Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ruts

To what extent am I trapped in ruts of thinking?

Readings Inc.'s 2013 Entrepreneur of the year, the 28 year old who created Box.com, I wonder.  Do I not think broadly enough?  Do I not think widely enough?

Thinking and ruts have dominated my 2014 goal considerations as well.  I am contemplating something which I had not really tried before:  focusing within.

The thought is that I would not consciously add another new activity to those that I am doing this year.  Instead I would work to consolidate my gains in area where I have already made progress.  But even these may represent ruts in my thought patterns, consolidations of things that are essentially dead ends.  By focusing more deeply, am I merely focusing on things that will keep me in ruts?

I am seemingly held in chains which are largely of my own forging.  What if, as part of this exercise, I merely walked through these chains?

Heady stuff.  The stuff of the mad.  The stuff of legend.

"Common sense will not accomplish great things.  Simply become insane and desperate." - Nabeshima no Naoshige

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2014 Goals - II

So I am struggling this morning as I consider the rough draft of my goals for 2014.  It revolves around deciding what the next step should be.  I have two choices really:  continue in what I am doing and go with that or look to something completely different.

Yes, I know that I was toying with the same thought yesterday.  It is a bit different though:  I need to seriously consider the implications.

Implications?  Three.  Time, money, and relationships - not necessarily in that order.

1)  Time:  Whatever I pick up, even if it were to follow something sensible instead of my own heart, will require the investment of time.  What would I be willing to put on hold while I pursued this (shadowy at this point) new career?

2)  Money:  No matter what I might think of doing some kind of investment is likely to be required.  Where will the money come from?  What sort of investment will it take - and what would I move to the side to do it?

3)  Relationships: Following something different would most likely change the time and energy I spend with those closet to me - quite possibly at the time where that energy is most needed here, instead of forging a new path of my own.  What are the implications of that reinvestment?

So balancing the two - what I do versus possibly something I might like doing but have to learn - is there a way clear?  If I had to sacrifice one to the other, which one would give?  I know which one should give - relationships should always trump all.  Is there a way that I could make such things work in the context of relationships?

I am not sure - but neither am I convinced that merely trying more, harder, will give me the results I seek.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Effort and Self Competition

One of the nice things about vacations is that it gives you time to think.  One of the not so nice things about vacation is that it gives you time to think.

Which I needed, I guess.  I see thinking and pondering much as I see the sleep which I am sudden catching up on:  you can go without it for a while, but in the end the lack of it catches up with you.

Part of the stopping and the thinking is looking at where I am - today, right now.  Is this where I had intended to be in any stretch of the imagination? No way - not all of it bad, you understand, just no way.  There has been a great deal of bouncing around in my life, of veering from one extreme to the other, of finding things and moving down paths which were never originally thought of but enjoyable.

I wonder, in the surfeit of additional thought, if this is a result of not being happy in what I do.  Certainly I have come to put more hope and satisfaction with anything else in my life in anything but my current career choice and there is no way I can possibly imagine that it would result in the sort of deep seated satisfaction with other things in my life.  This is a long term disaster waiting to happen, of course, because in the end I cannot simply advance in something that is done half heartedly.

I can argue (in the back of my head) that effort is not really noticed nor worth it, that no matter how hard I try it will not matter.  That is remarkably odd, considering the fact that this is the only aspect of my life where I am willing to accept this.  In everything else, I follow the very simple formula of effort = achievement.  And along with this first axiom, I have the second formula of I am really only competing against myself.  If I do better, then I have succeeded.  Why can I not apply this to my working life as well?

Is it because I have no control of those things at my work?  This is true to some extent - but at the same time, there are definitively things that I do have control over.  And certainly if I do something better, I do something better for myself first and then others, no matter what the reward is.

Which leaves me at the point of  a decision:  Treat work like anything else in my life with the same expectations and results, or abandon it in the realization that this formula does not work. Where would this leave me?  I have no idea.  But the simple fact that such a bifurcation exists cannot, for my own sense of wholeness, be allowed to continue.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dead Headed

My life feels deadheaded.

