A Crack in Everything

With hours on airplanes and in airports last week I was able to finish a hard to put down book titled “Flourish” by Martin Seligman, PhD.  I have read several of Dr. Seligman’s books on the subject of optimism, happiness, character strengths and innate virtues including his books “Learned Optimism” and “Authentic Happiness” (both of which I recommend).  Over and over in multiple studies he continues to prove that attitude and belief shape our lives more than we imagine.  Here’s one example noted in “Flourish”:
 
Sandra Murray, professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, has done an extraordinary set of studies on good marriage.  She carefully measures what you think about your spouse: house handsome, how kind, how funny, how devoted and how smart he is.  She poses the very same questions about your spouse to your closest friends, and she derives a discrepancy score: if you think more of your spouse than your friend do, the discrepancy is positive.  If you are a “realist” and you are more pessimistic about him than your friends, the discrepancy is negative.  The strength of the marriage is directly a function of how positive the discrepancy is.  Spouses with very strong benign illusions about their mates have much better marriages.  The mechanism is likely that your spouse knows about your illusions, and he tries to live up to them.  Optimism helps love, Pessimism hurts. 
 
So how do you like “them apples”?  I found those words to be informative and bittersweet.  Today I realize readily that my attitude and thinking has a great deal to do with the outcome of things.  The bittersweet comes from acknowledging within each of two marriages my pessimistic thoughts about my wife were a sizeable factor in the eventual end of those unions.  I have no specific idea why the crazy compulsion of wondering if there was someone better out there for me remained so consistently pervasive.  Each time I loved and was loved within one of these meaningful long term relationships, my thinking was part of their undermining.  Yes, there were other factors,  ones that on their own might surely have caused the demise of the marriages, but my thinking was certainly fuel on the fire.
 
There is a line of thinking that goes something like “why do people allow what is known to be met with contempt, while holding the unknown with desire and admiration?”  Stated a different way; “why does someone new look more attractive than one that is known?”   Certainly this is human nature, but why is that?   (That’s  subject for a future blog).

In the lore of love and tales of romance, initial attraction and love at first sight are scattered consistently.  That imagining combined with some physical, shall we say hormonal, attraction seem to me to be factors in people wondering if there is more outside marriage.  Real life counters such thinking. An important part of a compatible relationship is ensuring that each partner’s values coincide, and to learn that takes time, discussion, observation, and interpersonal interaction, not an initial impression based on superficial cues, says James C. Piers, Ph.D., professor and program director of social work, at Hope College in Holland,MI.
 
From an article attributed to Match.com called “The New Rules of Attraction”:  You can check off the attributes you want—appearance, background, education, career, salary—but unless you’re building your lover in a lab, you’re missing out. Of course, you should have standards and not settle for a two-pack-a-day smoker who doesn’t want kids when you’re allergic to smoke and eager to start a family. But settling for nothing less than perfection is unrealistic. “Wish lists are a classic recipe for unsuccessful dating,” says Fleming. “They’re too limiting and don’t allow for chemistry, which is more intangible and valuable.” Try to be flexible, especially when it comes to physical or material attributes like someone’s height, salary, or hair color. After all, just because someone’s 6’2”, blonde, or makes six figures doesn’t mean he or she will make you happy, so do yourself a favor and treat your ideal-mate wish list as just one factor in deciding who’s right for you.  So “what glitters is not always gold”.
 
One of my issues (of the past hopefully) has been a lengthy “wish list” that I am now doubtful anyone could ever fit into.  I have mellowed and been able to sort down to the “must haves” that make my future prospects more realistic for a lasting relationship.  No, I won’t settle for less that those items in a partner that I must have.  That simply is good caretaking of my self, but I no longer search for near perfection.
 
