Improved Means to an Unimproved End

Living in a country where I have been programmed to consume, it’s difficult not to indulge to or even past the point of what I can afford. Things have not always been so in this country. Somewhere in the last hundred years or so American culture went from pursuing our needs to one of chasing our wants. Hence, the concept of a “standard of living” came about which is made possible by all who want to sell stuff at a profit.

It is evident to me I don’t need most of what I have, but have been advertised into a little bit of insanity about raising my “standard of living”; having more stuff, newer stuff, better stuff or more expensive stuff. Like a hamster on a wheel I have gone round and round trying to satisfy an insatiable desire. There is nothing wrong with wanting, but what I do about those desires matters.

As one friend said to me years ago, “having lots of stuff is OK, as long as the stuff does not have you”. Having grown up poor it has been easy for me to grow emotionally connected to my stuff as I have succeeded and progressed professionally. Having “stuff” is part of my “other esteem” issue when things outside me sometimes get substituted for where my self-esteem should be. Just recognizing I do that and accepting it has been a healthy step.

Now days I sometimes finding myself feeling burdened by all the things I have. Moving out of the country for a year a while back I was amazed how much storage space was needed for my stuff. No storage unit was large enough. I had to rent a warehouse!

What I hang on to actually shapes my life to an extent. The stuff determines to a point how I spend my money, where I live, what I do and don’t do and even when I do it. Honestly there have been times when I yearned for the youthful days when everything I owned would fit in my car and the smallest Uhaul trailer I could rent. True or not, I recall feeling freer back then. Certainly youth contributed to that sense, but the lack of things/stuff/possessions/crap/junk, whatever you want to call them, had a lot to do with how I felt.

So what have I done recently? Completed a project of framing items collected for twenty plus years.  My holiday weekend project is to hang them in my home. More stuff to care for and maintain. Alas, my addiction continues, but not without some progress.

I am grateful to recognize my affliction and even understand it a little. Half of facing any issue is coming to realize it exists. There I have arrived and now the difficult work begins over time: making my load of stuff lighter. After all, everything I own will belong to someone else one day. One of the sorting mechanisms I have already discovered for deciding what to keep and not keep is asking myself “I wonder how much this will sell for at an estate/garage sale some day?”

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys,
which distract our attention from serious things.
They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Henry David Thoreau

What a Difference a Day Makes

There is good to be found in many things initially not seen in that light. I woke up about 4am Thursday morning with a nasty stomach virus that kept anything from staying down until about 6pm last evening. Between a fever, body aches all over and many trips to the bathroom my life was devoid of peace for over twelve hours.

This morning I feel weak and out of it, but the storm is over. Nothing makes me appreciate good health like having the flu or something of the sort. It’s the feeling bad that makes me appreciate feeling good when the latter returns.  Being temporarily sick is humbling and a reminder that many people suffer from illness and will not recover in a day or two as I will.  I have always been healthy and my adventure yesterday was a pointed reminder to appreciate my good health.

Short and to the point, I am very grateful the worst of the sickness is over and to be feeling better today. Wow! What a difference a day makes.

The greatest wealth is health.

If you have health, you probably will be happy,
and if you have health and happiness,
you have all the wealth you need,
even if it is not all you want.
Elbert Hubbard

There is something in sickness
that breaks down the pride of manhood.
Charles Dickens

My Aloneness Disappears

In the bargain section at the front of the store of a local Barnes and Nobles, I bought a cool book yesterday. “It’s Never Too Late… 172 simple acts to change your life” is by Patrick Lindsay.  Here’s two samples of what appears on its pages:

It’s never too late…
to say sorry.
It takes courage
but it’s worth the effort.
It releases you.
It enriches the other person.
It ennobles you.
It gives you both a new beginning.

“To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.” Confucius

It’s never too late…
to tell the truth.
Lies are a burden.
They entangle us and weight us down.
Truth always fights to break out.
It usually succeeds anyway.
It’s not worth the struggle.
Telling the truth clears the air.
Lifts the burden.

