The Well of the Spirit

well-w-bucketWhat if you had died in your sleep last night? Would you be wishing you’d done yesterday what you didn’t do? Words that you regret not saying? Gratitude left unexpressed? Love left unspoken?

While the scenario is humanly impossible, it’s just the sort of exercise I throw at myself once in a while to see how well I lived the previous day as compared to my intentions. There’s a line of thinking that goes “when you die there should be plenty left to do in your “in-box”. To follow through on this morning’s exercise, I have to put away most of the things on “my to-do list” choosing instead what I mean to get around to more but never seem to even get on that list.

I should…

…call my son more often and travel to see him more.

…touch base at least once per week with my dearest friends.

…remember to congratulate loved one’s birthdays/anniversaries & on the correct date.

…pay attention and observe the world more closely when I am walking or driving.

…listen closer to what others say getting less caught up in my thoughts as they speak.

…notice more things to be thankful for. There are many more than I acknowledge.

…slow down when I eat and enjoy my food instead of making it just a necessary task.

…notice the sunrise, the sunset and the sky in between.

…communicate more with my brother who is the only close blood relative I have.

…say I love you more to a broader group of people than I usually keep it to.

…daydream more and actually do the things I dream up and really want to do.

…be less afraid of my feelings and openly expressing them.

…be kinder, more forgiving and less hard on myself.

…be quicker with apologies and forgiveness.

…read more.

It’s interesting how fast that list came. I barely had time to type one before I was on to the next. Sometimes they came so fast I lost one or two before I could get them written. What that shows is the abundance of  “should-dos” I am missing out on; a gentle wake up call.

The inspiration to write this came from the infinite source beyond me that I readily acknowledge. When I am truly ready to receive, inspiration always shows up. Often it does not come in the form I was hoping for, but rarely is it anything but what I needed. I am grateful for the well of the spirit from where understanding and insight flow to me.

Life is not lost by dying;
life is lost minute by minute,
day by dragging day,
in all the thousand
small uncaring ways.
Stephen Vincent Benét

The Crumbling Away of Untruth

tracks and sunset_osage city_018A shortage of happiness I hear talked about frequently but I’ve never heard “there is not enough disappointment in my life”. Those words haven’t fallen from my lips either, yet I know disappointment has been a good teacher. Things not turning out the way I thought has often created a pathway to something better. Dealing with being disappointed helped clear away misplaced beliefs, illusions, misconceptions and self-told lies.

Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretence. Adyashanti

Most people say the opposite of happiness is sadness. However, I believe feeling empty is the reverse of being happy. It is rare I have ever endured sadness that it was not connected to a happiness I had known. Being disappointed may have made me sad, but it never left me empty.

Happiness and sadness are states of feeling. Sadness isn’t in any way less than happy. Their opposite is not feeling at all. We aren’t here to live in a state of nothingness, in apathy, observing life go by. We are here to create something and forge personal relationships. Ara Bedrossian

Once upon a time I feared unhappiness most, followed closely by disappointment. I have come to see it was emptiness where my darkest times were spent. Those were the times when I felt as if I fit no where or with anyone and lacked purpose or direction. Climbing out of those pits of emptiness, brought renewed clarity about what I really wanted and didn’t want.

Fear is the natural reaction that brings us closer to the truth. Don’t fight the pain, let yourself feel it, accept it, love it. Don’t judge your fear, face it. Emotions come and go like trains at a busy station. You don’t have to get on them. You can acknowledge them without judgment and let them move on. Pema Chodron

There is a Chinese proverb that says you can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair. I am grateful for that little bit of wisdom learned the hard way which has taught me so much.

God makes the life fertile by disappointments,
as he makes the ground fertile by frosts.
Henry Ward Beecher

13 Rules

landscapes%20sun%20trees%20farms%202560x1600%20wallpaper_wallpaperswa_com_8813 Rules of Life

    1. Never give yourself a haircut after three margaritas.
    2. You need only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape.
    3. The five most essential words for a healthy, vital relationship are, “I apologize” and “you are right.”
    4. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
    5. Never pass up an opportunity to pee.
    6. If he/she says that you are too good for him/her – believe them.
    7. Learn to pick your battles; Ask yourself, “Will this matter one year from now? How about one month? One week? One day?”
    8. When you make a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm.
    9. If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance!
    10. Living well really is the best revenge. Being miserable because of a bad or former relationship just might mean that the other person was right about you.
    11. Work is good, but it’s not that important. Money is nice, but you can’t take it, or anything else, with you. Statistics show most people don’t live to spend all they saved; Some die even before they retire. Anything we have isn’t really ours; we just borrow it while we’re here… even our kids.
    12. Be really good to your family and/or friends. You never know when you are going to need them to empty your bedpan.
    13. If you are going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you may as well laugh about it now.

The manner the “13 Rules…” was written is amusing and hangs a smile on some good “old-fashioned” advise. I have printed out two copies, one for home and another for work, and will hang them up plain sight.  There’s nothing new in the list of rules. I am not asked to do many things I don’t already know. It’s the doing of what I already know that makes the difference. I am grateful to be reminded!

Some people drift through their entire life.
They do it one day at a time,
one week at a time, one month at a time.
It happens so gradually they are unaware
of how their lives are slipping away until it’s too late.
Mary Kay Ash

Just Do It!

elephantThere are nineteen weeks remaining until I retire from a profession I have been engaged in for forty years. There is certainty I will be busier then than now, but with what I specifically want to do. For example, there’s extended travel, a book to finish and publish, far away friends to visit, work to do on my home, several hundred books to read and so much more. It has been my tendency to be busier in my personal life than while working and expect that to accelerate. The excitement that soon my time will be all mine makes me smile every time I think of it.

If you can do it, should do it, and want to do it, what are you waiting for? Many things in life that we excuse or misplace blame for are not created by what we do but by what we fail to do. Maybe we just procrastinate and just don’t get around to action. Or maybe it’s just a thought, something that we think would be nice to do, but we just aren’t serious about it.

Some possible answers come from my own experience. One excuse is that we just can’t seem to find the time. That won’t wash. Whatever we do in life, we have found or made time for. Final choices are matters of priority, and sometimes we don’t prioritize well.

Fear is an obvious cause of inaction.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being different or out-of-step.
Fear of rejection.
Even fear of success.
Fear of failure arises from self-doubt. We may think we don’t know enough, don’t have enough time or energy, or lack ability, resources, and help. The cure for such fear is to learn what is needed, make the time, pump ourselves up emotionally so we will have the energy, hone our relevant skill set, and hustle for resources and help. These things can be demanding. It is no wonder there are so many things we can, should, and want to do but don’t do.

All our life, beginning with school, we are conditioned to consider failure as a bad thing. But failure is often a good, even necessary, thing. The ratio between failures and successes for any given person is rather stable. Thus, if you want more successes, you need to make more failures. Even the corporate world recognizes this principle, and the most innovative companies practice it. Jeff Dyer, in his book The Innovator’s DNA, says the key to business success is to “fail often, fail fast, fail cheap.” It’s O.K.. to fail, as long as you learn from it. Our mantra should be: “Keep tweaking until it works.” This is exactly how Edison invented the light bulb. Most other inventors and creative people in general have operated with the same mantra. Taken from the article “Just Do It” by Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.

“Just do it” is the course I have set for myself knowing regrets for most people are not what they did with their life, but what they did not do. It’s time to reach high. My most exciting, enriching and creative period has already begun. I am grateful for my life!

Far better it is to dare mighty things,
to win glorious triumphs,
even though checkered by failure,
than to take rank with those poor spirits
who neither enjoy much nor suffer much,
because they live in the gray twilight
that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

In the Garden of Mystic Lovers

window_foggy_by_bigbanglittlestockThe day is overcast and the sky is slate gray. Light rain is falling making the air moisture laden and foggy. For some people such a morning might set off a tinge of sadness, or even depression. But not for me. Wet and misty mornings are usually inspiration filled, often bringing deep introspection. During my morning meditation by a window that looks out onto my backyard, today I read some of Rumi’s seven hundred year old work on “love”. It’s as contemporary today as when he wrote it. Three that rang strongest in my heart and mind are below and posted with thankfulness for what the words mean to me.

I want to see you.