The single factor that did the most in helping me see past bad habits, irritating behavior and bothersome traits in others was to begin to come to grips (at least somewhat) with my own imperfections.  It still amazes me how gaining clearer view of one’s self allows a person to more accurately see others.  When kindness and understanding is self-applied it is easier to use that insight in one’s view of others.  I am very grateful for the knowledge I have today that was learned the hard way.  Mistakes are made worthy when wisdom is gained from them.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

The Door is Always Open

A frequent visitor to the Codependents Anonymous group I attend is a friend named Bill who often emails inspirational passages that make me stop and think.  Today he sent one that was just what I needed at the moment.  Today I am grateful for Bill sharing a piece called “The Door Is Always Open” by Jafree Ozwald.  Here is a paragraph that rang true for me:

You are free to leave this experience called suffering. You already have an out of jail pass. The golden key to opening this magical door is learning how to surrender to who you are.  This means you first let go of all your beliefs, judgments and ideas about who you think you are, and then see what is left.  You can move through any stuck, painful or imprisoned feeling that arises by dropping into a state of pure surrender.  You are either choosing the path of Ego or Surrender.  If you choose surrender, there is a deep experience within your being awaiting you.  It is only through this deep trusting state that you instantly get to see, feel and experience the Divine Being that you truly are.  

“Many of life’s circumstances are created by three basic choices: the disciplines you choose to keep, the people you choose to be with, and the laws you choose to obey.”  Charles Millhuff

Especially since the writing of this “Good Morning Gratitude” blog began, I have come to know that people at times have a different view of me than I have of myself.  That does not appear to come from others seeing some illusion I project to them.  Rather it seems to be the illusions I still at times project to myself.  However, that situation is getting better and the two ways of seeing me are becoming more parallel.  Whew!  What a relief.

When one starts consistently feeling “not good enough” as I was taught as a child the habit can become deeply engrained that by adulthood I could no longer see myself any other way.  That was a foggy path of many years spent trying to fix what was not broken or pretending to be other than I actually was.  Those were the decades of being alive, but not truly living.  I lived for others and as they wanted me to, always trying to fit in and be accepted.

No longer!  In moving to better acceptance of myself, I had to recognize I am a bit odd and generally do not fit into the mainstream.  I feel too much, express myself differently and have interests outside of a stereotype.  It feels good to have moved from consternation about that to gratefulness for my uniqueness.  Oh, some days it gets a little weird or hard to handle, but generally here in middle age I am grateful and glad to be me exactly as I am.

Back a while I mentioned a video of Dr. Brene Brown found on TED.com.  In it she makes the point that often our inability to show feelings is what keeps us from a great deal of possible happiness and contentment.  https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/06/01/t-e-d/

Dr. Brown’s research points to four traits of how contented people achieve their balance:
1.  They have courage.  It is in the willingness to tell their whole story, not just the one they think others desire of them.
2.  They have the compassion to be kind to themselves and to others.  It is interesting to note the order of that statement:  being kind to self comes first.
3.  They are able to have authentic connections to others having largely let go of who they thought they should be.  They are well acquainted with their true self.
4.  They embrace vulnerability.  This is willingness to say I love you first, to act without guarantees or invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.

Through noting those points I recommit to their ideals.  What began in earnest several years ago is being accelerated by throwing my self open upon the world in this blog.  I thank you for being my witness and taking a step with me in this journey by reading these thoughts today.  I am grateful for you!

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. Henry David Thoreau

Good Oblivion

There are times I wonder if the weekend editions of “Good Morning Gratitude” should be renamed “Good Afternoon Gratitude”.  Often the less structured hours of a Saturday or Sunday allow getting things done at an enjoyable and more leisurely pace.  So far today about all I have done is sleep late, do laundry and catch up on emails from last week I did not get to as they came in.  

This morning I slept later than I can remember having done in a long time:  eleven hours!  Last time I strung that many hours of sleep together I was suffering badly from jet lag after returning from a European trip.  Dragging butt from sleep shortfalls during a business trip last week plus comforting a friend Friday evening into the wee hours of Saturday morning gave me a dose of sleep deprivation.  

