Saturday, December 31, 2016

On Fulfillment and Bracing

"The right shot at the right moment does not come because you do not let go of yourself. You do not wait for fulfillment but brace yourself for failure." 
- Master Awa Kenzo (Zen in the Art of Archery)

My last parting shot for accomplishment for this year past and this year coming derives from the above statement in Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery.  Herrigel, who lived for several years in Japan in the 1920's studied kyudo (The Way of the Bow) as part of his quest to understand Zen.  His text chronicles the process he went through to achieve both mastery of the bow and mastery of Zen.  

I had read the book some years ago when I got it but picked it up again to fill a few hours during the holiday.  What I never saw before leaped out at me (always the way with the greatest of books, there is something new to be discovered).  The most prominent of them is the above quote.

"You do not wait for fulfillment but brace yourself for failure."  How often and how much this is true in my own life.  How many times have I picked up something - with the thought in my mind that it is not going to go well?  How many times - more true now than ever, it seems - have I started something with the thought in the back of my head that this is ultimately going to go nowhere, to end up as a waste of time and energy? 

I subconsciously knew this.  But the Master's quote put it all into perspective.  I can now see myself, every time, bracing myself for failure rather than waiting for success (fulfillment, if you will).

How do I overcome this?  The Master in Herrigel's book gave suggested the sort of thing a Zen master might:  Herrigel must learn to do things purposelessly and aimlessly.  Only by letting going of himself - by not trying specifically to hit the target with the arrow - will he learn to hit the target with the arrow.

Alas, I am no Zen student and purposelessness and aimlessness are not things that I can readily apply to my daily life.  What I can manage - and in some small way perhaps this is what is being gotten at - is worrying less about the result and more about simply doing my best.

This does not obliterate the need for practice and hard work of course, nor does it suggest that I should not be aiming for something (even the Master acknowledged that ultimately they were shooting at a target).  What it does mean is that I need to be less concerned with the final results before the final result comes:  in other words, waiting for fulfillment (achievement, accomplishment) instead of bracing myself for the failure I have so often felt was inevitably going to come.  If I just changed these two expectations, what would things be like?

I am not sure that this resolves the whole issue.  What I am sure of is that we never "brace" ourselves for something good - and if that is what we find ourselves doing all the time, something needs to change.

Friday, December 30, 2016

On Control and Choosing Goals

One of the things that has confronted me in terms of my goals and what I have and have not accomplished is how I am deciding on them, specifically on what I am able to control.

This has become a shining beacon as I look through past years and see what I have and have not achieved.  Essentially, anything that is 100% in my control can get achieved (e.g.the only thing that stands between myself and the goal is my effort or lack thereof).   As the goals move less and less under my control - say on a gamut from spending (which is partially under my control) to finding a new job (over which I exercise a very limited amount of control) the success level also becomes less and less.

This puts me in a rather unfortunate paradox:  on the one hand I can choose things which will I have the greatest likelihood of accomplishing, on the other hand some things which truly need to be accomplished are not necessarily the sort of thing that I have 100% control over.  

So how do I set goals - or at least, how do I set goals such that I have a likelihood of accomplishing many of them (good for encouragement and continued effort) while incorporating those which I will have a much more difficult time accomplishing (and thus feeling defeated when they do not get done)?

I suspect the key lies in choosing the correct ratio - that is, choosing goals that are mostly within my control but including one or two stretch goals which are outside.  I still get all the benefits of hitting everything under my control but also keeping the ones that are "not urgent but important" (to quote Steven Covey) on the agenda as well.

Ultimately the target is to hit everything that I have identified as a goal for the year, doing my best to eliminate the obstacles to where the only obstacle remains myself.  Perhaps I am shying away from a slightly bigger reality, that of teaching myself to work slightly beyond myself to reach the goals that ultimately will make the lives of others better - as well as my own.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The "Worst" Year Ever

I find myself shuffling through the slushiness of poor perspectives.

The death of Carrie Fisher seems to be the proverbial straw breaking the back of the camel.  The cry "2016 is the worst year ever" and "How could you 2016?" are now replete upon the Interweb.  To judge by the outpouring of angst, this seems to be labeled as "the worst year ever".

What it really seems to reveal is more about our own myopia.

