Friday, July 29, 2011

Truth and Honesty

Why do we fear honesty?

We claim we value honesty. We teach our children to be truthful and honest. We even have wise proverbs about truth and honesty: "Honesty is the best policy". As a society - perhaps even as a global one - we say that we want honesty and truth in every aspect of our communication and existence.

And yet time and time again, in our personal and professional lives, we are confronted by evidence that belies these words.

Honesty is hard. Truth is hard. To be honest and truth presumes that I have a level of comfort about myself - that I feel secure enough in who I am and what I am saying that I can weather the fact that someone else will not hear it - and a level of comfort in others - that my relationship with you (the singular you or plural you) is sufficiently that you trust me enough to hear the truth and at least accept it as it is given.

Do we also speak truth and honesty to those who we trust? Of course not. We often have to speak it to those who do not want to hear it, or do not care to contemplate the information. But that is their burden to bear, their failure to confront themselves. Their failure to accept the truth, to accept our honesty, says more about the illusions and masks of their own lives than us.

Are there palatable ways to do it? Of course. Presenting truth or being honest can be as much about how and why and where the truth is presented as it is the truth itself. In fact, the reaction to how it is presented may obscure the truth itself. It's akin to the difference of getting one's attention by touching them on the shoulder or giving them roundhouse punch: both will get their attention, but their response to it may be somewhat different.

Truth is a mirror-bright sword: To those who respect it, it is an object of honor and use. To those who are threatened by it, it is an object of fear.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moving Day

My office situation has changed.

As a result of monies suddenly becoming available, our office situation has been remodeled. Fear Beag and Fear Mor, who have sat in the room directly outside of mine since I started work here in New Home (almost two years now), have moved to an adjacent (but currently not connected area) behind my office. The room they are in is destined to become an archive facility.

It was odd as I worked away in my office during the afternoon hearing the sounds of moving occurring, the smell of cleaning supplies, the banter that always occurs after relocation: "This is incredibly gross!" and "So that's where that got to!" It was also odd to go into the new office and see them setting up in their new space with radio blaring away as they personalized and organized their space.

When most of their items were moved I sat there, working quietly away, occasionally stopping and listening to the silence, then working on. As I sat their listening, I felt the vague stirrings of something I had not contemplated: loneliness.

Not loneliness in the sense of being alone (good heavens, they're right next door and I'm sure I'll see them a great deal). It was a more profound loneliness, the loneliness being something other than the others are.

I have always prided myself on my ability to not be position or level conscious, that even as a manager I attempt (probably not always effectively) to have a relationship with my reports of primes inter pares; that is, first among equals. I'm ultimately responsible, but my opinion and my strategies are certainly not always the best - and I'm certainly no better than anyone that reports to me.

What I felt as I went in, watched them unpacking and settling into an environment which was theirs and not ours, was that sense of separation, that aloneness that seems to inevitably come when you are the manager of others, that in some ways (willing or unwilling) you exercise responsibility and power.

In many ways, my work relationships are my social relationships - I spend far more time there than I do anywhere else. For better or worse, those relationships have become my support network, my confidants, my daily reminders that people are kind and helpful even as they are silly.

I also wonder (in the back of my head) if some of this simply stems from the self-acknowledged fact that I want desperately to be liked, to feel like I am part of something, to please others . I want (desperately want) to feel as if I belong.

If I'm honest, I can remember this feeling as well at the previous company where Songbird and I worked, when I moved from the cube next to hers to an office. Nothing specifically changed - except I no longer enjoyed the close interaction I had with my colleagues, throwing wry comments or songs over the cube walls, or just rolling around the side to talk. Suddenly such interactions were effort and not as spontaneous; suddenly I was my boss, the guy in the office who wasn't intimately connected with the inner workings of the department but swooped in from the outside to see how things were going.

I'm sure this initial feeling will pass (especially if they put a door in), and things will be back to some semblance of normality soon. The general insanity and hilarity will ensue and it will seem (at some level) as if nothing has changed.

But I cannot hide that as of yesterday, I seem to have heard the "click" of a chapter in my work and personal life closing deep in my soul, one I suspect will not reopen in the way it previously was.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Using Our Gifts

How do we use our abilities in comparison to how God thinks we should use our abilities?

I was reflecting on this as I wandered through my evening drive home and thinking a bit more about Amy Winehouse (see here for the specifics). We are all given talents: how do we use them?

I can only speak fully for myself, but I wonder if I have ever taken a moment to truly reflect on the talents (call them gifts if you like) that I have been given, how I am using them, and how God would want me to use them.

I'll take writing as the easy example. In my writing I do - here, on two manuscripts, journaling - is it done in such a way that God is glorified, or is just about recognition (or self absorption) about me?