With curiosity if I could actually “catch up” on sleep I missed out on and wondering how much sleep a person needs, I did some research.  What I found began with the words of Michael H. Bonnet, PhD who is a professor of neurology at Wright State University School of Medicine.  He wrote we are all different.  You need enough sleep so you can awaken feeling refreshed without an alarm clock.  With a close friend who has slept only 1-4 hours per night since he was a little boy and my guesstimated need of 8 hours, I know there are wide swings in how much individuals need to spend time sleeping. 

According to “Web MD” whether you need seven, eight, or even nine hours of sleep a nightmay be up for debate, but the importance of getting adequate sleep is not debatable. Sleep loss increases the risk of high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, and diseases associated with these risk factors, such as diabetes and heart disease.  Sleep loss also impairs performance and mood, according to the report. 

Duh!  I know all about “impaired performance and mood” from my experiences back when my alarm went off at 3am each workday and am not surprised living that way has  health implications.  It was suggested by Web MD to test to see how much sleep you need: If you need an alarm clock to wake, try going to sleep 15 minutes earlier. Do you still need an alarm clock? If you do, push your bedtime up another 15 minutes.  Do this until you no longer need an alarm to wake up. This exercise should give you a pretty good idea about the amount of sleep you need per night.  Sounds logical and I hope to be my own lab rat and try that experiment sometime.  

Back in April when I began blogging here, to have the time to write each morning I intentionally changed my sleep habits and referenced it in an early blog titled “A Recovering Night Owl” https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/05/26/a-recovering-night-owl/  From that experience it is known to me that one can adapt their sleep habits. 

Digging deeper I found:  Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, as they report, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hr. or more, or less than 6.5 hr.; they don’t live quite as long. There is just as much risk associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short. The big surprise is that long sleep seems to start at 8 hr. Sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hr. That was a bit of a wakeup call since I am writing this after sleeping eleven hours last night! 

Moving on to an answer of how much sleep I need, the following was found on Helpguide.org:  Aim for at least 7.5 hours of sleep every night. Consistency is the key.  Settle short-term sleep debt with an extra hour or two per night. (If you lost 10 hours of sleep, pay the debt back in nightly one or two-hour installments).  

Helpguide.org offers similar advice to Web MD (above) about sorting out how much sleep I need.  Take a sleep vacation to pay off a long-term sleep debt. Pick a two-week period when you have a flexible schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm clocks! If you continue to keep the same bedtime and wake up naturally, you’ll eventually dig your way out of debt and arrive at the sleep schedule that’s ideal for you.  Sounds like a good idea but will take some astute planning in order to have a chance to try it. 

Now it is late afternoon and if I don’t hurry this entry will be posted near bedtime and have a name amendment to “Good Evening Gratitude”.  With the knowledge of the friend who sleeps just a little and at least two others who suffer from insomnia, spending a couple of hours reading about sleep brought to the surface several pieces of gratitude.  

1)  With a few exceptions I have no problem going to sleep.
2)  Most nights I sleep quite well.  Only occasionally do I wake up and have a problem going back to sleep.
3) For the most part my lifestyle allows me to get near what I perceive as the proper amount of sleep each night.  I do cheat myself out of sleep at times so I can do other things though.

I find one additional thing to be grateful and that is the knowledge of the experiments on how to find the proper amount of sleep that fits me personally.  While I have no idea when I will find the time to try, it is on my ‘to do” list and will happen in the months to come.  I will write about the experience then.   

And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep,
and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
D.H. Lawrence

To Melt into the Sun

Last night I spent the evening and into the early morning with my best friend Mel who lost his father the night before.  His Dad was eighty-six and even with waning health, the passing was a surprise with its coming sooner than expected.  To a son, this father was ‘Superman’.  While I met this man only once I know him so very well through the stories I have been told.  Those stories are wonderful and told of a loving father by a loving son.  

It was an evening of tears and laugher mixed together by two old friends being wholly themselves during time shared that will not be forgotten.  

From the “Propher” by Kahlil Gibran 

You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heath of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. 