One hardly thinks that this year could be labeled as worse than the years 1346-1352, the years of the Black Plague.  That was pretty bad.  The years 1939-1945 come to mind as well if you were almost anywhere living in the world.  For that matter, the years just prior to that - 1929-1933 - were no walk in the park either.

For more fun, here by the numbers are the 10 deadliest natural disasters of all time (courtesy of Wikipedia)

RankDeath toll (estimate)EventLocationDate
11,000,000–4,000,000*[1]1931 China floodsChinaJuly 1931
2900,000–2,000,000[2]1887 Yellow River floodChinaSeptember 1887
3830,000[3]1556 Shaanxi earthquakeChinaJanuary 23, 1556
4450,000 (242,000–655,000)1976 Tangshan earthquakeChinaJuly 28, 1976
5375,000 (250,000–500,000)[1]1970 Bhola cycloneEast Pakistan (now Bangladesh)November 13, 1970
6300,000[4]1839 India cycloneIndiaNovember 26, 1839
7300,000[5]1737 Calcutta cycloneIndiaOctober 7, 1737
8280,0002004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamiIndian OceanDecember 26, 2004
9273,400[6]1920 Haiyuan earthquakeChinaDecember 16, 1920
10250,000–300,000[7]526 Antioch earthquakeByzantine Empire (now Turkey)May 526

I am pretty sure any one of these years would also qualify as the worst year ever for anyone involved.

Sadly, we have come to colloquially define catastrophic events not in terms of their actual outcome and impact but the perceived impact to our personal world view.  Our "heroes" (I use the term loosely) die and so the year is awful: our memories are assaulted, our nostalgia is ruined, and so we use words which really should be reserved for the significant things to define those that are not significant.  We care not for the past and so ignore it; we care not for the world around us and so we forget it.

The sad reality, of course, is that by wasting such definitions on things that while individually tragic do not rise to the level of true tragedy, we discredit the use of the words themselves and, if we are not careful, we lose the ability to differentiate the truly awful from the temporally sad.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On Death

We believe our time
to be greater than it is;
many are surprised.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hope, Belief, Accomplishment

When measuring results against aspirations, what becomes somewhat obvious is that besides action two critical elements are hope and belief.

This will, I think, surprise many who would seek measure that ability to improve and accomplish things. The idea that something as ethereal as hope or belief is a critical part of accomplishment may seem counterintuitive.  It is not something that can be easily measured or programmed into a planner or mapped out into a series of actions.

Why, then, are they critical?

Hope is the knowledge that something is possible, that something better than what is currently in existence can be made or created.  Without hope, there is ultimately no ability to believe - after all, what is one believing in except that which already is?  And without hope, any attempt at accomplishment will eventually succumb, because all the effort will be seen as plunging into a vacuum which can never offer a return.

Belief is the understanding that one can do what one has set out to do.  It is the acceptance as fact that the thing is going to be done.  It has been called "psycho-cybernetics" or "visualization" or "pictures of what you want in your planner" but it all has the same end:  the firm understanding within the heart and mind that the possible will become the concrete.  Without belief, one's actions tend to wander and be dispersed because one does not believe that the thing can be accomplished -putting action into something that one does not believe one can do will rob the activity of the fuel that makes it possible to persevere in the cold dark of wasted effort.

I write this out of the hard coin of experience: what I hoped I could do and believed I could do always got accomplished.  That which I had little actual hope in or any belief that I could do it always eventually grinds to a halt or gets lost in a series useless actions that I seem to try repeat over and over - getting the same result every time.

One thing that is also important is that this hope and belief cannot be based on the idea that help will come from others.  Oh, help will undoubtedly come from others, sometimes in the most unlooked for and strangest of ways - just as obstacles will also come in the same way.  And counting on others to generate that hope or belief will pass the power of accomplishment outside of one's control, often dooming the effort to ultimate failure.  If we cannot fuel the actions needed to succeed in the hour of darkest need, our efforts will inevitably fail.

So it matters - at least to me -as I look to building next year's goals.  It is not enough to put them down on a list or even place dates next to them.  Do I have hope in them?  Do I believe I can accomplish them?  If not, I condemn myself to another cycle of feeling like I am making progress when in fact I am accomplishing very little, a sort of cyclical running in place where I desire to do much but actually accomplish very little.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Silence brings clarity.
Clarity brings resolve.
Resolve brings action.

