Every Day, In Every Way…

A long time ago I read that if a person repeated aloud the same statement each day for thirty days he or she would begin to believe what was said to be true even if the statement was a bold-faced lie. Imagine how much more engrained something can become if it actually is possible or true to start with!

The term ‘affirmation” is thrown around so much today the meaning can be cloudy. A short, but clear definition of affirmation is: to declare or assert.

Emile Coue was a French psychologist who lived from mid 1800’s through the first quarter of the 20 century. He is regarded as the person who introduced the basis of how positve affirmations can have effect through his work in self-improvement and optimistic auto-suggestion. His most famous affirmation is “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”. His method centered on repeating such a statement(s) at the beginning and at the end of each day or more frequently.

Science now knows that every thought we think and every word we say is a stream of affirmations. We are continually affirming subconsciously with our words and thoughts.  This flow of affirmations helps to create our life experience. Beliefs are learned thought patterns we have developed since childhood. Many of these thoughts work well for us, but others may now be working against us. Thinking may at times be dysfunctional and may even be sabotaging us. Every affirmation we think or say is a reflection of our inner truth or beliefs.

By choosing to think and say positive affirmations as true, the subconscious is forced into one of two reactions – avoidance or reappraisal. The bigger the issue the bigger the gap between the positive affirmation and the perceived inner truth and the more likely that one is going to experience resistance. This is where the subconscious finds it easier to stay with its perceived inner truth and avoid the challenge using any means at its disposal to keep from examining the issue. One can recognize this reaction by a strong negative feeling inside as positive affirmations are stated. Equally if one experiences a sense of joy and well-being, the mind is instinctively responding to something it believes to be true.

I began using positive affirmations regularly while I spent five weeks at The Meadows in the fall of 2006. I was there learning how to deal with reoccurring moderate depression and related issues. At first my opinion of saying positive things aloud to improve my life was that it had to be BS. Yet, I was determined to change my life for the better and was willing to try most anything to achieve that. So I began the practice of getting up before sunrise and while standing on my dorm balcony I’d watch the sun rise each day over the high Sonora Desert as I read aloud a list of affirmations. Results did not come the first day or even the first week, but within two weeks the affirmations begin to have a positive effect. As time went on I began to look forward to my sunrise time and my belief in affirmations has grown stronger and stronger since.

Here are a few examples of affirmations I like:
Loving my self heals my life.
My body heals quickly and easily.
The more grateful I am, the more reasons I find to be grateful.
I know I deserve Love and accept it now.
I give out Love and it is returned to me multiplied.
When I believe in myself, so do others.
I am my own unique self – special, creative and wonderful.
I am at peace.
I trust in the process of life.
I am proud of myself.
I am whole, complete and perfect just as I am.
I clearly see lots to be grateful for in life.
Through gratitude my world expands.
Happiness exists where I choose to look for it.
I release all negativity and hold joy in my heart.
I accept the good that is flowing into my life.
The warmth of love surrounds me.
I release myself from my anger and let the past go.
I live in the now each moment of each day.

Affirmations are not a magic spell or potion. They are simple exercises for the psyche to improve mental health similar in fashion to how working out at a gym can create better physical health. Affirmations gain their power from repetition in the same manner as repeated physical exercise yields results. The more often I say them, the more they will impact my reality. This morning I am grateful for the power of affirmations. Beyond a shadow of doubt, I know for me they work!

No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.
Terry Josephson

Time is Limited

I had an awareness of Steve Jobs while he lived and knew he was an amazing guy. My respect for him was solidified when viewing a video of a speech he gave at the 2005 graduation at Stanford not long after one of the times he beat cancer. Now with his passing and more material coming to light about his life, my opinion is evolving. In greater depth I have come to know he wasn’t perfect, but he was damn good!

From an article in USA Today, Wednesday October 10, 2011: “There’s a phrase in Buddhism – ‘beginner’s mind’ – it’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind,” Jobs would tell people. This means approaching things without any preconceived notions, judgments or expectations, just like a child. It was the core of his innovations and what fundamentally made him such an original thinker. He was not remotely afraid to experiment, and more important, not afraid to lose either. He once said, “I am the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year… its very character building”. He never equated failing with being a failure.