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honor. Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? 

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. 

“I Did Not Die” by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

I am grateful to have a good friend to who I get to be a good friend to.  Thankful is my feeling for all the times we have shared knowing always we are “there” for each other.  The more years that pass the more my gratefulness for our friendship grows.

When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. 
Henri Nouwen

Holding on for Dear Life

What a sinking feeling it was to realize I had lost my iPhone.   Being away on business yesterday, my morning in the hotel room was filled things to be grateful for like getting to sleep later than usual, room service breakfast in the room, leisurely having some time to write and catch up on news on the internet.  

My mood was fabulous as I checked out and met my two associates in the hotel lobby.  We drove to the airport, dropped off a rental car and said our goodbyes before heading to the gates for flights to our individual home cities.  A short while later just after making it through security I was putting things back into my pockets when I realized I did not have my phone.  Oh, crap!  Where could it be?  I frantically looked around the security area.  A helpful security agent ran my computer bag through the scanner again to see if I hide it from myself inside.  All the while my mind is bouncing around thinking about the loss of photos and data, the process of setting up a new phone and all the numbers not included in a backup made months before. 

Slowly logic and reason returned as I focused myself on the mystery of my missing iPhone.  I was able to remember entering a phone number on the way to the airport and began to think through where I might have lost it.  Did I leave my phone at the kiosk when I was checking in?  Did I put it down on some airport seating where I stopped to clean out my pockets just before security?  

Mentally working back to where I knew I last had my phone, I hurriedly reversed direction.  Walking as fast as I could out of the security area and down the concourse I soon was outside the airport and walking up to the rental car return area.  I asked if an iPhone had been found and the young woman who had checked the car in quickly went to ask the clean up crew.  I convinced myself I was going to have to get a new phone upon arriving home.   I was lost in thought about which one I was going to get when the rental car agent came running toward me, smiling and waving my phone in the air.  Being a sweating mess from hauling butt through the airport was quickly forgotten as the happiness about my found phone overtook me.  As I walked back into the airport I was felt blessed and lucky and made a mental note to keep closer tabs on my phone! 

On boarding my flight a short while later I found my seat was in the very last row of a completely full airplane.  My assigned aisle seat was next to a young woman who appeared to be in her early to mid twenties.  She was a tiny little thing and looked to be about five feet tall at best.  As the man in the window seat made conversation with her I focused on my book, but noticed she spoke with accented, but good English.  As the plane taxied to the runway she got her Walkman ready.  Once in the air the young woman disappeared with closed eyes into her music whose beat I could hear faintly.  She squirmed a bit and seemed to have difficulty getting comfortable for the next hour and a half.  A while later I found out why. 

Two hundred miles from Denver the pilot announced very high winds were limiting the number of runways in use at theDenverairport.  He said our arrival would be delayed and the last part of our ride was going to be very bumpy.  Soon the turbulence got worse and worse and in our holding pattern it was as bad as I ever remember.  The young woman beside me was very scared and getting more agitated with each big shimmy and bounce of the airplane.  The 30-something buy in the window seat was talking and trying to calm her, but her fear was growing fast as beads of sweat began to run down her face.  On her face was pure fear. 

The first I spoke to the young woman was to tell her that everything would be OK, that I was a small plane pilot who had lived and flown in the Denver area.  I had encountered turbulence like this before in my plane (even though 25 years earlier, that was true).  I told her I knew from experience that what was occurring was uncomfortable, but we were safe.  On one particularly rough bump she grabbed my left hand and gripped it tightly with her right hand.  She was holding on for dear life and did not let go until after we had landed.  For 20 minutes not only was she gripping my hand with her right, but her left hand was holding on tightly to my arm as she leaned against me.  From time to time I continued to talk to calm her, saying everything was going to be fine.  Just as we landed the plane bounced around quite a bit and I though she was going to break my hand her grip was so tight.

