Make as Many Mistakes as You Can


Graduating is not something I have forgotten or better stated, I remember well how I felt at graduation. The title of my feelings could have been “Now What?”. Having spent years growing up and getting an education I was then standing on the threshold of a life I had yet to experience. Hopes and dreams were plenty, but what road to take toward them was fuzzy at best.

And so it is today, my third day into retirement from a long successful professional life. I am lucky and able to do this younger than most and am grateful for the opportunity. However, it feels like I am just past graduation again asking “Now What?”. There’s the same sense of things as when younger: lots I plan and imagine doing but uncertain where to begin.

In a book called “Hold Fast Your Dreams” Carrie Boyko and Kimberly Colen published twenty commencement speeches. Thumbing through it this morning I was touched by an address by Ken Burns at Georgetown University in 2006. Here’s a few highlights that stuck me as pertinent to my most recent “graduation”:

As you pursue your goals in life, that is to say your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future.

Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

Don’t confuse success with excellence.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all — not the car, not the TV, not the computer.

Write: write letters. Keep journals. Besides your children, there is no surer way of achieving immortality.

Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means, “God in us”.

Here at late morning I am off into my day with new inspiration borrowed from the past words of a man I know only through his documentaries and speeches. I am grateful the cosmos choose today for me to pull the book off my shelf that contained Ken Burns 2006 speech. Over and over and over… what I need arrives. All I have to do is believe and let things come to me in their own time. As long as I keep an open heart and mind they always seem to…

When we were five, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Our answers were thing like astronaut, president, or in my case… princess.
When we were ten, they asked again and we answered –
rock star, cowboy, or in my case, gold medalist.
But now that we’ve grown up, they want a serious answer.
Well, how ’bout this: who the hell knows?!
This isn’t the time to make hard and fast decisions,
its time to make mistakes.
Take the wrong train and get stuck somewhere chill. Fall in love – a lot.
Major in philosophy ’cause there’s no way to make a career out of that.
Change your mind. Then change it again, because nothing is permanent.
So make as many mistakes as you can. That way, someday,
when they ask again what we want to be… we won’t have to guess.
We’ll know.
Stephenie Meyer

“Soft Hearted”

melted heart

Maybe you don’t see,
Little things get to me,
A silly comment, words unmeant,
Things merely insignificant
Spend hours in my head,
They tear at my heart,
And don’t cease
Till its apart.

There was never a time I don’t remember being soft-hearted, even as a little boy. Clearly I recall before first grade giving my uncle something for my first cousin. She was younger and had cerebral palsy. Giving her a prized rubber cowboy I kept safe in a drawer was my way to show I cared.

At nineteen I quit my job and moved a thousand miles with my roommate because he was relocating and needed help. I took off ill-prepared with no job and little money but it all worked out.

Close to ten years ago I relocated out of the country for the woman in my heart. Living on a tiny island where she wanted to be is not something a poor swimmer like me would ordinarily choose otherwise.

Professionally, I have stayed at jobs much longer than I wanted in order not ‘let down’ the people who worked for me.

More times than I can remember have been denials of my hopes and wishes in order to give to someone else.

Today I don’t really regret any of it, but do acknowledge the pain my actions caused me. For long years there was a struggle with thoughts like, “I do all this for them and they don’t appreciate it” or “I give and give and give. Why can’t they see what I need?” or “After all I have done for you, you do this to me!” I admit there is selfishness in those notions. To give with unspoken strings attached is not true giving. In every instance there was a lesson to be learned, but I had to wait until the ember of each emotion died down.

What remains behind of those things given in the past are stories I tell myself. Over time the tales have improved to where I can see my willing participation in each episode. Once the emotions settled and my part was exposed there came teaching that allowed me to see beyond the aches of a soft heart. Ultimately I realize now everything given eventually looped back to benefit me in one way or another.