In death, some people get eulogized beyond what resembles the life that was lived. That does not seem to be necessary with Steve Jobs.  He was the “real deal”. Not everyone loved him, but few did not respect him.

Steve Jobs was fully human and had flaws. As early as 1981, Macintosh project founder Jef Raskin wrote a note to Apple president Mike Scott complaining:
Jobs regularly misses appointments
He acts without thinking and with bad judgment
He does not give credit where due
Jobs often reacts ad hominem (with feelings rather than intellect)
He makes absurd and wasteful decisions by trying to be paternal
He interrupts and doesn’t listen
He does not keep promises or meet commitments
He makes decisions ex cathedra (by virtue of one’s position)
Optimistic estimates
Jobs is often irresponsible and inconsiderate

There are stories that include Steve getting mad and firing employees on the spot. One particular account that has made the rounds has him firing someone on an elevator and another tells about how he let someone go for bringing him the wrong type of mineral water. There are lots of tales about Steve Jobs. Often they are likely to be exaggerations, but many of them are probably based in some truth as well.

When my time comes for a few stories to be told after I am gone I wonder what they will be. Will the stories be about moments when I was emotional or irrational and made bad choices? Or will they be about the times when I was creative and originated some semblance of original thought? Will what is said be about me as a person or my professional persona? Will those who respect me be the story tellers or will it be the naysayers who never “got me” who spin the tales? The answer? Both I imagine. You know, it really won’t matter much to me then.  I’ll be DEAD!

Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. Almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure: These things just fall away in the face of death.”

In the Stanford Speech Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

At 5.8 decades of life, more than ever I am aware that “time is limited”. However, I am more grateful for my remaining days than I have ever been before. A discovery of recent months is one of the best uses of some of my limited time is to come here each day and express my thanks for another day of life. Thank you for sharing the journey with me and witnessing the growth of my gratitude. 

If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.  George Bernard Shaw

Those Who Have Less Are Many

This morning as I begin a new day writing here, I am curious if I can come up with 50 things to be grateful for in 10 minutes. Here goes:

1. Bed I woke up in.
2. Clean sheets I slept on.
3. Home I slept safely in last night.
4. Alarm clock that woke me up.
5. Electricity to power everything.
6. Lights so I could see before dawn.
7. Coffee pot and ground coffee.
8. Milk and sugar.
9. Glasses so I can see this screen.
10. Ability to see so the glasses matter.
11. Comfy clothes to wear.
12. Coffee cup for my coffee.
13. Morning banana.
14. My computer.
15. High speed internet.
16. Inspiration to write this blog.
17. Being alive.
18. Hands and arms that work.
19. Good health.
20. Email I get from a friend each morning.
21. A good brain that allows me to write.
22. Carpet under my feet.
23. Legs that work.
24. Wisdom to be grateful.
25. Desk and a chair to sit in.
26. Radio to listen to.
27. Pen and notepad.
28. My Bathroom.
29. Indoor plumbing to wash my hands.
30. Comforter and blanket on my bed.
31. Pillow for my head.
32. Those that support my writing.
33. Living in a peaceful country.
34. My phone to get a text on.
35. A window to see the sunrise.
36. The calendar in my office.
37. Art on my walls.
38. Optimistic and hopeful outlook.
39. Nat Geo to read during morning business.
40. A job to go to later.
41. Ample money to support myself.
42. People I look forward to seeing today.
43. A short commute to/from work.
44. The cool fall morning outside
45. Heat to keep me warm this morning.
46. A wide choice of clothes in my closet.
47. Refrigerator
48. Food in the pantry and fridge.
49. Ability to remember.
50. Love of friends and family.
51. Toothbrush and toothpaste
52. All my fingers and toes.
53. The Internet
54. A good night’s sleep.

