Feel ‘Em and Let ‘Em Go

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Laughter entices and draws others near.
Crying repels all but those who love us dear.
Feasting brings the hungry to left hand and right.
Hunger brings teeth a’ gnashing to hand a bite.
Love looks of peace and sets others at ease,
Heartbreak appears disbelieving, lost and displeased.
Joy is the soft morning light bathing every thing,
Sadness is late night with its sad songs to sing.
Happy, Sad,
Joyful, Mad,
Uncomfortable, Pleased,
Jubilant, Ill-at-ease.
Excited, Let down
Glad, Wearing a frown.
The faces of my face,
As I run the human race.
James Browning

Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people.

You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. Stephen Chbosky

Today I wish for you and me to feel all that is given to us to emote. May the full breadth of your emotions be within you. Take happiness from the good and lessons from the bad. I am grateful that day by day the full spectrum of emotions is mine simply by not fearing nor grasping any of my feelings. I feel ’em and let ’em go.

Even if we don’t have the power
to choose where we come from
we can still choose
where we go from there.
Stephen Chbosky

We All Have Twenty-Four Hour Days

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You can do anything,
but you can’t do everything.
David Allen

What has my attention at this moment? My thoughts are directed at words surfacing in my mind and typing them with a considerably lesser amount of awareness of music playing on Pandora. I’m vaguely aware of the surroundings of my home office, the art and posters on the wall and the noise of an occasional neighborhood car that drives by. That’s all my mind can take on at the moment.

People have a fixed amount that must be allocated according to need. To use a popular analogy, attention is like a bucket of water. People draw upon it as needed, but every dipper full and every teaspoon full leaves less for other purposes. Marc Green

Two interesting components have arisen with the increase of discretionary time I now have: 1) my perception of the world outside me has increased. I notice more, see things more deeply and generally feel good because of it. 2) With a richness of time, it is easy to let hours and days slip by with little to show for them. Some of that is good. Some of it is not so positive.

Zig Ziglar said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” My conclusion is that expecting myself to settle into new routines within my first 60 days of semi-retirement was too much to ask. Already I feel better letting myself off the hook of that unrealistic expectation.

…the allocation of attention is largely automatic and occurs without awareness. As a result, it is not easily brought under conscious control. You may direct someone’s attention by saying “watch the step,” and temporarily cause a conscious allocation of attention to the step. However, there is a good chance that within a few minutes or even seconds, the memory trace will disappear and the next time the person will fail to notice the step. The same automatic factors that directed attention away from the step in the first instance have not changed. Marc Green

The paragraph from Marc Green helps me a good deal because it tells me that keeping a keen awareness of my desire to form new routines is a great start to having them. All I have to do is follow through on what I have concluded and stay aware with a sense of priority. Then new routines will simply fall into place. Whew. I am grateful to “get off my own case”.

I didn’t pay attention to time or distance,
instead focusing on how it felt just to be in motion,
knowing it wasn’t about the finish line
but how I got there that mattered.
Sarah Dessen

Memories of Better Days

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If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why.
Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation;
depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness,lethargy,
hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through.
Be there for them when they come through the other side.
It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed,
but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.
Stephen Fry

What a proficient teacher feeling down has turned out to be for me. Please don’t misunderstand. The sort of despair that depression brings hits me a few days each month and is never fun. It’s is anything BUT something anticipated positively. Uderstanding the what’s and why’s of it has brought a painful appreciation. And what I have been taught is useful for any sort of bad day any person ever has.

The most basic awareness the big “D” has taught me is to be grateful for good times. In appreciating the silver lining in dark clouds even a gloomy sky is diminished in intensity and duration. The enemy is made less powerful when memories of better days are used to counter it.

This is the day I’m going to choose —
I’m coming out of the blues.
I don’t believe, I’ve got anything to lose,
I’m coming out of the blues.
Kissed too many days goodbye —
Too many tears I’ve cried —
I’ve got to get rid of these blues…

I remember when sleeping was something I abhorred
Then it became something I adored.
I remember when eating was such an event
Then it became just a job just to live.
I remember when the mirror was a friend of mine,
Then it became a painful reminder.

I’m not gonna stay in this state I’m in,
I’ve got too much to live for; so much to give.
I’m not gonna think of lost days gone by;
I’m not gonna hang my head and cry;
I’m just gonna leave these blues behind.
Anonymous

The wider one has been emotionally stretched the greater the knowledge of the distance between two points becomes. In the process good, bad and all parts in between bring a more detailed knowing of how precious all parts of life are. A person feeling moderately good and above most of the time may only partially grasp what I have shared. But even those living the happiest lives possible will in time find them self in the dark valley of wretched sadness and gut-wrenching grief. For one and all, good memories are the good medicine when those days come.

The good news today is I am not feeling depressed. Actually my mood is quite contrary to being down. And this sense of happiness, even joy, is made larger by not forgetting how bad “D” feels when it comes. I am grateful to have made depression my friend.