“When in doubt, tell the truth.” Anonymous

I truly enjoy little books with a concise and clear thought on each page. I can pick one up, thumb to any part and spend only seconds reading to find something that gives me direction. Such little things are often what I find the most gratitude for. It tells me others feel and have felt as I do and my aloneness disappears.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors,
and the most patient of teachers.
Charles W. Eliot

I Wear the Black

Three quotes from Johnny Cash:

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space”.

“There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her [June Carter]. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself. She has saved my life more than once. She’s always been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times. When it gets dark and everybody’s gone home and the lights are turned off, it’s just me and her.”

“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times”.

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity:
it must be produced and discharged
and used up in order to exist at all.
William Faulkner

Casting Thoughts Into the World

These days there’s not a lot holding me back from doing most anything I want. I’m single and my son is established and will turn thirty soon. My health is good and my spirits are high for the most part. There is nothing holding me back from having the life I desire. The quandary is what do I want? Or is the life I already have what I need?

There are thoughts about moving out of the country again and enjoying the enrichment that kind of experience brings. I love the experience of a new place and even the discomfort learning a new culture puts me in. It makes the days more memorable and me feel more brightly alive. Costa Rica still attracts me, but there’s a town in Ecuador I’d like to check out that I’ve read has become quite an expatriate destination. Parts of eastern Europe pulls at me as well.

I could retire early and live on a smaller income from investments that would provide for me, but I’d need to live more simply that I do now. Two-years is a retirement goal I set a few months ago, but am uncertain if I will make that far or else just keep on working long past that. Talk about indecision!

I could keep on in my profession for another 10 years but I can’t see myself doing that willingly. The work is hard which I don’t mind, but it is not challenging in a good way anymore. I do enjoy the people I work with and would miss seeing them every day.

Assuming I don’t run way anytime soon, before long I will be able to turn my rec-room into usable space (instead of storage). I am bouncing back and forth between two ideas. One is to set up a game room complete with my pool table, gaming table and all the rest of the trappings I still have from another home. The other idea is to strip the floor to concrete and set up my photography studio gear and make the room work space. I have not had dedicated work space in 15 years for my photography! I like playing pool and a game room is a great place to entertain. However, I don’t entertain often and while I “like” playing pool, I love photography! The photography studio idea is winning as I write and has been mentally on top for a while now.

Looking back over what I have written I can see that one short-term choice has really already been made. I just have to acknowledge that it’s a photograph studio I want most and not a game room. It has been very helpful to read my own words as they caused me to see a little more clearly.

None of what I have written about above previously has been more than casual conversation with a few close to me. Casting thoughts into the world through this blog in a great help. It’s one thing to think thoughts and something quite different cast them into the world for anyone to read.

It has been my discovery that temporary indecision is frequently a good thing. Not being able to decide at any given time just means I am considering my options seriously. I am grateful to have the many options I do!

Remember, there are no mistakes,
only lessons.
Love yourself,
trust your choices,
and everything is possible.
Cherie Carter-Scott

Always Worth Living

Even though I try not to, I find myself at times wishing for the “good old days”. Yet I know they were not nearly as good as my memory has enshrined them to be. It’s my mind’s way of coping to embellish the days gone by. Sometimes the ‘bad’ is made bigger in retrospect and the good is grown “larger” by memory. One of the gifts of getting older is a growing ability to let past happiness and joy expand while allowing difficulty and sadness to diminish slowly over time.

Taken from “The New Days” by Edgar Guest

The old days, the old days, how oft the poets sing,
The days of hope at dewy morn, the days of early spring,
The days when every mead was fair, and every heart was true,
And every maiden wore a smile, and every sky was blue
The days when dreams were golden and every night brought rest,
The old, old days of youth and love, the days they say were best.

The new days, the new days, of them I want to sing,
The new days with the fancies and the golden dreams they bring;
The old days had their pleasures, but likewise have the new
The gardens with their roses and the meadows bright with dew;
We love to-day the selfsame way they loved in days of old;
The world is bathed in beauty and it isn’t growing cold;
There’s joy for us a-plenty, there are tasks for us to do,
And life is worth the living, for the friends we know are true.