The last four are bonus entries to make up for any duplication or similarity of entries created by writing quickly on the fly. My progress began to slow down a little after the first 30 but the list above was completed in about eight minutes;   one thing to be grateful for every eight seconds!

Once I began to focus on comparing my life to how it could be, gratitude filled me more and more. I imagined how decadently luxurious almost all waking today up in a third world country would find my list. People who have more than me are few and those who have less are many. Such a way of looking at things is a noble way to put my life in perspective. On what many would call a “bad day” I have a better and easier life than almost all on the planet! The majority of the world’s population spends most of every day on one task: attempting to find enough to eat.

How lucky am I! For my rich blessings I am highly grateful. A great frame of mind to begin a new day with!

It’s Never Too Late; There’s Always Time

Years ago I read Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie”.  The novel touched me deeply and I eagerly bought Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” when first I came across it in a book store.  Last week I bought a copy of the movie made of the latter from a bargain bin.  I previously did not recall the book was ever even made into a movie!

There are those little moments when just what I need comes to me at the moment I need it. Whether such times are the work of God and the Universe or pure chance and coincidence does not change the effect (although I like to think it is some combination of both). Watching “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” last night was one of those times.

I left work during the mid-afternoon yesterday because a bout of moderate depression was about halfway through its usual 2-3 day run.  Little was getting accomplished; I could not concentrate. Depression has a unique way of accentuating all I feel has not been right about my life and lowering hope for the future to a dim and distant light.  From experience I know intellectually what is going on, yet that does little to hinder the torrent of clouds and dark feeling that come over me.

OK… all you macho types are not going to like this, but to borrow a bit of a phrase from Rhett Butler “Frankly I don’t give a damn”.  Watching the “Five People You Meet in Heaven” movie last night caused a tear at several points as I allowed myself to be absorbed into some of the emotions being expressed.  In the main character’s sadness and grief for what he perceived as his wasted life I found an evening’s solace for what ailed me.  Better than any pill or distracting activity I was righted from being depressed by a good dose of my own emotions.  How very grateful I am this morning to feel “It’s never too late; there’s always time”.

It’s never too late
There’s always time.

It’s never too late to change.
There’s always time to begin.

It’s never to late to say I’m sorry
There’s always time to start again.

It’s never to late to let the past go
There’s always time to start a future.

It’s never too late to be happy
There’s always time to stop being sad.

It’s never too late to fall deeply in love,
There’s always time to reopen one’s heart.

It’s never too late to write your thoughts
There’s always time to speak your piece.

It’s never to late to find what you’ve dreamed of
There’s always time to learn to do something new.

It’s never too late to connect with one you left behind
There’s always time to be lost and to get found.

It’s never too late to try again when you failed before
There’s always time to grow and learn from mistakes.

It’s never too late to hope no matter how old you are
There’s always time to have foolish fun like a child.

It’s never too late to have much more than you need
There’s always time to make your life more simple.

It’s never too late to live the way you want to live
There’s always time to find yourself if you look.

It’s never to late to stop feeling old regret
There’s always time for hope for the future.

It’s never too late to find happiness
There’s always time to laugh more.

It’s never too late to forgive
There’s always time to be forgiven.

It’s never too late to change.
There’s always time to begin.

It’s never too late
There’s always time.
James Browning October 10, 2011

All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.
Mitch Albom 

“Five People You Meet in Heaven” trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrLMtmvHYy0

What Do I Feel?

Having been in recovery from codependence for over four years, it is easy to notice how much better off I am now.  The “constant noise and emotional confusion” inside has dimmed to just a whisper the vast majority of the time.  While not true 100%, mostly the “not good enough feelings” are greatly diminished or gone entirely.  That is a near miracle!

What is codependence?  An answer from:  http://www.allaboutcounseling.com/codependency.htm

Codependency is a set of *maladaptive, *compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing *great emotional abuse; pain and stress.

*maladaptive – inability for a person to develop behaviors which get needs met.
*compulsive – psychological state where a person acts against their own will or conscious desires.
*sources of great emotional pain and stress – chemical dependency; chronic mental illness; chronic physical illness; physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; divorce; hypercritical or non-loving environment.