Deadheading (not the fans of the Grateful Dead, of course) is the activity whereby one removes old and withered flower blossoms to allow the new blossoms to take all the energy.  It also creates a more pleasing appearance to the plant:  instead of being littered with a combination of dead and living flowers, one sees only the living ones.

My life now feels covered with dead and living flowers.

Most poignant to me at this moment is writing.  I have had (in my more fantastic moments) the dream of being an author, of making part of or all of my living writing.  I love to do it.  Occasionally I like to believe myself talented at it.  And then I look at what the sales are for the book I recently wrote and finally published - indeed, for all of the books I have written, and realize that truly I am no author.  I might like to write, but am not an author. 

And then I go through the list of things in my life - the activities, the relationships, the dreams and the realities - and suddenly realize that I am not really anything that I would believe myself to be or even wanted to be.  The reality is that - like it or not - I am pretty much a mid-grade paper pusher with many hobbies that will lead me nowhere.  And, given circumstances, all I will ever be is precisely this.

I would love to say that the solution is simply to focus on what I actually do and become really skilled at it.  And maybe I should - certainly everything else I am doing seems to be leading nowhere.  But to do this almost smells of defeat and has no more guarantee than anything else of fulfillment or joy or even just a certain sense of satisfaction of living.

The frightening thing, then, is that I find myself in the position of possibly needing to deadhead my life - and the fear that, if I do this, there will be almost no blooms left.

And the ones that will be left are  the ones I do not want to have.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Discouragement

The problem with writing about encouragement, of course, is that discouragement also exists.  Like this morning, when I simply not feeling the slightest bit of desire to do anything.

Discouragement can come from two places. The one that seems to easiest to speak about, based on the writings of the last few days, is that of the external:  people who brings you down instead of up.  Circumstances that tear away at your desire to do anything, let alone succeed at it.  The minor bruises and chips of life that wear us down.

But there is a second, equally pernicious enabler of discouragement:  that which comes from within ourselves.

We are often the greatest purveyors of our own discouragement.  The circumstances around us do not ultimately determine how we will feel encouraged:   we do.  We can be shining lights in the midst of darkness - or pools of darkness within the midst of light.  We can take every circumstance of good in our life and still only be discouraged about ourselves.

Is it hard?  Certainly.  Sometimes it seems that there simply is nothing to be encouraged about.  Outside circumstances do not go our way.  Inner circumstances are not moving forward the way we would like. 

And suddenly, discouragement.

The solution?  Oh, I wish I had a better one than something that sounds trite like "give thanks" or "just fake it until you make it". Neither of these really seems to work for me on a regular or predictable basis.  Instead I just try to hold on, hoping that I can outlast it until I get into a better frame of mind.

Because between the times of encouragement, that is sometimes all you have.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Encouragement III- How to Create an Environment of It

So how does one create an environment of encouragement? 

It is certainly wonderful if one can wander in to such an environment - but the reality is that such things truly seem to be random.  And they are highly dependent on others, who may or may not also be interested creating such an environment.  Ultimately the only control that we have over such a thing is to make it ourselves -which also makes sense purely from the idea that we control that which we create instead of being a victim of it.  But how do we get from here to there?

The first aspect is the hardest:  a change of mind.  We simply need to embrace the fact that we are no longer going to engage in the same behavior as those around us, that we are going to seek to become a source of encouragement to ourselves and others rather than a source of discouragement.  This decision alone will absorb a great deal of our time as we try to reprogram how we think about the world around us and the environments we are in.

The second aspect is a change of behavior.  We consciously need to to choose to use our words and actions to encourage, not discourage.  This is, at least for me, a great deal harder than I would like to think it is.  My reaction too often in life to discourage right back or sign, shrug my shoulders, and woefully carry on - or seek to get in that "zing" that allows me to feel better about a bad situation by one-upmanship.  This needs to all be replaced by the conscious decision to speak encouragingly and act encouragingly to everyone we come across.

