Monday, January 2, 2017

Today, I lost a Colleague and Friend - And the Universe Gained a Bright Light

Today, I lost my friend to cancer.

Today, a person I admired went to be with God.

Today, a courageous, brilliant, funny and loving man stopped being in pain.

Today, the universe gained a positive energy force that gleams ever brightly.

The mix of feelings one experiences when learning a friend has passed away makes you reflect on whether it was a life well-lived or not.  In this case, it was!  My friend was ever hopeful, outliving two death sentences, not just one, to see his beloved family grow.  His one heartfelt wish was to see his daughter marry -- he danced at her wedding -- and then to meet his grandson.  His love for his family was legendary.  While ill, he cared for his wife who also was fighting cancer.  During his initial treatments, he bolstered his family and friends with humorous accounts of his cancer treatments and after-effects.  He shared his tender thoughts freely, allowing us to share this journey with him.  When those treatments failed to save him, he spent his fleeting energy on his family.  Every one of them knows how much he loved them.  It was not only not a secret, but he shouted this from the mountain tops!  His family was everything to him.

I knew him from work, where I came to welcome his optimism, great whit and ability to find something funny in almost any situation.  He was also a dependable and credible technician upon whom I could rely for guidance.  He confided to me about his illness and how difficult it was to keep working while going through those horrific treatments.  He was disheartened by the lack of compassion he received from his supervisor, whom I don't think ever met him in person.  Yet, he continued to apply his dwindling energy to completing work assignments.  He was a man of his word, and working gave him a much needed distraction in a time before he met the love of his life, his grandson!

I'm writing this to acknowledge his beautiful life, of which I only had a glimpse.  That small view filled me with great happiness and warmth.  I can only image how it felt to be a close member of his family or a close friend.  And, how much his family and friends will miss him in their lives from this time on...

Thank you for sharing that incredible brightness with me!  I am honored.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Digging Deep to Uncover Simple Truths

We all have a tendency to make things harder than they need be.  My theory as to why is pretty simple -- our lives are in overdrive!

When you go fast, the scenery blurs as it goes by.  Life is the same.  The faster you go, the less you actually see.  People are always wondering why time flies by.  This is one of the reasons, and the other is directly related... when you are rushing to and fro, your brain becomes addicted to racing thoughts.  When you're in this state of being, it's hard to discern between what's really important and what you're being told is important by other people (usually to benefit their own agendas!)

Ever look for something only to find it right in front of you?  Your brain sees the object, but doesn't stop long enough to confirm what is being seen.  Just passes over it and keeps looking elsewhere.  This is nature saying it's time to slow down.

It's hard to get your life back under control because external influences and forces set expectations that foster staying revived up.  Those are false voices that should be banished to exile.

I started this blog because I wanted someplace to explore simple truths of life, and what I've learned over these years is I had it right -- simplifying is the key to a happy, successful and fully lived life.

I love the concept of Tiny Houses for just this reason.  People are purging stuff they don't really need and are living simplified lives that allow them both time and money to enjoy their lives.  We all don't need to delimit our living space to capture the same principles.  Here are some steps I've taken that seem to work well for me:
  • Set aside time each day to reflect on the day - what occurred, how it felt, who you interfaced with, your feelings about the day.  In this way, you are purposely taking time to ensure each day is recognized, not just left to pass unnoticed.
  • Keep a journal with your daily reflections.  Writing requires thoughtful review and construction of those reflections, which exercises the mind in different ways to naturally slow the thought process and allow creativity to emerge.
  • Get an hour to yourself.  Best to go someplace that's peaceful, but anywhere that enables you to let go of the everyday activities and reset is good.
  • Talk with someone who knows you well.  Tell this person what you're experiencing as you draw back from overdrive existence.  Check in with this person regularly to see if they notice any changes in how you're feeling and acting.  This is an important part of the process as we usually are too critical of our own self.
Lastly, we need to realize we make our own choices in life.  These choices lay the foundation for everything that will come later, so careful thought is a must when choices are being made.  The good news is we can always change direction!  There are no wasted experiences.  With each, we learn new lessons and grow more capable of handling situations. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Relationships are Not Simple - A Rational Approach to Avoiding Emotional Issues.

When your feelings get hurt, do you reflect on why and what you could have done to avoid this situation?  No, most of us don't. Thinking about this, I've discovered often the root of the problem lies within our own behavior.  When you have a disagreement, how often is it because of one or more of the following:
  1. Applying our personal measures to other people's behavior.  No wonder others don't measure up! 
  2. Rushing to give advice.  Before anyone even has a chance, we're applying our critical thinking skills and giving them advice.  Never occurs to us others need to figure things out for themselves.  If they want our help, they will ask for it.  No need to jump in right away and starting giving directions.  In reality, what's driving this behavior?  Our wanting to help or our need to be right?
  3. Quickness to judge.  What makes our way the best way?  I've learned there are always multiple paths to solve any problem.  How people choose to go about dealing with things can take many forms.  Yet, we apply our own mold to the things other people are doing.
  4. Holding a grudge.  Things may start with something simple, and escalate from there. 
All this clearly shows the problems begin with numero uno!