Or take music, something which I've done off and on throughout my life. Now it's an ancillary activity to other things, but at one time I did it regularly (whether through a worship team or as a musical duo). The gift is still there - but I am truly using it at all, let alone in the way that God intended?

It's not enough to view the tragedy of wasted talent and selfishly exploited gifts in the lives of others - what are we doing about it ourselves? Are we truly using them in ways that glorifies God, or are wasting them on ourselves, simply in less overtly destructive ways.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clutching Our Talent To Ourselves

I have been contemplating the death of Amy Winehouse this week.

(I know, it's unlike me to contemplate any sort of social or entertainment related event. Stick with me.)

The media is in the typical post-media death fashion is wringing its hands in concern, wondering how such a "fine young talent" could be whisked away at such a young age, comparing her to other musical stars who also died at 27 (interestingly, it is only music stars. No world famous archaeologists die at 27?). The usual parades of minor stars and second level experts sit on the TV screen, expressing their opinions about why this happened, how she (probably) was doing better, and what this means for the music industry.

I did not know Miss Winehouse's music, and would scarcely be able to pull her out of a line up of similar looking women. I have it on good authority (whom I believe) that she was a unique talent. She was, that I can see, an attractive looking young woman. Barring drugs, she undoubtedly had a wonderful future.

But a wasted one. Her talent is forever silenced (her first album was in 2003; a mere 8 years of stardom), her life's song sung. Wasted (I use that term advisedly) on an addiction that promised more than, in the end, it was able to deliver.

But are we any better with the use of our talents?

The reality is that each of us has also been gifted with any number of talents by God, things that we can do that few can in a way no-one can. But are we any better about using those talents in a way that glorifies God than the deceased Miss Winehouse?

Sure, we can state we don't lose ourselves in chemical dependence or overtly self destructive behaviour. But we can lose ourselves in lesser things: pursuing that which is of no value, gratifying our own pleasures rather than using them for God's glory, laying them to the side because we don't like our gifts and wish we have others, simply selling out for something we think is better. These are societally acceptable ways to do things; they do not make us any less culpable of failing to use our talents.

Pay thought to Miss Winehouse; her soul is as valuable as any others. But before you condemn here to harshly for not appreciating what she had been given, look to your own soul and talents and how you are using them. Can we truly say we are any better?

Monday, July 25, 2011


This is my 1000th post.

Who'd have thought I would have gotten this far?

When I started this endeavor a little over 6 years ago (11 July 2005) I don't know that I really had any idea what I was attempting to do. I had some idea that this would be a place for me to post thoughts and ideas, but I was thinking (at the time) that this would mostly be around political and theological themes. Those (at least the politics) seem to have fallen off pretty quickly, as due to what was going on in my life (I never really seemed to find the energy or time to write them) as well as the fact that discussing anything political tends to obscure people from hearing your message.

Instead, what has evolved over time is a running log of my life and internal thoughts. There is some theology (I sometimes wish there was more, and that I could write more mightily about it) and some gardening and bees and occasionally haikus, but what it really seems to have turned into is a form of online personal journal of self discovery.

This is not an unwelcome development, just somewhat unexpected.

I've had some wonderful unexpected triumphs as well - introducing new writers to the blogsphere (Otis, Vintage Chick, Songbird, even Nighean Gheal), getting the unexpected readers as well (my father, of all people?), even occasionally making the sort of internal personal discovery that one covets but scarcely seems to be able to make.

All in all, a good thing.

What have I learned? Commitment, for one thing. With the exception of my college degree and education, I don't think I have ever been this consistent on doing anything over a long period of time.

Ability to express myself, for another. I think (I hope) I have been able to learn to better express my thoughts in a written medium. Certainly those that read can readily tell when I am happy, depressed, etc. As I can express better, I believe myself to be a far better writer than when I started this venture.

My cycles as well. I'm reliably informed by readers of this blog that they tell on a fairly regular basis where I am on my typical cycle of depression/non-depression. The fact that I am an apparently known cycler is good; now I just need to deal with the cycle.

Where do I go from here? I don't anticipate doing anything differently. I'll be posting here tomorrow same as always, staring at the keyboard around 0615 wondering what I'll be writing about.

But for one brief day, I'm not going to think about that. I reached a milestone today.

Happy 1000 to me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Visit With Guilt

As I crawled into the family room after too little sleep to do my morning calisthenics, the light clicked on. Guilt was sitting on the couch, waiting for me.

I didn't have any spirit. I grunted in her general direction and sort of collapsed on the floor to start push-ups.

She apparently had been up long before I had: she was showered, dressed, and had a cup of coffee in her hand as she watched me, nose on the carpet, ready to start.

"I talked with Confusion yesterday. He said he'd already been by" she chirped brightly as she raised the cup of caffeinated goodness to her lips.

"Umm" I responded, promptly losing count. Maybe I was on 15. I didn't know.