The third aspect, a longer term one, is to look for those environments that are encouraging.  Lived in long enough, even the most encouraging person will get torn down by the acidic environment of negativity and discouragement.  We need to take every opportunity to put ourselves in the right environment - even if it means making change in our own lives.

Encouragement will free us to accomplish more than we every dreamed of. We just need to choose to make in and find it in our own lives.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Encouragement II

This thing about encouragement is eating at me (in a good way). 

Encouragement equals achievement. I cannot think of a more clear way to state it.  To be sure, encouragement can come in many forms - perhaps in the form of self encouragement (the hardest, I am sure), perhaps in the form of a teacher, most definitely in the form of those around us.  And is not solely the  power of the encouragement alone - although that is a strong motivator.  It is the atmosphere that such encouragement creates that creates the place where achievement becomes not only more possible, but likely.  But how is such an environment created?  Herein lies the thing which, if properly understood, could be the sort of thing that changes individuals, families, companies, even cultures.

Encouragement is not a total blinding to the nature of things as they stand.  Instead, it is the underlying belief and resulting atmosphere that while the potential of failure is understood to be present, that the potential to do better is always possible - and likely - as well.  If one fails or does poorly, the individual does not collapse into a heap of discouragement without hope nor do those around them pile on.  The understanding is that one will - and can - do better next time.

Is such an atmosphere the same as a blind belief that we must support no matter what in order to build the self esteem of others based on nothing more than a sense that they need to feel better about themselves to achieve?  Not at all.  There are expectations in the encouraging environment to be sure:  that one is truly trying their hardest and wants to get better, that lack of effort is not the same as a low level of skill of talent and so will not be rewarded, that one is as interested in getting better as all others present, and that one is able to work within the environment to help others feel the same level of encouragement.  There is no free right of support of others in such a place.

But I am coming to believe that such an environment as I have described above is crucial to success.  With such things someone can do things they never thought possible because they are in an environment where such things are believed and expected to be possible.  That environment, as we have mentioned, can be as little as one person - but that one person makes all the difference in the world.

Which begs the question:  how do we find, create, and or nourish such an environment?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Encouragement

I have been much caught up in the process and results of encouragement this year, far more than I had intended to when I started the year.  Why?  Because I have come to see what a necessity it is to any sort of achievement and what a destructive force the lack of it can be.

I have noticed -especially through my throwing - that encouragement is the thing that makes all the difference.  Let us be honest:  I am not a man of particular height or build or musculature.  My ability to throw - at least now- is, well, less than significant.  But what I find -what everyone that steps out onto the Heavy Athletics field finds - is that the fellow athletes on the field are nothing but supportive.  Encouragement flows freely.   Assistance is more than available if one simply asks.  The only criticism that is allowed by unwritten rule is that of self criticism.

The result?  I continue to throw - as much encouraged by the fact by the encouragement is there as by the fact I enjoy it so much.  And who would enjoy coming to something where one knew that no matter how one was going to do one would be encouraged?

Take the opposite and unfortunate example:  a job, for example, where one's efforts and labor are never really noticed.  Work that is done simply fades into the background and there is no encouragement provided except the underlying phrase of "If you do not like it, walk".  The result?  An environment where effort becomes grudging, where individuals begin to quickly consider what their other options are.

My question becomes why.  Why can we find some things, such as hobbies or interests, where encouragement seems so freely given and received and other things, the "more important" things of life such as a career, where encouragement is so grudgingly given?   The results of encouragement - greater effort, happier people, a better environment - are true no matter where they are done.  Why is such a thing not applied universally if there are universal results?

I cannot change situations of course, but I can change myself.  I am trying - with greater success - to make sure that I am an encourager to anyone in the circumstances.  If they like something they are doing, great.  If they do not like they are doing and want to change, I encourage them to find themselves.  I want, at least so far as I can, to encourage people, to give them the boost and feeling of accomplishment that others have gifted me with.

It really does make all the difference in the world.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Chance Style Encounter

Profundities occur when we least expect them.

