aspect of what I had done which I had never realized before:  it represented the ultimate act of selfishness.

Going to The Firm was ultimately about me.  It was about my needs – not so much the state of my life (yes, the commute was terrible, but otherwise everything was okay) as the need for me to be my own person.  To be in control of myself.  To satisfy myself.   Perhaps even to shortcut years of plodding along to leap to the head of the line.

What did it cost?  Well, we are still continuing to recover from that particular decision.  Costs include (in no particular order):
-         Being 12 years paid off on our mortgage instead of not owning a home and having lost our investment.
-         A cash count  from borrowing money other places to supplement the money I never realized.
-         Ultimately (perhaps) moving; certainly an argument could be made that the past seven years would look very different careerwise.
-         A fair amount of personal and relational stress as things slid downhill.
-         At least one friendship.

Was the cost of being my own person, of indulging my penchant for not being under the thumb of another and “doing my own thing” worth it based on these numbers?

And what does this mean for the future?  It’s a poorly concealed fact that I don’t really embrace that which I have continued to make my vocation – both where I am as well as what I am doing.  And somewhere deep within me (still) is the need to start something of my own, to be in control.  But at what cost?

I cannot allow the desires and perceived needs of my own psyche to put my family at risk again.  Even if that means plodding for another 20 years, it is not a thing that can ever be allowed to happen again.

Sometimes we tend to put a fine covering on painful memories to prevent that reality of what caused them from coming to the surface.  The sad part is it prevents us from learning all the lessons that we might gain from them.

Yes, The Firm made me grow.  It also cost me a great deal of financial security and ultimately freedom.  Was it worth it to make myself feel in control?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Orders of Service

One of the things that I have on my list of things to do for next year is cultivate a better prayer life.

Frankly, mine is terrible.  It has never been that great, but it simply seems to have gotten worse over time.  Had the best intentions, of course - but what I found is that I kept squeezing it into less and less convenient time slots (such as right before I go to sleep) or doing at less than conducive times (right when I wake up in the morning, where some mornings between falling asleep and repeating myself  I've probably prayed - on paper- for 30 minutes). 

Obviously, this sort of defeats the purpose of prayer in the first place.

But what to do?  Surely more of the same is not option.  Yes, I should probably try to not pray while I'm tired or falling asleep (C.S. Lewis had the same problem as well) but I need a more structured form of prayer as well.

My experiment this week has been to follow a more formalized set of prayers.

I'm using The Book of Common Prayer that belonged to my grandfather (yes, I know:  it's Anglican and I'm Lutheran.  It all works out) and following the office of morning prayer:  a short reading from a Psalm, confession, a canticle (usually a Psalm or based on one), the Lord's Prayer, a creed, and a final prayer.  After this I have added Luther's Morning Prayer (good Lutheran that I am).  In the evening I am using the office of evening prayer - quite similar to the order above - as well as adding Luther's Evening Prayer.  In both cases I append my own requests and my Scripture reading to it.

Thoughts after trying it for a few days?  I find that I like the formalized confession statement, both as a general practice as well as for the fact that it causes me to think more of my own sins (something I desperately need help with).  I especially like the fact that I have a guide to what I am doing rather than trying to constantly come up with my own order - which can eventually lead to just repeating myself constantly.

The risk is that this becomes too formalized and so loses its impact.  I guess its a risk - but the Orders of the Catholic church have been performing their orders of service for 1500 years plus and I don't often hear that they are "bored" with it.  Intent and focus, I suppose, are as important as what is being done.

We'll see how this plays out.  But something - anything - that forces me into new ways of thinking about God and my sin can hardly be a bad thing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Upcoming Year

So what do I want to do for next year?

Yes yes, I know I've talked about planners and goals and what didn't get done this year and what did.  But that was all in the past tense.  Looking forward, what do I want to do for the coming year?