I am grateful for every day of my life: even the most difficult ones. Each one was filled with twenty-four hours of breath and life that I had the gift of life within. Even at their worst, my days been interesting, instructive and always worth living.

Enjoy yourself.
These are the good old days
you’re going to miss in the years ahead.

I am Right Here

Taken from “Finding Your Real Self” by Kathleen D. Cone

It is me,
I am here,
Right inside of you,
and, although
You don’t know me
Very well,
Quite yet,
Time is on our side

and the days will grow longer,
The times together stronger.

We are friends,

and I’m here
Where I’ve always been.

You are light,
You are joy,
You are kindness beyond measure.

I am the child in you.

The purest part of me is you, the little boy who lives within. You are filled with an innocent joy for being alive and have never lost your sense wonder and adventure. For as long as my memories go back you have been with me and we have witnessed together a broad scope of the experiences of life. I know you have been scared at times and upset at others. We have shared wonderful moments of happiness. We’ve gone through a lot of sadness and heartbreak too. Even though I misplace my spark for life sometimes, you never lose your abundant joy for being alive.

I am deeply grateful for the little boy inside, the child within, who reminds me what true and honest feelings are, how beneficial hope and simple joy can be and how much fun playing is!

You will find more happiness
growing down than up.
Author Unknown

A Little, Delightful Surprise

Over time Asian food has become a favorite and I’m especially fond of spicy Thai dishes that make my taste buds dance. I have come to know the quality of a particular restaurant’s Pad Thai is a good test of how tasty their full range of dishes is likely to be.

My most recent visit to my current favorite restaurant, Bamboo Thai Bistro, ended with a traditional fortune cookie that said Forgive the action, forget the intent. I save fortune cookie messages I like and added this one to the little box I keep them in where the following ten message are also to be found.

Life is not a problem to be solved. It’s a mystery to be lived.
– You are a lover of words, someday you will write a book.
– Stop procrastinating, starting tomorrow.
– When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside.
– The fortune you seek is in another cookie.
– Body Mind and Spirit are one.
– Help me! I am a prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory.
– Time is not measured by clock, but by moments.
– The first step in making a dream come true is to wake up.
– Ignore previous cookie.

Some fortune cookie traditions I have heard are:
– The cookie must be eaten for the fortune to come true.
– The fortune must be read before any of the cookie is consumed or it won’t come true.
– The fortune must be read aloud to come true.
– The cookie must be chosen with your eyes closed.
– The traditional cookie is made of flour, sugar and milk with a little butter and vanilla.

Some fortune cookie messages have suggested lottery numbers printed on them and at least in one case they were great suggestions. On March 30, 2005, there were an unprecedented 110 second-place winners of the Powerball lottery, all of whom had played the numbers they got in a fortune cookie. The total payout came to $19.4 million with 89 tickets winning $100,000 and 21 additional tickets winning $500,000 due to the Power Play multiplier option.

I am grateful for the wonderful food at the establishments that with the check deliver fortune cookies with a little delightful surprise inside.

That man is the richest
whose pleasures are the cheapest.

Pictorial Expressions of Gratitude

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here are 10,000 words to express my gratitude this morning.









As I discovered these images each one provoked a positive emotion within: one of gratitude for life; for the ability to see, feel, hear, touch and smell. I hope they bring you a similar sense of awe, beauty and thankfulness.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair.
Kahlil Gibran

Through Their Eyes

Rudyard Kipling passed away just short of twenty years before I was born.  As a kid I loved the wonderful mental journeys I took reading the stories in “The Jungle Book” and the great adventures I went on with “Kim” and “Captains Courageous”. I didn’t discover Kipling’s poetry until well into adulthood and admittedly haven’t laid eyes on any of it in years. So when I came across “If” by Kipling it was an enjoyable reminder of what I aspired to be as a child and in some manner succeeded in being here and there.

“If” by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build `em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

For all the writers who have inspired me, and yet will, with their poetry, novels and thoughts in word of all sorts, I am extraordinarily grateful.  Through their eyes I have witnessed a world for beyond any I could have known without their work. 

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,
but what we are unable to say.
Anaïs Nin