Living Takes More Courage Than Dying

Whatever you do, you need courage.
Whatever course you decide upon,
there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.
There are always difficulties arising that tempt you
to believe your critics are right.
To map out a course of action
and follow it to an end requires
some of the same courage that a soldier needs.
Peace has its victories,
but it takes brave men and women to win them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Until my time comes there is no way to be certain, but experience makes me believe that living takes more courage than dying. Whether spending time well or badly, healthfully or sick, heartbroken or happy; being alive takes strength and guts. With severe illness or great sadness, even more so. And the older one gets and the more hurt and mistakes accumulate, the braver one must be to live well.

It is a fact of life that we find ourselves in unpleasant demoralizing situations which we can neither escape nor control. We can keep our morale and spirits high by using both coping and hoping humor. Coping humor laughs at the hopelessness in our situation. It gives us the courage to hang in there, but it does not bring hope. The uniqueness of hoping humor lies in its acceptance of life with all its dichotomies, contradictions, and incongruities. It celebrates the hope in human life. From one comes courage, from the other comes inspiration. Cy Eberhart

There are times when I get pulled down thinking “my life is difficult”, “I’m lonely”, “why do I have to go through this” or even the proverbial “why me?!”. Any human being who says they don’t think and feel such things is a liar. It’s the human condition to resist the difficult, to wish away what brings discomfort and to want ‘calm waters’ all the time.

When difficult or grueling times come I find relief in reminding myself life is tough; always has been, always will be. If it were easy all the time much of the value of life would be lost. I am grateful for the reminder this morning, that hardship, uncertainty and pain are just as much a part of a good life as love, peace and joy. Without the former, the latter would not mean nearly as much.  Learn to smile at yourself and you’ll always be amused!

It has been said that brave people are not necessarily fearless;
they are simply accustomed to, and more comfortable with,
facing fear and moving ahead in spite of themselves.
Tracy Cherpeski

 http://powerstrengthgrace.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/fear-fullless-it-takes-courage-to-live/

Mornings With My Awakened Dreams

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
Shel Silverstein

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

You are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living. …you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself… From “Into the Wild” by Jon Karkauer

So far I have come, yet as good as my life is it’s not a complete match for what I yearn for. Stuck once again, I am uncertain exactly what I am pulled toward, but feel its gravity pulling on me. I need to wake up the aspirations, ambitions and wishes that have been quietly sleeping and spend time with them. Like spending time with a dear friend one has not seen for a long while, I need to hang out with my deep-down longings and daydreams. I’ll be grateful to greet them again. On mornings with my awakened dreams we may yet conjure up something spectacularly meaningful to do together.

Keep your best wishes,
close to your heart
and watch what happens.
Tony Deliso

We Are All Perfectly Imperfect

Although I began hearing the term “perfectly imperfect” early on in my recovery from depression and compulsion, it took a long while to see the depth of meaning of that two-word combination. Early on all I took it be was a clever term used by therapists. It took time and a gained perspective of the combined definition of the words for me to ‘get it”.

Perfect: Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. Lacking nothing essential to the whole.

Imperfect: characterized by defects, weaknesses, faults or mistakes; incomplete or unfinished; deficient, not complete in all its parts; deficient.

Perfectly Imperfect: Having all the required or desirable qualities and lacking nothing essential, but unfinished and characterized by weaknesses, faults and mistakes.

We have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Each snowflake takes the perfect form for the maximum efficiency and effectiveness for its journey. And while the universal force of gravity gives them a shared destination, the expansive space in the air gives each snowflake the opportunity to take their own path. They are on the same journey, but each takes a different path.

Along this gravity-driven journey, some snowflakes collide and damage each other, some collide and join together, some are influenced by wind… there are so many transitions and changes that take place along the journey of the snowflake. But, no matter what the transition, the snowflake always finds itself perfectly shaped for its journey.

I find parallels in nature to be a beautiful reflection of grand orchestration. One of these parallels is of snowflakes and us. We, too, are all headed in the same direction. We are being driven by a universal force to the same destination. We are all individuals taking different journeys and along our journey, we sometimes bump into each other, we cross paths, we become altered… But at all times we too are 100% perfectly imperfect.

At every given moment we are absolutely perfect for what is required for our journey. I’m not perfect for your journey and you’re not perfect for my journey, but I’m perfect for my journey and you’re perfect for your journey. We’re heading to the same place, we’re taking different routes, but we’re both exactly perfect the way we are.