I ask the question in the midst of what will be a changing year, whether I like it or not.    Nighean Gheal is moving from one level of schooling to another.  With the amount of time we've been here in New Home, it probably makes sense to buy a house - at the same time, being carefully conscious of an economic environment that can seem unstable at best (at least for my industry.  Your results may vary).

So what is it that I want to think about in the coming year?

As I went down my draft list (you're not surprised I already had one, are you?) what I found is that it mostly represents doing more of what I am already doing - just getting more serious about it.  More running and Highland Athletics.  More cheese making and dehydrating and gardening.  More writing. A deeper relationship with God and my family.  More music.  Better finances.  More Japanese and Greek and Gaelic.

In other words, with one or two exceptions doubling down on what I'm doing now.

There are one or two new things, of course - if they're weren't, I wouldn't be me! - but for the most part as you can see, nothing much different than what I've done before.

Why?  The biggest reason is simply the discovery I made this year (a slow learner, I am) that doing something more makes you better at it.  This year to some extent was a year in which I stuck with the things that I had been doing before.  In some cases (like writing) I finally reached goals I had been seeking for years; for others (like cheese making and Highland Athletics) I continued to do what I had done the year before and realized a greater return for my effort.

I'll think on these some more I trow, and perhaps some may change a bit.  But I think the course of what I want to do will end little changed from where it is today.

Last year was a good year.  This year promises to be better.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

     Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
     And suddenly three was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
     "Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men"

    So it was that when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in here heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

- Luke 2:8-20, Holy Bible, New King James Version

Monday, December 24, 2012

Old Planners

Today I was struggling for a quote.

Oh, it happens from time to time, this need for something to post in the morning - two somethings, really - and not having one worthy of quoting.  Sometimes I am able to find one on the spur of the moment, sometimes I find something inside of myself that is worthy of quoting.  But because of the lassitude of vacation or the fact of luxuriating in writing from bed, I could not find any.

Then a thought occurred to me:  I have written them down in old annual planners.  Let me go draw them from there.

I have annual planners dating back almost 10 years at this point.  They are not the thin planners that so many use; instead, they are accounts payable books, thick with pages and plenty of space to write and paste in meaningful things.  Proud of my sudden thought and use of my work from the past, I hurried to the closet to grab a couple.

And sat down.  And was drawn away.

Here was everything I thought about The Firm.  Here was my justification to leave my career and start another.  My thoughts - in terms of the thoughts of others I saved.  Small e-mails from friends from jobs I had left, encouraging me.  Recurring goals I keep putting on year after year, and never reaching.

Here were my dreams and aspirations, frozen in time.

It made me pause a bit.  From 2003 - when I was unhappy in my career and looking to the Firm to now, when I am back in the career and still not terribly happy.  In one way, how little has changed.

In another, how much.  Those volumes do not display in the least the amount of life that went on during that period of time as well.  They do little justice to the depth of life that has been lived around their pages.  It's almost as if I was holding a Reader's Digest book summary of my youth and reading the abridged version, knowing that a much larger book was out there waiting to be read.

I found my quote and carefully the planner to the side.  Interestingly enough, it was Seneca - "We learn not for school but for life."  The irony was, I hope, not lost on myself.

I need to take some time over the next few days and wander through these old planners of mind.  It would be an interesting exercise as the end of the year approaches and the new one begins.  I will need to make myself a new planner, of course.

Perhaps the experience of my past will be willing to speak to me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Last Day of Work Before Christmas 2012

It's last day of work before Christmas vacation 2012.

It's odd.  I think at one time such a day as this would have brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  It would be the official kick off the longer Christmas holiday - and even if it was not a long a vacation as some I have had, at least it would be met with a sense of excitement.

There is no sense of excitement as I write this morning.  All that looms before me a great sense of everything that I have to do today before I go - and everything that I know I will simply not get done.  It is a sort of numbing dread, a nameless fear that knows that even as I walk out the door I will be in worse shape when I return.