Know your voice.

Recognize you when you
first come ’round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come
into a room you’ve just left.

Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.

I want to know the joy
of how you whisper

There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī known in the English-speaking world simply as “Rumi” was a 13th-century Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Today his work transcends national and ethnic borders more than ever. Whatever subject I desire a little insight on or inspiration for, I always find a nugget to carry with me in Rumi’s work. Expressed again today, as many times before, I am grateful for Rumi. Through his astute perceptions he is my a dear friend and teacher.

I, you, he, she, we
In the garden of mystic lovers,
these are not true distinctions.

Tiny Little Prank

growning olderAs age ticks off with an increasing number, ever faster and faster, I find my sense of humor about growing older increases. Middle age and older presents a myriad of opportunities to practice the phrase “learn to smile at yourself and you’ll always be amused”.

My Rememberer

My forgetter’s getting better
But my rememberer is broke
To you that may seem funny
But, to me, that is no joke.
For when I’m ‘here’ I’m wondering
If I really should be ‘there’
And, when I try to think it through,
I haven’t got a prayer!
Often times I walk into a room,
Say “what am I here for?”
I rack my brain, but all in vain
A zero, is my score.
At times I put something away
Where it is safe, but, Gee!
The person it is safest from
Is, generally, me!
When shopping I may see someone,
Say “Hi” and have a chat,
Then, when the person walks away
I ask myself, “who was that?”
Yes, my forgetter’s getting better
While my rememberer is broke,
And it’s driving me plumb crazy
And that isn’t any joke.
Denny Davis

So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
From “Nature” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Some years back I adopted the practice of announcing the age I would be on my next birthday several months early. It was my way of sneaking up on another notch on my birthday stick. So it has begun again this year here now four months before the anniversary of my birth. I am certain a psychologist would have a field day sorting out why I get satisfaction from telling people I am a certain age knowing all the while I remain a year younger. I am grateful for the joy it brings me to play this tiny little prank on the world!

At age 20 we worry about what others think of us;
At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us;
At age 60 we realize that they haven’t been thinking of us at all.
Denny Davis

Food for Thought

antidepressant-facts-400x400It has been no secret on this blog that I deal with cycling depression that comes around for two or three days about every six weeks. Though counseling I have learned to mostly just let it pass through me like “wind through the trees”. The depression comes, shakes me a bit and passes. For years now I have taken the prescription antidepressant Wellbutrin/Bupropion. While I don’t necessarily agree with the material I have placed here today, I don’t disagree with it either. Simply it makes me want to know more.

Depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and it is not cured by medication. Depression may not even be an illness at all. Often, it can be a normal reaction to abnormal situations. Poverty, unemployment, and the loss of loved ones can make people depressed, and these social and situational causes of depression cannot be changed by drugs.

Our analyses of the FDA data showed relatively little difference between the effects of antidepressants and the effects of placebos. Indeed, the effects were so small that they did not qualify as clinically significant. The drug companies knew how small the effect of their medications were compared to placebos, and so did the FDA and other regulatory agencies. The companies found various ways to make the data seem more favorable to their products, and the FDA helped them keep their negative data secret. In fact, in some instances, the FDA urged the companies to keep negative data hidden, even when the companies wanted to reveal them. My colleagues and I hadn’t really discovered anything new. We had merely revealed their ‘dirty little secret’.”

In 2004, the FDA urged drug companies to adopt a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy with respect to their clinical-trial data showing that antidepressants are not better than placebos for depressed children. If the data were made public, they cautioned, it might lead doctors to not prescribe antidepressants.

Psychotherapy works for the treatment of depression, and the benefits are substantial. In head-to-head comparisons, in which the short-term effects of psychotherapy and antidepressants are pitted against each other, psychotherapy works as well as medication. This is true regardless of how depressed the person is to begin with.

Psychotherapy looks even better when its long-term effectiveness is assessed. Formerly depressed patients are far more likely to relapse and become depressed again after treatment with antidepressants than they are after psychotherapy. As a result, psychotherapy is significantly more effective than medication when measured some time after treatment has ended, and the more time that has passed since the end of treatment, the larger the difference between drugs and psychotherapy.