Be Silent.
Be Clear
Be Resolved.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Because there is a reason for the season:

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Friday, December 23, 2016

On Hiddenness

I have come to realize that our culture - or perhaps myself, at least - has become confused about the nature of things being hidden and revealed.

We have come to accept and believe that everything we do should noticed - and potentially rewarded - at all times.  It is an outcome (perhaps a very logical one) of a technology that allows us to post anything and everything about ourselves at all times.  No more is recognition reduced to the off chance of a photograph that appears in a newspaper or a five second blip on the evening news;  now we can post - ourselves, without any intermediary or filter - everything that we are doing.

The unfortunate outcome of this is that it has bred the concept that everything we do is important enough to merit such attention.

Growth - as it has always been - happens not in the moments that are publicly on display but actually in the quiet parts of doing them.  We grow in practice:  the last set of twelve as we struggle to get the weight up and over the bar, the extra mile, the additional set of words that we review after we have already spent our study time.  This is no glamorous or fame attracting effort - no-one has ever made a video of themselves studying for thirty minutes to wild acclaim.

And during these - or even between the practices - things are hidden.  For example, the improvement of the physical body through exercise is slow and steady, and to somehow constantly being engineering ways to show off the progress is as crass as it is embarrassing - so it remains hidden beneath our work clothes.  And the same is true with most other practices and projects in our lives:  our progress is not visible even when the progress is being made.

This is hard - or at least this is hard for me - to accept.  It strikes me as odd that it would be hard for me to accept - after all, I was around long before social media was - but then again I was also very good at learning, and quizzes and tests are yet another measure of progress.  Yet time and time again my ego gets crushed when I feel like my "progress" is not being recognized.  I have lost the realization that in fact, perhaps progress and growth should of themselves not be public.

We are always amazed at the individual who, seemingly coming out of nowhere, sweeps in and dazzles with their unknown talent and skill.  Perhaps it is as much the sense that we can still be surprised by such things that thrills us as the raw talent displayed - more so perhaps, than the 5200 images we post about ever step of the way it took us to reach a far less taxing endpoint.

The takeaways for me:

1)  Accept that this is the way of it.
2)  Practice and grow in hiddenness.
3)  When the moment comes - which it inevitably will - let the outcome be the thing that impresses, not all the work that it took to get there.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Solstice Haiku

The Winter Solstice
is every year's shortest day
and what that means is...

(even a haiku is too long?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On Running In Cold

The cold lurks just outside the door.

I know I should run. It is good for me.  It conditions me.  It strengthens my heart and balances out my lifting.

I open the door and stand for a moment, the front planes of my face outside the intangible barrier of warmth the door frame represents.  Cold, says my nose.  Too cold, mutters the Brain.

I shut the door again.

I go back to the kitchen and start pulling things together for breakfast:  coffee, oatmeal, yogurt.  But somewhere far back in the recesses of my mind, somewhere behind the part the grumbles about the temperature, come the the thought "You should run".

I fiddle with the oatmeal for a second longer then sigh, turn, and go back to the door.  Upon opening, the cold is still there.  "See?"  says the Brain.

But the other part of my brain has taken over - is that you, Will?  While the Brain is sputtering about colds and lung infections the Will has taken over the motor functions.  Before the Brain has a chance to complain pajamas are off and running gear is on.

Will even finds the hat and gloves.  "Courteous", sneers the Brain.

Out the door the three of us go.  The Brain is still muttering about freezing temperatures and pneumonia; Will has already started moving the feet in the direction of the path we have taken for almost five years now.

At the bottom of the cul-de-sac on the first turn, the Brain mutters "Well, at least the sunrise is worth seeing this morning".

The Will only smiles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Winds of Winter

So Winter really blew in last night.

We got (as we sometimes do) what is called in these parts a "Blue Norther", a cold wind that blows in from the North rapidly dropping the temperature.  It really is a cold front of course, but "Blue Norther" sounds a great deal more poetic.

The cold (so far as I am aware) comes straight from Canada and blows south, which is not surprising considering the fact that there is really nothing between us and Canada except the Great Plains.  It comes on like a train:  suddenly the wind starts whipping the trees and the howling and the temperature starts to rapidly drop.  How rapidly?  From 71 F to 36 F in the course of an hour.

