Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Belief and Perseverance and Others

I am coming face to face with the fact that I cannot do anything for someone else.

My problem is that for most things I do or have done or want to do, there is an aspect of wanting approval and notice by others, something that others will notice and praise me for, whether for skill or breadth of interest or knowledge or unusual facts.

That's not bad, I suppose - except that when the support goes away or is not there, so does the interest in doing these things. This would explain the litter of items and projects in my life, prospects started and never finished.

(It strikes me [on a somewhat related note] that this is the reason that "stars" end being excellent performers but often lousy people making lousy choices: they are so programmed for response and approval, they will do anything to elicit them - even bad things.)

Great. So what?

It occurs to me that, based on this, the key to succeeding is 1) Believe you can do it; and 2) Persevere until you do it.

Belief and perseverance: in both cases, this is something which has to come from within. One cannot (nor, it seems, one should not) rely on them being based on the inputs of others, because others cannot maintain that level for long periods of time - and if all you are basing your drive to succeed or excel on is the approval or interest of others, you will inevitably fail.

Actually, not totally true. There is One - the audience of One, God - who can. I get a hint of this idea of working with the audience of One in mind (something Os Guinness speaks to so eloquently in The Call.). Only God can pay attention to what we do, support us at all time, know both the intent of our hearts as well as the outcome of our deeds - and only God can fully reward us, not just here in time, but in eternity. In that sense, working for the support and approval of God is the appropriate place to use this seeming bent for approval.

The other thought that occurs about belief and perseverance is that belief precedes perseverance - one cannot persevere in anything unless you believe that you can succeed in the thing that you are persevering in.

So here's my though to chew on for today: how do I rely more on internal resources (belief and perseverance) towards the audience of One and less (or truly, not at all) on the external resources (interest and approval) of others?

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Happens If You Got A Job?

Day 86 of layoff.

Daibhidh Mor had an interesting comment yesterday as we were sitting chatting after bottling beer. "How's it going to feel to go back to work?" he asked.

My initial thought was "Well, of course it's going to feel good". And it will. Forced inaction creates nothing but frustration. At the same time, it will be weird to be on a schedule again - and possibly one not of my own choosing.

Example: If my interview tomorrow is successful and eventually a job is offered, the reality is I will be facing a 2 hour commute going and a 2+ hour commute coming home. It's just that far. Add to that work and a lunch and a reasonable sleep time (and I really can't function with less than 7 hours a night), and that's 20 hours a day right there. The problem is, as soon as I go there, my head immediately fills up with everything that I will not be able to do - i.e. personal life down the tubes. This, as you might imagine, is less than a riveting thought.

On the other hand, I am making a critical error when I think this: that my time is my own. The reality is, it's not. I can't create it, I can't stop it, I can't add more to it, all I can do is use it effectively - that "redeeming the time" that shows up in Colossians and Ephesians. My time is really God's time. He has the right to determine how He uses it, even as He has the right to determine how He uses my life.

And that is where faith comes in. Whatever opportunity comes through, the reality is that it will cost me something. If it is a commuting, it will cost me the time to do things I think are important to me at the moment. I will simply have to have faith that in that case, God is accomplishing His purpose through me by doing things this way and that those things are not as important to Him as the thing that He is accomplishing.

Which is hard. I so want to say that I have control and need to have the freedom to do things because I'm unique and gifted and gosh darn it, I'm more than my job and this commute. How could God do this to me?

Which brings up the second thought: When you use this line of thinking with God, how well has it gone in the past?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

I'm sitting out tonight in the spring early evening, barbecuing a tri-tip. It's actually one of my favourite places around the house when the weather is cooperating. Why? Because I can snuggle up to the lavender bushes and watch the bees land, search for pollen, and take off again. It's Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) so there is no scent, but I do have the buzzing of the bees as a sound scent.

The afternoon is made doubly good due to the fact that this afternoon, Daibhidh Mor and myself bottled 46 bottles of Munich Helles, 23 bottles apiece of which are sitting in each of our garages, starting the final fermentation process. It's not just the making of beer - in fact, that is secondary to the comraderie and fellowship (dare we use the word koinonia) that we enjoy while we do it, as well as the sense of enjoying the fruits of one's labor (something which we seem, as a modern society, to be so far removed from the end result of what we do for a living).