Let's call it 15.

"He said you had a good conversation but based on his relation of the conversation, I thought it might be time for me to stop by and chat with you" she continued, watching me again contemplate the floor from 3 inches away.

Sigh. I finally got up as apparently she was not going to be satisfied with less than acknowledgement.

She smiled brightly at me again as I sat down on the couch.

I gestured open handed towards her to begin.

She simpered. "Oh nothing really - just that Confusion mentioned you were wondering about things and directions, and of course that means thinking about you and what
you wanted to do versus your roles and responsibilities you have in your life. You know me - you're never really doing enough, or you're never really doing it correctly." She smiled brightly at me again as she took another sip of coffee. "I thought I'd stop by and we could talk it through."

I looked at her with a cocked eyebrow. "Talk it through?"

She smiled condescendingly. "You know, the whole 'I want to do things I enjoy and live my life' versus 'I need to do the things that I am doing because that's what I'm supposed to do'. You really need to focus on your responsibilities and being stable and reliable."

My eyebrow remained cocked. "What if I don't care for any of it?"

She smiled again. "You're not supposed to 'care' for any of it. You're supposed to do it. That's the beauty of being me" - here she smiled again - "it's not what you do, it's how you feel about it that matters. And mostly I'm here to make you feel guilty about whatever it is you're doing - or not doing."

I sat there thinking about it as she sipped away on her coffee. "Wait a minute" I said. "What you're saying is that no matter what I do, you're here to insure I feel guilty?"

She sighed. "Silly boy, it's not anything you do, generally it's only things you do that are not in line with your responsibilities. Well, I mean you should feel guilty about those too - but only that you're not doing enough on those. The others, it would be ideal if you felt guilty that you either spending too much time on them versus your responsibilities or your spending not enough time on them. But it's best, of course, if you simply just felt guilty."

"So there's no winning here for me?" I asked, somewhat confused but somehow feeling totally defeated.

"Of course not" she replied brightly. She looked at her watch, then stood up. "This has been simply fabulous. A wonderful talk, but I've got to get on. I have aerobics with Depression and Anger at 0600, and you know how they are if you're not on time.

"Oh" she said as stopped at the arm of couch, looking at me slumped in a confused defeat. "You didn't do your full round of push-ups. You're slacking off. You should feel guilty about that." And with that she flounced off humming "Let's Get Physical", leaving me in the morning darkness holding her empty coffee cup and the impending weight of all I needed to do - but couldn't or wouldn't get to.

Odd - I was feeling guilty about it all...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perfect Placement

I'd forgotten the joy of living with a watering system you have to move.

Simply put, I got lazy. In Old Home, the watering system was installed and on a timer. All I needed to do was, well, nothing. Replace batteries, possibly, and sit and listen to the sound of the sprinklers engaging at 0630 in the morning.

Fast forward to New Home, where the sprinklers are not installed and watering is moved about on a MHU (Mobile Human Unit), i.e. me.

Due to the continuing lack of precipitation in our area, we have limited watering hours and days as well. Therefore, on my allotted days I trudge out to the front or back either as soon as I get home or early in the morning and drag hose and sprinkler around to cover my "zones" and insure everything has the minimum amount of water required to keep it going through (hopefully) the next big rain, which should have happened two months ago.

The area that gives me the most hassle is that in the very front of my yard, where the yard and street intersect. There's always a careful balance between getting right to the edge of the lawn and overlapping into the street. One doesn't want to water too much into the street (lest one appears a water hog), yet one doesn't want to water too far away from it, because the edge of the water will not fall to the edge of the lawn and I'll lose the grass I have so painfully tried to save.

It's about Perfect Placement: the placement of the sprinkler at just the right position so that everything gets watered without too much waste.

But (and there's always a but with me), the same is true of life.

Much of what we call "time management" is simply a non-corporeal version of watering our lawns. We attempt to move the sprinkler of our lives in such a way that we try to cover everything yet don't waste too much time on the street of wasted effort, where such time just rolls down into the storm drain (and thence, wherever used time flows to). We think the difficulty is that we have to get that perfect placement to cover everything and insure it gets hit with the sprinkler.

The reality is that (much like my lawn) getting perfect placement for large coverage is always going to be a bit beyond our ability. We'll always either be a bit too much on one, or a bit too little on another, or maybe miss a patch altogether as we busily move the sprinkler around our lawns, trying to ensure everything stays green.

I wonder (mostly to myself) if we've missed the boat a bit.

There are three ways to ensure full coverage of a lawn (or our time):
1) Install an automatic system;
2) Make sure our placement is perfect each and every time we water;
3) Get a smaller lawn.

We often shoot for 1 or 2. Automation is the key to everything - and if not, the key is to figure a system to ensure we get everything just enough to keep it alive. We don't often consider 3 - get a smaller lawn.