This is not the way a holiday - especially Christmas - is meant to be anticipated.  One should measure it in time spent away and items done with family and friends, not with everything that is not getting accomplished.

I'm sure that things will get better, of course.  Once I am finally done - that door is finally closed and I walk out to the car - there will be a sense of relief, perhaps a growing sense of anticipation that I will have some time to simply decompress from the world around me.

But it occurs to me that this is not - overall - the way things should be.  Every year it feels like the time frame becomes more and more compressed.  Every year enjoyment seems to take a little more of a backseat to the "realities" of the actual workplace.  Every year Christmas seems to come later and later in my life.

How does one break such a trend?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cold Front

Winds here mean cold fronts
on their way to somewhere else:
different from Old Home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There are few things worse than the sense of being irrelevant and trapped.

It is a subtle thing a first:  in a conversation with others, you suddenly come across a fact which everyone else seems aware of but you didn't know.  As you begin to look into thing further, you find that there is a whole chain of events which impacts you but about which you had no idea was even occurring.

Then the next step comes:  tasks and items which you are responsible for are suddenly being set and commanded by others, even if you are still expected to complete them.  At some point you may ask about this, but are told that "No, you're still in charge.  Just making a few changes to move things forward". 

But the undercurrents still continue.  The ordering of responsibilities and tasks continue.  You are still required to do certain things and make certain goals, but you find your areas of decision and input have slowly been stripped away until you dwell in a box without windows or doors where tasks are passed in and out through a small hole in the wall and a knowledge of the great outer world is stripped away.

The worst part, of course, is that you feel trapped.  You feel trapped in your current situation as the the ability to find a way to change it seems extremely limited.  You also feel trapped in your day to day life as you have that nagging sense of being irrelevant, kept only for the purpose of doing certain things that no-one else wants to do instead of being maintained for your what you bring to the situation.

The funny thing - if such a thing can be called funny - is that sense that no-one will really say anything about the situation.  Surely such a thing is known and self evident - such things seldom happen in a vacuum.  But nothing is said - it's a sort of open secret, the elephant in the room that all know is there but that no-one will address.

And so the sense of fading to gray comes, the idea that one had about doing something grand fading away as one fades into the background of the unnoticed, the powerless, the forgotten - left until the final action comes, perhaps years after the first signs of irrelevance were perceived. 

Idly perhaps, one day someone will ask why one suddenly seems different, where has the enthusiasm and drive gone.  You look at them, a score of items running through your head as your catalog the issues and the length of time things have really been this way.  Then realizing the actual state of things, you simply sigh and shake your head.

"It's hard to explain"  you say.  "It's a long story."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mountains of the Mind

We all build mountains in our mind.

What are these mountains?  These are the places where we go secretly to engage in those things which we know to be sin.  It's the place where we take our dreamings, our imaginations, our pride.  We take them to be worshipped.

"Worshipped?  That' a pretty big word, isn't it? I mean, I know I have faults and all, but the idea that I would take them and worship them is just silly.  After all, I'm a 21st Century sophisticate - there is no way I'm involved in any sort of worship."

But we are.

Every time we take one of these things - lust, greed, anger - and instead of dealing with directly go to someplace in ourselves to roll it over in our mind and consider it, perhaps even to glory in it, we come to acribe value to it - to give it worth by our spending time with it or "Worth Ship" it, as the origin of the word would have it.

And so we begin the process of building our own mountain. 

Every time we go back to the altar, taking that thing in our mind which we cannot or will not deal with, we bring a small bucket of earth with us to stand on as we go.  Over time, these things begin to build up until, towering in our psychic landscape, stand squatting hills with rough hewn stained altars on the top of them.

Of course worship can't happen without bringing something of value to offer.  Initially it is just our time.  This time becomes more and more as we spend more and more at that altar instead of out in the world.  The time begins to suck in other things - relationships, hobbies, activities - sometimes in the light sense of time, sometimes in the heavy sense of sacrificing those thing through adultery or workaholism or addiction or selfishness.