It is moments like this that reminds me of the vastness and breadth and goodness of God. All that I see, hear, feel, touch, and taste were created by Him - indeed, even the ability to sense and process the information was provided by Him, even as the gift of watching Nighean Dhonn blow and then catch a bubble wanders by me, as Syrah the mighty fruitlessly chases the bees trying to catch them. Not only do we have salvation, we have all this too!

It would be a tragic event, I think, if one only had the universe to thank for all of this instead of a loving God.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sargasso Sea

This not knowing anything is quite the energy and purpose sapper. Two ongoing threads right now, one here and one away (as in another state away). Both will probably be decided one way or the other about the same time given hiring policies (and we hope at least one is decided the right way, because a job now would be an excellent thing!).

What it does seem to do is simply drain me. Something I had not counted on. I suppose it is a low grade form of depression, although I don't recognize it as such. There is much more of a sense of powerlessness, of going through the motions every day even though the results don't seem to be happening .

And thus, the energy and purpose sapper.

I just need to know. Either one, if they come through, will result in major changes to our schedules (if not our lives) - one potentially would involve a move. But continuing to exist in this twilight land of almost knowing, of waiting for the next interview or next response while the days (and the bank account) tick by - it is maddening.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Second Star to the Right

Something happened to me this morning that has not happened to me in a long time: I woke up this morning in a good and confident mood.

Weird, huh?

To what, you may ask, can this seeming miracle be attributed? The Ravishing Mrs. TB returning from her cruise? Possibly - although it was not a conscious thought in the morning. Job? Nope. Sudden financial success? Again, Nope.

Then what happened?

The secret, I think, is that I woke up with a purpose this morning: paint. Yes, not my most favorite task and yes, 4.5 years after moving in, but still, with a purpose, something that needed to get done - and something which had a definitive end result, not a general sort like a job search where things go off into the electronic ether and never return.

The same thought process has occurred, interestingly enough, on Facebook. I have engaged in one of their available games Pirates!, and what I have discovered is (surprisingly) what I knew from playing role playing games: when I have a goal, a set endpoint with defined parameters, an experience level which requires x and y to get to, I hit the mark - every time.

So here's my puzzle: how do I translate this into something I can use in my day to day life? How do I transfer how I work - clearly defined goals with definitive rewards and endpoints - into the non-clearly defined area of life?

I understand how to use the Second Star to the Right -the question is, what is there that makes steering for it so important?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Driving Stakes Through Our Hearts

I have been re-reading some of my farming/gardening/agricultural books since my enforced vacation - partially because it's that time of year and I need to be getting ready, but partially because I am trying to think ahead to a future which, even if a job comes through as it will, will require a constant frugality and undergirding structure. This cannot happen again.

As I do this, I am finding that it is almost physically painful for me to continue reading them after a certain point. Physically painful? Reading a book? Me? Something larger is going on here.

And then, at 0400 this morning when I woke up to drop The Ravishing Mrs. TB off at the airport, the thought popped into my head "Driving Stakes Through Our Hearts". It just hung there, like words on a computer screen, softly blinking on and off.

It hit me later in the afternoon, when I was reeling between ferrying children hither and yon: the stakes we drive through our hearts are the ones we drive through our dreams. That's why reading such things is painful to me, why thinking of such things is painful - because it represents the putting aside or potentially even the death of a dream.

But the funny thing - the thing I never thought of before - is that the only person who, in the end, can drive a stake through our dreams is ourselves. Sure, I can blame other people, circumstances, bad weather, a lack of good coffee - but the reality, if I stop and look at it for just a minute, is that in each and every case, the stake driven into my own heart was done with my one hand on the stake and the other on the hammer.

It's confidence - self confidence, the idea that no matter what the obstacles, if I put my mind to it I can do it. It's that lack of confidence, that fear, that makes one - me - feel like I must kill the dream for some sort of vague sense of security which, given my current circumstances, is shown to simply be as wispy as a light morning fog.

The question: If a stake can be removed, will the hole heal or will it simply be a damaged dream, unable to fully function again?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ready and Waiting

So we're ready for the bees. My father and I moved the bee yard (I guess I can say I have one of those now) from where it was, behind the upper pasture fence and under some trees, to out in front of the fence, in the sun. My hope is that removing them from under the trees will help to prevent some of the potential moth issues we've had in the past by not putting the bees directly under a resting place for the moths. We'll see. Mixed up syrup for feeding, got the other feeder sealed and ready.