Smaller lawns, like smaller gardens or small circles of time use, allow us to lavish attention on them rather than have to rush through watering or trying to get "just enough" water on them. Likewise, when we focus ("The noble are of not getting things done" - Yutang Lin) what we often find is those things are actually richer and more fruitful that our scattered efforts to ensure that everything stays somewhat green. With the same amount of care and water, one can have a beautiful yellow rose bush (HT Vintage Chick) or an acre of weeds. The effort is the same; it's the space and amount that are different.

I'm off to move water again. Interestingly, the places I use the smaller sprinkler grown better than the ones with the larger sprinkler. Volume of water on the space, I think.

Maybe there really is something there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How I Work

I realized last night the way I have worked through my whole life.

The thought occurred to me as I was (finally) at home having eaten dinner, fed the rabbits and dog, and generally taken care of everything that I needed to do. I was feeling happy that I had finally arrived at "my time" of the day, the time where I get to do the things that I love and enjoy.

And then it suddenly hit me in the midst of doing them: this is how it has always been.

I was relatively good at school, through an undeserved combination of some degree of intelligence and interest. I excelled, but that's not what I think about as I review those years. What I think about instead was the things that I did after school: role playing games, running around in the woods, music, reading, drama, dreaming, being with friends. School was simply something (a large something, to be sure) that I had to endure in order to get to the things that I enjoyed. Learning was (and is) a joy, but it is not directly connected in my mind with the 8 hour school day spread over 20 years. It was the things after school that I lived for.

And that is the habit I learned.

Suddenly it makes sense to me why I continue to do things (careerwise) that I don't really enjoy but endure: because I have learned that work is something you simply plow through in order to get to the parts of your life (seemingly precious and seemingly little) that you really do care about and enjoy. In fact, you probably shouldn't have any expectation of enjoying the largest expenditure of time in your life; it's just something you need to get through.

It flows over into every area of my life: my relationships, my eating habits (I tend to plow through food in order to get to the stuff I really like, generally dessert), even sometimes my viewing habits (go through the parts of the movie or book I sort of tolerate in order to get to the scenes I like).

So what do I do with that?

I'm not really sure. There are hints around the edges that this is a serious obstacle, one that if properly handled could actually make a significant change in my life and how I view and participate in work. The difficulty is that I'm not really sure how to do it (although to be fair, the problem has only been identified for the last 12 hours).

How do I change my view of what must be done versus what I want to do when I have spent my whole life looking at it in one way?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Be Still

I find myself in the unusual position of being at peace. Given me, I'm sure it's a temporary thing.

I start by blaming Silverline. It was her suggestion yesterday. "Instead of worrying and stretching and reaching about things" she intoned, "why don't you just take a mental break from everything. See what happens."

Take a break. Hhmph. Relax. Hhmph.

I am by nature a worrier - and not necessarily the most brilliant one in the world. Add to that the fact that more often than not I am also unhappy about vast swaths of my life (commonly known as "work") and you can see that this is counter intuitive to almost everything I do on a daily basis.

But I had nothing to lose, right? So yesterday, I didn't try about those things. I went, I worked away from one task to the next, I came home, I worked on my Iaido and my mandolin, walked the dog, read a bit and went to bed.

The odd thing is that the day passed (as all days do) even though the only thing that I had changed was my striving and worrying. Nothing significantly improved. A suitcase of money did not hit me on the head as I was driving home. My dream career did not give me a Monday morning casting call.

But yet, I was at peace.

I wonder (as I often do) if it is at moments like these that God slaps His forehead in frustration and says "I've been telling him that all along. He wouldn't listen to me?"

Because I suppose that in a real sense, that's Christ talks about when He said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you" or "Sufficient for the day is it's own troubles." That God truly is in control, and that we need to spend less time worrying and being frenetically busy and more time simply doing and seeking Him.

The Psalmists seem to have grasped this particularly well. As I read through them now (as I do this time every year) the message that keeps coming through is the power of God, the presence of God, and the plans of God. As He said to the psalmist in Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God." He is ultimately in control, and all my worrying or carrying on or frenzied running in place accomplishes precisely nothing with Him willing it so.

So I will try this again today: No worry. No allowance for stress. No frenzied plans. I will go about my day working and then coming home and doing other things.

I will be still, and know that God is God.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Life As An '80's Song

I've been considering adding another category to my life: My Life Sounds Like An 1980's Song.

Music is one of those things which I wish I understood better. I play and can read music, but I scarcely understand the hold music has on our brains: music is one of the senses which, by hearing something, has the ability to catapult us back in time to where and when we were when we heard that song. It's a sort of time machine, captured in 3 minute sections.

(As an interesting side note, the sense of smell also has this ability with me).