As adults, codependent people have a greater tendency to get involved in “toxic relationships”, in other words with people who are perhaps unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy. And the codependent person tries to provide and control everything within the relationship without addressing their own needs or desires; setting themselves up for continued un-fulfillment.

Even when a codependent person encounters someone with healthy boundaries, the codependent person still operates in their own system; they’re not likely to get too involved with people who have healthy boundaries. This of course creates problems that continue to recycle; if codependent people can’t get involved with people who have healthy behaviors and coping skills, then the problems continue into each new relationship.

I borrowed the definition of codependency, to set up the following story from the book “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

On this day, Morrie says that he has an exercise for us to try. We are to stand, facing away from our classmates, and fall backward, relying on another student to catch us. Most of us are uncomfortable with this, and we cannot let go for more than a few inches before stopping ourselves. We laugh in embarrassment.
 
Finally, one student, a thin, quiet, dark-haired girl whom I notice almost always wears bulky, white fisherman sweaters, crosses her arms over her chest, closes her eyes, leans back, and does not flinch, like one of those Lipton tea commercials where the model splashes into the pool.
 
For a moment, I am sure she is going to thump on the floor. At the last instant, her assigned partner grabs her head and shoulders and yanks her up harshly.
 
“Whoa!” several students yell. Some clap. Morrie finally smiles. “You see”, he says to the girl, “you closed your eyes.  That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see; you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them too – even when you’re in the dark, even when you’re falling”.

As I have been able to let go of being what I thought people wanted me to be and instead keep healthy boundaries and be true to myself, life has greatly improved.  However, there are still times when I get bewildered.  Coming to “believe what I feel” is a challenge then when I am emotionally like a seven year-old boy trying to sort it out.  When one has “put on” feelings and ways of being for as long as I have, it can hard here and there to know what is pretend and fake from what is real and true.  But every day this gets a little easier.   

I am very grateful for what I have learned and put into practice through my involvement with Codependents Anonymous.   Application of such things is responsible for a great improvement in the quality of my life.  I am glad to say I am happy most of time.  When I ask myself “what do I feel?”  An answer does not always come, but usually one does.  I am very thankful to be the most emotionally healthy today I have ever been. 

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.  Jim Rohn

Find out more about codependence here:

http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/signs-of-a-codependent-relationship

http://www.allaboutlifechallenges.org/codependency.htm

http://www.addictionz.com/20_questions_for_codependents.htm (20 question quiz to find out if you might suffer with codependence

Chivalrous Until Death

 As long as I live I will not forget an occurrence in  Chicago about 20 years ago.  Winter was upon Chi-town and everyone was bundled, scarf’d and glove’d up.  It had been snowing lightly all morning.  In the city on business I had just gotten out of a cab and was walking toward the doors of an office building for an appointment.  Even though I was a few minutes late, I stopped to open the door for a 20-something woman.  She was insulted!  WHAT?!?!   

I was shocked.  Immediately the woman I opened the door for went into a 10 second diatribe so well-organized and rehearsed I realized later she had delivered it many times.  The barbs the young woman threw at me were something like “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and don’t need a chauvinistic male like you to open doors for me.  I take it as a personal affront that you think as a woman I am weak and require your assistance.  Take your macho male b@!ls#!t and shove it!”  Then she stormed through the door.  I just stood there dumbfounded while continuing to hold the door for at least a few seconds.  Another guy who heard what she said just looked at me, then her and shook his head.   

I was raised with a sense of old-fashioned traditional values that include saying “please and thank you”, showing respect to elders, letting women and children go first and opening doors for ladies of ALL ages.  The woman I encountered in Chicago was no lady!  To this day I wonder what happened that made her respond the way she did.  Was it she was overweight and physically unattractive and lacked male attention that she reviled any man who reminded her of the lack?  Did she hate men?  I have no idea.  Whatever it was, it is her problem.  Not mine.  I believe chivalrous acts are beautiful trimmings of human experience.  All my life I will continue to practice those respectful acts knowing 99.9% appreciate the gestures.  (I also open doors for men and am usually the last through).

