Trying to Grow Flowers in Sand.


Money, amazingly, is losing its power…
Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy.
Martin Seligman

It is considered by many to be almost un-American to admit that one is “not happy”. At the least such a state is viewed as unfortunate and one a person should recover from soon. Otherwise, one is told to “get some help”. The shame of not feeling readily happy ends up making many people feel “less than” which only worsens the state he or she is in.

Unhappiness is necessary in order to know what happiness is. It is contrast that gives greater strength to any feeling. The depth of one makes way for the fuller weight of the other. Without having known discontentment, happy has a shallow meaning at best. Discontent can come from many sources: grief, sadness, lack of fulfillment, bad relationship situations and a long list that can keep a person from feeling their “happy cup” contains enough. Contentment, peace and happiness flourish when the viewpoint of “what is good” is far greater than “what is wrong”. Otherwise, trying to be happy is like trying to grow flowers in sand.

“Promise Yourself”

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something special in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
From “Your Forces and How to Use Them” by Christian D. Larson

I used to think that happiness was about everything being exactly the way I wanted. I felt I would be happy when this happened or that happened that would make my life wholly fulfilling. What I have learned is happiness is NOT about the state of things, but about my view of them. Granted there are times of sadness, grief and even depression when those feelings keep me from feeling at peace and contented. But it is those times that give my happiness its depth of meaning and cause me to cherish it even more. The quality of my life is ALL about my attitude toward living. I am grateful for the well-learned lesson.

Success is getting what you want,
happiness is wanting what you get.
W.P. Kinsella

Closing the Chapter

growingup01You’re missing something. You’re watching everything pass you by and it’s making you anxious but you’re not quite sure how to catch up. A small part of you doesn’t even want to catch up. You’ve become comfortable in your complacency, comfortable in your own mistakes. Your slip ups have become some kind of solace. They’re yours to keep. Flaws have become some sick substitute for a relationship and you take them to bed with you.

You’re too young to be completely happy. You’re currently living your lost years and even though it’s taking you down, you’re not ready for the alternative. Something that no one likes to admit is that it sort of feels good to screw up. You don’t think you know exactly what you’re doing? You can pretend to be naive to spare everyone else’s feelings but let’s not get confused: you’re in control here. Every step of the way.

That is, until you’re not. The thing about being a mess is that you eventually do lose control. The self-destructive spiral you’ve been orchestrating gets ripped away from you and put in the hands of something much bigger. Then you’re screwed. Then you’re going to be saying “…Take me back to the land of stability and normalcy! I’m done living my lost years. Now I just would like to be found!”

Your life is precarious. When you were in high school and college, you treated your mortality like it was a crappy purse. You stomped on it, broke a strap, let a vodka bottle spill out and ruin the leather. You did all of this believing it would all be repaired while you were sleeping, and it usually was. You reach a point, however, when the leather stays torn, when the piece of crap bag becomes beaten beyond repair. Simply put, you have to take a more proactive role in maintaining your happiness and well-being. You’re not just someone watching their own life from afar. You’re in it now. And if you don’t take care of it, it will fall to pieces.

This is how someone becomes the person they want to be. They make changes. They stop taking those pills, clutching those drinks, and start deleting those numbers in their phone that might as well be daggers. They take responsibility for themselves. This might sound so minor but something you all must know by now is that we’re often our own worst enemy. We can’t blame something on a lack of self-awareness. We’re all aware, which makes it that much harder when we see ourselves making the same mistakes. We often wonder why we do the things we do. But we already know why. Knowing and doing are two different things though. I know that x, y, and z make me unhappy but I guess, in the end, I just don’t care enough to make changes. You can’t force yourself to care. You need to reach a point where you DO care which can take a long time.

But once you do reach it, there’s no going back. Being a broken mess is a blast at 19 but once you’re old enough to know better and start to make those necessary changes, returning to that state will feel awful. That’s something to actually mourn. There’s a certain kind of beauty with being reckless with your body and mind. Closing the chapter on that and actively becoming the person you’re going to be feels great but it’s also a tad bittersweet. Sometimes you want to go back to being the person you were before all the bad stuff happened, but you know that’s impossible. So you just bid adieu to that time and look towards your future. (FYI, it looks super bright.) By Ryan O’Connell

At an age older than many (yet younger than most) I have found myself, or at least enough of me to make out an image I am pleased to recognize. In a few ways acting like I was in my early 20’s for decades had some advantages, but none to hang on to for as long as I did. Most of it was being reckless and irresponsible with women’s hearts where I clearly see a past lack of maturity. For a long time I thought being a ‘player’ was cool… NOT! That is an insatiable and empty quest. Today men who are more respectful and loving than me are uncommon. Pain, heartache and loneliness are educational guardians who repeated their teachings until the lesson was learned. I may have been a slow learner, but one I got it, I am grateful I REALLY got it.