In being transported back to those times - which for me were high school and college - I am, of course, transported back to a simpler time (virtually no responsibilities) and probably a more ignorant time (dear Lord, why didn't I think more about a career?) - which is probably natural for anyone that age. I am also transported, through that music, to a time and place where I was different person in so many ways.

In listening to the music today, I wonder if really listened to or heard what the music said.

80's music (for the uninitiated) was not some great source of inspirational, life changing lyrics and tunes (Rush fans may argue differently, but they have their own issues). If I had to make vague generalizations (really generalized) I would find their themes around 1) Love and 2) Freedom (Yes, I'm sure there were plenty of sexually related songs there but not nearly what exists currently). The here and now was paramount; the later was not really paid mention to.

I listened to a wide variety of "rock" music (now characterized as "Classical Rock"), with favorites probably being Styx, Journey, Foreigner, Areosmith, Night Ranger, Queen and a large smattering of others (Van Halen (original), Scorpions, Hagar, The Cars, and numerous one hit wonders).

But looking back, now, I wonder what song my life has become.

Is it a soulful rock ballad of love, or of love lost? Hardly an uber-pumped up song about living life on the extreme, or being a man of action.

Hmmm. For wistful music, maybe "When You Close Your Eyes (Do You Dream About Me)?" by Night Ranger or "Once in a Lifetime" by The Talking Heads. "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar, or perhaps "Blue Collar Man" by Styx (Close runners up: "Long Way From Home" by Foreigner or "High Time" by Styx).

A far cry indeed from the music I thought spoke to me the most.

However I would like believe that, buried beneath this exterior of responsibility and duty, there exists that young man whose heart still races across the sunshine of endless fields of adventure, blood pumping to the thought of the here and now and all that the world has yet to offer, instead of what has been.

Kickstart My Heart indeed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Work Things I Don't Want To Do Again

Work Things I Don't Want To Do Again

1) I don't want to manage people again. I like working with people as friends and colleagues, not as a supervisor.

2) I don't want to have my life's work to be categorized by paperwork in a box which occasionally gets pulled out, looked at, and then returned.

3) I don't want to spend my time working on things which are doomed to fail but no-one has the courage to admit it.

4) I don't want to be put in the position of being responsible for tasks no-one cares about but everyone expects to be done.

5) I don't want to work on things that do not, somewhere, have an impact in a good way on the lives of others.

6) I don't want to work where there is a lack of vision.

7) I don't want to work where management is glorified at the expense of those who do the work.

8) I don't want to work (if I can) where the reporting structure is much above me.

9) I don't want to work where I wake up every morning with a sense of doom about the fact I have to go to the job I have.

10) I don't want to not take pride in what I do or where I work.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

With Whom Do We Spend Our Time?

"Just as water will conform to the shape of the vessel that contains it, so will a man follow the good and evil of his companions." - Imagawa no Ryoshun, The Regulations of Imagawa Ryoshun

How carefully do we pay attention to our friends and associates?

This is something that we often pay attention to in our youth - often at the insistence of our parents, no doubt - but as time and independence comes, we tend to note this less and less.

Some of this is simply forced on us - in adulthood, we often spend a great deal of time at work with individuals with whom we would probably not otherwise spend time - but some of this is perhaps caused by the fact that with less time, we simply become more concerned with spending time with anyone rather than being as selective as we used to be about with whom we spend our time.

But the reality is the same: we most often tend to adopt the mores and attitudes of those around us.

Do we pay attention to this as we should? Are we becoming better - or worse - by the associations we spend our time with - and are we as conscious of them as we should be?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Other Options

I am tentatively - and cautiously - thinking of other options.

Over the course of the last three weeks, I've had two separate incidents - one in industry, one out - that have indicated closed doors and at least two more that through careful consideration, also suggest that there is no way forward in those areas. There are truly paths that, once turned aside from, cannot be regained.

So I'm starting to think in other directions.

I tentatively - very tentatively - brought the subject up last night with The Ravishing Mrs. TB (great thing to jump someone with right after they return, no?). "What sort of thing?" was her response? "I've no idea" I replied. "I didn't get that far".

The thing that I expressed to her - and continues to chase my conscious - is the sense of direct uncertainty I have, of having little control in the event something goes wrong - like the Layoff, merely staring into the headlight of the engine as it plows you over.

Perhaps some of the reason I'm frustrated is that I keep trying to repackage old ideas as new ones rather than setting that box aside and looking for others.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Storm and Silence

Last day of silence before the storm - An Teaglach returns tonight.

I am, of course, terribly pleased. A little separation is never a truly bad thing (although I'd argue that the 3 months when I first moved to New Home was a little much), but I still miss them all terribly when they're not around (having written this, I will of course regret it the first time the sound tsunami appears).

It's been good, of course - as all my silent time are. Lots of thinking time, lots of reading time, even some time to do thing that I have needed to do.