“..It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls… Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.” Neil Gaiman

I am grateful for each time I have been hurt, misunderstood, left-out, given more than I got or was left behind. Such are what made my soft heart strong.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching,
and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.
I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.
Charles Dickens

First Official Day

I found this poem… sometime around my junior or senior year of high school. I’m sure I thought it applied to something going on in my life at the moment although I can’t remember what. Aren’t all things in high school trivial? But it really meant something to me. So much so that I’ve kept this exact paper clipping for at least 17 years… I find it from time to time tucked away in an old journal or notebook, in between pages of my Bible or this time at the bottom of a drawer in my bedside table.

The overall message seems to be about the end of romantic love, but I think it is about much more than that. I think it’s about things like friendship, insecurity, being unsure of a situation or just in believing in your self instead of relying on other people for happiness. To me, it’s more about learning from everything you live through. Good or bad. Kami Bible

After a While by Veronica Shoffstall

After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul;

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning,
And company doesn’t always mean security;

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts,
And presents aren’t promises;

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a women, not the grief of a child;

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight;

And after a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much;

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn
That you really can endure,
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth,
And you learn,
And you learn;
With every goodbye you learn.

No longer am I surprised when the exact thing I need appears at just the correct moment. And so it was today. Searching for something completely different I came across Kami Bible’s blog about Veronica Shoffstall’s poem. Here on the first official day of my semi-retirement I am grateful for the perspective this brought to my morning at precisely the time I needed it.

Are these things really better
than the things I already have?
Or am I just trained
to be dissatisfied with
what I have now?
 Chuck Palahniuk

Living Too Long With a Single Dream

the-great-gaatsby edit

A lot can be packed into forty-four years. F. Scott Fitzgerald proved it. In more than one or two ways his life paralleled those of one of his characters, James Gatz or Jay Gatsby. Both suffered from the ill effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, their own ego and overt self-confidence, and alcoholism.

Take away the drinking and I too, have a little in common with Fitzgerald, but to a greater degree with his Gatsby character. Money things corrupted me as it did him. Growing up poor I too wrongly thought material wealth was the key to happiness. I have loved women who were not good for me just as Gatsby’s “Daisy” was for him. Just as she did to him, more than once my heart was given wholly and completely to one who professed love for me, only to be ultimately left behind.

Having never read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald nor having seen the movie version made in my time I did not know what to expect when I headed out to take in the movie yesterday. It was a film I was determined to see on the big screen but almost missed out. My last chance was at a nearby “cheapie movie” theater. It is the writer’s use of language and ability to pant vivid images in my mind I will long remember. Here are a few quotes particularly memorable to me.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life… it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.

His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four of five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896 and died of a heart attack in 1940. He is generally thought of as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century and specifically remembered for his vivid descriptions of the “Jazz Age”, a name he coined. “Gatsby” has been frequently referred to as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. In spite of how Fitzgerald is viewed today, he died believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten.

Seeing “The Great Gatsby” yesterday opened my awareness up to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his work. Now I have several novels to read and three old movies to see; one from 1949, another from 1974 and a TV movie from 2000. There was a silent version from 1926 made in Fitzgerald’s time I would dearly enjoy seeing but sadly it is a famous example of a lost film. A trailer is all that is known to exist.

For a man who loves skillfully written books, good stories and well done movies, I am delighted to have something new come on to my path. I am grateful to have discovered Fitzgerald and Gatsby.

…he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world,
paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.
He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky…
A new world, material without being real,
where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air,
drifted fortuitously about…
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Because a Friend Asked


This morning a person I attend a ‘Codependents Anonymous” group with asked me a question that inferred that codependence was never a good thing. Her questioning made me step back and think a little before I responded. What came were a few thoughts that reminded me mutual codependency can be very healthy, and often is.

It’s true the word “codependent” has been batted around and over-used to the point it has a mostly negative connotation. This is especially notable in relationships where at least one member is in recovery. However, that is not what the word really means in its full context.