Think of what understanding this great orchestration could mean for relationships. Imagine interacting with others knowing that they too each share this parallel with the snowflake. Like you, they are headed to the same place and no matter what they may appear like to you, they have taken the perfect form for their journey. How strong our relationships would be if we could see and respect that we are all perfectly imperfect for our journey. From “Life, the Truth, and Being Free” by Steve Maraboli

In coming to recognize my imperfections there came a broader and deeper view of my “self”. Without that vantage point my growth would be stymied much like a bricklayer making a wall with imperfect bricks but not knowing it. In time the wall will fall down if he does not compensate for the imperfections. Until I began to see and accept my flaws and defects nothing could be done about them.  I am grateful for a much clearer perception of my “complete self” today that has helped me attain a good level of contentment and balance.  All in all, I no more and no less than uniquely myself.

That which causes us trials shall yield us triumph:
and that which make our hearts ache shall fill us with gladness.
The only true happiness is to learn, to advance, and to improve:
which could not happen unless we had commence with
error, ignorance, and imperfection.
We must pass through the darkness, to reach the light.
Albert Pike

Thoughts with Photographs

How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others. From “Life, The Truth and Being Free” by Steve Maraboli

If you celebrate your different-ness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated. Victoria Moran

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.  Oscar Wilde

I am grateful to understand clearly the meaning of all three statements and profess my determination to practice them better this week than I have ever before.

If you had started doing anything two weeks ago,
by today you would have been two weeks better at it.
John Mayer

Four Miles Wide and Twenty-Two Miles Long

That photo above was the view from the balcony of the apartment where I lived on a Caribbean island for a good bit of 2004-2005. That experience of close to a year taught me many things and one of the most important was how little of my “stuff” actually matters. All I had on the island was a few suitcases full of my things that got added to on trips back and forth ‘state-side’. When I moved back everything for my then wife and I fit into four suitcases and ten boxes we shipped home.

Satellite television existed when we first arrived on the island, but within six weeks a hurricane took that away. The remainder of the time was without television, except for a few VHS tapes filled with slow speed recorded programming that arrived from family from time to time. I did not miss watching the ‘tube’.

Our home on the island was furnished, but simply decorated. Never did I miss all the ‘bric-a-brac’ and ‘what-nots’ that fill my home today, nor did I miss the perpetual dusting and care such things require.

Having taken few valuables to the Caribbean in the first place, there was little worry about such things being lost or stolen. There was a simplicity about that I miss.

The clothing brought on-island was simple garb fitting of living on a palm treed island. Never did I need a sport coat or a tie (I didn’t bring any in the first place). Having brought only a small portion of my total clothing it was insightful that I missed the rest so very little.

Internet service ‘on-island” was very slow even when we had it and downloads were just not possible. Not a lot of time was spent ‘on-line’ although before the island a good bit of my time was spent that way.  I swear I was calmer and more relaxed without it!

What did I miss? Books and music. While an ample supply traveled to Grand Cayman with me, the majority of both libraries stayed home. Digital music made my yearning for music bearable as I brought a hard drive filled with tunes.

Leisure time was spent mostly reading and it did not take long to get through all the books that traveled to the island. Because of the weight, I had not brought lots of reading material in the first place. I did discover a little book store that helped fill that need and broadened the scope of what I was reading with the eclectic variety they carried.

Most of all, I longed for friends and family. Not seeing a handful of people I loved and was accustomed to spending time with was the most challenging. Inattention to relationships can cause them to sag a bit over time. Thankfully I was able to pick up with where we had left off previously, but it still took time to get back into the full rhythm of the relationships.

Books, music, friends and family I learned are my greatest treasures. I am grateful for that heuristic lesson discovered in the Caribbean on a little island about four miles wide and twenty-two miles long. “Ya-mon!”

It ain’t about the money.
It ain’t about the time.
It ain’t about the love you lost,
Or the things you think you left behind.
It ain’t about your losing streak,
That makes you feel like you’re falling apart
What matters is the heart.
From “What Matters” by Edwin McCain

Daryl’s House

One of my best friends I share a deep love of quality music with wrote today and made me aware of a program I did not know existed called “Live from Daryl’s House”. The name sake is Daryl Hall of Hall and Oats who started the free monthly web show in late 2007, after having the idea of “playing with my friends and putting it up on the Internet,”. The show has since garnered acclaim from Rolling Stone, SPIN, Daily Variety, CNN, BBC, and Yahoo! Music. “Live From Daryl’s House” has been called a perfect example of a veteran artist reinventing himself in the digital age by collaborating with both established colleagues and newer performers.

The quality of Hall’s program blew me away; not just the music, but the unaffected conversation that is included. My first exposure was Gnarls Barkley/Cee Lo Green doing “Crazy” in Daryl’s home studio. It’s a favorite song with a positive message that most of what we fret and think about really does not matter. Good stuff you can check out here: http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/currentep.html?ep_id=67

Lyrics taken from “Crazy”
I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space.

And when you’re out there without care
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much.

Does that make me crazy?
And I hope that you are
Having the time of your life
But think twice
That’s my only advice.