Apparently opening doors for ladies goes back to the days when the women of nobility wore ornate gowns and outfits. In a full formal outfit, a lady could not reach the door if she tried – at least not in a fashionable way that conveyed the grace she was portraying.  Her escort thus opened the door for her.  Women today benefit from a lot that has come about in the last 50 years to shore up inequality they previously suffered under.  Even today there is improvement needed.  I believe today’s women are inherently powerful and capable but also believe chivalry still has its place.  Kindness and respect still matter! 

I was alarmed to find an article in a Great Britain newspaper titled “Men Who Hold Open Doors for Women Are SEXIST Not Chivalrous, Feminists Claim”.  Supposedly researchers from the Society for the Psychology of Women conducted a study among workers of both genders in America and Germany.  Their conclusion was men who open doors for women are guilty of ‘benevolent sexism’.  Also, according to the new study by a group of feminist psychologists referring to a group of men and women as ‘guys’ is a no-no.  (I got corrected once for that back in the mid-80’s in California by a group of four women).  The article goes on to state that women are unaware of it but are unwittingly affected because it helps to create a culture of women being seen as the vulnerable sex who need a man’s help. 

There’s a Bob Seger song that contains the lyrics “Call me a relic, call me what’cha will.  Say I’m old-fashioned.  Say I’m over the hill”.  If those words fit, then so be it.  I believe a real man always opens the door for a woman.  A woman who does not allow a man to open the door for her, or has stopped expecting it, has lost her way. To me being polite to the opposite sex will never go out of style regardless if that woman is a boss, mother, sister, daughter, friend, or stranger. 

Added as a footnote, I do have one pet peeve about the matter of opening doors.  I believe my chivalrous duty is not the public at large. I don’t know how many times I’ve opened a door for a woman then stood there holding the door for a gaggle of complete strangers. Consequently, the woman accompanying me was left standing in the lobby alone, waiting.  I try to be courteous to everyone, but my priority is with the woman I am with.  

This morning I am grateful for the two older women I opened the door for yesterday while out shopping. They smiled at me as if I had given them a momentary priceless gift reflected in their direct eye contact and a “thank you sir” spoken with great sincerity.  And to the woman in line at the registers I let go in front of me, I regret that such kindness came as such a surprise you felt you had to gush your thankfulness.  At the time I was in a hurry but not so much I forgot my manners.  I am glad to have put a little positive energy into your day. It is my honor to open doors for women and I am grateful to those who appreciate it.  Even for those that don’t, it is the gift of respect I give that benefits the giver:  ME! 

Gallantry to women – the sure road to their favor – is nothing but the appearance of extreme devotion to all their wants and wishes, a delight in their satisfaction, and a confidence in yourself as being able to contribute toward it.  William Hazlitt

To Be Loved a Little More

“Before Sunrise” is a movie made in 1995 starring Ethan Hawke as a young American named Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine, a young French Girl.  They meet on a train and end up getting off together in Vienna where they spend the night walking around the city getting to know each other.  Celine is a romantic with doubts and Jesse is cynic when it comes to affairs of the heart.  Thinking they will never see each other again both are more revealing about them self that they normally would be.  “Before Sunset” is a sequel that picks up the story nine years after the events of the first movie.

I am grateful for the hapless romantic in me that is brought to the surface when I watch these favorite movies.  The dialogue runs the gamut from insightful and revealing to touching and amusing.   Here are randomly selected pieces of the movies.

Jesse:  I don’t know, I think that if I could just accept the fact that my life is supposed to be difficult. You know, that’s what to be expected, then I might not get so pissed-off about it and I’ll just be glad when something nice happens. 

Celine:  If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but…who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt. 

Jesse:  You know what drives me crazy? It’s all these people talking about how great technology is, and how it saves all this time. But, what good is saved time, if nobody uses it? If it just turns into more busy work. You never hear somebody say, “With the time I’ve saved by using my word processor, I’m gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out”. 