When added to a word “co” means “together, jointly, mutually, to the same extent or degree”. “Dependent” means “the state or quality of being influenced another, relying on another”. Put the two together and you get something like “mutually relying on each other at about same extent or degree”.

The last of that stated meaning is the most important part. The relationship should be roughly “equal” and not one-sided. Otherwise a person gives more that he or she gets back resulting in an unbalanced and unhealthy relationship.

Codependence is not always a negative thing. It becomes so when the relationship with a person, place or thing controls the giver to the point of damaging their life. A loving relationship with a true friend is a good example of a positive codependent relationship. A good marriage, boss/worker relationship, mother/child relationship and so on are examples of relationships that can be balanced and healthy. It’s when they get one-sided that dysfunction rears its ugly head. Taken from

Looping back and tying this all together my intent was to take some of the negative light off the word “codependent”. For every example of how negative a one-sided codependent relationship is there is likely a reverse example of a healthy relationship based on mutual codependency.

The importance of writing down these few paragraphs is to remind myself that being codependent with another person is not necessarily a bad thing. It is what each of us do in the relationship that determines if it is healthy or not. I am grateful for the insight that came simply because a friend asked a question. Thank you K.!

It is probably not love
that makes the world go around,
but rather those mutually supportive alliances
through which partners recognize their dependence
on each other for the achievement of shared and private goals.
Fred Allen

image credit:

My ‘Family’


You may meet a person and instantly know that you will be best friends forever.

Other friendships develop over an extended period of time.

In some friendships you may feel a sense of equality, while in others there may be a clear sense that one is giving more to the friendship then the other.

There are no rules about how a friendship has to be.

If you are able to share your life with another human being, by all means go right ahead. All friendships are unique and special in their own way.

Each one is valuable.

My heart is still glowing from my birthday experience yesterday. The phone rang all day with friends calling to wish me well. Others txt’ed or emailed their love. In the last ten years my life experience has become far richer. In mellowing and opening up to people, the number of those I love and am loved by has grown beyond what it once was or I ever dared imagine it could be. The quantity of souls who care if I live or die is humbling. For every friend I am grateful for the richness he or she brings to my life. Thank you for being my ‘family’.

A friend is like a flower,
a rose to be exact,
Or maybe like a brand new gate
that never comes unlatched.
A friend is like an owl,
both beautiful and wise.
Or perhaps a friend is like a ghost,
whose spirit never dies.
A friend is like a heart
that goes strong until the end.
Where would we be in this world
if we didn’t have a friend.
“Friends” by ‘Kira’

In a Thousand Ways and More


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 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.
“Promise Yourself” by Christian D. Larson

Such are the birthday wishes to myself; my hopes told to the world to commit myself further to them. My sixth decade concluded yesterday and today I strike out on the first day of the seventh. In a thousand ways and more I am a blessed man. As the days of my life tick away, I become a little more grateful with each one’s passing.

With mirth and laughter
let old wrinkles come.
William Shakespeare

Musings After A Storm


Musings after a storm,
mostly restated thoughts I have picked up along the way
and some I borrowed for the morning.

  • I like storms. They let me know that even the sky screams sometimes too.
  • Sometimes it takes a terrific storm to remind a person how small and vulnerable he/she is, yet not forget how many times they have recovered from stormy weather before.
  • Without wind, even storms, trees and plants would fall over at the hint of a breeze. It is the force of wind that moves them and causes deeper roots to grow.
  • When opposing forces fight a great storm is brewed. Bad weather is usually caused by two opposing forces each trying to dominate the other. Bad human relationships are most often the same.
  • A person who survives a great storm, but loses everything becomes more grateful and less materialistic unless he or she is simply dim-witted in the first place.
  • The night can be a hard time to be alive, but an after midnight storm keeps my secrets well and me from being alone.
  • The ability to bend in a storm enables giant oaks to survive even most extreme storms without great damage. And so it is with humans; the greater one’s ability to twist and sway within gale-force adversity, the less the damage.
  • And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked into it.
  • There is someone out there who loves snake and sharks and someone who loves spiders. There is someone, somewhere that loves the dark, and heights and someone who loves storms. Because even the most terrible things have someone to love them.
  • Darkness makes the light important. Good is meaningful because there is evil. In contrast lies much of life’s richness, much like a storm makes morning calm loved and appreciated.