Come on now, who do you think you are?
You really think you’re in control?

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart
To lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember
Is thinking, I want to be like them.

My day is off to a great start and hearing a new rendition of a song that always puts a good spark within accentuates my state of mind. It freshens my state of being to remember presence in the moment and appreciating its contents is ultimately all the best of life is. Thanks Cy (my friend) for putting light and melody into my day!

Music washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
Berthold Auerbach

The Rain Is My Dear Friend

Sodden clouds, intermittent wipers and home, sweet home

I love the rain.

I don’t mean I grudgingly appreciate its ecological necessity. I don’t mean I’ve learned to tolerate it. I don’t mean I wait it out, flipping through the calendar to see how many more pages until the sun might break through. I mean I love it.

I love everything about it. I love falling asleep under a down comforter in the dead of winter with the windows thrown open to the hiss of rain. I love waking up to the soft aqueous light that is a painter’s dream and listening to the rush of water in the culvert. I love the thrum of rain against the house on a dark afternoon with potato leek soup simmering on the stove. I love the fine mist on my face, the way my skin feels soft and pliant and new in the rain. I love thinking of words to describe the thick, sodden sky: pearl gray, dove-gray, iron-gray, pewter, ashen, silver, smoke. I love my big green, knee-high Wellies. I love the intermittent wipers on my car.From “I Love the Rain” Laruen Kessler originally published in Oregon Quarterly  Winter 2001 http://laurenkessler.com/essays/i-love-the-rain/

I have posted two blogs in the last year and a half that were homage to rain. Like Ms. Kessler, I too love the long-lasting showers that quench the thirst of nature and awaken the happy part the child within me.

How long has it been since I walked in the rain just for the fun of it? About 10 hours! The good feeling that comes to me when raining fills a day goes back to my childhood. I have no idea how those times got fixed in my mine as so wonderful when I was little, but am grateful they did. It is an extraordinary feeling.
https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2012/03/20/onto-houses-and-my-windowpane/

I really do love the rain and the misty, overcast days when the hours are drizzled away. I feel safer on such days as even the robbers and burglars are not as likely to be active on a day when it is raining. There is such comfort for me from the constant drizzle and occasional thunder. I feel closer to life, softer inside and memories flow easier for me with a sweeter taste on such a day.
https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/05/01/loving-the-rain/

Rain Sizes” by John Ciardi

Rain comes in various sizes.
Some rain is as small as a mist.
It tickles your face with surprises,
And tingles as if you’d been kissed.

Some rain is the size of a sprinkle
And doesn’t put out the sun.
You can see the drops sparkle and twinkle,
And a rainbow comes out when it’s done.

Some rain is as big as a nickel
And comes with a crash and a hiss.
It comes down too heavy to tickle.
It’s more like a splash than a kiss.

When it rains the right size and you’re wrapped in
Your rain clothes, it’s fun out-of-doors.
But run home before you get trapped in
The big rain that rattles and roars

Expressed simply, the rain is my dear friend. It cleanses me. It renews me. It enriches me. I hold rainy days in such high gratitude where I place things most precious to me.

The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected;
I have always considered the rain to be healing — a blanket –
the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day,
or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed
by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital,
muffling gift of falling water.
Douglas Coupland

I Wish You Peace

Wikipedia says Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss, happiness and contentment… a disposition free from the effects of stress.

Personal peace really starts to grow in a person when he or she begins to look inside themselves. The first thing (I) must do on the road to personal peace is to examine (my) feelings and attitudes and discover who (I am).

Many people live life not really in tune with their inner selves and how that affects what they do and how they interact with others. Taking the time for introspection is the first step in trying to “clear out the trash” within us. “Trash” could be anything from holding grudges, bad attitudes, prejudice, and other negative things. Khaled

Living in the present brings one thing most people spend their lives striving to achieve: peace. Relaxing into the present moment puts you in the mental and physical state of calm, quiet, and tranquility, and finally gets us off the here-but-gotta-get-there treadmill.

If you are in the moment doing whatever you are doing, then there is no time to examine the gap between your expectations and the reality of how things are, or between where you are and where you think you should be. You are too busy being in the moment to analyze it and find fault with it.

Many of us race through our lives, always on our way somewhere. If you ask ten drivers on their morning commute what the are doing, nine of them will most likely respond, “going to work.” The tenth one – one who responds, “driving my car” – is the one who has learned the lesson of present-moment peace. Chances are he (she) does not arrive at work any later than the other nine who spend their commute focused on where they were headed as opposed to where they are. Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D.

Having spent a large part of my past waking life headed toward some aspiration or future destination, I can now step back and see how that is contrary to peace. Being one whose thoughts used to dwell “out sync with present time ” a lot, I was constantly bouncing between what was and what would be; largely a life of illusion and delusion. Although far from ‘cured’ I am able to center myself in the now a good bit and have stretches of time where I genuinely feel peace.