Celine:   The reality of it is that the true work of improving things is in the little achievements of the day 

Jesse:  Maybe what I’m saying is the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don’t know. When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was whacked with insecurity. Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them

Celine:   Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more? 

Jesse:  You realize that most of the people that you meet are trying to get somewhere better, they’re trying to make a little bit more cash, trying to get a little more respect, have more people admire them. It’s just exhausting. 

Celine:   I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away. 

Jesse:  I don’t have any permanent place here. You know, in eternity, or whatever. And the more I think that, I can’t go through life saying that this is no big deal. I mean, this is it! This is actually happening. What do you think is interesting, what do you think is funny, what do you think is important? You know, every day is our last. 

Celine:   Now, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but…who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt. 

Jesse:  I heard this story once about when the Germans were occupying Paris and they had to retreat back. They wired Notre Dame to blow, but they had to leave one guy in charge of hitting the switch. And the guy, the soldier, he couldn’t do it. You know, he just sat there, knocked out by how beautiful the place was. And then when the allied troops came in, they found all the explosives just lying there and the switch unturned, and they found the same thing at Sacre Couer, Eiffel Tower. Couple other places I think…
Celine:  Is that true?
Jesse:  I don’t know. I always liked the story, though.
 
Almost at the end of the second movie, “Before Sunset” Julie Delpy sings a song portrayed as being one Celine wrote about their first meeting nine years before.  

Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my thoughts
Let me sing you a waltz
About this one night stand
You were, for me, that night
Everything I always dreamt of in life
But now you’re gone
You are far gone
All the way to your island of rain
It was for you just a one night thing
But you were much more to me, just so you know
I don’t care what they say
I know what you meant for me that day
I just want another try, I just want another night
Even if it doesn’t seem quite right
You meant for me much more than anyone I’ve met before
One single night with you, little Jesse, is worth a thousand with anybody
I have no bitterness, my sweet
I’ll never forget this one night thing
Even tomorrow in other arms, my heart will stay yours until I die
Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my blues
Let me sing you a waltz
About this lovely one night stand

Neither movie reaches a conclusion and one watching must fill in that blank the way they imagine it to turn out.  With a short visit to what is said and sung in “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” my morning is a bit brighter.  I am grateful for the sweetness I always feel when exposed to these two films.  They portray falling in love as imperfect, yet at its very best.  

True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about,
but few have seen.  
Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Power of the Written Word

Writing here and allowing others to know my deepest thoughts, both the admirable and venerable and the dark and painful, has been an interesting experience.  Of all those whose feedback I receive it is often those who perceive they know me best who are seem surprised most.  

What is found on this blog is a sort of self-therapy, where I open myself to write unfiltered for my own eyes to see more clearly the musing that swims within.  Casting them into the world forces me even further to face them.  No running away when anyone can read them!  There are dear friends who make comments like “let her go”, “you’re pretend happy”, “stop thinking like that”, “you imagine things that can never be”, “you’re wallowing in your pain” or simply “that’s a fairy tale”.  I reflect back two thoughts:  “How effective is it to tell someone in pain to stop hurting” and “If I am happy in my delusion, what is the harm of it”. 

How richly I am blessed to have friends who care about me so much they wish to ‘set me straight’.  I know they have only the very best intention in mind.  My gratitude is deep and wide for those who love me and wish my life to be better.  I am richly blessed. 

My finding is when I release my thoughts to the world in an uninhibited and often down-right raw manner that gesture alone is healing for me.  By sharing my undisclosed and concealed secrets, positive and negative, I become mentally quieter and more content. 

A yearning of mine may appear to some to be pure fantasy or wishing for the impossibly perfect. Usually I know when I am expressing one of those dreams one wishes for knowing it is somewhere between highly unlikely and completely impracticable.  Thinking in such a manner has brought the hidden child within me back to life with sparkling hope.  Just as a five-year-old wishes for innocent whimsy, the dream alone is the answer to its wish. 

A pining for a long-lost love or rehash of old childhood pain is only a further release for me of tension and discomfort that remains.  With each little spew and hiss of words, the pressure of the slowly diminishing hurt is relieved a bit more:  a healthy practice.     