My pepper plants - the survivors of last years moderate winter - are already hanging with limp brown leaves (note to self: 1) Peppers will overwinter; 2) If overwintering peppers, plant them in something you can bring inside).  The garlic and onions standing straight up yesterday having fallen over (thought they will likely recover).  All the trees throughout the neighborhood which were still clinging to their semi-green leaves will be shedding them within the week, I trow.

Today was a balmy 25 F when we stepped out for church (with wind chill, 9 F) and is expected to reach a "high" of 34 before dropping down to 23 tomorrow morning (less wind chill factor, although at this point it is sort of a contest to see what it comes back at). The wind has not stopped blowing since last night, a cold dry wind that steals away the warmth and dries the skin in short order,

The bright point of these whole exercise in cold? The mosquito population may finally be finished for the year.  That may actually make the temperature trade off worthwhile.

Friday, December 16, 2016

On The Writing Of Blog Entries

Over the years I have changed when I write the blog.

Originally - wow, quite so long ago that I have almost forgotten - I wrote it when I felt like it.  Whenever the idea struck me.  This is not a very bad way to get started - but does not lend itself to a regular output.

The change seems to have happened around 2008 when I actually started blogging on a regular basis - probably, as I think back, synonymous with my change in jobs such that I was not having to get up at an incredibly early hour to commute.  This is when we moved into the phase of blogging every week day.  When did the blogging take place?  In the morning, before I left for work (I think this is where the tradition of always publishing at 0400 Pacific Standard Time came from).  Blog entries were done as part of the morning routine prior to getting ready for work.

Which was successful - so successful that it ran for seven years before events intervened - simply put, with a change in commuting and being responsible for ensuring certain smaller members of my household got to school on time, I found my mornings getting time crunched.  Which has brought us to the third version of the blog:  writing the day/night before the post.

I have somewhat mixed reactions about this. On the one hand, I almost feel as if I am losing the spontaneous nature of my writing - before I would just get up and write whatever came to mind.  Now, some level of thought (perhaps not much, to be fair) goes into the post.  On the bright side, it can give me a greater amount of time to think about what I am posting and occasionally even come up with a good idea - and the time to develop it.

It has become a discipline, this writing five days a week, much as I am sure writing any daily newspaper column has become.  It would strike most people funny that a weekday that I am not writing is a very odd day, almost uncomfortable.

Were anyone to ask - if they knew I actually wrote the darn thing - I am sure that question would be "Why?"  Not a horrible question - after all, I have stuck with this far longer than would seem reasonable if one was going to become a "break-out" writer (having outlasted many of my contemporaries)  and I long ago made a conscious decision to derive no funding from the ever helpful "Alphabet Ads" that are suggested to me.  This exercise consumes an 1% of my weekly time of 168 hours (1.5% actually) - not much I suppose, but something to someone who always feels as if there is a little more I could be doing.

Why?  I suppose because of a certain innate stubbornness inside of me that tells me to write, that as long I write - anything, even this - I am a writer.  And, truth be told, that somewhere inside there is still that nascent hope that if I keep writing enough, maybe that is what I will ultimately be.

But as I think about it - or really as I stream-of-consciousness-ruminate as I am write - I find a second reason as well:  the simple fact that as long as a writer has readers - even the ones that manage to show up accidentally or flood one's site in hopes of advertising their wares - one has the chance to make a difference.  To change a life.  Maybe just to get someone to think in a way they have never thought before.

It has become a discipline, this writing five days of seven, an exercise in determination and perseverance and hope - for myself, that something good eventually  does come out of it.  For you my readers, that perhaps something I say will make a difference in your life.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Open Letter to Director Bortnikov

To:  Alexander Bortnikov, Director, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation

Dear Sir:

I note with some interest the activity on my blog on yesterday, 14 December 2016 at approximately 1700 Pacific Standard Time.  The graphic below represents the issue at hand:

You will note the spike of 641 hits at one moment with the very dark green indicating the country of origin of the views.  It appears that there has been an attempt to view my blog multiple times from a single country - the country, it turns out, which you are employed by.

Please understand that I appreciate the support - after all, I am small blogger and a spike like this (which seem to occur with some monthly frequency) will put me up above 100,000 views after 8 years of writing more quickly than anything.