It is still remarkably green at the Ranch, and the manzinita and buttercups are in bloom, so there is plenty of hope that there will be a strong nectar flow from Day one of their arrival.

Off to get the bees and install them tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Peer Into the Dark

Mulling my next steps.

I'm still continuing with the job search, of course. On the other hand, the reality is at this moment I've submitted 174 CVs very places, received 25 replies, only 3 interviews, and no offers. Even when I was using my outsourcing service and asked the question of suggestions, she simply said "It's a numbers game."

I hate numbers games.

Something on my own? An odd but interesting proposition. I've done this before of course, and failed spectacularly - but then again, not sure how much we actually treated it like a business. We were good at what we did, just not so good about tightly managing our money.

The thing of interest to me is that it actually has the power to get me excited, something which the job search is getting tougher and tougher to do. I had a spark of interest the last two days, looking at things, actually maybe dreaming, that kind of thing.

The other thing that is somewhat motivating is simply not being dependent directly on someone else. Yes, of course I know that in the end, someone has to buy whatever you're selling. But now, I am completely waiting for someone to control my employment destiny - and thus, my paycheck. And as recent events have shown, that can go away at moment's notice.

Nothing firm of course - but even planning has got to be more productive than some of the ways I'm spending my job search time right now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Frustration and Self Non-Belief

A sense of frustration and pointless activity fills my brain. The frustration stems from my notification that I would not be consideration for the job I interviewed for two weeks ago (a general frustration for the loss of the opportunity, not a specific frustration for the loss of the job - I truly think it would have created far more stress in my life). The pointless activity sense comes from the idea that I'm not doing something, or I'm not doing something enough, or there is some aspect that I am missing, that I should be doing.

An interesting thing happened last night as well. As I tried to deal with my frustration and pointless activity, a thought bounced through my head: How about your own business? Not even taking the time to think, I immediately myself over into some resources I had for reading, even starting to make a list of interests, etc. - right up to the point that my inner thought police (apparently) showed up and said "There's no way you can do this. Get real. Apply for more jobs. " And that was that.

The thing that surprised me is that the shut down occurred so quickly - almost as quickly as the trial balloon went up, it came crashing back down to earth.

I'm not arguing for or against my own business. What I am curious about is the almost immediate sense of "I can't do that" or "It just won't work" - as if what I am currently doing is somehow working so much more effectively.

Which wends its way back to belief in self.

I admire Otis in this. He has a towering (in the good sense) sense of belief in himself - certainly which is required given his line of business (sales), but in other things I know about him and his life. What he decides to do, he does. In that sense (so far as I can tell) he is very goal and results oriented. For example, when he decided to run he went out, got educated, got shoes, and started running. He's up to 4 miles every other day now.

Not so much me - partially I suspect because I am not in sales, so I have not had this goal/results combination (in my line of work, you work. Anything you accomplish is always seemingly subsumed into the giant collective and you get the 0.5% bonus once a year plus an occasional "Good Job" back pat.), but also partially because of a significant character impediment within myself - simply put, I've either not directly trained in the goal/result line of thinking or a sense that no matter what I try, it simply will either not work or will not make a difference.

How do I overcome this seeming character deficit? To succeed (in anything), you need to believe that you can. How does one generate the belief that one can? How does one sustain it?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

An Idle Thought

So I completed the "What Element are You" quiz on Facebook. This is my categorization for your perusal:

"Congratulations, friend! You are Aether, you rarest and most mystical of all the elements. Metaphysical, otherworldly, supernatural, whichever way you slice it, you are one special soul. Whereas other people have experienced the odd circumstance or random weird event, your life is defined by them. You rely heavily on an intuition that has hardly ever let you down. Sometimes your thoughts and dreams could be considered downright psychic. Having such a unique set of gifts comes at a price though. Mainly a two-way skepticism between yourself and just about everyone else in your world. Finding people who understand you becomes a daily internal struggle and one that follows you wherever you go. Since your element is one supposedly beyond earthly comprehension it is up to you (as well as others) to work to build a bridge of understanding. Your place in the world: You are the ethereal entity blessed (or cursed) with the task of opening the eyes of a closed-minded world to the world they have blinded themselves to."

Although, I would argue, I am an odd circumstance or random event all on my own...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I had a Buttercup moment last night (a Buttercup moment, for those unaware, is a moment where the beauty of the natural world pierces us with the glory of the God who created it. My friend Buttercup writes about them often - and a great deal better than I do).