What it has reminded me of is the fact that without reflection, without the ability and time to read and think and ponder, I am far less than I could be.

(And sleep of course, but I seem unable to control that...)

I am by nature an introvert - although to see me in a social setting where I feel comfortable you would find it hard to believe. Introverts tend to recharge not when they're surrounded by people and activity but when they are silent and isolated or with a small group. Without this time - literally for myself, but I suppose others benefit as well - I become less of what I am capable of. I think less, I reflect less, I simply feel less wise (and I'd argue that my best writing always occurs during or after such periods).

It's simply the way it is.

That said, I need to acknowledge that and accept it. It will mean inconveniences for some others (and probably less sleep, I'm guessing), but truly is the only way that I personally seem to be able to excel and grow.

All hail the return of An Teaglach - and the realization that through silence and thinking comes the best me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Waiting on God

When was the last time I waited - really waited - upon God?

The thought was started yesterday by a comment made by our pastor in his sermon: "Often I have found that a 'No' from God really means 'Not yet'." That thought percolated itself throughout Sunday, into Sunday night and through a restless sleep and dreams until it was the first thing that popped into my head when the alarm went off.

When have I waited? Too often - most often - I haven't. I've been in too much of a rush, impatient to have it "now" because I'm afraid I won't have it at all, or believing that I am entitled to all that I comes into my head and seems reasonable, or simply not accepting that a "No" now means anything other than a "No" permanently.

And what has this gotten me? Except for the grace of God, not much. I can look back now from the perspective of years and see that in fact most of the need to have it now has only resulted in it either disappearing altogether or remaining in a stunted form. I write this not out of regret for the bad decisions (they can't be unmade now anyway) but simply from a sense of observing the results in my life.

I didn't want to wait to be able to afford a new house, but I got one - and ended up losing it. I didn't want to wait (have never, really) for a job situation to clearly evidence itself that it was time to move on - and have missed out on the opportunity to profit from them, as well as (eventually) having them lead to New Home. I didn't want to wait to start a business based on real facts, so I went ahead and did it - and lost a great deal of money and a friendship in the bargain.

There are other things as well - things far more personal, things that shouldn't be out on the Web. Suffice to say that these, too, bear the hallmark of a failure to wait and attendant results.

If I stop and think about it, what have I truly waited on God for? Not much, I'm afraid. There are occasions - the job that brought us to New Home, for example - but I can't think of many. And there are those situations - like a position of leadership I tried to patiently wait for - that simply were answered by "No".

So what are the takeaways here?

The first, I think, is that the past proves the present. I haven't waited, and much of the issues of my own life have been created by my inability to either wait or accept a "No" as "Not Yet". Part of this is my own perspective - thinking I must do everything and have everything now, instead of viewing life through the lens of eternity. But part of this as well is simply admitting that I have not waited.

The second is simply to start waiting upon God. Have I truly taken the time to make my concerns and dreams and desires known? That accomplished, am I then ready to simply wait upon God for His response?

The third is if I am willing to train myself to change my thinking, to realize that "No" may really mean "Not Yet". Or maybe it truly means "No". Either way, I still need to modify what and how I think and act.

The first of half of my life not waiting has not worked out as well as one might have hoped. Perhaps the perspective I need is not to try harder, but simply to wait and watch - patiently.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Iaido by Morning

I have been working my forms in the morning.

One of the things that I realized from the change in my schedule is that my Iaido time was become compressed: I was either too tired to do it, or I always found other things I had to do. My solution became to split my time: some in the morning, some in the evening. And so now, somewhere between 0640 and 0715, you'll find me in the backyard practicing Iaido,

Practicing Iaido outside, in the morning, is an entirely different exercise than practicing in the dojo or even inside. The temperature is the first thing that grabs my attention as I head out - outside is not quite as climate controlled as the circumstances I usually practice in. The next thing I notice is the sounds: at class, the only sounds are the sensei's instructions, the quiet shuffling of feet, the "clack" of bokken as they meet in practice. Outside is a different story: the birds sing in the trees (the chirping of small songbirds, the more mournful cry of doves), perhaps a late lingering bat flutters by seeking one last meal, the local dog population raises the alarm, a squirrel chatters away in a tree nearby.

As I move through the forms, I am confronted by reality: the ground is not level and so I sometimes lurch to one side or the other and I cannot execute turns as smoothly as I would like; a low branch can catch an kesa giri cut as I try to bring it down; an upturned stone can turn an advance into a stumble.

But in all of this difference, I find the reminder that once again, Iaido mirrors life.

Too often we practice and live in a controlled bubble, a series of events and encounters that we attempt to manipulate such that we are always at an advantage. The reality is that we life in a world over which we can control very little. We cannot control the weather, other people, the actions of things and peoples thousands of miles away.