Yesterday I sat for a free hairstyling to help an intern at a friend's salon.  It is part of the consideration process they do:  they review the final cut to make sure she has the skill level necessary to be a credit to the salon.

The very nice young lady (we'll call her A) surprised me in more that one way.  She said she was 19 (but you would not have known it from her carriage and her dress - I know 30 year old individuals that look and seem less mature).  She and her boyfriend had moved here from Chicago?  Why?  He had found a job in his field (a power pole lineman - he is also 19) and so they moved.

I asked her how she had come into hairdressing.  She said that it was something that she had always wanted to do but people in her life, including her mother, had discouraged her as they had told her that she would not make enough money at it.  She took this at face value for a while until she had the opportunity to learn from someone.  She found that she enjoyed it and suddenly made the realization that "she could make money doing hairdressing.  You just have to go where the business is".  And so she and boyfriend embarked on a lifelong (and lifetime) adventure at age 19.

This is certainly not the conversation I expected to have on a Thursday.

I gave her what counsel I knew to give - that she was actually quite right:  if you do what you love, you will find a way to make it (I do not necessarily buy the concept that the money will come but I do believe you will find a way to make it work).  And it is far more important to be happy in what you do than just pursue money and hope you find happiness - this hardly every works out.

The conversation left me hopeful in two ways:  in the first, that there are young people who are actually going in and doing the work of the world that needs doing; in the second, that there is at least one other person in the universe that understands that doing what you love can be made to work.  It renews my hope that others - even myself - can find our way as well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Illusion Interrupted

Yesterday was not the best morning.

I became frustrated by the fact that my computer - in fact both of our computers - were acting up.  They were acting slow and even when I got here to write the morning entry, they laughed at me with blank web pages and slowly spinning icons.  My mood quickly came to match that of the computers:  running from room to room I started snarling at everything and everyone. 

Why?  Because I could not get my morning post written and posted.

Imagine!  I, the great blogger of the blogosphere, could not get my thoughts out to my adoring and waiting fans.  I was trapped between the hammer of old technology and the anvil of having to run to my "job", the thing I hate to do but have to (when I really should be writing, after all). 

The whole thing ate at me:  all the way driving in and dropping off Na Clann at school, all the way to the office.  My writing, my career, my wisdom - half done and empty.

I hope at this point you grasp the foolishness I only came to see later.

The simple reality - the reality I like to ignore - is that I am not really a writer.  I write, yes.  I even have some books I have published (self-published, to be fair).  I certainly enjoy writing.  But none of this should distract from the actual reality that is.

I am a very small fish in a very big sea.  I have a core of loyal readership (thank you all very much!) but in no wise do I have some vast horde clamoring for me to express myself.  My need to write is simply that:  my need.  It is not a requirement or a geas laid on me by someone else.  Occasionally I touch the life of someone else for which I am grateful - but it is not a sure thing.  And it is certainly not anything (based on actual results) that I can argue is some kind of calling from God, something I should be doing to the exclusion of all else.

And an successful author?  The bright part (I suppose) is that I have sold enough to cover the cost of my hobby - but it is certainly nothing that is moving me in the direction of this high demand second writing career that I constantly see myself in.

Is it possible for me to improve?  Always.  Is it guaranteed that such improvement will make me a desirable author or suddenly make my blog one of the top 1,000,000?  And (let us be fair) is it something that I have any proof of is a legitimate calling from God?  Beyond the raw desire and occasional flashes of insight, no.

Perhaps the point of this whole incident is to remind me - gently the first time around, anyway - that my primary goal in life is not the writings I do or not do or the unseen people I touch or do not touch.  Perhaps it is simply to remind me that the mood I am in - the mood of the family that sees me and the coworkers I work with - is more important to their long term memory of myself and what it says about my God than any well crafted text could ever be.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An Unsettling Feeling

Last night we had our first reaction drill at Iaijutsu. In this drill, you are attacked by an opponent - perhaps knowing the strike, perhaps not.  It is your job to block the attack and then counterattack. 