Given long enough we become slaves of the mountains that we have built, constantly toiling up them to offer sacrifice that we have pulled from other parts of our lives.  In the end, that which have initially built to please us destroys us.

There must be a solution, of course.  There is - but it is the hardest thing of all.  We must tear down the mountains of the mind.

How?  By refusing to climb them or indulge them.  By turning our steps away from them when formerly we go to them.  By refusing to indulge ourselves in our secret sins.

This is not something that can ever be done in one's own strength, of course.  Ultimately there will be parts that we can never reach, effort we cannot make.  Ultimately we are dependent on God and His power to overcome such things.  But that does not excuse us from not making the attempt.

Let not the picture of our lives at the end be someone who has carefully carried all his interests, his relationships, his family - his life - up a mountain and offered them up to something which ultimately was phantom that had power neither to save nor reward.

Let us not be slaves of that which we indulge for ourselves.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Questioning FB

I've begun questioning the purpose of my existence on Facebook this weekend.

You all know Facebook, that wonderful invention that allows individuals to reconnect and share pictures, links and information about themselves, that allows them to reconnect with people they haven't talked to in years.  It's a social extravaganza, a sort of ultimate reunion and new friend engine rolled into one.

Over the course of about 3 years that I have had the account, I have had the privilege of catching up with a number of people that I have lost track of over the years:  high school friends long disappeared into the mists of life,  a college friend or two - even my family has taken a swing at it.  As mentioned, it is great for keeping people up to date and keeping up to date with peoples' lives:  seeing them, seeing their pictures, seeing their jokes and their comments.

But watching Facebook over the past three months has made me doubt my decision to continue to exist there.

Why?  Because in the last three months I've come to see that Facebook is creating even more of a society that is unable to have serious discussions about serious issues.

The issue is this:  someone posts a comment.  Someone else posts a comments disagreeing with them - but since this is Facebook, this person may or may not have a relationships with them have a years long understanding of them and their situation.  Instead, it is just a comment.  They respond with their opinion.  Typically, the discussion quickly breaks down after that into a series of naming calling and accusations until, at last, it peters out.

Where does that leave the drive by participant - me, for example, who can see all of this even if I chose not to participate?  Either saddened or angry, offended or depressed - because I too react to the words as I see them on the screen.  At Face Value.

The reality is that this is may be creating a more "connected" environment but it is hardly creating one that is more thoughtful.  Instead words are bandied about like clubs and axes.  The ability to think, to discuss, to debate is buried beneath a wave of being in for the instant response.  It becomes the written form of verbal shouting.

And so I find myself more often than not either fuming at the screen or shaking my head.  I find myself more and more reluctant to engage in any discussion not directly personal or humorous in nature.  More and more questioning why I even bother to spend my time looking at or posting on Facebook at all. 

It's not that I don't enjoy reconnecting with my friends - I do.  But what I am finding is that Facebook has become less and less of the coffee house where you relax and meet and more and more of the friend's home you visit where you always end up leaving early because you feel uncomfortable.

I used to believe that chat rooms and texting would be the death of meaningful communication.  I think I've changed my opinion.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Freedom and Prison

"We [Christians] say, not lightly but very literally, that the truth has made us free.  They say that it makes us so free that it cannot be the truth.  To them it is like believing in a fairyland to believe in such freedom as we enjoy.  It is like believing in men with wings to entertain the fancy of men with wills.  It is like accepting a fable about a squirrel in conversation with a mountain to believe in a man who is free to ask or a God who is free to answer.  This is a manly and rational negation for which I for one will always show respect.  But I decline to show any respect for those who first of all clip the wings and cage the squirrel, rivet the chains and refuse the freedom, close all the doors of the cosmic prison on us with a clang of eternal iron, tell us that our emancipation is a dream and our dungeon a necessity; and then calmly turn around and tell us they have a freer thought and a more liberal theology." - G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Mighty D.