That said, I fear that such activities will prove to be a poor investment of resources on the part of your department.  I am, as I have said, a small blogger with a limited following.  A review of my postings will reveal to you that I am a mildly depressed individual that spends probably more time than I ought to pondering things and trying out different ways of gardening, making cheese, and practicing swordsmanship. And writing fairly unmemorable poetry and perhaps only slightly less forgettable haikus.

If you and your department are seeking to build international relationships and cross-cultural ties, you will find no larger fan of the effort than myself - and if that is the intent, I would appreciate any feedback about what I could write about which would help to build those relationships.  If, sadly and on the other hand, your department is looking for anything else, I fear you have wasted time and effort.  I would direct your efforts to a more highly frequented blog or website with more valuable information.

In the spirit of international co-operation, I would less than a good neighbor if I failed to point that out.

Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Today's Lack Of Post... brought to you by the Misplace Wallet trick, which involves getting home from Iai class, looking in the pocket in your gym bag where you have put your wallet for the last 7.5 years, not finding it, looking through the bag (twice) and the car, then driving back to the studio to look there (and have it not be there), followed by driving back home, looking through the car yet again, going in, pulling everything out of the gym bag....

...and finding it in the main compartment.  Sigh.  That was 40 minutes of driving I will never have back....

Thankful I found my wallet.  A little cranky at myself for not completely emptying the bag to start with...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

On Continuing To Grow Up

Sometimes I am still surprised when I suddenly discover I have grown up about something.

You would think that most this would have already been done.  Growing as a person - certainly I can see that.  I value it as a personal trait (most rational people do).  But still growing up - shedding something was an unreasonable thing or seeing the world in a more clear light or realizing the responsibility really is  yours?  That surprises me a bit.

There is a bit of a let down, of course - after all, we like to think that we have gotten through most of that at this point in our lives.  But then we realize that no, we have not.  There are fantasies that we cling to long after they have passed, narratives that simply no longer make sense in the circumstances that face us.  And having realized such things we can never go back at this point.  The way forward seems perhaps clearer, but also perhaps colder and a little more calculated.

One begins to second guess one's self:  are there other things that I am equally unaware of?  Other places that I continue to dwell in simplicity and hope where clear eyed reality is what is called for at this point?  Places where I have stubbornly failed to see what is actually occurring or missed not-so-subtle clues as to the way things are?  There are, I am sure.

The sad part to me is that moments like these are the equivalent of the moment after the sword draw or the second after the arrow is released:  everything has changed and it simply cannot be undone.

Friday, December 09, 2016

On Not Communicating

Something seems to have passed, or rather have become embedded, in our modern discourse: the unwillingness to discuss matters.

It has its origins in the rather bitter climate of politics over the last years:  people began using charged words instead of discussing matters.  Words became the weapons of choice, flung out with same sharp staccato as gunfire, the injury being done perhaps before the victim knew they had even been hit.

What was the response?  Twofold.  On the one hand, people began to not discuss matters in the presence of others.  They would simply listen as the discussions happened around them and make non-committal sounds, stay silent, try to change the subject, or just move out of the conversation.  One the other hand, the discussions within the groups that did believe as they did became more heated, more intense.  more about the "fill-in-the-blank-with-uncomplimentary-personal-comments" side  ("idiots" was probably the least offensive term used).

The U.S. election happened of course, and all of this from the last 16 years (yes, it goes back that far) was trotted out for the entire world to see.  Words had moved beyond bullets though:  they were now napalm weapons, bunker busters, meant to lay waste to whole populations (intellectually speaking).  The intent to understand or reason was completely removed; all that remained was the need to destroy the opposition for the intent of victory, to shut them down as a legitimate voice.

So here we are.  The election is done. And yet, things seem worse.

On-line media has lurched into the bottomless pit of trying to decide what constitutes "legitimate" news while carefully avoiding the question of the bias that gathers and generates that news.  Social media has become less about sharing and more about expressing one's self in ways that will not get one banned or will count coup on the other side - or simply going off somewhere else altogether.

The individual's response?  There are two that I have seen.  For some, they seem to have doubled down on words as weapons - to the point that one almost shudders to read or hear anything from them.  For others, they have simply stepped out of the communication time line that is modern society and simply do not engage. For some of these it takes the shape of choosing to communicate in such a way that they are producers of content but not of discussion, for others it is limiting what they speak of and respond to, for others simply to not communicate at all.