Instead of jumping to conclusions, being offended when our advice isn't welcome, and harboring bad feelings, I think a more positive approach is to be taken.  Such as:
  1. Stop measuring other people by your own ruler.  Each of us is unique and learn in different ways.  Step back and pull yourself away from the situation to allow an unbiased view of things.  If we disengage and look at a situation objectively, it often looks very different.  This freedom from subjectivity is good enough to avoid falling into self-aggrandizing and builds space to allow others to learn in their own way how to deal with things -- possibly growing through the experience.  Ultimately, this growth may enable you to have common ground for future sharing of experiences.
  2. Take a breath and realize it's not about me.  Let the other person know you're available to help and support if they want it.  That's it!  You're not involved unless invited to help.  This is ultimately freeing!  Others problems don't become additional burdens for us.  Think about it, why would you willingly accept someone else's problems.  Yes, because you love them and want to help them, but in reality it's only because it makes us feel good.  If we were brutally honest, it makes us feel superior.  Wow!  No wonder they don't want this kind of help!
  3. Stop expecting people to listen and change their behavior as you're suggesting.  Why?  Because we know everything!  How crazy is that!  When they don't do what we want, our feelings get hurt! Stop this craziness and the hurtful feelings will also stop!
  4. Let go of bad feelings.  If you value someone being in your life, make peace with them.
Negative behaviors divide people.  Once apart, it's very hard to repair the gaps without targeted, positive action to reach across the divide.  Sadly, the people on the opposite side of the divide may not want to repair the damage.  What then?

Then there's a choice to be made.  It comes down to whether or not having that person in your life matters to you.  If it does, all parties need to sit down, be open to listening and communicating honestly about their feelings and everyone's feelings must be equally considered.  Find the common ground upon which the relationship can be repaired and take small, cooperative steps to rebuild.  Everyone has feelings and our feelings are not rational, but emotional in nature.  To deal with emotions, we need to be rational.

Simple to suggest, but not simple to do. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Having a Positive Life Takes Work

As I wrote a while ago, I'm working to regain myself.  Happily, I'm making good strides!  Thought I'd share some of the things I've changed in my life and the differences I'm seeing in myself.

Each morning I open my heart and mind to the possibilities of the new day.  Prior, my attitude was much more negative as I never considered myself to be a morning person.  Now, I embrace the morning and welcome it with song!  I'm finding I awake more eagerly and am energized by getting moving and doing more things earlier.  It's a whole new way of looking at my days, with more positive energy and aligning my spirit with the dawn.

I make time to reflect on the beauty around me.  It's awesome how glorious are the colors in spring here in the mid-Atlantic region. Giving myself time to appreciate Earth's spectrum and the effects of various lighting just makes me glow with happiness.  It's impossible to hold on to negative thoughts and feelings when you're emerged in this beauty.

I sing!  To me, singing allows my very soul to soar up to the heavens.  I sing about anything my heart is feeling.  These songs are just for me, so I make up whatever I want - the important thing being the expression of my joy.  The more I sing, the more joy I get!

I take a daily walk.  More often than not, I've been able to get up from my desk for at least 30 minutes to get outside and move around.  This refreshes me so at the end of the day, I'm not completely worn out.  We recently welcomed a dog into our home, so he makes certain I get up (when I'm working out of my home office) and he's great company.  It's always made me happy to walk through the woods with a dog.  As a child, I would walk the neighborhood dogs (as we rarely had a dog of our own), so this connection is a link with my earlier and happier self.

I'm exercising and working on my health.  Three mornings a week I take a deep water aerobics class.  I'm feeling much stronger and vastly more fit as the result, and I've made new friends.  I've also taken steps to resolve a couple long-standing, nagging physical issues - ones that didn't require urgent medical attention, but never-the-less kept me from doing things.  It's amazing how one part of the body getting out of alignment can over time create issues in other parts.  I've learned by going to physical therapy how to walk properly and found I require a lift in one shoe to correct having one hip higher than the other.  No wonder my back has been hurting!  I'm so happy with this simple cure!

Volunteering.  I recently had an offer that would have prevented me from having enough personal time to keep doing my volunteer work.  While soul searching to make this important decision, it was this realization and the fact that people who now depend on me would be negatively impacted that led me to decide to not make a change.  It's no secret that people who volunteer get as much back as they give.  This is definitely true for me and I realize the premium I place on being able to give to my favorite charities and non-profits.

I'm enjoying this journey to rediscover myself.  I occasionally need to remind myself to not fall back into long-hewed patterns. I will continue to build lasting habits that support a positive life.  There's more work to do, but I feel like I'm well on my way to capturing my child-like curiosity, zeal for living, and spiritualism that gives me balance with the beating sound of nature.  These are my personal goals.  I am so excited to be closer than I've been since I was much younger.  Rather than mourn something as being lost, I choose to work to regain that spirit, to be authentic to myself!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Step One - My Journey to Reclaim Me

What do I want?

It's a hard question to answer because doing so means careful, deliberate soul searching.  Sure, people have canned answers they casually throw out when asked this question.  But, to truly know yourself well enough to have the real answer takes work.