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.
We grow sometimes in one dimension,
and not in another; unevenly.
We grow partially. We are relative.
We are mature in one realm, childish in another.
The past, present, and future mingle and pull us
backward, forward, or fix us in the present.
Anaïs Nin



June 28, 2013

Dear co-workers, colleagues, associates, friends,

Getting to this date seemed to take forever and now suddenly it has arrived: our last day together. For going on eight years you have believed in me to lead you. I grateful beyond my ability to express my feelings for that honor. I thank you for your unwavering support especially during the times when you did not understand or agree. You simply had faith that I somehow I knew what I was doing.

To a person, you are all good people and talented professionals. We accomplished the near impossible and our competitors did not know what hit them. The business that for years had been given up for dead before our time, became the contender that succeeded and never backed down. We showed ’em didn’t we!

You have been my “family” through one of the most difficult periods of my personal life. I am thankful for the times you “were there for me” and privileged to have had your trust that allowed you to come to me for help with your tough times, professionally and personally.

Some of you have told me I have been great manager; a good boss. If that is true it is because you made me that way. I had to measure up to all of you.

I regret our company has sold this operation, but proud we increased the value to make this a sought after property. Now we are scattering to the wind, but I will always hold high these shared years with you as precious memory. It has been the finest experience of my career. Thank you for making it so.



Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing
in the hour of meeting and of farewell.
Jean Paul Richter

Soft, Spongy, Rigid or Flexible?

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Life is change, but it’s common to think otherwise until jolted out of a comfort zone. Right now emotions are pulling me to extremes. At one end, at a considerably younger age than most I will be semi-retired in thirty days and completely in six months . What’s ahead for me is invigorating and exciting. At the other extreme, where I work is being sold and the vast majority of employees are being let go. Inwardly I feel good. My future is bright. Outwardly I am surrounded by fear, uncertainty and disappointment, even anger in some of those I work with.

All I can do is be compassionate and sensitive to my co-workers even though I am not going through what they are going through. It’s hard. So easily it is to commiserate and fall into thinking that mirrors theirs in an attempt to be empathetic. Using what I have learned about keeping good boundaries is saving me a great deal of anguish, yet allowing me to kind and thoughtful to others.

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Wikipedia

Dr. Nina W. Brown is a professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Services at Old Dominion University. She believes there are four types of boundaries:

Soft – A person with soft boundaries merges with other people’s boundaries. Someone with a soft boundary is easily manipulated.

Spongy – A person with spongy boundaries is like a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional contagion than soft boundaries but more than rigid. People with spongy boundaries are unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.

Rigid – A person with rigid boundaries is closed or walled off so nobody can get close to him/her either physically or emotionally. This is often the case if someone has been physically, emotionally, psychologically or sexually abused. Rigid boundaries can be selective which depend on time, place or circumstances and are usually based on a bad previous experience in a similar situation.

Flexible – Similar to selective rigid boundaries but the person has more control. The person decides what to let in and what to keep out, is resistant to emotional contagion and manipulation, and is difficult to exploit.

Once upon a time my boundaries were definitely somewhere between ‘Soft’ and ‘Spongy’ although I hid my feelings behind a stoically ‘Rigid’ wall most of the time. Often then a boundary would be violated while I gritted my teeth and did not allow the hurt and discomfort to show.

Today I take good care of me. I step away quickly from most hurtful situations and encounters. I speak up for myself with all the kindness I can muster when someone steps over the line and into my ‘space’ with their words or actions. And I am quick to apologize and make amends when I find myself in violation of someone’s boundaries. Gratefully, now I can best be described as having healthy ‘Flexible’ boundaries. For my friends, peers and teachers who helped me learn this way of being I will be eternally grateful.

People who violate
your boundaries
are thieves.
They steal time
that doesn’t belong to them.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Walk Through Destiny

2521-sun-through-the-trees-1920x1200-nature-wallpaperOften a brevity of well-focused words breaks through to be more meaningful than thoughts expressed in a pile of language. So for the sake of time (which I am short of this morning) here are Seven Rules of Life by an anonymous writer that breach my habitual thinking.

1) Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

2) What others think of you is none of your business.

3) Time heals almost everything, give it time.

4) Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

5) Stop thinking too much, it’s alright not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.

6) No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

7) Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.

I know not a single new thought exists on that list. Yet, keeping the ‘rules’ more present in mind will improve my walk through destiny. I am grateful for the reminders!