But what we can do is control ourselves. Iaido mirrors this in the kata: by constantly practicing, we internalize our actions and reactions, thus preparing ourselves for the event that we will have to use them in the series of events we call life. To the extent that our practice mirrors more and more of the real world, so we will be more able to control our actions as we confronted by the events we cannot control.

And so I practice, moving in the morning dawn to the sound of birds, practicing and gaining confidence in that which I can control: myself.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Another epiphany driving home today. What I crave: Independence.

Through my recent up and downs of work, of the previous times of looking for work and waiting, even at The Firm, one thing which suddenly jumped out at me was how dependent I was and am: dependent on my current employer, dependent on people to make decisions, dependent on the good will and grace of others to make my daily living.

For my current position, in one of the best interviews I ever had, the individual told me "I'm independently wealthy so I don't need this job. I'm here because I want to be here. I have no problems telling truth, because I don't need the job."

But for myself (and many like me) our jobs have become a series of of uncertainties - not based only on the financial health of the company or how hard we work, but the personal opinions and constructs and bad decisions of others which can - at a moment - put our jobs at risk.

I don't want independence purely for the sake of making money. I want independence for the purpose of not having my own and my family's financial future (and therefore, our future) put at the mercy of individuals or companies.

But waiting to become independent by being dependent is no more successful than saving your way to wealth without investing. It won't work.

So perhaps for me, the better question to ask is not "How can I find a new job?" (when that time comes) as "What can I do to build independence?"

This is a road I have scratched at the start of many times, even taken tentative steps with The Firm, but never really advanced down. Why? Because of a lack of knowledge and fear: a lack of knowledge of what to do and how to do it, a fear that I will fail.

The knowledge can be remedied (all knowledge gaps can). As for the fear, what's worse: the fear of something that could happen, or the daily nagging fear that constantly looms over my head?

Does independence fix that fear entirely? No, of course not - but I believe it at least offers a sense of control, the very thing that seems beyond my grasp at the moment.

I have spent a lifetime surrendering control. It's time to get a little of it back.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


What steals the call of action from one's life?

By 14:00 yesterday, any benefits or any sense of refreshment I had from my vacation had been stripped away, replaced by the dull combination of duty, fear and dispiritedness that had marked me before I left. Any sense of making progress, any sense of doing more, any hint of that greater beyond was wiped away.

How can this be? I came back from vacation motivated and ready; within 48 hours, life is just as I left it.

Is it circumstances? Yes, partially. Like it or not, our environment has a distinct impact on what we believe and feel to be possible. Landing somewhere which debilitates one's sense of action, of possibility, makes action feel superfluous and imitative a joke.

But surely this cannot be explained by circumstances alone? Plenty of individuals throughout history have overcome their circumstances through action.

If that is the case, then surely inside of me there resides some flaw, some character trait that persuades me against action, or robs me of hope and the ability to even begin. What is this flaw? I really (really, really) wish I knew what this flaw was. It has dogged my steps from childhood, throughout my schooling, throughout my career to where I am today.

To begin, one needs to believe that action will create results, that there is an end and goal which is possible, no matter how difficult. Without such confidence one is left with a series of false starts that lead at best to failure, at worst to nowhere.

Where does one find such confidence?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Inner and Outer Attention

As I had the luxury of letting thoughts roll and percolate through my brain this week, I came to the realization that I am too often a person of appearance, not of substance.

The genesis of this thought was a sermon three weeks ago by a guest pastor to our church, one which serves our local university base. He made the point that the current college generation is one which offers "zebra kisses" - their own way of showing affection or desiring attention, which is often mistaken by those to whom it is offered as something other than what it is.

As this sermon followed me home and around as I went on my vacation, I went one step further. It's not just that zebra kisses are misunderstood, it's the nature of what those are intended to communicate - and with whom.

I believe we have allowed the need for significance and self esteem within our own society to become so pervasive, so overpowering, that we have created a culture where being seen and recognized - however that occurs - is the most important thing on anyone's agenda. Everyone's opinion must be heard, everyone must be noticed.

I am a man of occasional flair. I do things occasionally which draw attention to myself. But why am I drawing this attention to myself? Is it because I am truly different? Or is it because I need the attention and the visual cues are the only way for me to get it.

I compare myself in this sense to a young lady of my acquaintance who dresses and acts differently - but this difference is simply an outflow of who she is, not an affected mannerism chosen to get the attention of others.

There is attention which comes from who you are, and attention that comes from how you appear. Attention coming from who you are is far more difficult to engage. It means that one has to be a person of accomplishment, of character, of being something beyond merely the outward manifestation of the unusual or noticeable.

In a sense, attention from how you appear is merely the shortcut on the road to accomplishment, something easily engaged in but having little substance and little staying power. My concern is that this sort of thing is fleeting, but often the consequences ride along with us for life. It also creates something of an addiction: the desire for attention becomes stronger, so even more noticeable behavior or appearance must be engaged in to continue to maintain the interest.