Whenever I can get my mind engaged in the moment and away from the spinning hamster wheel of yesterday and tomorrow, peace comes. I am grateful being peaceful comes often enough these days that it and I are becoming good friends.

I wish you peace when the cold winds blow
Warmed by the fire’s glow.
I wish you comfort in the.. lonely time
And arms to hold you when you ache inside.

I wish you hope when things are going bad,
Kind words when times are sad.
I wish you shelter from the, the raging wind,
Cooling waters at the fever’s end.

I wish you peace when times are hard,
The light to guide you through the dark,
And when storms are high and your… dreams are low,
I wish you the strength to let love grow on,
I wish you the strength to let love flow.
From the Eagles song “I Wish You Peace”

Third Most Popular

A lot has changed in the U.S. in a hundred years and what names babies are given is no exception. In 1911, the most popular names given to females were Mary, Helen, Margaret, Dorothy and Ruth. One hundred later in 2011 little girls were most often named Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava. Elizabeth is the only first-name in the top 20 for both 1911 (7th) and 2011 (11th).

For boys born in 1911, the top five given names were John, William, James, George and Robert. Fast forward a hundred years and only one name stays in the top five; William joined by Jacob, Mason, Jayden and Noah. An honorable mention is my first name, James which was the third most popular name for baby boys in 1911. A hundred years later in 2011 it was 17th.  Here’s the full list from the source article on yahoo.com:

If you think unusual names like Beyone, Posh and Myleene are unique only to modern times, you’d be mistaken.  Family history site genesreunited.co.uk analysed 36 million records in the 1911 Census and came up with the 10 most peculiar names given children in the U.K. in 1911: Love Child, Danger, Lucky, Hero, Love, Lovely, Nice, Pretty, Secret and Danger. Thank you Mom and Dad for not hanging something unusual like that on me that I would have had to explain every day of my life!

James was my father’s name, although he shortened it to “Jim” leaving me an identity independent of him. I like my name and am grateful to be ‘James’ in a long line of men who have been called that.

I have known a German Prince
with more titles than subjects,
and a Spanish nobleman
with more names than shirts.
Oliver Goldsmith

Masters of Our Own Lives

Last evening when I came across Edgar Guest’s Poem below I started to wonder, “when is a man old?” Many say “you’re only as old as you think you are” or “as old as you act”. My vantage point has been one gets old when he or she ceases to ask questions, stops seeking the truth and does not embrace being alive to the best of their ability.

While more engaged with life than most fifty-nine year olds, the years do count up and my body shows wear. Aches are regular where none used to be. The constant ringing in my ears I don’t notice until I think about it (like now) and I don’t have the energy I once did. This 1953 model is in good shape but has a lot of miles on it.

On the flip side of perspective, I am smarter and more even-tempered than ever before. The vein of kindness in me is wider and stronger than ever. Good memories harmonize better all the time within as the bad ones grow fainter. Life all around me is not only adornment for my existence. I actually see and marvel at living now fully realizing one day this reality will not be mine. Though acceptance of the impermanence of things, of myself, comes a much deeper appreciation for all that currently “is”.

“When An Old Man Gets To Thinking” by Edgar A. Guest

When an old man gets to thinking of the years he’s traveled through,
He hears again the laughter of the little ones he knew.
He isn’t counting money, and he isn’t planning schemes;
He’s at home with friendly people in the shadow of his dreams.

When he’s lived through all life’s trials and his sun is in the west,
When he’s tasted all life’s pleasures and he knows which ones were best,
Then his mind is stored with riches, not of silver and of gold,
But of happy smiling faces and the joys he couldn’t hold.

Could we see what he is seeing as he’s dreaming in his chair,
We should find no scene of struggle in the distance over there.
As he counts his memory treasures, we should see some shady lane
Where’s he walking with his sweetheart, young, and arm in arm again.

We should meet with friendly people, simple, tender folk and kind,
That had once been glad to love him. In his dreaming we should find
All the many little beauties that enrich the lives of men
That the eyes of youth scarce notice and the poets seldom pen.

Age will tell you that the memory is the treasure-house of man.
Gold and fleeting fame may vanish, but life’s riches never can;
For the little home of laughter and the voice of every friend
And the joys of real contentment linger with us to the end.

I hope my destiny includes one day being an “old man” like Guest wrote about. I would be grateful to live to a more straight forward time; one of old age when calmly sitting and sweetly remembering takes up most of my time.

The things we think about, brood on, dwell on…
influence our life in a thousand ways.
When we can actually choose the direction
of our thoughts instead of just letting them
run along the grooves of conditioned thinking,
we become the masters of our own lives.
Eknath Easwaran