Reminders of how to live life well are all around me. When I can redirect my usual focus on myself, my thoughts, troubles, worries, hopes and aspirations and look outward is when I better see how to live well. Storms that scare me are good reminders that life is not very much like I imagine it is. Rather It is like it is and always has been. I am grateful for the midnight storm last night that left me with bits of renewed perspective, if only for a short while.

Birds sing after a storm;
why shouldn’t people feel as free
to delight in whatever remains to them?
Rose Kennedy

Where I Am


Pain: An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity
as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional suffering or distress.

A rather amazing realization is beginning to make itself known: how negatively staying in a job I did not enjoy effected me. I loved the people I worked with and that now appears clearly as the reason I kept doing it. Well, that and the fact that I did know what else to do. Making a choice to leave a profession of decades is a bit like climbing a tall, difficult to scale mountain: difficult to prepare for and even more difficult to do.

With my work responsibility lightening up before retirement I find myself reviewing the previous few months. The almost startling discovery is how much less depression has effected me once I made the choice to hang it up. It’s easy to understand why from my current vantage point: I do not have to be concerned about the performance of the business, the profitability of the next quarter or what our competitors might do. Doing such things had been a part of my life for so long they had become habitually normal (but in reality is anything but normal).

Only in giving up the emotional suffering and distress that came with being a responsible manager of a large business have I begun to realize the madness I lived in for so long. It has been said there are four primary ways my body has to deal with pain: sleep, forgetting, madness and death. Many times sleep came with difficulty due to my business worries. Forgetting was not an option and obviously I am still alive, which left madness for me to escape into from time to time. And my brand of madness was depression.

Perhaps the greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability to cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us of the four doors of the mind, which everyone moves through according to their need.

First is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain. Sleep marks passing time, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious. Similarly, someone who hears traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the mind’s way of protecting itself from pain by stepping through the first door.

Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly. In addition, many memories are simply painful, and there is no healing to be done. The saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is false. Time heals most wounds. The rest are hidden behind this door.

Third is the door of madness. There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.

Last is the door of death. The final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told. From “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss

Right now life feels so much lighter than it ever has in my adult life. Allowing me to be accountable only for myself is eye-opening. There are those I care about who I’ll help without hesitation, but I am not responsible for them. It feels like half the weight of the world has been taken from my shoulders and I have not had a bout of depression in months. So this is what taking care of one’s self feels like. I like it and am grateful to be exactly where I am!

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was.
If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy
in the uprooting.
Judith Minty

Just Me, All Along


I am Me.

In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me.

Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine,
because I alone chose it.

I own everything about me: my body, my feelings,
my mouth, my voice, all my actions,
whether they be to others or myself.

I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.

I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.

Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me.

By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts.

I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know,
but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions
to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me.

However I look and sound, whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time
is authentically me.

If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt
turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting,
keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded.

I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive,
to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense
and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me.

I am me, and I am Okay.
Psychologist Virginia Satir

It was a huge step forward when I began taking responsibility for myself without pointing to external factors of why I am the way I am or do what I do. No matter how much influence someone or something has over me, the majority of every choice is mine. In realizing no factor on this earth has influence over me unless I allow it was the beginning of freedom.

How ironic it is now to realize it was my own excuses and reasons I needed to be freed from. When external justifications no longer answered the “whys” of my thoughts and behavior, only one explanation remained; “ME”. I will be always grateful for the insight that connected my past, present and future; that allowed me to finally feel whole.

I’ve figured out now that it was never them
that made me feel that way.
It was just me, all along.
Maggie Stiefvater