How often I have failed to understand the emotion behind the content of an email as I paint the words on the screen with the emotional color I add.  I am coming to realize that each person who reads what I write here filters my words differently.  The meaning received by each reader is different from the next and frequently askew by a little or a lot of what I was thinking and feeling when the words first appeared on my screen.  That’s OK! 

What pleases me most is I am striking chords within others.  As a friend accurately pointed out, people usually respond strongest toward what we read or hear when the content is already alive within the reader.  To share about pain can awaken someone else to release a bit of a hurt.  To share about joy can renew another’s delight. To share about anguish can rouse and help diminish a reader’s agony.  To share about gladness can rekindle bliss…. And so on.    

From an article titled “Word Play: The Power of the Written Word in Ancient Israel” by Joey Corbett comes:  To the modern world, the written word is often taken for granted. We are so removed from the origins of writing that when we write something, whether on a piece of paper, on a sign or on the internet, we don’t even think about the physical act of creating words. For us, writing is simply a means to an end, an almost primordial and instinctive technology that we use to communicate with each other. 

… when alphabetic writing had just begun to spread across the masses of the ancient Near East, written words were far more than idle marks meant simply to be read. Words were repositories of power, physical vessels that gave material reality to one’s innermost thoughts and even the soul itself. 

The magical properties of writing meant that written words, once they came into being, were active and sometimes even unstable forces that could be manipulated, both for good and for ill. 

As an avid reader since early childhood, I am grateful to see the return of the power of the written word.  For soon to be a hundred years the spoken word has grown in strength through radio, telephone and television.  With the internet  written word that has become powerful again.  Whether expressing deep emotions that touch others or writing of injustice that overturns governments, we live again in a time of power for the written word.  I am very grateful for this turn of events and hope my small contributions serve in some small way to better life for a few in this modern world.   

Words must surely be counted
among the most powerful drugs man ever invented.
Leo Rosten

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” (Steve Jobs)

As I get older I am reminded more of death as friends and family make that transition.  This morning I will be packing for a trip to another state to attend services for a dear friend’s father.  He was eight-six and lived a good long life.  Yet at the same time it’s sad that he departed so soon.  It will be a somber occasion regarding the loss and a happy one in  celebration of a good man’s life.

There is no doubt I will cherish life a little more through the experience of the next few days.  At least for a short while life’s reality will be a little clearer.  Certainly coming face to face with another’s passing will bring my eventual destination more prominently before me and in my thoughts.  And maybe the most important of all I will witness the love of family for one another and how each helps another bear the difficulty of this moment of life.  I know the door of sadness I will walk through initially will have me walking out later tempered with love, joy and gladness.

Steve Jobs died only a week ago.  He gave a remarkable commencement address to Stanford University’s class of 2005.   Included were some of his thoughts about living and dying.  Mr. Job’s words were inspirational and here are a few paragraphs from his remarks:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important; have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Watch the full speech here:  http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html

Sitting here this morning three months past my fifty-eighth birthday, I am more aware of my eventual demise than ever before.  But my awareness of being alive is the most acute it has ever been too.  In contrast to the many years spent sleep-walking through the present toward an imagined future, today I do my very best to be truly alive and aware in the moments of my life.  Just one example is this blog.  For near half a year now I have gotten up around two hours earlier every day to have the time to write.  Why?  Because writing is something I always said I was going to do.  No longer will my awareness of the reality of life and death allow me to hesitate about doing more of what I promised myself I would do.  Previously I wrote about those dying most often having the largest regret for the things they did not do https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/08/27/five-biggest-regrets-before-dying/

Realizing the remainder of days for the “must-do’s” in my life becomes a reduced number with the passing of every day makes me more truly alive.  There is so much about living life well I still want to learn, but it is the knowing of that and applying myself to it which opens my heart, mind and soul to being more fully alive.  I am grateful for this state of being that places me here in this “now” with a joy for living.