There is not a time I can remember encountering someone more fearful that this young woman was.  Only when we were on the ground did she began to talk to me.  She was so grateful to me and was gushing with gratitude.  She kept apologizing that flying scared her so much and thanking me for helping her.  I learned her name was Gabriella and she was from a country that was formerly a part of the USSR.  With her accented but very well spoken English we made conversation as we taxied.  She told me she was a Master’s Degree student headed to Chicago to see a friend (a boyfriend I think).  Her flight connection was tight and others like her were allowed off the plane first.  We hurriedly said our goodbyes and in just a matter of moments another “temporary friend” was lost into the sea of humanity.  

As I walked up the jet-way I was struck by how much helping another enriches one’s life.  For the rest of my trip it seemed everyone was nicer than usual to me, yet I know it was largely my frame of mind being reflected back to me.  I felt joyful and the sense of it continues within today.  It began with finding my phone when I was certain it was permanently lost and continued with helping a frightened young woman.  I doubt either of us will ever forget the other for the rest of our days. 

What I experienced yesterday were little things certainly, but the type of happenings that enhance life and give it little splashes of color that make living worthwhile.  I am thankful for the experiences, but to an even greater degree I am grateful for the awareness that allows me to notice such abundant richness in my life.     

For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.  Unknown

Want of Truth or Accuracy

There’s a saying that goes “If you say you’ve never lied, you are a liar”.  Even if one does so for what he or she thinks is a justifiable reason, a lie is still a lie.  Everyone lies sometime. Some lie because they think they have to cover another lie.  Others lie because it is a habit. Still others lie because it has been a way of being for so long, they believe their lies.  

Definition of “lie”:  a falsehood; want of truth or accuracy; an untrue assertion or representation; error; misrepresentation; falsity; treachery; deceit; unfaithfulness.

In an article about dating in “The Scientific Fundamentalist” Staoshi Kanazawa wrote:  Both men and women lie, but they lie about different (and predictable) things.  …men tend to lie about their earnings and their height.  …women tend to lie about their age and their weight.

Men typically lie upwards and women typically lie downwards.  Men pretend that they make more money than they actually do; they pretend that they are taller than they actually are, and they pretend that they have had more sexual partners than they actually have.  In contrast, women pretend that they are younger than they actually are; they pretend that they are lighter than they actually are (weigh less), and they pretend that they have had fewer sexual partners than they actually have.

In other words, women lie and pretend to be what they used to be before in the past, whereas men lie and pretend to be what they will be in the future (or what they hope to become in an alternate universe or in their fantasy).

In admission of not being immune from telling an untruth or bending a fact I began to think sometimes I have told a “fib” rather than a lie.  With the belief the former is not as large an indiscretion as the latter; I looked up the definition of fib and found it defined as:  a relatively insignificant, small, trivial or childish lie; a minor falsehood. 

It is within the “fib” area that I am guilty even now of telling untruths here and there.  When asked how I like someone’s new hairdo that I have a first impression of as “ugly” I try to say something like “it’s very interesting” or “that’s a unique color”.  Such comments are truthful but not offensive.  If such a statement does not satisfy the person questioning and they press with “but do you like”, my response is usually “yes, it’s cool” or “it looks good on you”.  That’s a fib, the soft rating for a lie, but saves me hurting a person’s feelings.  Generally I believe this is acceptable behavior and a light shade within an area of gray. 

Digging deeper there are certainly unquestionable lies I told which ultimately only came to a bad end.  It is no surprise to anyone that once the lying begins, more lies have to be told to cover the original falsehood.  And the spiral grows.  

There is confidence within there are liars who have no conscience about their deception.  I have never been one of them.  In covering up for an affair while married and lying to my wife, each and every lie was an additional weight inside.  Each added amount of falsity tipped my internal scales further and further to the side of self-loathing. Each lie caused me to like myself less and less until I generally despised who I had become. 

To make matters worse, I cheated on both my wives.  That behavior can be explained by my mental state at the time resulting from childhood emotional scaring, etc., but in no way, shape or form can such explanation ever be justification.  A lie is a lie, no matter the motivation.  What is wrong is wrong.  