I had the privilege of attending a funeral today.

A privilege?  Yes.  There are two kinds of funerals: those that are filled with sadness and yet hope and those that are simple sad.  I have attended both kinds.

Today's was one of the former, for a woman I only knew briefly and in passing.  Her son and Nighean Dhonn shared a class for 3 years.  I would not have met her except that I ran in a 5k in October for a fundraiser for her.  She passed on Saturday night.

To listen to those that spoke - her father, her brother, her friends, her husband - was to listen to the story of a woman who knew what she believed and firmly lived it out, even in the face of living with the specter of and then the actual event of cancer.  To hear of someone who lived their their life to the fullest to the very last moment possible.

She died at 38.

It was a thing to think of as we wended our way back to the car after the service and after-meal.  The winter sun had heated the air a bit and the day was quite pleasant.  I had fully intended to return to work but the hour had grown too late for any productive work, and suddenly the reality of life made this seem to be not the most important thing in the world.

As I went about my business in the afternoon I did not plan of having, I found my thoughts drifting back to the morning, trying to distill what I had heard and experienced into something I could apply.  Truths are seldom presented more clearly than in the light of death - the challenge is to determine what do with them.

1)  We are never more than what we give of ourselves to others.   What came through the conversation and the stories of the afternoon was not what others had done, but what D had done for others.  Even in her pain.  Even in the uncertainty of dwelling under the Shadow of Death.

2)  We are never more ourselves than when we live for Another.  Specifically one Other - Christ, the Son of God.  Only through living out Him in our daily lives, by being not only those hands and feet of service but the eyes and ears of listening and compassion, the voice of life and encouragement, the brain of planning and executing the Plans of Another.  What we do here for ourselves stays here.  What we do for others in the name of Christ and for Christ Himself goes farther our eyes can ever see.

In reality, we all live under the Shadow of Death.  Most of us choose not think of it unless it is thrust into our face, but it remains true.  We would be wise to consider how we spend our lives in light of that fact.

Requiscat in Pace, Mighty D.  Your race is run.  May you inspire those who remain behind.


Cold and clear, the sky
mocks any hopes of moisture
as the grass withers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Goals New and Old

The last part of the year has arrived - that time of year where planning for the new both increases and goes into decline.

Increases?  2013 is already dangling in front of my face.  Things I want to do next year - things I need to next year - are starting to shout for my attention.  They are waving sheets of paper in front of me, shouting "I'm a goal - do me next year".  Many more than I had originally thought are making an appearance, all demanding a turn to argue their merits.

And in decline?  The countervailing movement is largely expressed in the here and now.  It is the end of the year.  The ability to do most of what I was going to do this year has passed; better to concentrate on that time which remains say the goals from 2012.  If you become too enmeshed in what is coming, you will fail to complete what you can still do.

It is an odd counterbalance.  On the one hand, planning for a new year - at least goal wise - is something which is always a little exciting and intoxicating:  the year is a blank slate, ready to be written on.  And let us be fair:  I think in many ways 2012 has left me in a far better position in terms of setting and achieving goals than has been the case in some years.  There is a certain sense of of hopefulness - if not for some specific situations in my life, then for the general.

The part I need to look to - the part I often hate to look to - is my failures.  Where did I fail in my goals?  Why did I fail in them?  Is there any catch up possible in these last few weeks that will allow me to get over the top?   There is not nearly the sense of excitement in doing things this way of course - but cleaning up old goals is like cleaning out cheesecloth after you make cheese: if you don't complete the process, it will smelly and sort of nasty for the following time.

Old and new, increase and decrease:  perhaps that is why New Year was set when it was:  to allow the slowness of the world outside to let us focus on the riotous world of thought on the inside.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Morning, 11 December

One of the great privileges of being an early morning riser is the opportunity to be an early morning writer.