When sensei announced it I felt a sense of discomfort.  I suddenly realized that I had not done a reaction drill since July. 

I felt a little discomfort.

I did not really know why.  It is not as if I do not train with these people week after week.  It is not as what happened was anything other than a true accident.  Still, I had a sense of something I had not had in some time.  I realized that it was fear.

Fear of what?  Fear of being struck?  Not really - everyone is very careful, especially now.  Fear of not performing well?  Possibly - I worry that I am not the best of students and compared to many, I am slow.  Fear of looking foolish?  See above - I am not a graceful dancer with the bokuto but more of a farmer flailing out his grain.  I am not totally sure - all I know is that I self conscious on a level I have not been for been for some time.

I went through the exercise of course.  My first round was rough.  My cuts were bad, my hands misplaced.  My blocks were not the best and I hardly tried to to do anything original or different like I should have.  I made the attempt and was not totally disgraced in it, though it was hardly my best effort.

In retrospect driving home I wondered what went wrong.  I am in situations which could create this sort of reaction all the time.  Why now? The fear of injury?  Or the fear that performance will reveal what I fear to be true, that my skill level is not what I want to believe it is.

I am not completely sure.  All I can do is practice harder and overcome the fear with competence.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whose Kingdom?

This weekend the teaching at church revolved around Haggai 1, which concerns the rebuilding of the Second Temple after the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.  God chastens His people for not working on his kingdom first:

"This people says "The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built."  Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses and this temple to lie in ruins.  Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:2-4).

Consider your ways.  The Lord then reminds the people of all that they have tried to do to prosper yet have failed at because they did not put the Lord first.  They did not build His kingdom.

Am I building God's kingdom?  This is the question I find myself confronted with in the middle of my life.  I am busier than I have ever been - so busy, in fact, that I am drowning in both my personal and professional life.  But am I busy building my own kingdom or God's?

It is not meant as an idle question.  I feel like I am doing more than ever yet I am accomplishing less than ever and yet I am not seeing the rewards (not all monetary) that one would expect.  Effort is not translating into progress.  I almost feel trapped in a wheel I cannot remove myself from.

What is the Lord's prescription for His people of Haggai's time?  "'Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build my temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified', says the LORD (Haggai 1:8)".  Stop what you are doing.  Stop building your little empires and your small dreams and put me first in what I ask, He says. Glorify Me, make Me the center of your life, and see how I will act.

That is a hard prescription to follow, at least for me, trapped in the busyness of a life that seems only to move faster and faster.  But, to follow the phrase, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. 

Whose kingdom am I building anyway?

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Time

Balance is key.

I found myself torn this weekend by the multiplicity of things that I wanted - and had to do:  Highland Athletics, iaijutsu practice for menkyo, cleaning the rabbits, writing more for Nanowrimo, running, and even just mowing the lawn.  Add to this the other activities I do infrequently - making cheese, making mead, gardening - and those which I wish I did more of - language, even more writing, getting back on the harp, more canning, maybe even bees again - and suddenly I felt overwhelmed. Like I was not going to accomplish anything at all.

This is always a problem for me.  My reach is always outstretching my grasp.  There is so much more that I want to do than I seem to have the time for that I simply become frustrated.  And feel like I cannot do anything at all.

This is ludicrous, of course.  In my saner moments I realize that the expectations here are the ones that I am putting on myself.  No-one judges my success or my failure in any of these things except myself.  I am the only one that feels the disappointment.

In the back of my mind I try to find the linkage between where I am and where I want to be.  My hope is always that I can find a way more towards something of this nature - because in these things I find my heart.  In these things I find a passion and zest for living.

I will keep trying, of course - the only thing completely failed is the thing which is never tried.  And my throws may not be quite as high, my cuts not as straight, my cheese not as round (and my lawn, of course, not as mowed) - but that is okay.  Each of these things makes me a better person, makes me more alive.

Even if I do not have all the time in the world to do them.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Tempus Fugit

Marching band season
over:  is it two months long
or thirty years gone?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Making of Art

So on Monday my friend Carla came over to sketch me.  She needed a model and I am pretty good at just sitting there so it seemed like a fine idea.