Gaily I lived as ease and nature taught,
And spent my little life without a thought,
And am amazed that Death, that tyrant grim,
Should think of me, who never thought of him.
René Francois Regnier

My Penance, My Restitution

The moment my fingers begin on the keyboard today I can only conclude it is my penance, my restitution for breaking her heart.  The days become weeks that become months that have now become years, but in my heart she lives still.  There as a watchman to any who might enter my heart she stands vigilant to question and interrogate.  Is she there to prevent a new love’s possible entry?  Is the presence a self-created protection I use her memory to maintain?  Is what I perceive as love instead just compulsion or obsession?  Such things she does not do to me.  I do them to myself.  It is me only who keeps this fire within.  I swear I don’t have control and instead the feelings control me.  But WHY?

Is what resides in my heart love and a wish it was still practiced today?  Or is it self-punishment for the pain and darkness I feel brought to her?  Have I ever known truly what love is?  What is the answer?  What is it I feel?  Have felt?  I know yearning and desire have been my companion, friend, enemy and foe.  There has been great joy and moments of grace that make me shiver with the sweetness of their memory:  and when I write those words I can only think only of her.

Having mistaken lust as love and for so long not being able to discern the different, I came to her trying to molt the skin of my past.  But those ways were strong and in weakness they took me over once again.  Those ways of being allowed me to blame her for shortcomings and dysfunction, and while factors, were not the cause of my behavior.  Admitting that gives some slight relief and solace today.

There are no answers.  I have searched for them for a long time now.  In prayer I have beseeched God to either help me understand or to relieve me of this burden that is rooted in joy that once was.  Even as inconsistent as it existed and was shared, that love lived large in an all-consuming way.

With a melancholy spirit I humbly give thanks to have known love that was so deep and strong, I grieve for it yet.  On one hand, I wish still to wait in hopes her forgetting catches up with her forgiveness.  Yet, she has made clear, so vividly clearly, she could never do that.  Over and over it was said.  There might be another and it is that slight crack in my heart that brings the battle for me with the watchman of my heart; the sentry of love that once was.  Patience with myself and understanding from another is my hope today with gratefulness expressed in advance for such grace and blessing.

Weep Not Too Much”

Weep not too much, my darling;
Sigh not too oft for me;
Say not the face of Nature
Has lost its charm for thee.
I have enough of anguish
In my own breast alone;
Thou canst not ease the burden, Love,
By adding still thine own.

I know the faith and fervor
Of that true heart of thine;
But I would have it hopeful
As thou wouldst render mine.
At night, when I lie waking,
More soothing it will be
To say ‘She slumbers calmly now,’
Than say ‘She weeps for me.’

When through the prison grating
The holy moonbeams shine,
And I am wildly longing
To see the orb divine
Not crossed, deformed, and sullied
By those relentless bars
That will not show the crescent moon,
And scarce the twinkling stars,

It is my only comfort
To think, that unto thee
The sight is not forbidden –
The face of heaven is free.
If I could think (she)
Is gazing upward now –
Is gazing with a tearless eye
A calm unruffled brow;

That moon upon her spirit
Sheds sweet, celestial balm, –
The thought, like Angel’s whisper,
My misery would calm.
And when, at early morning,
A faint flush comes to me,
Reflected from those glowing skies
I almost weep to see;

Or when I catch the murmur
Of gently swaying trees,
Or hear the louder swelling
Of the soul-inspiring breeze,
And pant to feel its freshness
Upon my burning brow,
Or sigh to see the twinkling leaf,
And watch the waving bough;

If, from these fruitless yearnings
Thou wouldst deliver me,
Say that the charms of Nature
Are lovely still to thee;
While I am thus repining,
O! Let me but believe,
‘These pleasures are not lost to her,’
And I will cease to grieve.

O, scorn not Nature’s bounties!
My soul partakes with thee.
Drink bliss from all her fountains,
Drink for thyself and me!
Say not, ‘My soul is buried
In dungeon gloom with thine;’
But say, ‘His heart is here with me;
His spirit drinks with mine.

Anne Bronte, 1777–1861