I was out taking my cool down walk after running. We had rain during the day, so the night sky was overcast. I didn't think much about the sky overhead during my run or the walk after, when suddenly I chanced to look up. There, in almost a perfect break in the clouds, was the constellation of Orion, the Warrior. The clouds framed the stars perfectly: you could see the outline of his body with his arm raised and shield, but could not see his opponent to his left (Taurus, for those of you keeping track on Constellation Bingo). I turned off my music and just sat there, marvelling at the the fact that the clouds only revealed this one constellation totally to me at just the time I was walking around at night and of the God who could arrange all of this in its beauty.

Wow. Talk about your messages from Heaven.

No, there was no voice. But it was, I think, a message and reminder none the less.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Frustration II

Otis called me this afternoon. During our chat, I mentioned my earlier posting and lamented the fact of uncertainty, of not knowing six months from now what was going on. He pointed out "You know, we really don't know if we'll be here at all six months from now."

"Thanks", I replied. "I was trying to avoid any specific lessons from this, although I suppose I'll have to address them now." In that way, I'm much like Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes who tells Hobbes one day "I like my lessons drawn so specifically that I cannot generally apply them to my life."

But the obvious application is there - the one I skirted around this morning.

The reality is, almost everyone builds their lives on shifting sand, making plans based on what they think will happen. “I have certainty" we shout, having a job, a house, good health, money in the bank, and a coffee maker that works – and go around making 5, 10, or 30 year plans based on what we perceive as secure, our lives (and our morning coffee).

However, we build on shifting sands. This is not all there is - although we treat it as such. I laugh at the foolishness of putting in a garden for a house that I may leave – but do I also laugh at putting time and effort and money and resources into the things of this life which I also will leave?

It’s not that there is something wrong with building and planning and putting our resources away, it’s just where we put them.

Am I planting my garden for time, or for eternity?


I woke up this morning and realized something had left during the night.

My dreams.

It's a funny thing, to wake up and realize that you simply don't have anything you feel you should be working towards or attempting to achieve. Weird really, and completely not the way it's supposed to be.

So I thought some more. Where did these dreams go? And then I realized my real concern was not dreams, but frustration.

Being unemployed is frustrating on any number of levels, but one of the more subtle levels is that of losing your dreams and goals. Why? Because suddenly there is no platform to put them on. You have no idea where you will be, or when you will be working, or what the nature of your work will be and how consuming it will become between work, commute, and sleep. There's no sense in starting a grand project only to realize that through leaving or scheduling you can no longer complete it. All things fade into nonsensicality, waiting for the determining call that suddenly gives you the frame of reference to start restructuring your life. Anything you take in hand beyond one or two days simply becomes sand pouring through your fingers into the crashing waves.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The No-Entry Entry

So here it is, 6 days into April and almost 1.5 weeks since I last posted.


I don't really have a good answer. I could allude to busyness, or a lack of new developments, or even sheer laziness - but I don't know that any of those things would be true.

The reality is, there are times when it seems like you don't have a great deal to say - like the cauldron which is spewing forth ideas gets crusted over to the point that, like a magma chamber which will eventually (I suppose) burst forth in an eruption of words and thoughts and ideas.

You would think I would - I had a job interview last week that left me reeling with either the fear of not being hired, or the fear of being hired; of meeting with He Who Must Not Be Named who laid off the previous week; of going to a local job fair and seeing a line around the building for companies that were just talking and directing people to websites instead of taking resumes or having interviews; having a nice Friday of hiking Mt. Diablo and a Men's retreat.

But no - no sense to write about any of it. Just a sort of "Blah" when the thought comes around, as if there is nothing of significance to write on.

Significance. There's a word that's floated around in my head more than once during this period. If there is anything that being laid off for a period of time helps you realize, it is your relative lack of significance in an world that seems (shockingly) to continue along quite well without your presence, thank you very much. It also brings attention to what I spent my time on at work, performing my job. Just think: all the documents carefully handled according to systems, the audits, the training records filed away in the event of an audit - all of these are just taking up space somewhere in storage, ready for planned destruction or unplanned obsolescence, moldering on a box in a giant storage facility somewhere. Talk about your disincentives to continue in your field - or in a lot of them really, since so many are simply that: creating and managing products or records that will eventually (or not so eventually) pass into the night without a thought.

How do we more fully focus on what is significant when so much of what we do as a part of living in 21st Century America rails against it?