That's not always the case, of course.  There are plenty of mornings where the "privilege" feels quite similar to a form of punishment as one staggers out of bed and tries to avoid the slalom of furniture in the bedroom as one careens to the stairs hoping (in the still semi-comatose under brain) that one does not careen down the stairs.

But this is not one of those mornings.

The temperature has fallen here in New Home to some of the coldest we've had this year:  slightly above freezing.  That makes the fact that I finally turned the heat on all the more inviting as I sit here.  A cup of fresh coffee sits beside me, the heated cup warming my heart almost as much as the coffee does (ah, coffee - what won't it solve?).  Yesterday's pumpkin muffins, cold from the room temperature but with the advantage of having a day to slightly compress, promise a delicious breakfast.

These are the mornings that it is a privilege to write - not just from the fact of being able to write, but the fact that appreciates all the things that go with being up early in the morning to write.  That seemingly rare convergence where the mind and the will coincide with the words and the physical sensations (ah, coffee) to make the inner space and outer space as one.

These are the times when the words just seem to bubble up from inside, not dragged from the mind kicking and screaming but willingly yielding themselves to the process.  The sense of stress is gone, replaced by a sense of being at peace with one's self and the practice of what one is doing.  This is one of those moments where one can really use the words "The Craft of Writing" and not feel as if one is mouthing a phrase for others, not one's self.

What is being written about is less important - indeed, one could probably just write about writing and the physical environment around one.  Those words of direction, of import - they will come in their time as well.  Once the streambed is prepared, the stream will come.

But every now and again it is simply good to stop, take a look around, and realize that such moments are out there and available to us - with the sincere hope that, like other exquisite moments, they will come to more a part of our daily lives.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Another one of those not so gentle reminders about the brevity of life.

The mother of one of Nighean dhonn's classmates  passed away Saturday night.  A cancer that had gotten to her brain, after being a two-time cancer survivor.  They had hoped she would be here for Christmas.  She leaves behind a husband and two sons.

It is another case of drive-by sorrow.  I only knew of her through her illness, ran a race to support her, occasionally got updates on her status from The Ravishing Mrs. TB.  No relationship beyond that of passing, no knowledge beyond that of others.

She was younger than I.

What it brings to mind - beyond the inconsolable thought of a husband and sons bereft of someone they expected to (and should have) spent long years with - is the brevity of life and its unknown nature to us.

We spend our time too often on that which does not matter.  We become tangled in our minds and thinking on that which has little value beyond the immediate.  Certainly there is a need to be involved where we are - but at the same time, many of us - most - take up the burden of things far more than we should.  We fritter away our energy and our lives on minors - "the thick of thin things" as Stephen Covey would say.

The result?  Beyond just a very real fact of wasting time on that which does not matter, we fail to spend our time on that which does matter - and then, when the end of our life comes (as it inevitably will) we are suddenly "struck" by the fact that we had no time to do what we really intended, what really mattered.

Oh, we meant to.  We meant to spend more time with our spouse or our family, to get serious about God, to spend our lives doing things that mattered rather than things that didn't.  It's just that we never had the time, you understand - we were too busy being busy.  And so, like the trolls of old, we are caught by the rising sun of death and turn to stone, our deeds undone.

Why can we so easily push off the important for the urgent?  Why do we ruin our lives for that which is of no account instead of that which matters?

I understand this better than most.  That which my industry produces has a life span, and companies change hands frequently.  Of all I have worked on and with, most of the products are now not sold, and most of the companies out of business or merged with another.  15 years of work with little beyond a living to show for it.

How much time did this represent?  How much suffering?  How many hours away, commuting back and forth, missing other things?  How much emotional baggage invested in people, against people?  How much effort in projects which are now filed away in boxes awaiting destruction?

We are given enough time to do that which God calls us to do.  Let us be careful we do not waste the gift spending it on that which is of no importance.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Burn Out

Every now and again I seem to reach that burned out state.  You've been there before - we all have, I suppose.  That sense of rising up in the morning and simply having...nothing.  No energy.  No hopes.  No nothing.