The last category is the most concerning because it represents the greatest danger to any form of human government.  If we have reached the point where words are only weapons and not tools of communication and discussion and reasoning and people are responding accordingly, then we have become no different than any society that has decided its tools of agriculture or building are really nothing more than potential weapons of war to smash the other side into submission.

If this is truly the case, then it is only a matter of time before we get there.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Kihon, Henka, Bunkai

In my martial art (and in at least one other I know, so maybe it extends to all martial arts) each kata (or technique) has three parts:

1)  Kihon - This is the approved form of the kata in question, the one that is to be taught and learned, the one that may have been handed down for hundreds of years.  This is the one done when a demonstration (embu) is being performed.  There are ideally no differences between eras or practitioners when doing this:  this is one way the kata is to be done, the essence and purity of the form itself.

2) Henka - These are variations of the kata in question, slightly different techniques:  a different step, a different cut, perhaps even the defender winning (instead of losing).  There can be multiple different variations but all trace themselves back to the original kata.

3)  Bunkai  - This is combative application, the kata put into the context of an actual attack and defense.  It may include variations and the purity may be largely forgotten (speaking from experience, when defending from an actual attack your blocks become less high and your cutting angle is far less precise).  The point is to apply the kata in simulated attack; in other words, to successfully win by killing or defending (and then killing).

For the most part we practice kihon - both the essence of the art as well as the most difficult to master (there are always small things that can be made better; any martial art is truly a lifetime project).  We occasionally practice henka, not so much to learn them as to train ourselves to think in terms of fluidity and adaptation - ultimately to win or excel in bunkai.

It occurred to me that just as in iai, I can get my focus in the wrong area.

Too often in my own life I attempt to practice things the way they should be practiced - perhaps even the way others have told me to do them.  I work, and then perfect, and then work some more.  Sometimes I get so excited I get off into variations or even into practical applications - and it is in all of this that I lose the ultimate purpose I should be aiming for.

All of these are not ends to themselves; rather, the purpose of them is to teach me to think - yes, about the correct way to do things and adapting to variations in how to do things and even in practically doing things but even more so, about being able to take all of the inputs of my life and expertise and practice I have been performing and use it in my life in a way that is fluid and strategic and adaptive and flexible.  I forget the ultimate aim, perfecting one's self, in the overload of doing things for a particular end.

Without practicing each kind, I will never become skilled - yet by not incorporating all into the larger whole of my life, they remain merely techniques to be practiced rather than skills to be used.  It is a balance - but much like a sword, there are two sides of it.

Focusing on one side does not make the other disappear.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Reflecting On The Upcoming Year

My reflections on goals and mission for the upcoming year (and years) continues apace.

One thing that has come out of this reflection to date is that more than likely the direction is very different from what I had expected.

The primary focus (personally, at least) is really for 2018. I want to go train in Japan.  That, of course, takes money:  money to fly, money to train (not all that much really).  But a concentrated effort to save is what will be required - and concentrated effort to improve my iai (and Japanese) and the physical fitness to support the training.

Which itself introduces other implications.  Time and money have to go towards those, which means time and money will probably fall away from other things.  As I have thought it through, it probably means my Highland Athletics will be less this year than years past.  And possibly a year skipped doing an Obstacle Run.

As I have continued to think, my world has contracted as well.  It started with Facebook but has been slowly extending itself towards anything resembling current events. . I am spending less and less time there now than in times past; quite likely once we get past the inauguration it will drop off entirely.

We have become firmly ensconced in our church at this moment, so more time will be spent in service and growth (as it should be).

With our managed budget and more of inward focus, items of the house now go on a list and projects will need to be addressed.  Some of these I cannot do myself; others, simply because of cost, I will have to figure out for myself.

Financially we are beginning to migrate to the point that college and retirement savings are becoming more relevant.  This means that spending on the whole will be a great deal more constrained and focused (plus going to Japan - did I mention that?).

In a word (if there is such a thing for this) I foresee next year and possibly the years beyond as becoming more focused and centered around a much smaller group of ongoing events.

Does it mean that all new things are now removed from consideration? Of course not.  I still have plenty of things I want to learn and, as a generalist, I really cannot focus on just one thing.  But the inter-relationship of those things are becoming more critical and the ability to sustain things are not related to the core is becoming a great deal more difficult.  Simply put, the time and money are not there.