If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill…
Rumi

My History of Anger

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Every destructive emotion bears its own harvest, but anger’s fruit is the most bitter of all. Uncontrolled anger is a devastating sin, and no one is exempt from its havoc. It shatters friendships and destroys marriages; it causes abuse in families and discord in business; it breeds violence in the community and war between nations. Its recoil, like that of a high-powered rifle, often hurts the one who wields it as well as its target. Anger makes us lash out at others, destroying relationships and revealing our true nature. The history of the human race is largely the history of its anger. Billy Graham

Years ago my anger was a crutch; a habit and a bad one. My temper would get loose the easiest when slighted or left out by people I cared about. In hindsight, most of the time I simply needed to be understanding toward an unintentional act. But letting indignation give flame to anger, I volleyed back with spiked words hurled with intention to hurt another. Being sorry later did little to calm the hurts I often caused. The end result was usually ending up mad at myself.

Finding out some people were afraid of me, or at least reluctant to be in my company, was humbling. It’s wasn’t that I was an intentionally hurtful person, but rather I was a powder keg that did not need much agitation to go “boom”. I know now that my anger was only fear turned inside out.

A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked, “Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?”

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, “Because we lose our calm, we shout”.

“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner?” asked the saint.

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.

Finally the saint explained, “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance. What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…”

The saint continued, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other”.

He looked at his disciples and said, “‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return”.

In recent years I am a calm person who rarely gets agitated and when I do it’s a fairly rare occurrence for me to express it externally. Those who have known me ten years or less say they can’t imagine me being a person with hair-trigger anger. I am grateful that’s true and for the guidance and intention that has put anger mostly behind me.

Anybody can become angry —
that is easy,
but to be angry with the right person
and to the right degree and at the right time
and for the right purpose, and in the right way;
that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
Aristotle

Focused Intention and Effort

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In looking backwards life mostly can appear as a single line moving from point to point while looking ahead is a something of a confusing muddle. So I settle comfortably into ‘today’ where there is clarity of purpose. Life is so much easier when I center myself in the ‘Now”.

Up high on my ‘list of things to do” is to ‘continuing to grow as a human being’. American Spiritual leader A.W. Tozer’s wrote down his “Rules for Self Discovery” around seventy-five years ago. His inquiries are as contemporary today as when he created them. (Off the top of my head my honest answers this morning are in parentheses).

1. What we want most; (peace and love)

2. What we think about most; (personal growth, romance and travel)

3. How we use our money; (mostly to indulge myself)

4. What we do with our leisure time; (write, listen to music and be with loved ones)

5. The company we enjoy; (intelligent people with kind hearts)

6. Who and what we admire; (thinkers of all ages who left their wisdom behind)

7. What we laugh at. (Natural silliness of children or dark humor about living)

So, in paragraph form: Peace and love is what I want most. Romance, travel and growing as a person take up the most space in my thoughts. I use money mostly to indulge myself. My leisure time is spent writing, listening to music and hanging out with friends and family. I am drawn to intelligent people with kind hearts. My admiration is greatest for thinkers of all ages who teach by what they left behind. Children being children make me laugh the easiest, but dark humor can bring relief about the absurdities of life.

I’m pleased with my answers EXCEPT “money: to indulge myself”. While it’s not a complete negative, a good bit of my tendency to spoil myself is not a positive thing. That inclination is rooted in feelings of lack and insecurity that I am grateful for being made aware of (again). With focused intention and effort a man grows.I will!

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.
We are made up of layers,
cells, constellations.
Anaïs Nin

NOW, it’s your turn to answer the seven questions.

Light Into the Darkness

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I thought depression had mostly been put behind me. Things were looking up. Reclaiming my life for my complete own was arriving. I was happier than I have been in a long time ever. Having reduced my stress load and been true to my hopes it seemed I had outrun depression. But the little monster was always running behind waiting for me to stop looking over my shoulder so it could sneak up on me.

The brand of depression I wrestle with is far from the worst kind. Mine cycles in and out coming for a few days now and again. Once again I have been reminded there is no cure. All I can do rely on the methods that work to fight it off making its duration as short as possible and its intensity no more than it has to be.

How do I fight depression? Being with people I care about. Reading. Making myself get up and do things. Listening to music. Watching a movie. Taking naps. Spending time outside. Going for a walk. Writing down what I feel. The most important thing is to do something and not just sit and lay around!

Most of the time being depressed sneaks up on me. Something Elizabeth Gilbert wrote describes how my depression comes: “When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”

The greatest weapon I have against being depressed is remembering it only lasts for a little while and passes. If I pay good attention each bout almost always teaches me something.

Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. Ranier Maria Rilke

It feels almost unnatural to attempt to find gratefulness for the depression that is upon me, but in my effort the shadow is already growing lighter just with this writing. I refuse to suffer in secret anymore. As the veil lifts over the next day or two as it always does, I will hold on tightly with gratitude to the knowing that it has been such times that hallowed me to be able to contain the depth of feeling I am capable of.