I'm interested (in an abstract sense, I suppose)  about what causes this sort of thing.  It's not as if the contributing factors - lots going on, maybe a lack of sleep, the rush of an event (Christmas in this case) - don't occur during many points of the year.  What does seem to occur right now is this very real sense that there are no reserves left, that everything has been played and there's still an entire period to play.

So what's the difference? What is that factor that drains us of the sense that we don't have any more - perhaps when we really do? 

I suspect it's inner related than outer related.  All things like this seem to be.  Perhaps a temporary abandonment of hope?  That would make sense as well - hope is directed towards the future, when there is a possibility that something can change, where as a continuing sense of burnout probably stems from a sense that we have given our all and there is nothing left to give.

I wish I understood this state better - somewhere in the midst of the lack of drive and energy, at the feeling at the end of your rope is the germ of learning to persevere better.  There are lessons to be learned here - the biggest, I suppose, is simply how to get out of this state more quickly.

Another road of learning I suppose - if I can just find the motivation and energy to do it...

Thursday, December 06, 2012



A word loaded with connotations.  A word that means the difference between being paid attention to and ignored.  Something many people desperately seek to get.  But how to get and give respect?  Therein lies the rub.

There are two ways that respect is granted. The first method - one that is the most common - is the idea of "earning" respect.  "You get the respect you earn" or some such  similar line has littered the ground of countless movies and books.  It is the idea that respect is something that is not automatically granted due to the fact of existence but that it is given as part of the process of becoming "respectable" - that is, worthy of respect.

The second method - one that seems less common - is the idea of granting respect until it is lost.  In this scenario, respect is extended to all as a result of their simply being in existence and is only lost when the individual chooses to loose it.  In this concept there is no possibility to earn, only to lose.  It is best represented in (of all places) the book Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore in which the main character, Drizz't dro'Urden discusses the concept in a monologue.  (Really.  If you have a chance read it.  It's quite profound.)

The interesting thing I've come to discover about this two theories of respect is that they are practiced in conflict.  For most people in or of a group or at the higher levels of the organization, the expectation is that the second will always be applied to them (respect granted until lost) but that the first is what they will grant (respect not granted until earned).  I suppose there is some degree of logic in their eyes, a sort of "having earned their spurs" and expecting others to do the same.  But at the same time, there seems to be this expectation that respect being granted is done on essentially faith without any basis in competency or achievement but only by virtue of already being present.

Conceptually what would it be like if we all either practiced the theory that everyone had to learn respect - or that respect would be granted to all until lost?  To my mind, the ramifications are enormous.   Everyone would understand the rules of the game.  Everyone would understand that respect is not something granted by virtue of title or name or office but of actual achievement - or contrariwise, that everyone starts out with the respect and it is only through their inability to achieve that such a thing can be lost.

I don't know that I am arguing for one or the other.  Both have issues in my opinion - earning respect can become a scheme to always make respect just out reach, granting universally ultimately leads to a devaluation as both the competent and incompetent are granted a level which perhaps they do not deserve.  But should we not at least recognize how others expect us to earn respect - and more importantly, what we expect of them?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Empty Feeling of Achievement

There is nothing worse than achievement that has no impact.

This is a side of achievement I don't know I have given a great deal of thought to.  But not all achievement is created equal.  Some achievement results in, well, results.  Something happens as a result of something that has been completed. 

But there's the other side of achievement, the long low exhausted breath of having done something only to realize that the breath is being taken in singleness and silence.  The achievement was completed, but it resulted in nothing.

Nothing?  Surely you just, you may be thinking.  All achievement has some outcome, even it is merely the outcome of the individual having completed that which they had started.  Even that can be considered an outcome of something.

I suppose that is true enough - "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk comes only to want" as the writer of Proverbs says (14:23).  Even in the least impactful of achievements there is some element of results, even if it is merely the impact that the thing was possible to get done and did get done as an example to others.