Life is short,
break the rules,
forgive quickly,
kiss slowly,
love truly,
laugh uncontrollably,
and never regret anything
that made you smile.
Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn’t do
than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Mark Twain



A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.
Martin Seligman

To most it sounds almost trite to say “you find what you do looking for”. But simple as the statement is, it’s true! I’m not talking about winning the lottery or wishing you could have been a professional ball player or award-winning ballerina. Instead, I’m referring to the general attitude one has toward life.

There has been a slow positive change for me that has accelerated over the last ten years. Living did not suddenly get easier, nor did nirvana take me over. What is different about my outlook is I expect good things. And when difficult things happen, I count on the positive lesson that will come as a result.

Close to ten years ago one of my heroes, psychologist Martin Seligman, wrote a book titled “Authentic Happiness”. In it he said, “… scientific evidence makes it seem unlikely that you can change your level of happiness in any sustainable way. It suggests that we each have a fixed range for happiness just as we do for weight. And just as dieters almost always regain the weight they lose, sad people don’t become lastingly happy, and happy people don’t become lastingly sad.”

What a huge bummer when I read that the first time. I had just begun to earnestly focus on improving my attitude toward living and the statement took the wind out of my sails for a week or two. Dr. Seligman’s book “Flourish” released in 2012 set this right.

Dictionary meanings of the word flourish are: grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way; thrive: to be successful; prosper. Sometimes to flourish looks a lot like happiness, but much of the time it doesn’t.

We have this notion of happiness being filled with smiles, giddy delirium and a state of perpetual bliss. Real life does not look like that way. Often one flourishing is intensely focused, deadly serious and appears to be driven by some unseen force.

An inspired artist creating what pleases him or her rarely shows a face we’d label as happy. Being in the groove and creating good work can bring an inward satisfaction for the artist that is very difficult to outwardly judge by anyone else.

In “Flourish” Dr. Seligman offers a take on well-being he summarizes with the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Each of these elements, he believes, is crucial to a full, well-lived life, even if it sometimes involves struggle and leads, in the short-term, to unhappiness.

Outwardly I don’t appear as a blissed out happy freak, yet I am quite content. When I look at Dr. Seligman’s PERMA list (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relation¬ships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) I can easily see why I feel as good about life as I do. I have a more than adequate supply of every one. Certainly there are a lot of things that are not as I wish, but that really doesn’t matter. I choose instead to anticipate all the good coming my way, live each day well and be grateful to be ‘flourishing’.

People who believe they cause good things
tend to like themselves better than people
who believe good things come from
other people or circumstances.
Martin Seligman

The Key to Cultivate, Know and Appreciate

__by_unusualdream-d3el04tOthers have known greater emotional pain than me, but my life has included a healthy share of it. I used to think my allotment was enough to make me a “special” case. For a long time I thought the quantity of pain that came my way was more than most. But I learned better.

It’s self focused to think I know how the pain I have encountered compares to what others have been faced with. Every life is a unique experience and how a person reacts to difficulty is individually distinctive. As different as each life is, one thing is certain: pain hurts and everyone gets their share. The painful experiences are the boldest teachers about living if one is paying attention and accepting of the lessons.

Pain is a pesky part of being human.

I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart,
something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here.

Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped.

But then I have also learned that because of pain,
I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing.

Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart.

But then healing feels like the wind against your face
when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air!

We may not have wings growing out of our backs,
but healing is the closest thing
that will give us that wind against our faces.
C. JoyBell C.

Learning to appreciate emotional turmoil was a giant step forward, for it is one of my life’s most profound teachers. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And so it was with me.

When the pain to stay the same exceeded the pain to change, I changed. Recognizing the teachings of pain was a breakthrough toward happiness. I will always remember the month and year: October, 2007. It was then I gratefully began to grasp that happiness does not teach about being happy; pain does. It is the painful parts of living that are the key to cultivate, know and appreciate peace and contentment.  I am grateful to know happiness is impossible without anguish, sorrow and grief plowing the ground for it to grow in.

It’s so hard to forget pain,
but it’s even harder to remember sweetness.
We have no scar to show for happiness.
We learn so little from peace.
Chuck Palahnuik

Chains Of Resentment


My finger was pointed at others for a long time. I was the way I was because of them, or so I thought. Wrongs inflicted by others were my frequent justification for how I behaved. Sometimes what I did was worse than what had been done to me.

Wisdom that I was behaving badly did not suddenly descend on me one day. Instead, a morsel at a time my mind and soul learned better. When I stopped letting my field of view be filled with what others had done, I began to get an honest look at myself. A little at a time the truth became mine that is contained in the saying “hating is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die”.