When people recover from depression via psychotherapy, their attributions about recovery are likely to be different than those of people who have been treated with medication. Psychotherapy is a learning experience. Improvement is not produced by an external substance, but by changes within the person. It is like learning to read, write or ride a bicycle. Once you have learned, the skills stays with you. Furthermore, part of what a person might learn in therapy is to expect downturns in mood and to interpret them as a normal part of their life, rather than as an indication of an underlying disorder. This understanding, along with the skills that the person has learned for coping with negative moods and situations, can help to prevent a depressive relapse.

Depression is a serious problem, but drugs are not the answer. In the long run, psychotherapy is both cheaper and more effective, even for very serious levels of depression. Physical exercise and self-help books based on CBT can also be useful, either alone or in combination with therapy. Reducing social and economic inequality would also reduce the incidence of depression. From “The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth” by Irving Kirsch

I am grateful for this food for thought came into my path. It deserves a good bit of further exploration. Maybe it is time I stood on my “own two legs” without being propped up by a pill. Then again, maybe without it I’d end up back in the ‘darkness’. From people I known there is a personal conviction that antidepressants really do help some, but don’t help others at all (sometimes doing some harm). For now, lots more research to do before I reach any conclusions for myself.

The truth will set you free,
but first it will piss you off.
Gloria Steinem

Who I Am

fear of not being good enoughI swear…

That my problems and failures will not stop me, nor will they dictate who I am.

That I will continue to be my own person.

That life is too short, and I will live every day as the best person I can be.

That I will grow and that I will change.

That I will smile and hold my head high.

That this is a new start and a new day.

That I will allow myself to cry or sit by myself when I need to.

That I will find things to really smile about.

From “Happyface” by Stephen Emond

If I’m among men who don’t agree at all with my nature, I will hardly be able to accommodate myself to them without greatly changing myself. A free man who lives among the ignorant strives as far as he can to avoid their favors. A free man acts honestly, not deceptively. Only free man are genuinely useful to one another and can form true friendships. And it’s absolutely permissible, by the highest right of Nature, for everyone to employ clear reason to determine how to live in a way that will allow him to flourish. Irvin D. Yalom

Three (2 above, 1 below) reminders to be authentically myself begin my day with heightened awareness that much of what I perceive about myself is either not true or relatively worthless to begin with. So many little stories I have spun about me, both from what others have said and from the mental ramblings of a man with more than his share of insecurities. The person I am is not that difficult to see. All I have to is slow down my thinking and just let myself be. Who I am has been there all along. I only need to step out of the fog to see it. I am grateful for a little self-told guidance this morning. It will serve me well today.

You must be true to yourself.
Strong enough to be true to yourself.
Brave enough to be strong enough
to be true to yourself.
Wise enough to be brave enough,
to be strong enough
to shape yourself
from what you actually are.
Sylvia Ashton-Warner

No Name Necessary

On the set of 'Mai Tai.'A best friend is one of life’s greatest gifts. It’s one sometimes taken for granted until a moment comes when he or she does or says something amazingly insightful; something you need to hear, but are avoiding; something essential that you have not been able to find alone; something you need to see but are blind to.

Best friends are wonderful to share some of life’s greatest moments with, but their greatest worth is in the gray times; the days when no one else would understand but they do or else try very hard to. I am blessed to have such a friend.

friend 03

There is no name necessary. All that is needed to say is I have a best friend who I admire. He is wise for me when I am not, strong when I am weak and always there when I need him even if what he speaks is not always what I want to hear. I love you M. and am grateful for your friendship.

A best friend can see the different between
your fake smile and the real one.

One of A Kind

au0LG_AuSt__77December 19, 1932 — March 9, 2013

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home-grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.

He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.

He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal–just like Napoleon, as he would say.

Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.

Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.

He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.

Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of “theme.” Visitation will be held at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.

Penned by his daughter Amanda Lewis as she was making her way from Dallas to Stamps’ final resting place in Long Beach, Mississippi, the late custom bacon sandwich lover’s death notice has been hailed as the “best obit ever” as it has made the rounds of social networks since it was first posted yesterday. I am grateful to get to read about a one of a kind man who loved and was loved so deeply.