I will be honest:  unburdening myself from the sense of having to finish books and maintain my website has been one of the most freeing activities I have felt of late.  My boundaries of what I am able to do and consider have expanded a great deal. This, combined with the change in jobs and commute time, has made a significant change in my life - the first one in almost seven years.  I sense that more of this is coming.

It has been a good period of reflection. And it is likely that things will change yet again before the end of the month.  But things are changing.  I feel it in my bones as clearly as I can see the leaves falling from the trees.

Friday, December 02, 2016

More Friends, Less Friendship

 One of the larger differences I have noticed since I switched jobs is how my friendship quotient seems to have dropped a great deal.

The good thing about working with one's, well, you work with your friends. You get to spend 8+ hours a day in the company of people you actually enjoy. Work becomes, if not a little easier, at least a little more enjoyable.

It all holds together, of course, until you leave that job. Then, just like countless other times in school or college, you get busy and they get busy and suddenly there is a gap which usually keeps expanding. What is annoying and a little concerning is that I find that this gap has expanded to encompass larger portions of my life.

Some of it is due to distance, some to activities that meet only certain times of the year. The outcome has been the same – in some ways, I have not felt this lack of deep friendships in some time.

Oddly enough, I am “friended” up on a certain social network site. Which is nice - I actually probably know more people than I ever have and probably interact with more folks than I have in many years. But that deep level of friendship, those hours of conversations, those shared experiences and stories – all lacking at the moment.

A fair amount involves me, I am sure. Just with work and family, I have become as inaccessible as I may have ever been, which matters for friendship. And I certainly respect (now more than ever) the boundaries of others with their families and their work and their own lives. But the margins seem increasingly thin looking forward.

I would like to say I believe this will change but I am unsure how, given that I do not see the catalyst for that change: I will continue to work where I work and have the hours that I have and have the family I have with things wedged in at the edges. Given that, where does such a thing pop up?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

On The Breaking Apart Of Things

Sometimes I believe we miss the moment of inflection, when things begin to break apart.

I suspect this is because we largely do not want to see such things.  We are, on the whole, a species that likes to see things going well, not going poorly.  And society certainly does not prepare us for such things:  we learn very well how to fall in love and be a team mate and to "come together".  We are not very well prepared for how things end and what signs to look for.

An example at this point might be helpful.

Way back in the yonder years (before this blog, even) I had a friendship that I had held - a close friendship - for over 10 years.  This was the sort of person I spent a lot of time talking with and doing things with, walking miles and miles in conversation and dreaming.  The sort of person that you envision one calls "brother", that one holds as a "friend for life".

But something changed.  Our lives were beginning to move in different directions.  I could feel the beginning of the pulling away, but saw it purely through a career lens:  he was going one way towards what I believed to be a success, but which would cause our friendship to dwindle.  I did not want to lose the opportunity - or the friendship - and so The Firm was born.

Fast forward 16 months.  The Firm collapsed.  In what seems like a sudden development, the friendship collapsed in a timely fashion along with it:  within 4 months we never meet again, within 8 months we never communicate again (to this day, actually).  When I look back, I suddenly realize that The Firm (besides being a business) was a way - perhaps only for me - to breathe life into something that was passing on.  It merely prolonged its life for a while but did not stop the process from occurring.

The difficulty is that I saw the thing 16 months prior.  I sensed that something was changing - but put it up to the fact that my friend was moving into a career field and was going to be a success and I was going to miss it (he has become a success, a very good one, for which I am glad).  The reality is that things were changing and we were moving in different directions - but I had never really been taught or trained myself to recognize the difference between a breaking apart and a mere divergence of career paths.

I have become better attuned since then, I think.  Early on it was mostly through mistakes on my part, misjudgments, a certain "tone deafness" to what people were actually saying.  I believe I have become better recognizing such things as they occur now and am hopefully a little better  about managing my own part in the matter.

The problem, of course, is that you come to see the signs in places where you either did not expect or not intend.  You know the drill from that point, at least for yourself - although curiously you find yourself in the position of wondering if the others see the same sort of thing or are chalking it up to a passing phase or career change or something other than what it is.

I wonder, on occasion, what would have happened if I had recognized the signs on that February night and, knowing then what I know now, had been willing to step aside.  Beyond just the issues of a failed business and failed friendships:  how would I personally be different now if I was willing to accept that things break apart and simply moved on?