Unfaithfulness is a lie within itself; one of the most terrible forms of lying.  Further, the deceit of telling untruths to cover being unfaithful only builds the fire of treachery higher and brighter.  In time it is the liar that is usually burned in the flames of lying with the heat damaging others with its heat. 

In recent years, I have come to see old behavior so much more clearly.  Things are different now.  Today my life is lived with belief and intention in the closest harmony ever with thought and deed.  As Mark Twain said; a man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.  By doing that even to the point of today’s admission here I am able to have the most pride about myself I have ever known.  While the road to ‘now’ has been rocky and difficult, I am happy to be who I am today and grateful for the grace and help of others that brought me here.      

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!
Sir Walter Scott

Today Could Be…

Memo
To: You
From: The Universe
RE: Another day of your life
 
Dear Earthling,
 
Today is an entirely new chapter of your life filled with possibility.  Do you realize that?  Do you really?
 
Do you understand that today could be the last day you stop doing whatever it is you want to stop doing or the first day to break the habit you wish to break? 
 
Do you understand that today could be the day you begin to get into better shape, begin to take walks or be true to yourself with improving the physical condition you’re in?
 
Do you understand today could be the day you apologize to someone or make peace with another person the way you know you should?
 
Do you understand today could be the day you make that call you have been putting off to your brother/sister/mother/father/friend and tell them about what is going on in your life?
 
Do you realize today could be the day that you begin to finally lose weight one pound at a time and continue to lose it?
 
Do you realize that today could be the day you open up your heart so someone can love you and you can love them in return?

Do you realize that today could be the day you make the choice to change the direction of your work life and begin moving in that direction?
 
Do you realize that today could be the day you start giving back consistently to those less fortunate who need your help?
 
Do you realize that today is the day you could begin true forgiveness of your wife/husband/family member/friend?
 
Do you realize that today is the day you could begin to openly express your love to ALL those you care about?
 
Do you realize this could be the day you give up excuses for waiting and finding reasons not to do what it is you know you need to do?
 
Do you realize……  Are you paying attention? Do you realize that today is the first day of the rest of your life?  It can be any day.  Why not today?
 
Sincerely, 
The Universe

Today Is The Very First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

This is the beginning of a new day.
I have been given this day
to use as I WILL.
I can waste it…
or use it for good,
But what I do today is important,
Because I am exchanging
a day of my life for it!
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
Leaving in its place
something that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain,
and not loss;
Good and not evil;
success and not failure;
In order that I shall not regret
the price I have paid for it.
I will try just for today,
for you never fail until you stop trying.

While I don’t anticipate today will be a life changer for me, it could be.  The possibility is certain.  What I do with this day is mine to decide. While there is no certainty of my fate, my freedom of choice affects my destiny more than any other factor here on this Earth.  I am grateful to know that as long as I live the possibilities of my life are near unlimited.  I open myself a little wider today to the realization that more than any other factor if it is to be it is up to me!  I am grateful for the reminder!

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  Fr. Alfred D’Souza

I Can Not Promise…

This morning’s time is short due to business travel and time to express morning gratitude is limited.  Sometimes meaning can be lost in a quantity of words and better understood when less is stated.  In that spirit today’s offering is short and clear in its meaning.   
 
I am grateful for the love I have known with a woman in the past and for my heart that maintains its hope to love again.  Given the chance, I will come closer to getting love right next time.  I am certain of that.  Much of what Susan Polis Schutz has written harmonizes with my heart and puts a glow of hope into my soul.  Here’s a favorite: 

“I Love You”

I can not promise you that
I will not change
I can not promise you that
I will not have many different moods
I cannot promise you that
I will not hurt your feelings sometimes
I can not promise you that
I will not be erratic
I can not promise you that
I will always be strong
I can not promise you that
my faults will not show
But –
I do promise you that
I will always be supportive of you
I do promise you that
I will share all my thoughts
and feelings with you
I do promise you that
I will give you freedom to be yourself
I do promise you that
I will understand everything that you do
I do promise you that
I will be completely honest with you
I do promise you that
I will laugh and cry with you
I do promise you that
I will help you achieve all your goals
But – most of all
I do promise you that I love you. 