I have hard experience with the achievement that leads to nowhere and nothing.  There is nothing less motivating than coming to the final completion of a project when the last slide is presented, the last page turned, and the last comment made - only to find that nothing happens.  The overwhelming sense of failure cannot be denied, if not accompanied by a keen sense of disappointment.  Achievement is meant to impact, not to be ignored.

What do I do with this sense of, if not failure, then lack of success?  I'm not sure.  There are only two viable options, it seems.  The first is simply to select better achievements - by better, I mean begin selecting those achievements which have the potential to actually make a difference or achievements which deal with something of importance.  Spend time doing impactful things and you will make an impact.

The other option is to begin to evaluate what I expect or intend to get out of every achievement.  I will never be able to completely shed achievement without impact - our lives are often full of things we need to do simply to do them.  But even in doing these things we can find at least one thing that will improve ourselves if not achieve the point of the exercise.  The trick is to find it.

But it matters.  And we have to do it.  Because I can only imagine that one of the great failures in life one can feel is looking back at a life of achievement and realizing that in the end, nothing of impact was actually accomplished.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Ode to A Cursor

Blinking cursor
Patient, waiting,
Keeping all my thoughts
from waiting

How is that a single bar
Allows my thoughts to travel far?

To depths of soul
or heights of mind
Through you the whole
of truth I find.

But on this morning: early, dark
Why can't I find a single spark?

Blink on, blink off
You gently tease:
"Your problem is?
Go: write with ease."

This morning, naught, except your mocking:
Why can't I find the words for talking?

Have pity then,
please do not hate me,
if on this day
the words escape me.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Self Belief?

One of the transitions I am struggling with - let us be honest, have struggled with for some time - is the transition from being in a position of needing someone to believe in you to believing in yourself.  I am certain that this transition is complicated by the fact that I am person who is too often dependent on the approval of others (but, in fairness, I wonder if it is really any different or easier for others).

Self belief - self confidence - that inner spark that tells one that one is competent to do all that one has determined one will do - is a strange thing.  It seems that there are only two ways to acquire it: genetic or built.

Genetic?  Mindset perhaps.  There are those among us - surely you know one or even may be one - that simply seem to have always have had the inner belief that they were capable of doing whatever they could put their mind too.  Sometimes the surroundings of the these individuals is not such that one would think that such a belief could ever exist - but it does.

The good news for the rest of us, I suppose, is that unlike height or speed self belief is something that can be acquired even if we don't start out with it.  The problem is figuring out how to do that.

How is that done?  Oh, I wish that I had a better sense of it.  I do firmly believe that it is rooted in doing things and succeeding in them - from confidence, springs confidence.  But doing things alone is not enough:  one can do things a great many times but bereft of a belief that one can do them, one is always one failure away from feeling completely useless.

Is it something others can give?  Partially.  The believe of someone in you and your ability to do things can be a powerful motivator in coming to believe in yourself - but at the same time, too much reliance on others can lead to a fragile self belief, one that is ready to collapse under the first sign that such a person considers your performance a failure or simply moves on.

There is a fundamental transition and transaction that occurs somewhere within the soul, some moment when one moves from "I cannot" to "I am capable of".  It is not just based solely on accomplishing things.  It is much more than that.  It is best represented in the case that one moves from a temporary failure being a permanent setback to a temporary failure not denting one's confidence in the ultimate outcome - and believing it.

I deeply desire to believe that this is like a muscle  - it can be built over time.  Yet I constantly find myself falling back into a state of not having any confidence at all, of being undercut by events and individuals (and their comments) to a state where it feels as if no matter what I do I am doomed to fail, to be exactly what I am and have always been.

To feel that self belief is merely a figment of my own imagination or something that other people can find - but not me.

I do not believe (in my lucid moments) that this is the case.  I believe that there is such a thing as self belief.  I have seen the outcome of its workings.  I know that it exists - for others.  The difficulty is finding how to make it exist for me.