Don’t think about all those things you fear,
Just be glad to be here.
From the song “Hayling”
by FC Kahuna

Musings After A Storm

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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

Life In Our Own Image

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I have not understood computers since the days of Windows 3.11 in the early 90’s. Honestly, I did not understand them then, but they were simple enough that I could work around, fix, repair or replace the source of most problems. Then came the Windows versions named after years they were supposed to be, but weren’t always, released within their name sake year: Windows 95, windows 98 and Windows 2000.

When Windows XP arrived things seem to settle down for while. And I had less computing issues. Then I met Windows 7 which is what is on the computer at work I am tying this on.  It’s okay but wants to do everything for me, often not in the way I want it to. Now my home computer with “7” is down, for a reason I am still trying to sort out. Drat! It’s less than a year old.

Now my rant. Sometimes like today, I hate my computer. Something is wrong. Is it a virus? A hard drive failure? Corrupt registry? I think the issue is a VIRUS, but could it be human error on my part? Some website I visited may have messed me up. All in all I take this in stride. It’s not my first computer problem and certainly won’t be my last. It’s does give me a slightly altered perspective today.

Sitting in front of a computer screen for five hours a day can dramatically increase the risk of depression and insomnia, new research suggests. Previous studies have focused on how too much screen time can cause physical afflictions, such as headaches, eye strain, and backache. Now one of the biggest ever investigations into the hazards of computers in the workplace has concluded that they can also damage mental health.

In a three-year survey of 25,000 workers, many complained of feeling depressed, anxious and reluctant to get up for work in the mornings. They were also plagued by broken sleep and reported problems getting along with fellow employees. The study by researchers at Chiba University in Japan, concluded that bosses should limit the time their staff spend on computers.

Lead researcher Dr Tetsuya Nakazawa said: ‘ This result suggests the prevention of mental disorders and sleep disorders requires the restriction of computer use to less than five hours a day.’ The results, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, showed one in four staff spent at least five hours a day at their terminal. Once they crossed that threshold, the dangers of psychological disorders setting in appeared to increase dramatically. By Olinka Koster, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-153281/Why-using-cause-depression.html

It’s just a machine and is repairable or replaceable. My computer does not care if it causes me problems or if I am upset at it. Just writing that makes me realize I spend too much time online when I could have my nose in a book or be hanging out with friends. Living a life of gratitude allows me to find a silver lining in most anything, including a @&$#&^ computer problem! I am grateful for the hint that too much of anything is not good. (And a friend is coming over tonight instead of me fretting with my computer problem. It can wait until tomorrow).

I think computer viruses should count as life.
I think it says something about human nature
that the only form of life we have created
so far is purely destructive.
We’ve created life in our own image.
Stephen Hawking

Disappointment: Hurt to Gratitude

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With disappointment, there are multiple layers of sadness that one experiences before being able to look on the bright side.

As adults, we do not often face disappointments in manageable doses; as such, we are stuck with the disappointment dilemma. After emotional and even physical preparation when disappointment comes, we are faced with the immediate and aftermath reactions.

Preparation anxiety: Anticipation can be exciting when we feel the adrenaline rush as we prepare for a celebration, a special date, or even dinner with friends. But what happens when you are let down by a last-minute change or cancellation? Unless you are a pessimist, mild hurt and disappointment set in.

Immediate and aftermath reactions: The most often heard immediate response to serious disappointment is this: “I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach.” But because someone else was in control, the person who was hurt can do little more than make some feeble statement such as, “It’s alright, I understand.” In many cases, it was not alright, and you didn’t understand. But you said nothing and took the high road.

Resolution or regret: If a person in one’s life disappoints once or twice, it might be understandable. But what happens if it becomes a pattern? It can only become a pattern if you allow it. This is where choice comes in and you take control.

To protect yourself and maintain self-respect, say something in a kind, but firm way. You may even wish to give the other person some wiggle room. But if you say nothing, your disappointment may soon turn to regret.

Regret is a feeling we experience because a personal choice we make does not turn out as expected. But unlike disappointment, making that decision is within our control. From “Disappointment: Three Layers, Hurt to Gratitude” by Rita Watson, MPH http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-and-gratitude/201209/disappointment-three-layers-hurt-gratitude

While not a major disappointment with lasting impact, plans for an evening with a dear friend had to be shelved. I was looking forward to doing what we had planned for over a week. However, it was not to be. The reason for the cancellation was not specifically within anyone’s control. Rather, it is an outgrowth of where my friend placed them self. That fact has now become self-evident.

Showing that I am a true friend, I expressed my disappointment and not a lot more (even thought this is the second time my friend has recently canceled long made plans). I am thankful to realize the best thing I could do was show understanding and empathy, even thought initially I wanted to spout off. I am grateful I didn’t!

Disappointment to a noble soul
is what cold water is to burning metal;
it strengthens, tempers, intensifies,
but never destroys it.
Eliza Tabor Stephenson

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