Today my gratitude is for the simple chance of love visiting my heart again; a woman to love who loves me in equal measure.

Hope is mine! 

I don’t wish to be everything to everyone, but I would like to be something to someone.  Javan

Susan Polis Schutz is a documentary film producer and director and an American poet. She was associated with the start-up of bluemountain.com, one of the very first on-line greeting card sites (now owned by American Greeting). She is also the mother of U.S. Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado.

A Stranger to Myself

 If by magic or cosmic grant you were allowed to change one thing about your past, what would it be? 

The question above came across my field of view over the weekend and I have been pondering it now for about 24 hours.  What my time of deliberating that question brought is a fairly long list I have at least some desire to have been different.  That is a bit of a shocker as I feel there is mostly peace today about life lived behind me.  Maybe it is possible to have some desire for a past with differences, yet be at peace with the way things are.  That thought feels true so I don’t believe my equilibrium within will be disturbed by making a wish list of what has danced through my head.  So away my mind went spinning considering the question. 

I began wishing things for other people like the thought that my brother would not have had a farm accident at 16 that damaged his left hand.  Then I realized that was more about ‘his’ past than mine and such reflection was not being true to the intent of the question.  I had to get more directly personal. 

As my thinking began to drift more directly to my own history, first in thought was the pain and heartache concerning my two marriages.  At first I explored the question by pondering would my one wish be to never have known one of them.  “No” came a quick answer as I could not imagine either woman not having been a part of my life.  What the resulting thoughts echoed back to me was a wish “to have been a better husband” to both of them.  

In exploring further the confines of thought about my past, I moved on to my son.  There I found the wish for living in the same household for his years of high school and not being separated when he was 16.  That premise settled into wishing simply to have “been a better father” in all respects.    

As the little storm of thought proceeded, I began to move to a broader perspective and think about all women who have been a part of my life.  At that point there were a number of instances where I wished to not have caused the amount of pain I did.  However, I could not settle on one person and situation that I would wish to change more than another one.  My conclusion about this direction of inspection of my life was a wish “to have been a better friend and lover”.  

Expanding my realm of thought about the question “what would I change about my past” I moved into my work life.  Pondering the many years in my profession I began to think of those whose lives was changed negatively by the decisions I made.  While my belief is strong I usually make good choices, I know well I am not 100%.  My wish became “to have been a wiser boss”.  

The mind is a curious contraption.  It is almost impossible to keep the brain headed into any one direction of deliberation.  The more time the question kicked around in my head, the greater the bounces varied in my thoughts.  I found myself wondering how I might have been different in a one single way that could have made me better at everything I had put on my list so far.  It was from that nugget of brain waves the consideration began about how I might have been shaped differently over all.  I settled on the wish that one or both of my parents could have been less dysfunctional so I could have been raised to have been less so myself.  

I suppose it is not uncommon to settle on what one thinks is the best answer to a question and be quite satisfied to have found a near perfect solution.  Then after further contemplation realize the resolution arrived at is flawed.  If my parents had been different, more together, mature and in control it is likely I would be so different making recognition of myself today almost impossible. 

On one hand that seems like a good idea, but on another I don’t like it at all.  When boiled down, I don’t want to be anyone but who I am.  If the bad parts of my life were cleansed away, I would be a far different person.  Certainly in some ways I’d have lived in a way that brought less pain into the world to me and others, yet without the lessons learned I could not be “me”.    All in all I like me.  Today I am happy and contented with myself (mostly anyway) and am grateful to be who I am.  I can’t imagine changing and becoming a stranger to myself.