I'm not against flamboyance. I'm not against the unusual. I'm not against the noticeable. What I am against is it becomes the only reality of our souls; instead of flowing out of us, it defines us from the outside in.

As I have said, recognition from accomplishment is far more difficult. It's also much less likely of a guarantee of immediate notice: a tattoo sprawled up my arm and around my neck is almost always noticeable, while the quiet accomplishment of a task and the resulting expertise is much less so. However, a history of quiet accomplishment will eventually lead somewhere; the tattoo will fade.

Will I still wear my kilt or kimono on random occasions? Absolutely. But I will seek to become someone from whom such behavior flows as a part of who they are, not the total of who they are; the notice which comes from being competent and skilled, not the notice that comes from merely appearing.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Peace and Action

"If we really believe things, we will do what it takes to make them happen. Otherwise we're just playing games." - Joel Salatin

A wonderful week away - by far, the best (or at least most relaxing) vacation I have had in many years. A good mix of activities, between seeing family, wandering around the Ranch, visiting the state's historic Gold mining areas, and driving through parts of some very old family history. For the first time in a long time, I have returned from being away refreshed and renewed.

And quietly energized.

I had my usually eclectic mix of books in my bag as I left: A History of Japan 1334-1615 by George Sansom, Holy @$%& by Gene Logsdon (a wonderful book, but I'll leave you to look up the title), The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin, The Christian Tradition: The Spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy by Jaroslav Pelikan, and The Farmstead Creamery Advisor by Gianaclis Caldwell. I had the good fortune to get through them, and the better fortune to not have to start re-reading any of them (the greatest of all possible sins while traveling). Reading them covered my varying areas interests, nourishing that part of my soul that does not dwell in the 9-6 of my daily existence.

But perhaps the most inspiring thing of all the trip was to see what my parent's renter, Young J, has done with the Ranch. He's completed putting up fence. He's brought in cattle. When we left Sunday morning, he was out stringing more fencing.

And then, flying home yesterday, I suddenly realized I was at peace.

I am at peace, whether called to remain here in New Home or to return to Old Home.

But being at peace does not mean being at rest.

No matter what the future brings or does not bring, no matter what peace I am feeling at the current moment, the reality is that there is much to do in my own life before I am truly "at rest". For me so often, this easily gets thrust aside as I fail to see the long term for the short term, to get caught up in the "must do's" and forget those longer term dreams, the real "must do's".

But as Salatin says, unless we act on what we believe in to make it happen, we are really just playing games in our own mind.

Failure Day is coming up in a month. In a month, I should have a greater sense of what the future - my future - holds. Based on that, and the peace for any decision, I can go forward.

But I must go forward. Peace is not rest. Quiet joy is not inertia.

I am at peace - but there is still much to be done.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

All I Needed To Know for the Coming Year I Learned On My Vacation

1) A surprising number of people don't like their career choices - even people you'd think otherwise.

2) Ready or not, the passing of the torch to the next generation is here.

3) The water may look the same, the surroundings may look the same, but you really cannot step into the same river twice.

4) If your job cannot change, you have to.

5) There are advantages and disadvantages to being everywhere.

6) History has a stronger pull than one knows.

7) Lives drift apart, no matter the best intentions.

8) Children grow up faster than you realize.

9) The Earth really does abide.

10) Sometimes the rains without end allow flowers to bloom that no-one knew were there.

Friday, July 01, 2011


My history stalks these hills.

It stalks the hills where I drove with The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Nighean gheal yesterday as we went to the town that my great-great-grandfather arrived and settled in when he came in 1850 for the Old Home Gold Rush, to the remnants of the ranch he built and the mines he and his descendants worked. It followed on the road down to the canyon as we drove the (often) one car wide trail one of my great-uncles walked as went to build a cable bridge with planks hewn and carried down by hand.

Driving up two ridges over, it sang in the pine and oak covered canyons that carry the river southwest as the sun pours overhead in the blue early evening sky. The air is redolent with the smell of pine and tarweed that I remember from my youth.

Before the drive, we visited the old family cemetery, where three generations of my relatives are buried. It's on a hillside surrounded by pine trees with none of the usual grass and wide spaces we so often associate with graveyards today. The headstones are all in great shape (there's little fear of bad things happening there) and I can go down the rows, naming most of the relatives and their relationship to our family. It gives a sense of linkage, of purpose, of memories of my own childhood coming up every Memorial Day weekend to care for our dead.

I love this land - love it in a way that is not necessarily rational or communicable to those that have never walked on it, never been on it, never visited the graves of their forebears that lived and died there.

Wherever I go, wherever I wander, the red iron dirt is ground into my bones.