The making of art, especially visual art, has always fascinated me.  This is not a medium I work well in at all (mine is words and the raw materials of fermented foods) so it always interesting to me how it was done.  To me it seems the equivalent of magic:  the artist looks, works on the paper, and produces a work of art. 

Having never sat for a drawing I was interested in what would be requested of me.  It turns out nothing much at all:  sit there and look out.  Try not to move to much.  Wait - can you turn the other way towards the light?  Good.  Just sit there.

And we were off.

The fascinating part to me was that she talked throughout the process.  This is very different than writing for me:  the more quiet things are, the better I write.  Not so with Carla.  She simply put her pad down, got out her charcoal, and got to work. 

Broad strokes, broad strokes, short strokes, rub rub rub.  Look, start sketching something else out.  Rub the charcoal more - when she brushes her forehead a random stroke of charcoal stays there as well, matching her hair.  Her right index finger becomes dark with dust as she continues to draw.  Short stroke, short stroke, broad stroke.  She looks again - Are your eyes really that crooked?  Yes, I assure her, they really are - bee sting and bokuto scar.  She nods and keeps drawing, a running stream of banter going between the two of us as the strokes seem to go as fast as the words. Look up, look down, draw.  It is interesting that there are not a great deal of facial expressions as she draws to indicate if she is happy with the work as it is or not.  Is this conscious, to prevent her prejudging the work or is she simply in the moment?  I wonder as she continues to move back and forth across the paper.

Near the end she starts to draw larger strokes to fill in the background.  Finally she looks at it, looks at me, and shows it.  I love it of course - it has the bold facial features of a Vulcan or Romulan, something which I have always fancied myself looking like.

All of this with the just a blank piece of paper and charcoal.

How do artists do this?  How do they see what we see but then transfer it to a medium that makes it look like it is?  How can they draw the essence of a thing outside of themselves and then put it onto paper with the essence of the thing in it?

I cannot understand it.  All I can do is simply stand back and be amazed.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Expiration Dates

How do you know when you have reached your expiration date?  How do you know when you have stayed too long at a thing?

I am tempted to say that everything has a shelf life - but in fact I know that there are some things for which such things merely mean we need to reach deeper within ourselves to grow.  But those things are really the few and far between, the essentials, the things of relationships and personal goals that make life worth living.

What of the rest, the things that do not fall into this category?  Is there an expiration date and when do you know?  It is not as if people smell and spoil when they go bad in their positions or suddenly appear to be covered with mold.

I ask this question not out of theory but out of fact.  I am increasingly confronted by the fact that I may have stayed too long at a thing, may have become one of these people that simply starts enduring something - and by enduring, is willing to live with the status quo rather than change it, because either I believe the thing cannot be changed or have given up hoping that it will be.

This is a dangerous thing - not necessarily only for myself and my life but for everyone around me.  People who settle become people who fail to try new things, who come to not even maintain the things that are in place, that ultimately become bitter and tired individuals who snap at anyone who suggests that they are really doing what they are supposed to do.

And in a sense they are not.  They are there to fulfill a purpose or role, not simply become a space server who is there to maintain a title or a place on the board or an appendix of a skill or interest.  The day that becomes true is the day that they become superfluous to the reason that they are there.

It is easy to see this in others.  It is much more difficult to see it in ourselves.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Artist

Charcoal-stained fingers
match her hair as the Artist
unmasks the unseen.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Nanowrimo 2013

So I might not have mentioned it yet but I am doing Nanowrimo 2013:




National Novel Writing Month - Press Start

You may remember the challenge from last year:  50,000 words, 30 days.  The idea is to get a manuscript written in 30 days.  Not a final manuscript necessarily you understand - this is as rough as it gets.  The point is to get one writing every day.

My plan was messed up, of course.  I had not decided what I was going to write until the last second - good heavens, I had not decided I was going to do it at all until the day before.  I was waffling because I did not think that I had the time.  It is ridiculous of course - you always have time to do the things you really want to do.