I am about to begin a journey to learn about myself as I am today.  At this stage in my life, I need to overcome years of neglect and atrophy of my very core self.  As an adult, we need to take care of so many things in today's complicated lifestyle.  Education, career, marriage, children, etc. All energy consuming diversions from caring for my own "id." 

As a child, I spent a great deal of time alone because there weren't many other kids in our first neighborhood.  I amused myself and in doing so became a great friend with me. As the result, I was very self assured and dependable -- things I learned during this period of time when I leisurely thought about me and how I fit into my world.  It really was a special gift to know exactly what I thought about everything in my sphere of existence.  It was also when I learned to let the spirit lead me.  I am seeking that relationship with the spirit, whom I know will guide me once again.

All these years later, I need to reclaim myself from the impacts living life has had on me. I'm not exactly certain how to do this.  Of course, I could spend money on a therapist, but that's not what I'm looking for.  I could get a life coach, in fact I know a couple of fine ones.  Don't really think I need someone to tell me I'm okay and can achieve my goals... I need to start out as I did in the beginning.  Quietly reflective of how the world sounds in its natural form -- realigning with Earth's rhythm and energy.  Being in harmony with this pulse is simple, pure joy.

There's no structure to realign my core energy with the master rhythm of the planet.  It's going to be something I do every day.  I still hold that sense of pure joy from my childhood. I'm seeking to bring that self awareness to the forefront where I can channel this directed strength to do whatever I want to do.  I'm very excited to get started...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Level of Excellence

I work hard and I take pride in my work excellence.  I would never prepare a deliverable that was less so - the quality of my work reflects on me and my perception of who I'm doing this work for!  Generally, these days people seem to be unwilling to do whatever it takes to achieve a level of excellence.  So why that is.

It's hard to do excellent work

You must put in significant time and effort to create something that's complete, well constructed using top quality components, and is shined to the point where it gleams!  I could be talking about anything - building a quality piece of wooden furniture, baking a special dessert or creating a business proposal.  The principles are the same.  You must plan well, have all your ingredients/components at hand, and, work and rework the product until you have it just right!

It takes more time to do excellent work.

There's an old adage about anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Unfortunately, people's time is not as highly valued as it once was.  People are working harder than ever (measured by the hours they put in on the job) and yet the quality of their work is, for the most part, going down.  A direct result of not being given enough time to do the job properly.  How many times have you been asked for an estimate on how long it will take to get something done only to be asked if you can do it quicker.  Happens all the time.  Over the years, people become accustomed to being given less time to do a job and delivering less quality.  Another old saying is "good enough for government work!"  It's this attitude that sets-up the expectation:

lower work quality = less time spent working =  do more things in this time

Marketed as higher productivity and operational efficiency, it begets inferior workmanship.  Not only are the end products lacking, but the people who produced them start to think this is okay.  Is it okay for you to not get what you asked for or even paid to get?  We find ourselves overloaded and unable to put in the real time and effort when it's really required from time-to-time.  People need to push back and make it clear that:

less time = less quality = unhappy recipient

Now, if the recipient is your immediate supervisor, that may be fine.  But, if that recipient is getting an inferior proposal, it may well mean less business!  That's not okay.

It is very satisfying to do excellent work.

How many people do you know who are happy where they work?  Sadly, I think having time to spend on your given craft and getting that deep satisfaction that comes from doing a job well done is getting lost in the modern workplace.  I hate to end my day without feeling I accomplished something worthwhile.  Don't you?  This may be the most important reason to slow things down a bit and allow employees to adequately focus time and effort on producing higher quality results.  Those employees will stay around longer and they will tell everyone about the great place to work they work.  I call that a thing of beauty!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

70 Years of Love

My in-laws celebrated 70 years of marital bliss yesterday!

These dear people are a true example of how to live your life.  While they started out with very little, they worked hard to build a good life for their family.  Though they came of age at a time when the roles of women and men were clearly defined, they embraced helping each other with child rearing and household duties when it was not yet fashionable to do so.  My father-in-law worked multiple jobs to enable his wife to stay home with the children. He never complained about doing so, but saw this was just something he had to do.  My mother-in-law always tells me how her husband would come home late at night after finishing his second job of the day and would tend the crying baby to let her get her rest.  That's more than dedication, it's love!

Today, my in-laws are elderly and becoming frail, yet they still hold hands when they walk and they always are together.  My father-in-law helps bath and dress his wife of 70 years without complaint... I hear he powders her bottom to keep her feeling fresh and comfortable (they now need to wear "paper underwear.")  That's more than dedication, it's love!

My mother-in-law has short-term memory issues, so her husband does the daily cooking and laundry.  Every evening, he gives her ice cream because it's her favorite.  That's more than dedication, it's love!

On Sunday, Valentine's Day, we invited the family and some friends to celebrate with my in-laws their longevity and happily married life together.  One cousin brought a CD and played one of my in-law's favorite waltz... watching them dance to that song brought tears to every eye in the room.  That's more than dedication, it's love!