To be nobody but yourself in a world doing its best to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can ever fight and never stop fighting.  E. E. Commings

 

Who Lingers in Your Heart – Part II

A while back I wrote a piece here as a response to a question a friend asked me in an email: “I often wonder in your heart, who it is that lingers there, who it is that still has your love but does not know it.”  https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/08/19/who-lingers-in-your-heart/ .  I replied with the most top of mind people who occupy good-sized real estate in my heart.  An interesting phenomenon happens when as idea is planted and allowed to percolate over time; memory and response continually come from deeper and deeper recesses of my mind. 

Now sitting here writing and opening the door on a further reply to the question “who lingers…” those who occupy smaller, yet treasured, scraps of memory surface. 

Linda, the first girl I kissed when I was 13, immediately comes to mind.  Actually she surfaces with some regularity.  On June 21st I wrote about her and our magical afternoon in a post called “ Only One First Love”:  https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/06/21/993/

Buddy H., my big friend and protector from high school has his own special place.  He and I were the most unlikely friends.  Music was our only real common ground and I liked him because he was a little “nuts” like me.  Ever tried listening to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” on 8-track going 120mph?  We did!  Buddy died in a boating accident when he was 20. 

Ricky S. was one of my best friends in 10th and 11th grade.  He was Mr. Studdly Cool and one of our favorite things was to go to dances.  We specialized in going to dances in towns where we did not know anyone and ending up with a date to hang out with before the evening was over.  His was a special manner with girls and attracted them like a magnet does iron.  I benefited from that magnetism when we did our thing and always ended up with a girl on my arm.  Vivid in memory is some steamy heavy petting in Dadeville, Alabama with two girls we had met one evening.  Ricky and his date were in the front seat and I and mine were in the back.  I smile as I remember those sweet moments. 

Dale H. became my best friend in Jackson, Ms for the year and a half I lived there that included my senior year of high school.  For better or worse, he was the person I smoked pot with back in the day.  We almost giggled ourselves to death or overdosed on munchies on a number of occasions. 

Marcia was the makeup artist assigned to me when I had a part in a school play.  “Look Homeward Angel” which was a fairly racy selection to be performed at that time.  She became my girlfriend for a good part of my senior year.  How innocent and tender what we shared was.  I’d run to get to the part of the school she was in so I could walk her to class and then run back to get to my class trying hard not to be late.  Most of the time we’d trade little love notes on scraps of paper.  I wish I had some of them today as my heart swells with the sweetness of the memory. 

Carol was the “older woman” I got involved with when I was 19 (she was 23).  We worked together and she was engaged but that did not stop us, even though it was wrong.  She was the first woman I ever loved with the depth a man can love with. Our relationship was tumultuous and troubled, but also wonderful and ground shaking.  The wounds that hurt then ended up being some great teachers for me.  We went our separate ways after about a few months, but will always remember reconnecting for our last time together.  Close to a year passed without seeing each other.  Then one night came the knock on my door two days before she got married.  We spent the evening in bed and said goodbye at my front door well after midnight.  I never saw her again.  Today I see the wrong and contradiction of of the night we shared, but also relish the memory of the passion we shared. 

Michael was the man, who for six months, I thought was one of the best friends of my life.   That was 13 years ago and he was charming, educated and intelligent.  We were together doing things or hanging out often.  The end result was deep hurt as I came to know that he was just using and manipulating me.  We worked together and I was his boss.  The friendship ended badly with me firing him for very wrong things he did thinking our camaraderie gave him special latitude.  The lesson for me was difficult, but a necessary reminder that it is not just love of a woman that can blind.  Friendship with a man can do the same.  

One the lid on my heart is lifted and a peek is taken within, the many who have been players on the stage of my life begin to surface in ever greater quantity.  My life has been a rich and colorful mosaic of experiences, for which I am deeply grateful for all.  I am thankful for the joy, the good times, the love shared and the painful lessons that came from knowing and loving people.  Frequently those individuals have been some of my greatest teachers.   

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.  Abraham Lincoln