The second impediment was that I thought I was not ready to write what I was going to write.  I had it all planned out in my mind:  what I was going to write about, the research I needed to do, the plot.   But I ran out of time:  the book sat unread and the day was approaching.  I had a second idea, more of an undeveloped thought than a real thing, that was laying in wait.  I grabbed it and ran.

I am about 7300 words in now - like last time, the concept seems to have taken on a life of its own and the characters have started talking amongst themselves without needing much prodding from me.  A good way to write, that - as a recorder, not a generator.

Will I finish?  I will.  I have no idea what it will look like -and having done this last year, I am far more willing to do major editing now that I know that writing all those words is not the same as having a good book (it is okay, I discovered, to cut things out).

But the exercise is good.  And I feel better after it.  That will make four books I have written in three years.

A bit of a surprise there - somewhere I turned into an author and hardly knew it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Terminal Velocity

This is blog of Rocky Smith.  He is dying of cancer.  And blogging it.

I can only say that I know Rocky tangentially and from a distance.  We both were/are involved in the same sport of Highland Athletics (I suspect he was far better than I can ever hope to be).  We both the know some of the same people.  And I stand humbled in his presence.

I have one definitive memory of him, one that I doubt he remembers as anything other than one athlete helping another.  It was at the Arlington Highland Games, where I was making my usual attempts at throwing the caber.  I cannot always pick and pull it but I am too stubborn to let go when I should. 

He called me aside and advised me that I should just let it go when it falls - he had seen men break their shoulders trying to catch a falling caber.  I thanked him for the advice, failed my last two picks, and carried on not giving it a second thought.

Until two weeks ago when someone posted that Rocky Smith was coming to the October Games - probably his last long road trip.

Killing time waiting for a pick up, I went to his blog and read.  And was shocked.  And humbled.  Suddenly I knew who this man with the garbled speech was who shared advice with me.  He probably knew he was not doing well in May - and yet he took the time to correct me, time out of a life that literally is measured in days.

I thought of Rocky and his advice when I threw two weeks ago.  The caber did not go up, out I stepped away.  As the judge said, "No broken shoulders, no broken caber.  All is well".  And I believe I shall think of him now every time that I throw the caber for as long as I throw the caber - the kindness of a man who gave the thing most precious to him, a gift of time.

I read his blog every day now.  I will warn you up front:  It is hard.  It is honest.  It is the last testament of a man who taking a very hard thing in his life, the hardest thing of any of our lives - dying - and turning it into a teachable moment.  He might argue it is for himself, but I would argue that it really is for everyone else.

Rocky has entered the last great throw of his life - and in an infinite act of kindness he is letting us peak into what the pick and pull look like.

Throw hard Rocky.  Throw far.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Computer Frustration

I am having a computer morning.

We have two computers I write on:  one, an approximately 2008 HP; the other, a refurbished laptop that I have had for about two years now.  They are both in the process of frustrating me to no end at the moment.

The laptop becomes randomly slow at times - like this morning, even though I left it on sleep mode last night.  I "woke" it up this morning, and Windows decided that it was time to try and update the system. Ability to write:  almost zero.  I ended the function and tried again but apparently the system had become unstable at this point.  Computers 1, TB 0.

Off to the stand alone computer.  Start it up (this seems to go pretty fast).  Try to start up the Internet without being patient.  Hey look, the Internet is now slow.  Open three tabs at one time and if one of them is Facebook, everything stops working for a few minutes until it manages to find its purpose again.

All the time, irretrievable time is fleeing.

It bothers me, of course, because writing is now a part of morning routine, of my life. I do not like feeling frustrated with the amount of time that I have available to write. It impacts how I write and how deep I feel I can go.  And without depth, my writing becomes shallow and not what it could be.

Do I have a solution?  Not really, outside of a new computer.  Try starting the computer when I get up I suppose and give it plenty of time to get its arms around being up in the more. And learn a little more patience as well.

Electronics.  The bane and blessing of the modern writer's life.