Hatred is like a long, dark shadow.
Not even the person it falls upon
knows where it comes from, in most cases.
It is like a two-edged sword.
When you cut the other person,
you cut yourself.
The more violently you hack at the other person,
the more violently you hack at yourself.
It can often be fatal.
But it is not easy to dispose of.
Please be careful…
It is very dangerous.
Once it has taken root in your heart,
hatred is the most difficult thing
in the world to shake off.
From “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”
by Haruki Murakami

… forgiveness is NOT a gift you give to another, but rather something you do inside of yourself, for yourself. The other person need never know.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation – nor does it mean you have to allow a behavior that can hurt you to continue to hurt you. Forgiveness is, in essence, the acknowledgment inside of yourself that the person who has wronged you in some way is a fallible human being – and that, like a human being, they made a mistake worthy of your forgiveness. Forgiveness sets you free.

Forgiveness lets you remove the pain you carry inside of you that you feel was done by another’s wrongdoing. The other person need not admit the wrongdoing. The other person need not make amends. The other person need not do anything. Forgiveness is something done inside of yourself, to release you from the pain of the wrongdoing. MD Lynn

Being an imperfect human being, all my animosities toward others have not evaporated. However a considerable amount of such loathing is long gone. For others such feelings are considerably reduced. And, there are still a few old wounds that sting. In earnest I am working on those. I am grateful to be free of the majority of the shackles holding grudges put on me. Even the chains of remaining blame are growing lighter, day by day. Gratefully, the light of forgiveness is doing away with my chains of resentment.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that. ]
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Completely Illogical

Misty_Morning_Bridge_Wallpaper__yvt2If 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.

What keeps us from action? 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. There are many kinds of fear that cause 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.

Fear of being different often arises from personal insecurity and lack of confidence. These are crippling emotions and one’s life can never be fully actualized until they are overcome. This comes to the matter of self-esteem. The thing many people don’t realize is that self-esteem has two quite distinct components: self-worth and self-confidence. Self-worth is given (by being valued and loved by others, by God). Self-confidence cannot be given − it has to be earned. People who lack the confidence to “put themselves on the line” deny themselves opportunities to enjoy the fruits of success. Their life becomes a vicious cycle that begins with lack of confidence, lack of agency, lack of success, and increased justification not to be confident.

If we are different, the in-crowd may reject us. Rejection is certainly depressing. Nobody in his right mind wants to be depressed. But no life can be fulfilling when it is lived to satisfy the opinions others may have of us. We need to be true to ourselves, to trust in our values and standards. So, when life offers you the chance to do something you can, should, and want to do, just DO IT! Taken from an article by William R. Klemm, D.V.M, Ph.D.

It still blows me away how delightful it feels to be honestly, and with fervor, seeking my hopes and dreams. They were denied for so long for many logical reasons, but logic is a single black and white dimension without shape. Many of the finest elements of life are completely illogical such as love, beauty and faith. To have grown to become confident and self-assured enough to defy logic and allow contentment instead is truly a gift; one I am grateful for.

It is not because things are difficult
that we do not dare,
it is because we do not dare
that they are difficult.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wait and Hope


Grief dares us to love once more.
Terry Tempest Williams

I cry over the pain of my past, but feel great joy and hope for the my future. She is out there somewhere in this big world, I just don’t know where she could be. She is the one my path has moved me toward my whole life. All the pain and heartache I have experienced has been to appreciate her when I find her; to be able to love her with all my being when she is before me. She might be anywhere, any country, any town, but I know she’s out there. The greatest love of my life is somewhere on this Earth, I am certain of it. But I won’t find her here in comfort wallowing in money and comfort. I must give up much of what has been in order to find what could be. I have to go search the world to find her before I run out of time. James Browning 10 29 2012

I wrote that eight months ago and found it again last night. While the thinking rings clear and true, I can’t remember specifically what was the catalyst. Maybe it was just a wanting thought thrown out to the cosmos hoping for its echo back to me.

The only worry that flies around me once in a while like a determined mosquito is a concern that I won’t recognize “her” should she appear. What if “she” is already around and I am missing it? Most such quandaries have been freed in the spirit of ‘what will be, will be’. All I can do is my best to let go, live in the moment and embrace life as it unfolds. Living ‘now’ well is the surest path to a recent past I am pleased with and a future that more closely matches my hopes and dreams.

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must of felt what it is to die… that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope”. Alexandre Duman

Whether my destiny is to only know searching or to walk through true love’s gate again, I am grateful for the contentment the possibility alone brings: a dream; a real dream that could become true. I am grateful to have the courage to free myself and seek what I hope for. Hallelujah!

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist,
there are still those that lie beyond our capacity
and our imagination. From time to time,
when a piece of music no one has ever written
or a painting no one has ever painted,
or something else impossible to predict,
fathom or yet describe takes place,
a new feeling enters the world. And then,
for the millionth time in the history of feeling,
the heart surges and absorbs the impact.
From “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss